Theory for the (Global) Humanities

We are living at times of challenges, crises, and even of structural change – and the humanities and social sciences are not exempt. Theories and perspectives from within the Western tradition of thought have provided powerful critiques of our knowledge production processes, especially those that are dominant in universities. At the same time, perspectives from the global south are going much further; addressing these knowledges as products and co-producers of historically formed unequal power relations such as colonialism, racism, capitalism and patriarchy. Here, ‘proper’ knowledge is understood as that which only acknowledges the thinking of a limited number of social, economic, political, gender, epistemic, existential and geographical locations in the world: that of elites of a handful of countries (notably the UK, US, France, Germany). These ‘southern’ traditions of thought have also shaken the core fundaments of the Westernized sciences, among others by de-naturalizing taken-for-granted categories in the humanities such as the ideas of progress, subject/object, man/woman, and human/nature.

This course takes on the challenge of teaching you Theory for the Global Humanities respecting the fact that we are in the midst of a transition – or a tectonic shake – in the social sciences and the humanities. The course does not do away with Westernized knowledge, but it rather approaches it from a global perspective. In that way, we hope to be able to provide you with some fundamental insights to navigate in these often scary, but also hopeful, times of change.

On a practical level this course aims to enhance your skills at reading theoretical texts and understanding the relevance of critical and globally oriented theoretical discussions in the humanities (and social sciences) today. The course additionally supports you in employing theoretical considerations, and justifying the scientific nature of your projects taking some of the most salient challenges and discussions pertaining to core concerns for the humanities (and social sciences) today into account. The course sessions will be organized around the following questions: What is theory? Where does the idea of progress stem from, and which role has it played in the humanities? How has Eurocentrism influenced our ideas of ‘critical science’? How have critical theories from north and south entered into dialogue? What does moving beyond Eurocentrism entail? Who can speak and think? What is scientific knowledge beyond the Westernized and Eurocentric understanding of scientific knowledge?

The course corresponds to 5 ECTS credits and is assessed pass/fail. There is a requirement for active and regular participation which will be discussed at the beginning of the teaching. A moodle page will provide updated information regarding the specific contents of the classes, requirements as well as access to the course readings.

The image of the upside down map was taken from: