Annual Theme

In 2016-2017, the annual theme of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts was Comparative Global Humanities. The 2016-2017 year was supported by a Sawyer Seminar grant from the Mellon Foundation. The theme of Comparative Global Humanities builds upon traditional humanities knowledge in comparative literature, comparative religion, world history, and anthropological studies, exploring new research models that go beyond the study of cultures as bounded units analogous to one another, and that conceives "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. Our case studies represented by the various public events by distinguished visiting scholars reconsidered the periodization of historical narratives, unsettled received geographical areas, and suggested new objects, methods, and archives for humanistic study.

In 2017-2018, the annual theme was Materialisms, Old and New. The theme encompasses theories of materialism from older Greek philosophical traditions, through modern dialectical materialism and scientific materialism, to the range of approaches currently referenced as the "new materialism." It includes projects in the arts, humanities, and interpretive social sciences, and suggests that culture, society, history, environment, religion, arts, and representation, as well as ontology, epistemology, and politics, are rethought in relation to material processes, objects, and affects. After 2016-2017, when he Center emphasized research on conditions for "the human," in 2017-2018, the discussions queried the relationship of the human to nature, animals, machines, and matter, turning toward the examination of vital assemblages and networks of relation that implicate "the human," but extend beyond it to the "more-than-human" worlds in which the human is not a fixed or central figure, but always in relation to varieties of animacy, vitality, and materiality.