Humanities2014, 3(4), 546-566; doi:10.3390/h3040546 - published 9 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The body came to be taken seriously as a topic of cultural history during the “corporeal” or “bodily” turn in the 1980s and 1990s. Soon, however, critique was raised against these studies’ conceptualization of the body as discursively shaped and socially disciplined: individual bodily agency and feeling were felt to be absent in the idea of the material body. This article critically analyzes new approaches in the field of body history, particularly the so-called “material turn”. It argues that the material turn, especially in the guise of praxiography, has a lot to offer historians of the body, such as more attention to material practices, to different kinds of actors and a more open eye to encounters. Potential problems of praxiographical analyses of the body in history include the complicated relationship between discourses and practices and the neglect of the political and feminist potential of deconstructive discourse analyses. However, a focus on the relationship between practices of knowledge production and the representation of the body may also provide new ways of opening up historical power relations.
Humanities2014, 3(4), 517-545; doi:10.3390/h3040517 - published 2 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: What happens to Fanonism when, instead of resistance or liberation, it becomes a discourse of invention? What happens to Fanon’s critique of colonialism and his imagining of a decolonial future, when that critique and imagining are staked not on the refusal of racial humanity itself (in the sense of an appeal to a “new humanism”…), but in the sense that Fanonism itself, as such, would be a discourse and reading of invention? In this essay I compare Fanon’s reading of invention with that of C.L.R. James’s reading of spontaneity in Notes on Dialectics.
Humanities2014, 3(4), 442-516; doi:10.3390/h3040442 - published 2 October 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Scientific orthodoxy based on the acquired authority of some scientists has seriously hampered the progress of the natural sciences in the past and continues to do so today because of new societal influences, such as directive funding and political interference in the setting of research objectives. Enhancing the progress of science must continue to be an important priority in order to meet the future needs of mankind. Yet priority setting between different branches of research is currently controversial because of the limited availability of funds and the political interference. For sound priority setting, an adequate level of scientific literacy is required among policy makers, a subject that will attract attention throughout this paper. The “introduction” gives an overview of the issues at stake. Prevailing pessimistic views of the future of our complex society are viewed as being similar to a medieval doomsday syndrome. Pathways to a new renaissance and age of reason are suggested. Three major recommendations are made: (i) Freedom of inquiry must be protected; (ii) The political misuse of potential environmental scares needs to be investigated before doomsday predictions alarm public perceptions and hence shape policies; (iii) The search for excellence in the leadership of science should be emphasized because it should not be based largely on acquired authority. The current controversy over possible impacts of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on climate is analyzed as a case study.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 415-441; doi:10.3390/h3030415 - published 4 September 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: New Humanities is an international research and teaching project promoted by an interdisciplinary group of people from five different faculties and departments based at the University of Roma Tre. Initially set up as a forum for academic dialogue between the humanities and the sciences (including social sciences), the project became a transition space and platform for experiencing new research methodologies and teaching curricula that would question the present epistemological order of the European university system. In order to develop this approach, we have organized our work around a number of interdisciplinary clusters, each describing an epistemological node. In this paper we will discuss five interconnected case studies that emerged from an active collaboration between scientists and humanists. The first node, Protocols of Vision, investigates the cognitive nature of sensory perception and the different forms of knowledge it produces—empirical, artistic, and scientific. Memory: Mathematics, Computer Science, and Literature recapitulates many of the different threads in these discussions by exploring the interdependencies between the various kinds of memory: from external to subjective memory, from storage tools and techniques of self-construction to the invariance of mathematical structures. The third node, Signs and Bodies between Digital and Gendering, reflects on the problematic relationship between digital media and literary and linguistic gendering. Narrative Identity: Nature, Ontogeny and Psychopathology critically re-examines the main concepts and theories concerning the nature, ontogeny, and pathologies of the autobiographical self or narrative identity. Finally, the last node, Contribution of Quantum Physics to the Idea of Consciousness is a cross-cultural investigation into the phenomenon of consciousness tackled from the points of view of quantum field theory and ancient Indian philosophy.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 398-414; doi:10.3390/h3030398 - published 29 August 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: As a consequence of the recent global recession, a new “crisis in the humanities” has been declared, and ideas of how best to defend the humanities have been vigorously debated. Placing this “crisis” in the context of neoliberal reforms to higher education since the 1980s, I examine the argument expounded by Martha Nussbaum that the very foundation of democratic citizenship is at stake. I indicate a number of problems with Nussbaum’s case. First, to resist the neoliberal agenda that pits disciplines against one another, I maintain that we need to understand the humanities broadly to include the social sciences. Second, I indicate that the humanities are not just important to democracies, but are a vital aspect of any society because they form a crucial part of human existence. Third, I argue that the humanities are important to democratic societies not merely because they promote critical thinking about our political processes and sympathetic understanding as Nussbaum argues. More fundamentally, the diversity of the humanities in both their content and approaches to knowledge is central to freedom. Finally, I warn against framing the challenges facing the humanities in terms of a crisis discourse that deprecates freedom in accord with the neoliberal agenda.
Humanities2014, 3(3), 379-397; doi:10.3390/h3030379 - published 15 August 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: What may be the relevance of the European tradition of the humanities and of humanism today? In his novels, Elizabeth Costello and Diary of a Bad Year, the South-African writer, academic, and current resident of Australia, J.M. Coetzee, both enriches and puts into question the European traditions that have shaped scholarship, literary writers and academic professions in the humanities. His characters’ meditations on the value of literature, humanism, and the humanities, their present crisis and future possibilities, are timely interventions made from a complex, critical, comparative, cultural and geographic distance. The metafictional investigations of the two novels test the limits of the genre in a manner consistent with more experimental strains of postmodern fiction, while the two protagonists reflect two main personae of the author as itinerant, ageing academic and writer. It is the position of this paper that Coetzee constructs a minor literature within the major language of English; this is made evident by the entirety of his oeuvre to date though it becomes thematized in these two works. This paper will trace some of the contours, confrontations and dialogs of the two books and explore certain tangents of the radical quests and questions they put to their readership.