Although it is so commonly referred to as an academic field home to subjects like History, Art, and Language, what qualifies these as humanities is a feeling that is derived from products of human work. Written history, language, and art are all products of the human experience. When history is documented, written and spoken word is adapted and translated, or when emotion is made tangible in art, these disciplines have no choice but to let the humanity behind the work seep through, evoking the air of being human. Yet, this leaves the question:
What is human?
In assigning this definition project, it’s clear that no two students will define humanities, or even what it means to be human, in the same way. Inevitably, we’ll all come up with different boundaries to separate humanities from other disciplines, and we’ll all highlight different features of the human experience. This concept, that our varied identities and perspectives play a role on shaping humanity, has been a prevailing theme in the course. Thus, “Humanities,” it seems, is an elusive concept that can only be truly defined through the compilation of individual experiences. Yet, when we bring together our individual experiences, in what ways are we to group ourselves. This is where an understanding of community is needed.
The notion of community has served as a theme throughout the humanities course. Within Unit 1, we discussed the conflict between universalizing human language and identity-specific communities. In the search for universal human rights, we pondered how to include everyone’s rights without excluding some group. From that conversation, it ultimately seems important to preserve our varied identities. In Unit 2, we talked about how communities form around paradigms which govern their perspectives and logic. In Unit 3, we discussed how the Hutus and Tutsi communities generated such a divide, as well as how witnessing trauma can create sympathy from one community to another. We mentioned photography as a way for one community to witness the pain of another community, without sharing the same physical space. Yet, in this discussion, the morality of this form of witnessing, where communities aren’t truly coming face to face, was questioned. Within each of these discussions, one question is constant: Is there a feature of being which is common between all individuals? It seems, to me, that the formation of communities is a central point. We can only obtain a full view of the world by uniting individuals to share perspectives. The need to form communities and the desire for belonging amongst others, still yields more questions.
How do communities form, and do we get to choose?
How do we remedy conflict and superiority between communities?
How should communities handle generational pain?
When it comes to conflict between communities, my definition of Revolution finds some overlap. Despite these further questions, it is clear that the Humanities program, with pre-orientation and a year long curriculum, hoped to develop a community. In that regard, the program succeeded. This class has become a community, a safe place where we may trade perspectives and find solace in one another. It is the pursuit of community which fuels our connection with other humans. In creating empathy for other people, we begin to come close to our humanity. Witnessing one another, both within our outside of our immediate community, is essential to access humanity.