Survival and Sustainability: Contemporary Studies in Humanities 2
The book consists of articles of Japanese and Russian researches devoted to humanities.
In recent decades, the biennial has become the most widespread mode of showcasing contemporary art. Rather than acting as mere aesthetic containers, these shows aspire to be socially relevant by raising questions about capitalism, colonialism, inequality, environmental devastation, and gender imbalances. In this chapter, we draw from ethnographic observation of the 7th Berlin Biennale (2012) that took place in the context of a rising anti-capitalist discourse reflected in the Occupy movement and the movement of the squares. We explore the outcome of curators’ attempts to disrupt existing practices by introducing the logic of activism. Drawing from empirical vignettes, we identify three institutional rationales that coexisted, clashed, and mutually displaced this logic, reaffirming rather than disrupting the idea that art has to preserve some distance from social reality, that neo-anarchist activism should prefigure social reality in the here and now, and that the configuration of the above through the organization’s politics of visibility that promotes the spectacle of the Berlin Biennale and itself as a brand. These three rationales concomitantly and decisively structured the event’s public performance and turned the idea of linking art to activism into the spectacle of a human zoo. We discuss our findings and link the micro-institutional logics to broader macro-level logics of aesthetic capitalism and spectacle.
The notion of humanities has various meanings – a discipline / an art / a space for speculative thinking / secular humanism etc. I will focus on the ‘discipline’. Humanities as well as social sciences are concerned with human aspects of the world. It is difficult to define a boundary between them, both in their subject, and in method, still social sciences are interpreted as more empirical and formalized, closer to the ‘ideal’ of sciences. It is remarkable that historical studies traditionally have been considered part of the humanities, although in modern Academia, history is occasionally classified as a social science. My aim is to demonstrate why history has not become a real social science, although in 1960-80s historians who represented the most advanced trends within the discipline aspired to this. I then extrapolate my conclusions to other disciplines of the humanities.
I think two topics are central here: uneasy relationship between social theories and methods, and indispensability of the cognitive potential of the humanities.
Since mid-20th c. as a result of the ‘socialization’ of the humanities historians have barely produced theories of their own; instead they borrowed theories from social sciences. However, while the borrowing of the theories of other disciplines proved to be workable, the adoption of the methods of social sciences – psychometric testing, sociometric monitoring, ethnographic description, in-depth interview, long-term observation and s.o. – was impossible. In the end, the impossibility of using the social sciences’ methods ensures resistibility of the humanities and enables to preserve their disciplinary core. At the same time the humanities dealing with meanings can catch things more ephemeral than trends, patterns, mechanisms and statistical rules.
To bring what is hidden into the open is the task of any discipline; the question is what the nature of the hidden. The mystery of the humanities is in its ‘softness’, which they cannot be rid of, and which makes them flexible. Flexibility is not only a generic quality of the humanities, it also implies a very different cognitive mechanism. The area of the humanities still contains a large pool of vague ideas, which have powerful heuristic potential (Die Sattelzeit, longue durée, the Carnival, archeology of knowledge, la mort de l'auteur, etc). Moreover, flexibility of the humanities often leads to metaphorization of even highly formalized concepts of social sciences (path dependence, thick description, symbolic power, social interaction, actor, etc) that expands the field of their application.
The general trend towards ‘scientization’ of social sciences and the humanities, especially in the late 20th c. is balanced or compensated by a reverse tendency – the growth of fictional moment linked wither to social imagination, fantasy and fiction (when a wave or yet another ‘turn’ in the humanities does not work linearly but overlaps with similar tendencies). In contemporary sociology the turn to ‘imagination’ is actual since Wright Mills, but is also relevant for classical texts (the juxtaposition of Max Weber and Thomas Mann, a non-fiction novel and the sociology of the Chicago School etc.). At the same time, the interpretation of the humanities as arts, and not only sciences, following the well-known formula of Art and Science does not show their weakness or immaturity but rather their flexibility at the moments of social crisis or the rise of anti-scientist mood. In the history of knowledge the closeness of art history or philology to contemporary artistic trends (as in Russian formalism, for example) went well with aiming to scientific innovation – against stagnating academism.
This article deals with compensation theory, according to which humans in modern culture need to compensate modernization and rationalization processes to construct their identity. As a result, the tendency to the conserve and re-actualize its historical origins is a characteristic feature of modern culture.
The last of IAFOR’s European Conference series saw the First European Conference on Arts and Humanities (ECAH) paired with the First European Conference on Language Learning (ECLL). The ECAH event was chaired by IAFOR IAB Chair, Professor Stuart Picken with the ECLL event chaired by Professor Steve Cornwell of Osaka Jogakuin University. This event saw 250 people from more than 50 countries in an incredibly diverse celebration of interdisciplinary and intercultural study. The theme for the Arts and Humanities conference was “Connectedness, Identity and Alienation” and our selection of featured speakers came at this topic from a number of different angles: Aaron Sachs, Professor of History at Cornell University (USA) took delegates back a century to the end of the First World War and Modernist theories which tried to make sense of this low point in European civilization in a paper entitled, “From Trauma to Rediscovery: Lewis Mumford and the Modern Search for Connection through Time and Space”. Professor Roberto Bertoni of Trinity College Dublin took us to the present to look at questions of identity and alienation in the highly mediatized society of modern day Korea with a presentation on “The Innocent Man (착한 남자): Alienation of Characters and Audience, Acquisition of New Identity, Catharsis”. Daniela Nadj, currently a lecturer in law at the University of Westminster delivered a powerful and wide-ranging address on “The Juridicalisation of Gender-Based Violence against Women in the Current Political and Legal Moment - A Critical Feminist Observation of International Wartime Sexual Violence Jurisprudence”. The paper provided a critical feminist analysis of international wartime sexual violence jurisprudence, as it is constructed in current feminist scholarship and the surrounding debate, and elicited much debate among the international delegates. The European Conference on Language Learning saw featured speakers from a number of different countries look at concepts of “Connectedness, Identity and Alienation” as they relate to different aspects of language, including Professors Kiyomi Chinen, Masako Douglas, and Hiroko Kataoka from California State University, Long Beach, USA, who looked at issues surrounding heritage-language education with particular relation to Japanese in California. Professor Olesya Orlova, of Kemerovo State University (Russia) looked at language in the Russian context in a paper entitled “National Stereotypes as Means of Connectedness, Identity and Alienation”. Finally, Dr Miho Inaba of Lund University (Sweden) looked at autonomous learning in the acquisition of languages, asking: “What is the Role of “language classes” in Autonomous Learning?: The Implications from Japanese Language Learners’ L2 Activities Outside the Classroom” We would again like to extend our gratitude to the conference chairs, the featured speakers, and student volunteers from Blatchington Mill Sixth Form College for helping to staff the event, and look forward to welcoming delegates back to Brighton in 2014.
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