Center for Global Studies and the Humanities

Duke University


The Summer Institute ‘Borders, Borderthinking, Borderlands’ at
the University of Bremen, Germany is accepting applications for their
May 15 – 26, 2015 summer session. BorderthinkingSummerInstitute_2015_CfA


The Center for Global Studies and the Humanities (CGSH) stands for putting institutions at the service of life rather than life at the service of institutions. This shift is the starting point of de-colonial thinking and doing the CGSH promotes.

Through the Center we aim to investigate the role of the Humanities in building the modern/colonial world, its place in imperial formations and imperial expansion. CGSH also promotes workshops, seminars, exhibitions, and and publications with other centers (INPUTS and NiNsee) around the world engaged in decolonial humanities. The analytic goals of CGSH focus on understanding the social and psychological roots of injustice, exploitation, and domination, while the prospective goals focus on knowledge-making that advocates emancipation and community building over development for accumulation and individual success.

Two factors motivated the creation of the CGSH. One is related to the history of the university in the Western World from the Renaissance to the present, and, more specifically, to the recent history of the university during the Cold War. The humanities guided Renaissance intellectuals in their quest to understand their world. Systematic studies of art, literature, and language were also fundamental to the Kantian-Humboldian University that structured intellectual inquiry in the period between the Enlightenment and World War II. However, during the Cold War, the humanities lost ground in academia vis-à-vis the social sciences, which emphasized the scientific study of society and were founded in the strategically important discipline of Area Studies. In an era of increasing global connectivity, the humanities seemed mired in the habitual paradigms used to study the development of the Western World.

Secondly, after World War II, the humanities appeared to be increasingly disengaged from social debates related to current events, issues, and problems. During the Renaissance, intellectuals employed the humanities, namely history and rhetoric, to debate issues of social importance. The philosophies of the Enlightenment relied on philosophy to engage in thinking and theorizing about social transformations. Even the emergence of the discourse of political economy in the eighteenth century was within the sphere of the humanities rather than the social sciences. The CGSH hopes to revive this tradition and thus contribute a global perspective to the shaping of the university in the twenty-first century.