To me, humanities is a very broad study area. Because it is an interdisciplinary department, in general, humanities is a study of the human experience. The humanities department covers disciplines ranging from philosophy, to psychology, and even dance. There are clearly many different ways to learn about this human experience: literature, art, performance, music, etc.
As a student who will major in the humanities department, I have come to realize that the humanities discipline is a broad range of topics, brought together by the main idea of understanding the human experience better. In general, humanities is the study of human nature, development as society, why we act in certain ways, how certain cultures have developed, and so much more. Simply put, humanities is the study of society and culture and why things are the way they are. However, within this field, nothing is concrete. We have developed many theories which scholars can apply to the formation of society, but nothing is ever set in stone in this field; it is up to the individual to decide.
For example, in this discipline we study many foundational ideas like Lockean ideas that set the base for equality and property rights. These very ideas have influenced how humans have interacted and thus created their society in which they live. Furthermore, the ideas behind the Scientific Revolution shaped how society was structured and enabled a system in which theories would be tested.
Humanities 103/104 is different. In general, we are studying the theme of revolution and how it has evolved/can be seen differently through different culutral contexts. We examine the roots of society, beginning with the fundmanetal philosophical Enlightenment ideas and ending with the culutral revolution following the dictatorship of Hitler. Fundamental Englightenement ideas shaped the ways in which humans interacted with each other and how they structured political systems/society in general. From there, we explored how different concepts, like identity, race, and gender have been socially constructed. So, thus far, the course has been a study of how different ideas have been formed and applied to human interactions. It’s true that someone cannot randomly come up with an idea, if it’s not based off of actual evidence. So, Humanities is the study of how ideas can be socially constructed and how these ideas can alter how humans interact within society.
Each unit explores how a different culture either experienced revolution or participated in revolutions. Our first unit, taught by Davidson College’s President, Carol Quillen, examined how the idea of equality and freedom of thought were considered revolutionary concepts in Europe (15th-18th centuries). The second unit explored how conceptual schemes/paradigms shaped the scientific revolution. Our third unit looked at how systemic/ethnic violence in Rwanda and racial construction can also be deemed revolutionary ideas. Our fourth unit examined whether or not revolutions are inherent to the human experience, as seen through the civil rights movement. This unit also explored how racial identities might determine who can take revolutionary actions. Our fifth unit examined how performance can aid revolutionary ideas or concepts. The sixth unit looked at how art in either traditional or newer forms can be revolutionary. Our last two units explored actual revolutions: the Russian Communist revolution and the German social upheaval following the termination of Hitler’s regime. In both unit 7 & 8, we explored art forms as expressions of cultural memory and violence against people who speak up. Unit 7 investigating Russain poets and how they were able to represent Russia’s national identity, but at the same time they faced extreme violence from an oppressive regime. Unit 8 focused on the works of Ulrike Meinhof and how forms of art, specifically writing, can justify violence. The unit explored whether or not violence against violence can lead to revolutionary changes within a society. We focused on films as well, and how to discuss extreme violence as a revolutionary means.
So humanities is the study of diverse human experiences, with a non-Eurocentric lense. We have learned about vastly different racial, cultural, and historical experiences from around the world. By focusing on literary works and forms of art as representations of that culture, as a Humanities student, my worldviews have radically changed. Most significantly, I understand now that forms of knowledge are culturally constructed, which limits what we deem as important to study. So, what really allows us, as a society, to value some humans more than others? Social construction of race, religion, knowledge, strict mindsets, and violence. Certainly, Humanities has shown me that we value human life in different ways and oftentimes violence against bodies is a form of oppression that calls for a revolution, or change of thought.