This is my definition of the Humanities program at Davidson College. To read my definition of the humanities as a subject matter, click here.
I have tried to explain the Humanities program at Davidson many times, to my family, my former teachers, my friends at home and my non-humester friends at Davidson. It is extremely difficult to explain, especially in a few words or sentences. Throughout this semester, each unit has taught me a crucial element of the program.
In Unit 1, we learned about identity and all of its complexities. We discussed the groups in power and how they play a part in silencing marginalized groups and assigning identities to them. We discussed how words get their meaning from their relationship to other words, and how that applies to the word ‘human’. Humanities involves a lot of reading, and in Unit 1 we focused on philosophers like Locke and Marx. We also covered shared experiences between all humans and how we are separate from other species, yet also the divisions within the human race. The Humanities curriculum covers a lot of complicated questions to which there are never just one answer.
In Unit 2, we talked about the scientific revolution and its relationship to the humanities. We discussed the concepts of paradigms and conceptual schemes and their relations to science and humanities. We also learned about translation and radical translation and the cultural context of words. We tackled the question of the truth in Unit 2, and why we believe there is one singular truth. The Humanities program is probably one of the few places you’re taught about bullshit and have a whole day talking about it.
Unit 3’s question was centered around the banality of evil and the power of photography. We talked a lot about the “human” part of Humanities, like the time when a person gets recognized as a human and what it means to not have a legal national connection like a passport. We wrestled with questions of memory and reality and the ethics of war photography. This unit made me take a really hard look at myself and our society, in a way that no other class has before.
Unit 4 combined religion and racism in a way I had never experienced before. We read sections of the Bible that were used as justification for slavery and discussed the role religion played in the lives of slaves. We compared black oppression to Native oppression and talked about the power being white holds. These are difficult topics to talk about, but the Humanities environment is open to mistakes and questions so it ended up being a really powerful and enriching unit.