Teaching Humanities as a Political Act in the Community College

Dr. Madhuri Deshmukh,
Douglas Berger,
Dr. Hollace Graff,
Thomas Bowen,
Dr. Marian Staats
To add a paper, Login.

In this colloquium, we examine the changes in and challenges of teaching Humanities in the face of rapid global transformation and conflict. The teaching of Humanities has itself become a political act, a resistance to the instrumental logic of "the information age". This is especially true in the community college, which many believe to be the training ground for the "worker of the 21st century". When working-class, immigrant and disaffected students at the community college take Humanities courses, they are confronted with cultural legacies and traditions from which they are often alienated. In this session we will discuss different ways of teaching Humanities that make these disciplines relevant to the formation of students' identities as global citizens and human beings.

By teaching Humanities courses in tandem with each other, we have been able to present disciplines in their historical contexts, enabling students to critically evaluate the dominant narratives of national and global cultures. Professors Hollace Graff and Thomas Bowen, by coupling "Ancient and Medieval Philosophy" and "Western Culture and the Arts to the Renaissance" interrogate the formation of the body of knowledge constituting "western culture". They thus provide students with a unique perspective on contemporary debates on the so-called "war of civilizations".

In their pairing of "African-American Literature" and "Contemporary Culture and the Arts" Professors Marian Staats and Madhuri Deshmukh examine the ways race structures American culture. The survey of African-American literature provides a needed historical perspective on the literary, visual and musical arts of contemporary Black America.

In their faculty development seminar on "India: Heritage and Challenges of Diversity", Professors Doug Berger and Madhuri Deshmukh bring together their respective training in philosophy and literature to educate faculty in the complex civilizations of the Indian subcontinent, thus creating a two-way dialogue between western (especially hegemonic American) cultures and non-western cultures.

Keywords: Teaching and politics, Community Colleges, Humanities and politics
Stream: Globalisation
Presentation Type: Colloquium in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Madhuri Deshmukh

Associate Professor of English, Department of English, Division of Languages, Humanities and the Arts, Oakton Community College

Madhuri Deshmukh received her Ph.D. in English from Loyola University Chicago. Her graduate research focused on the 1920's Harlem Renaissance. In addition to writing on the African-American literary tradition, she has written and spoken on critical theory, feminism and social justice. She is currently engaged in research in Marathi literature (a vernacular literary tradition in India), and with the help of a fellowship, will spend the 2005-2006 academic year in India. By bringing her background of African-African literature to bear on a study of vernacular Indian literature, she will attempt to explore the comparative possibilities of concepts of race, subalternity and resistance.

Douglas Berger

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Division of Languages, Humanities and the Arts, Oakton Community College

I am currently professor of Asian philosophies and cultures at Oakton Community College. My primary areas of interest are Hindu and Indian Buddhist as well as Confucian and cross-cultural philosophy. Originally from North Dakota, I completed my graduate work at Temple University in Philadelphia. I have had the opportunity to do research and teach in Germany and Japan. My first book will appear this year about the influence of pre-systematic Indian philosophy on the system of the German thinker Arthur Schopenhauer. I have begun a second book on classical Hindu logic, with special focus on the philosophy of consciousness and epistemology in Hindu logic.

Dr. Hollace Graff

Chair of Philosophy and Humanities, Oakton College

Thomas Bowen

Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Oakton College

Dr. Marian Staats

Assistant Professor of English, Oakton College

Ref: H05P0301