Abstract for Humanities across Borders: Catalysing academia-society linkages for curriculum development

Aarti Kawlra, Thomas Manuel

International Institute of Asian Studies,

Leiden, The Netherlands and Chennai, India


Humanities across Borders: Asia and Africa in the World is a network of universities and their civil society partners in parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, committed to reimagining humanities education and the civic role of the university in general.  We have much to learn from the direct engagement of artists, writers, craft practitioners, urban planners and ethnographers with ‘human experience in the world’. They have shed light on lived forms of knowledge and its transmission, otherwise considered outdated or ‘folk’ by elitist scientifically grounded, textual models of higher learning. In this presentation we share how the program mobilizes academia-society linkages to shape curricula “from below”. Not solely by experts located in Ivy League universities in North America, UK or Europe but, in collaboration and direct engagement, with civic actors and agents at progressive even avante garde, universities in countries in Asia and West Africa.

The Humanities across Borders (HaB) program challenges the often unequal and uneven exchange between universities of the North and the South: of teachers from the North and students from the South; of theory from the North and case studies or examples from the South; of syllabi and textbooks from the North and field experience from the South. Our presentation will discuss the different formats we are experimenting with to develop innovative curricula and pedagogies outside the conventional classroom to cater to the needs of a diverse range of educational contexts. These include local wisdom fellowships, pop-up courses and museums, learning-by-doing exercises and manuals, experimental schools and in situ methodology workshops. Not only do these formats render curricula more adaptive, more connected and more relevant to the everyday realities of the student, they also present a very viable and dynamic alternative to the current model of discipline-bound approaches to knowledge and its transmission.  We hope that the emerging curricular-matrix and pedagogical resources being built in the program’s different geographies will provide the first glimpses of what a reflective educational praxis and revitalized humanities might look like.



Call for Papers

Conference Dates: April 6th to 8th, 2018

Deadline for submissions:
December 20th, 2017
Name of organization:
Azim Premji University, Bangalore
Contact e-mails:sonali.barua@apu.edu.in

Contemporary undergraduate education in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) in India faces serious challenges that demand critical rethinking of structure, content and practice in this domain. On the one hand, there is continuous, even increasing, demand for courses which may broadly be categorized as Arts/Humanities courses. Around 40% of the students registered for undergraduate degrees are in such courses. On the other hand, it is not clear in what ways these degrees are currently enabling students either to earn a livelihood or to engage in critical practices. From the outside, and above, some of the same old questions continue to haunt disciplines in this category: What are the contributions of the HSS to society or to nation building? Who can afford to, or indeed, is interested in HSS studies except the children of the elite? Meanwhile, from below, as a generation of students from the marginalized sections enters undergraduate education and expresses its anxieties about the future, comes another kind of question: what opportunities do these disciplines open up for graduates? A closer look will reveal that for a considerable number of students, the reasons for joining such courses may not be related either to academic or occupational motivations. In this context, it is important to critically review the current practices of undergraduate education in the HSS in India and begin the process of charting out possible futures.

As a step toward this, the School of Liberal Studies at AzimPremji University invites papers for a conference on the futures of the Humanities and Social Sciences in India. This is intended to be an occasion for various stakeholders such as students, teachers, employers and other interested scholars to come together and discuss primarily bit not exclusively the following questions:

1. What is the relevance of undergraduate education in the HSS both in social and economic terms?
2. What is the nature of current curriculum and pedagogy in the HSS? Who is the standard student imagined in developing curriculum and pedagogy in these subjects?
3. What are the challenges in the process of developing course content, considering the fact that students come from very disparate socio-economic backgrounds?
4. How does the issue of language affect both curriculum and teaching practices?
5. What are the advantages and limitations of the current model of disciplinary approaches?
6. How do we address the question of interdisciplinarity in this context?
7. What are the challenges in the new experiments in undergraduate courses in the HSS such as liberal education, multiple majors, and so on?
8. What is the experience of students with respect to HSS studies in the new Liberal Education programmes?
9. How does a common undergraduate curriculum factor into this? What might the ideal common curriculum look like?
10. What is the relevance of courses in the HSS for students in the natural sciences?
11. What kinds of job skills do the newly conceived HSS courses impart?
12. What kinds of job opportunities open up for today’s HSS and Liberal Education graduates?

Individual proposals for 20-minute papers should include an abstract of approximately 300-350 words. Please do attach a brief CV as well.

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