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Category: Delhi

From the Director: Back from China, Forward to the Cosmopolis

You get pegged as an optimist, and then they smile when you talk. They pat you on the head, meaning to be affectionate, even while they patronize your vision and conviction. It’s annoying, but I accept the condescension gladly. It’s a small price to pay for the chance to carry on thinking, talking, and building a community in which so many of us deeply believe.

When I say ‘they,’ I mean those too impatient to consider what the humanities means and brings — certainly not our partners in aspiration, our colleagues in Delhi, Beijing, Stockholm, Dublin and elsewhere. Those of us who have joined together in the last fifteen months share the gleam of possibility. Now in late May we know afresh what the humanities can be, because we’ve just finished living through an example of what international cooperation can mean to the cause.

Our third international conference under the Global Humanities Initiative was held at the University of Nanjing, May 17-20. Five traveled from India, and five from Charlottesville, three from Britain, one each from Sweden and Ireland – all to join fifteen Chinese scholars in the event under the noble title: “The 3rd International Symposium on Humanities in the World – The Value of Humanities Research: Cross-Cultural and Inter-disciplinary dialogues.”

It was exhausting, because exhilarating. We had talks on Chinese opera and Indian refugees, on Confucius and Max Weber, on gardens and tents, happiness and empathy. And that was just before tea. The group photo hovering above is a visual sign of what’s happened in these fifteen months: the standing together, shyly but proudly, the sense of resolve and the sense of humor, the desire both to dwell among the rigor of ideas and then to carry thought into the imperfect world.

As of this morning (May 28, 2013) we have firm and growing partnerships with the new Oxford humanities center (T.O.R.C.H.), with Marg Humanities (the Humanities Way) at Delhi University, with the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and with Nanjing University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.

The first of our international conferences was held in Charlottesville in April 2012, the second in Delhi in August of that year. In October, we meet in a smaller group here at U.Va. Our subject will be Cosmopolitanism, our keynote speaker Thomas Pogge of Yale, our guests from all over Latin America.

See more photos from the conference by visiting our facebook page.

“The Humanities in Ferment”

Reflections on the Global Humanities Conference
at Delhi University

In Delhi for our second conference of the Global Humanities Initiative (GHI), and in high spirits at all that happened during the three-day event. The global collaboration has begun to show what can be built when you grow from the ground

Participants at Global Humanities Intiative (GHI), Delhi

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up and the world round. Our first meeting was in Charlottesville in April. Now just a few months later, we’re finding a rhythm, a glint, a thread, a sense of humor, a deepening conviction.

The hosts were our partners from Delhi University, Brinda Bose and Prasanta Chakravarty, founding members of Marg Humanities (the Humanities Road). Local Delhi thinkers were joined by those coming from distant places in India, from Europe, and from North America. Brinda and Prasanta had been with us in Charlottesville in the spring; so had Helen Small from Oxford. Rita Felski, Krishan Kumar and I travelled from U.Va. to keep our side of the conversation moving.

The title of this gathering was “The Humanities in Ferment,” a phrase well chosen by our Delhi partners, because fermentation is exactly what our mix has begun to stir. If we can get the metaphor right, as one of our last speakers heroically tried, we’re taking advantage of an anaerobic environment, using yeast to turn carbohydrates into alcohol or acid.

Whatever the metaphor, we’re keeping our commitment to ongoing conversation, sustained over regular meetings in points across the globe. And we’re equally committed to a double perspective in what we offer to one another when we meet. On one side we exchange reflections on the conditions and prospects of the humanities. On the other side stand focused presentations on film, politics and philosophy, Gandhi and Joyce, multilingualism and video games, interpretation and civilization.


Prasanta Charkravarty and Brinda Bose, host partners and founding members of Marg Humanities

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Conference participants, left to right: Helen Small, Prasanta Charkravarty, Michael Levenson, Krishan Kumar, and Rimli Bhattacharya

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Top, left to right: Speakers Rimli Bhattacharya, Rita Felski, and Nicholas Allen. Bottom, left to right: Conference panelists Mahesh Rangarajan, Sukanta Chaudhuri, Simi Malhotra, and Nandini Chandra

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