As we shift the humanistic lens of study from traditional disciplines to one of comparative global humanities, new global histories allow us to consider connection, exchange, and interdependency in ways that unsettle discretely bounded territories, recast received historical periods, and reconsider formerly studied “areas.” By focusing on cultural exchange, interpretation, and translation, the study of global humanities brings out ideas that have played deeply influential roles in the making of art, thought, culture, religion, and society, in the past and in the present, locally and across nations. Moreover, while the training and expertise in reading, interpretation, and analysis of culture and representation of our humanities approaches are essential for innovation across many disciplines, they form also the critical foundations for educating our students to be linguistic, cultural, and historical “translators” in the fullest sense of the term.
Solutions and Innovations
Our goal is to continue to create a model of global intellectual collaboration that will renew humanities research, innovate curricula, and ultimately, generate a model of academic study that can shape a new era for Tufts and for the next generation of humanists. Building on the ongoing work of the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, and the newly-established Department of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, our work encompasses both academic interdisciplinary research projects such as the Comparative Global Humanities initiative, as well as outwardly-focused conversations, such as the Boston African American Freedom Trail project. Our recent Mellon Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Global Humanities provided a space of intellectual engagement for faculty to shape the kind of interdisciplinary research that is at the center of such innovative scholarship, much as an upcoming Mellon Sawyer Seminar titled Defamiliarizing the Family: Genealogy and Kinship as Critical Method will continue to do. Building on this model, our programming has encouraged those conversations around new research that offer group members a context that stimulates new research approaches and methodologies towards enriching both their individual research aims, and the global conversation.
With a longstanding global perspective, Tufts is home to a collection of widely respected and highly productive faculty who already have a record of active collaboration across English, Art History, History, Anthropology, Sociology, cultural and literary studies (French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese), and Religion, through their involvement in interdisciplinary projects. The new departmental face for the scholarship produced in the Culture, History, and Translation rubric, the Department for Studies of Race, Colonialism and Diaspora, has come to be seen as a pioneering pedagogical model for a teaching unit that addresses questions of race, colonialism, empire, migration, and diaspora in a manner that is unique to Tufts. The recent grant of $1.5 million from the Mellon Foundation in support of the RCD is a testament to the promise of this innovative department. Thus, by growing Tufts’ research and scholarship footprint in the humanities, we will be able to expand on this pedagogical innovation toward educating the next generation of scholars in the global and interdisciplinary methods they need for engaging the increasingly complex world they live in, and how best to make a difference in it.
Olivia Michiko Gagnon