Annual Theme

In 2016-2017, the annual theme of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts is Comparative Global Humanities. The theme aims to build upon traditional humanities knowledge in comparative literature, comparative religion, world history, and anthropological studies, encouraging new research models that go beyond the study of cultures as bounded units analogous to one another, and that conceive "culture" and the conditions for "the human" in relation to histories of global contact, encounter, and exchange.

While the recent increase in global interdependency has initiated new discussions of personhood, culture, society, and world, the theme suggests that "global" connections are not new, and that so-called "globalization" is not exclusively relevant to late modernity. Rather, the study of comparative global humanities comprises the extended set of diverse processes that have linked multiple spaces over the longer course of world history. It is necessary not merely to pluralize "cultures," but also to put the emergence of various worlds of meaning in relation to one another. By approaching the study of cultures by means of a focus on relation, contradiction, convergence, and translation, the seminar topics investigate both the promises and the pitfalls of universalizing notions of comparison, the global, and the human.

Our case studies represented by the various public events by distinguished visiting scholars reconsider the periodization of historical narratives, unsettle received geographical areas, and suggest new objects, methods, and archives for humanistic study. In the ancient and early modern worlds, there were empires, conquests, slavery, trade and diasporas; European colonial expansion, from the 16th century to its heights in the 19th century, is, in this sense, a relatively recent phenomenon. Neither evenly integrating, nor rendering homogenous all parts of the world, global processes have varied in time and location, and have taken place quite differently in unlike parts of the world, providing a rich set of new research materials and new archives for the interdisciplinary humanities. The comparative global humanities theme encompasses projects in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences, and suggests that language, culture, philosophy, visual arts, and representation, as well as our ethical concepts, narratives, styles, and forms for understanding—can all be rethought in relation to the longue durĂ©e of global contacts, entanglements and connections.