Teaching Humanities in Post-colonial Societies: Local and Global Debates on Culture

Prof. Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab
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Cultural issues have been at the heart of the anti-colonial struggles of post-colonial societies. They have also been at the center of their nation-building and state-forming concerns in the post-independence era. They have occupied a central place in the 20th century post-colonial intellectual histories and they continue to be prominent topics of intellectual and political debate. Yet, at no stage of their secondary and university education do students in post-colonial societies get acquainted with these debates, nor do they get exposed to the critical analysis of the intellectual and political stakes involved in them. Issues of cultural identity and authenticity, issues of cultural rise and decline, and issues of cultural modernization, westernization and traditionalization, so central to the life of post-colonial nations do not seem to find a place in the curricula of post-colonial universities. Neither history departments, nor philosophy departments, nor social science departments seem to make room for these issues.

In this paper, I argue that this unfortunate exclusion is due to a certain understanding of the pedagogical role of the Humanities in these societies. I show the importance of exposing post-colonial students to the main debates of their societies, and the role of the Humanities in offering them the tools to deal with them critically. I also argue for the importance of putting these debates in a cross-cultural perspective that allows these students to have a comparative understanding of these issues.

Keywords: Philosophy of Culture, Teaching Humanities, Post-colonial Debates on Culture, Post-colonial Comparative Perspective, Arab Debates on culture, Arab Universities
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Balamand

My teaching and research interest lies in the Philosophy of culture. At the beginning it was focused on European and US American debates on culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the recent years I have been exploring debates on culture in post-colonial countries. The center of my attention is modern Arab debates in the last two centuries, and particularly in the last few decades. I emphasize the importance of putting these debates in a comparative perspective, i.e., in relation to other post-colonial debates, such as those of Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean.

Ref: H06P0165