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How could we describe the situation and obligation of the humanities today, theoretically, historically, institutionally, and
culturally? In a time of increased control over academic research,
it is of special importance to reflect on the academic task. We
need to explore new avenues for a relevant and creative humanistic
culture. This bilingual volume contains contributions by Simon
Critchley, Michał Paweł Markowski, Sven-Erik Liedman, Cecilia
Sjöholm, Stefan Jonsson, Fredrik Svenaeus, Marcia Sá Cavalcante
Schuback och Irina Sandomirskaja. They originate from a conference
at Södertörn University in December 2008.
Södertörns högskola
Biblioteket
S-141 89 Huddinge
[email protected]
www.sh.se/publications
Red/Ed Cederberg & Ruin
Hans Ruin is professor in Philosophy at Södertörn University.
Carl Cederberg holds a PhD in philosophy from Södertörn University.
En annan humaniora – En annan tid / Another Humanities – Another Time Hur kan vi beskriva humanioras situation och uppgift idag,
teoretiskt, historiskt, institutionellt, kulturellt? I en tid av ökad
kontroll av forskningen är det av särskild vikt att reflektera
över det akademiska uppdraget. Det gäller att formulera nya
vägar för en angelägen och nyskapande humanistisk kultur.
Den här boken, som är tvåspråkig, innehåller bidrag från Simon
Critchley, Michał Paweł Markowski, Sven-Erik Liedman, Cecilia
Sjöholm, Stefan Jonsson, Fredrik Svenaeus, Marcia Sá Cavalcante
Schuback och Irina Sandomirskaja. De härrör från en konferens
på Södertörns högskola i december 2008.
En annan
humaniora
–En annan tid
Another
Humanities
–Another Time
Redaktörer/Edited by
Carl Cederberg
Hans Ruin
Södertörn Philosophical Studies 7
En annan humaniora
– En annan tid
Another humanities
– Another time
Redaktörer/Editors
Carl Cederberg & Hans Ruin
Södertörns högskola
Södertörns högskola
SE-141 89 Huddinge
2010
Cover image: Cloud No 4, installation by Peter Hagdahl
Cover: Jonathan Robson
Graphic Design: Per Lindblom
Printed by E-print, Stockholm 2010
Södertörn Philosophical Studies 7
ISSN 1651-6834
ISBN 978-91-86069-17-9
Contents
Förord ............................................................................................................................................ 5
Preface............................................................................................................................................. 7
Simon Critchley
What is the Future for the Humanities? .................................................................................... 9
Irina Sandomirskaja
L’engage, or The Faculty of Unnecessary Things ...................................................................23
Michał Paweł Markowski
Giving Time, Sharing Space or The Existential Turn in the Humanities ..........................33
Sven-Eric Liedman
Valv bakom valv oändligt – några tankar om humaniora igår,
idag och imorgon ........................................................................................................................41
Sven-Eric Liedman
Vault Behind Vault Endlessly – Some Thoughts on the Humanities Yesterday,
Today and Tomorrow ...............................................................................................................47
Fredrik Svenaeus
Medicinens humaniora: Vad skulle det kunna vara?.............................................................53
Fredrik Svenaeus
The Humanities of Medicine: What Could This Be?.............................................................59
Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback
Om nyttan och onyttan med humaniora för livet – En annan
humaniora – en annan tid ........................................................................................................65
Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback
On the Use and Uselessness of Humanities for Life – Another
Humanities – Another Time ....................................................................................................71
Stefan Jonsson
The Humanities in the Face of Postcoloniality.......................................................................77
Cecilia Sjöholm
What Are We Fighting For? Humanities and the Legacy of Exclusion .............................85
Författarna ...................................................................................................................................93
The Authors ................................................................................................................................95
Förord
Södertörns högskola har allt sedan sin begynnelse satsat på att utveckla och
lyfta fram den humanistiska kunskapen och den humanistiska forskningens
speciella roll inom den akademiska kulturen i dess helhet. Som led i detta
arbete etablerades 2007 en grupp forskare med uppdrag att reflektera över
hur den humanistiska forskningen kunde stärkas på högskolan. Ett av
gruppens initiativ var anordnandet av den ämnesöverskridande internationella konferensen En annan humaniora – en annan tid, som genomfördes i
december 2008. Titeln ville öppna ett rum för mer långsiktiga reflektioner
över var den humanistiska forskningen befinner sig idag, vilka utmaningar
den står inför, historiskt, institutionellt, kulturellt. De inbjudna talarna representerar skilda discipliner, akademiska kulturer och forskningsinriktningar, och närmar sig ämnet på olika sätt. Men en gemensam nämnare i
alla bidragen är den vikt som läggs vid att humaniora idag, mer än någonsin, förmår tänka inte bara över sin institutionella situation, utan också över
forskningens ansvar och det akademiska uppdraget. Det är i upprätthållande av denna tänkande, sökande, kritiska, och självkritiska hållning som den
lever och kan fortleva.
Vissa av de svenska deltagarna höll sina anföranden direkt på engelska.
De som presenterades på svenska översattes till engelska för de utländska
gästernas skull och de återges här i tvåspråkig version. Konferensen och
gruppens arbete i stort har finansierats genom ett generöst bidrag från Östersjöstiftelsen. Gruppen består av Ulla Manns (Genusvetenskap), Irina
Sandomirskaja (Cultural Studies), Hans Ruin (Filosofi) och Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback (Filosofi). Carl Cederberg har gjort ett utmärkt arbete
med de praktiska arrangemangen, översättningar till engelska och redigeringen av föreliggande skrift.
Huddinge, den 10 mars, 2009
Hans Ruin
5
Preface
Södertörn University has from the start emphasized the importance of the
humanities, in both teaching and research within academic culture at large.
As a part of this effort a group was established in 2007 with the purpose of
exploring new ways of strengthening research in the humanities. One of its
initiatives was to organize the international multidisciplinary conference
Another Humanities – Another Time, which took place in December 2008.
The title sought to inspire more far-reaching reflections on where the humanities find themselves today, what challenges lie ahead, historically, institutionally, and culturally. The invited speakers represented many different
disciplines, academic cultures, and research interests, approaching the topic
from different angles. All were united, however, in the importance each
attached to the need for critical thinking within the humanities, not only on
their proper institutional conditions, but also the responsibility of research,
and the meaning and implication of academic tasks. Only through the cultivation of this critical and self-critical attitude can the humanities continue
to live and flourish.
Some of the Swedish participants gave their presentations in Swedish.
These texts were translated for the international guests, and are here published as bilingual versions. The conference to a large extent, as well as the
work of the group, has been generously supported by a grant from the Baltic
Sea Foundation. The group consists of Ulla Manns (Gender Studies), Irina
Sandomirskaja (Cultural Studies), Hans Ruin (Philosophy), and Marcia Sá
Cavalcante Schuback (Philosophy). Carl Cederberg has done an excellent
job with the practical arrangements, in terms of both the translating the
texts into English and supervising editorial changes.
Huddinge, March 10, 2009
Hans Ruin
7
What is the Future for the Humanities?
Simon Critchley
Before beginning, let me confess that this is not really my question. When I
hear someone begin to talk about the future of the humanities or the need
for greater ‘interdisciplinarity’ – a word I hate – I reach for the gin bottle or
a gun or… both. But let me overcome my aversion and face up to the task
at hand.
Let’s begin by asking: what sort of question is the question of the future
of the humanities? I want to approach it as an institutional question, a question about the nature and architecture of an academic institution. Now,
academic institutions are unavoidable. Institutions are unavoidable. My
discipline, philosophy, has always been a school discipline, beginning with
Plato’s Academy, Aristotle’s Lyceum, but also the hugely important example
of Epicurus’ Garden. Such schools are institutions of an informal kind, usually organized around a charismatic master and devoted to the transmission
of the master’s teaching to the pupils. The model is discipleship and the purpose of the institution is the production of disciples. This model, what Lacan
calls ‘the master’s discourse’, is easy to criticize, but what is interesting about
these philosophical schools is their small-scale, autonomous nature and their
commitment to teaching. Plato’s dialogues were not written as research
projects, but as ways of extending the audience for a teaching. To let the cat
out of the bag, my response to the question of the future of the humanities
will not be so much concerned with an agenda for research in the humanities – important as this is and knowing that this is perhaps what is on the
mind of my dear friend, Hans Ruin. I’m really not sure that there is or
might be such an agenda and I’m not even sure that the primary function of
the humanities is research. For me, what the humanities can offer is an experience of teaching, where teaching becomes the laboratory for research.
But I will come back to this later.
My aversion to the question of the future of the humanities is not, then,
an aversion to institutions. It is rather an aversion to the university as the
9
SIMON CRITCHLEY
uniquely privileged form of institutionality and in particular the relation
between the university and the state. Here is my worry: as a philosopher I
am concerned with thinking, with thinking about all sorts of things, with
thinking as creatively, clearly and rigorously as possible. Nothing should be
alien to a philosopher. The question is: what is the form of thinking? Well,
at one obvious level it is what appears to take place in your head, in the
articulation of concepts. But what is the collaborative form for thinking or
the institutional form for thinking? That is the question.
My worry is that I do not think that the university, particularly the state
university, is the right form for collaborative thinking. The university in its
modern form is a largely German, Humboldtian 19th Century invention,
with its pyramidical hierarchy and its division into disciplines with professors in chairs and varieties of submissive assistants kissing the hems of their
academic gowns. It is beautifully and properly Prussian. Its philosophical
expression is Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, which is the philosophical apologia for the state where Plato’s philosopher king becomes the state bureaucrat. This is what Husserl had in mind when he described the philosopher
as the civil servant or functionary of humanity and what Heidegger had in
mind when he ominously described philosophers as the police force in the
procession of the sciences. Let’s just say that I do not see philosophy, or indeed
the humanities, as a branch of the state bureaucracy or a police academy.
The linking of the university to the state, whether the classical nation
state or the European super state form, generally has a deadening effect.
Tying the university to the state might have been justified and productive at
certain points in history, but at the present time it risks turning academia
into an increasingly uniform and pleasureless machine, a kind of knowledge
factory at the service of the abstractions of the state and capital. I think we
need to think, and think again, about what might be a better collaborative
form of thinking, about what institutional forms might better serve the
students we teach.
There are, of course, exceptions to what I’m saying about the university,
bureaucracy and the state. I’m sure that there are counter-examples in the
Swedish context and, to be clear, I’m not arguing for private universities. It
was otherwise, for example, in England in the 1960s. In 1959, C.P. Snow
gave a famous lecture in Cambridge where he identified two cultures in
English academic and social life: the cultures of science and literature. Furthermore, he argued that there was a crisis in English society because these
two cultures couldn’t talk to each other. They didn’t even share any com-
10
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE HUMANITIES?
mon vocabulary and didn’t really have any interest in what the other side
was doing.
The great project of university reform in the 1960s responded directly to
Snow’s challenge. Experimental universities were founded, like Sussex, Essex, Kent, Warwick, York and Keele. It was a fantastic experiment, but at
the core of universities like Sussex and Essex was the idea that students
from the humanities had to take courses in the sciences and vice versa. Students were not in departments, but in large and diverse schools which effectively had complete autonomy over their curricula, like the Schools of
American or European Studies at Sussex or the School for Comparative
Studies at Essex. I was a student in the School of Comparative Studies at
Essex in the early 1980s and it was originally decided not to have a philosophy department, but to have one philosopher in each department. For example, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre was professor of sociology for
some years at Essex.
There was a tripartite structure to these universities: departments,
schools and universities. The schools were like soviets (‘all power to the
soviets’, as Lenin said), departments were pretty weak, interdisciplinarity
was extremely strong, academics ran their own curricula through various
democratic fora with heavy student input and the administration was tolerated but held at a polite distance. In fact, as a consequence of extended student protests and occupations from ’68 until the miners’ strike in 1984-85,
it is fair to say that the administration was frightened of the students and
many of the faculty.
To be clear, this was not paradise, but it meant that students who wanted
to stick to their specialism (students always want this; they are habitually
born conservatives about education and therefore have to be educated into
the virtues of working in several disciplines) were obliged to receive a broad
humanistic education that included the natural and social sciences. What
happened to these universities? Basically, the tripartite structure was inverted: the schools are now weak, effectively non-existent, the administration is now called ‘central management’ and they rule with an arrogance
and philistine brutality that would have been unimaginable even 10 years
ago. Departments are increasingly isolated from each other, competing with
one another for students and scarce financial resources in a kind of Hobbesian state of nature. The informal bonds of civility that tie a university
community together are being stretched to breaking point and in many
cases being broken. Departments simply exist in order to please the management and the management simply exists to carry out the endless shower
11
SIMON CRITCHLEY
of increasingly meaningless university reforms and make money pull in
research grants. What began under Thatcher as an ideological attack on the
liberal intelligentsia in the universities, particularly those left-wing experimental universities like Essex, was perfected in a Blairite bureaucratization
of universities obsessed with three concepts: transparency, accountability
and quality.
Before continuing, let me just say that what goes on in teaching, in actually working with students, in the real experience of education, is very often
not transparent. It is sometimes obscure and difficult to grasp at the time
and perhaps only really understood retrospectively, sometimes months or
years later. Education is not accountable in accordance with any calculative
way of thinking. Finally, quality is something that cannot be measured like
coffee beans; it is something very difficult to define, like an ethos (I will
come back to this word), an atmosphere that enables students to become
something, to become more than they would ever have imagined. Education
emancipates in ways that are often difficult to define and impossible to
measure. There has been a middle management takeover of higher education in Britain and people with no competence and capacity for intellectual
judgment force academics to conform to some sort of state administered
straightjacket. Another vapid buzzword of higher education is ‘excellence’.
The issue facing universities is very simple: excellence at all costs. But what
on earth does that word mean? Nothing, I fear. For a philosopher, excellence recalls the Greek idea of arête, virtue, and there is a long and fascinating debate in ancient and modern philosophy as to what excellence might
mean and how and whether virtue can be taught. It’s not at all clear whether
it can be taught. Let’s just say then that excellence is dependent upon an
ethos which is fragile, at times obscure and which cannot be reduced to the
bean-counting methods of research quality.
In Britain there is a completely hypocritical situation with increasingly
separate and professionally competent disciplines drifting apart and spinning centripetally into smaller and smaller orbits, and fighting tooth and
nail for resources, let alone some recognition that they are good at what
they do and are valued. Above those disciplines in their Hobbesian state of
nature there floats an ideological patina of interdisciplinarity which can
somehow be measured by quality assurance agencies, by the new police
force. The true mechanism of doom in Britain was the RAE, the Research
Assessment Exercise, which made cross-disciplinary collaboration much
harder to justify and completely downgraded the importance of teaching.
12
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE HUMANITIES?
Some academics have been given overpaid jobs without much teaching in
order to improve departmental research scores as part of some bizarre quest
for increased income streams (I know a little about this as I had one of these
jobs until recently – you see, I’m a hypocrite too). Teaching is looked on as
a loser activity; what counts is research at all costs and research conceived
on the model of the natural sciences.
What can one say? At some point in the late 1980s an ideological mist
descended, making academics obsessed with research, cutting the fragile
bonds of solidarity with their colleagues (and collegiality is so important to
academia and so fragile) and introducing an obsession with measuring and
the ranking of institutions. Academics have almost entirely conspired with
this process and are completely culpable. We have shifted from a model of
oppositional politics in the Marxist sense, where there was a sort of war or
class struggle between academics and the state which required strong unions, to a Foucauldian model where university academics learn to discipline
themselves and govern themselves in terms of structures and criteria
handed down to them by their university management and state departments of education.
I watched this disaster unfold at Essex and other British universities and
really saw it up close when I was Head of Department for a few years and
obliged to do management training courses and the like. It was souldestroying to watch the institution that had taught me to think and to
which I was fantastically loyal turn into something very different. So I left. I
was lucky enough to have the opportunity to leave. Since leaving, on my
trips back I see the effects that the EU and the Bologna Accords are having
on higher education. I’m sure there are benefits to it, but I just see universities across Europe in states of confusion, particularly with the pressure to
publish in English in non-English speaking countries. Universities have
turned into football teams trying to pull in the faculty that are good at getting recognition and research grants.
I apologize for being polemical, but it is because it is a topic that angers
me, because university education is so important and it would not be that
difficult to make genuine improvements.
Are there other ways of thinking about institutions? For deep sociological
reasons, having to do with feelings of disenfranchisement, disempowerment
and disconnection, we are living through a time where there is a massive
lack of creative thinking about academic institutions. We are living through
a long anti-1960s backlash governed by an overwhelming sense of psychical
13
SIMON CRITCHLEY
impotence and a fear of not being seen to follow the law, to submit to what
the state demands. Overwhelmingly, academics want to be left alone to do
their ‘research’. Academics feel a growing sense of anomie and increasingly
have instrumental, functional relations to their universities.
The question that I want to think about is what might be a better collaborative, institutional form for thinking, one that is not at the service of
knowledge, but – and I fear to say this in public – based on an experience of
enjoyment that is at the service of truth. Did I really say that? Could we
imagine the humanities based on enjoyment? A collaborative, institutional
form of existence based on the cultivation of joy at what we do? This feels
like a dirty, obscene and slightly shocking question in the context of a culture of increasingly purposeless and endless work, but I’d like to pose it
nonetheless.
Universities, particularly in the humanities, are defined by a mood of
melancholy. This makes sense because people feel powerless and powerlessness induces melancholia. What I see in many British universities, and this
certainly hasn’t been refuted by my time in other corners of northern
Europe, is a culture of depression. It’s a depression that people really rather
like – remember Dostoevsky’s remark that corporal punishment is better
than nothing; at least it livens you up. In the final years at Essex, I saw colleagues whose entire existence was sustained by the depression that the
university was causing in them. It seemed to be the only thing that gave
their professional lives meaning and shape. This is hateful. They would
wander around the corridors and cafés on campus desperately trying to find
someone to complain to about the latest initiative that was being produced
from the university central management at the behest of central government.
The problem here is autonomy. The goal of academic institutions is
autonomy, both their own autonomy and the autonomy they induce in
their students. What we are witnessing at present is a serious undermining
of autonomy at two interconnected levels. Firstly, the autonomy of teachers,
departments, schools and universities is being undermined by an obsession
with regulation, quality assessment, transparency and all the other elements
of the middle management takeover of higher education. What I saw at
Essex and other UK institutions was – to speak in Habermasian jargon – the
colonization of the academic lifeworld by systems of administration and a
cadre of administrators who seemed suspicious and sometimes even contemptuous of the work of academics and who implemented new government initiatives with a strongly Sadistic delight. It is a particularly beautiful
Sadism because no one is responsible. ‘Listen’, they will say, ‘you have to be
14
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE HUMANITIES?
punished because you cannot do things in the way you previously did. You
have been bad academics and need to be punished. But look, I am not the
person to blame. I am just the messenger. I am simply carrying out the instructions of the university central management at the behest of the national government in order to fall in line with new EU regulations’.
We live in academic institutions where there is a palpable absence of
autonomy: no one is to blame, no one is responsible and no one can do
anything. It all adds up to a crushing sense of psychical impotence and it is
really worrying. However, academics conspire willingly with their own
powerlessness and positively enjoy their depression and misery. They
wouldn’t want it any other way. So, the heteronomy is double: it is both
imposed from outside and cultivated from within. People are utterly dependent on their feelings of psychical impotence. For as long as this situation continues, and we fail to analyze the sort of psycho-social economies of
power that are at stake, conferences on the future of the humanities or the
nature of the university are going to do precisely nothing. Teachers and
students will have a relation of heteronomy and quiet resentment towards
their institutions and their teaching and dream of the moment they can get
back to Kungliga Biblioteket and continue their earth-shatteringly wonderful book on the experience of nothingness in some or other Swedish poet.
Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. I used to sit in Kungliga Biblioteket and write books with titles like Very Little…Almost Nothing.
What, then, is the future of the humanities? It is simple. It is teaching. It is
teaching people to have an orientation towards truth. This is perhaps where
philosophy provides an exemplary and compelling model. As everyone
knows, philosophy begins in the Socratic dialogues by opposing itself to
Sophistry, which is the promise of knowledge obtained with a fee. What
does philosophy offer by way of contrast? It offers a critique of Sophistry
and its spurious claims to knowledge. It offers a critical undermining of
conventional views on justice, beauty, love or whatever. But it does not offer
knowledge in the form of information. It does not even provide wisdom. It
simply offers a disposition towards wisdom, what we might think of as an
orientation of the soul towards the true. This is what Socrates meant by
‘philosophy’, as ‘the love of wisdom’. We might even say that philosophy
challenges the discourse on knowledge and offers in its place a nonknowledge where the object of philosophical investigation is not conceptualized, compartmentalized or neatly defined, but where we might be inclined towards that matter in a certain, definite interpersonal experience.
15
SIMON CRITCHLEY
Philosophy begins in dialogue, in a drama that is a competitor discourse to
that of the tragic poets whom Socrates excludes in the Republic. Philosophy
offers a scene of instruction, of encounter, in a psychoanalytic sense it is a
transferential experience, a teaching that is not the passing of information
from teacher to student, but something much more subtle and profound: a
contact, a communication, a pedagogical erotics that has to be handled with
tact and prudence and which requires discipline on both sides. These are
my watchwords: teaching, an orientation towards the true, contact and
communication through the spoken word, enjoyment, tact, touch, prudence
and discipline.
I am not against research in the humanities. Far from it. I have been
known to engage in it myself from time to time. But I think it is a mistake to
formulate an agenda for research in the humanities in a way that simply
accepts the established criteria for what counts as research. What needs to
be pointed out is the distinguishing of what we do in the humanities, the
delicate tact of teaching, being involved in the formation of human beings,
leading them out into something new, rich and exciting. This is what the
Greeks meant by paideia and that is what we offer. Without it, a culture
dies. My question is what might be the institutional, collaborative form of
such a paideia.
I find Lacan instructive here. He never described what he did as a theory or
a psychoanalytic research programme, but as a teaching, un enseignement,
which required a persistent experimentation with institutional forms,
largely due to the fact that he was repeatedly expelled from the institutions
of the psychoanalytic establishment because of the radicality of his teaching
and practice. Lacan makes a brilliant distinction between four orders of
discourse: master, university, analyst and hysteric. The master’s discourse is
pretty much that of classical philosophy, which is concerned with the production of disciples and the irony of drawing unknown knowledge from the
mouth of the slave, as in Plato’s Meno. Implicit in Lacan’s approach is the
idea that there has been a collapse of the discourse of the master. This is
paralleled with an ethical collapse. The idea that the highest good or happiness is the bios theoretikos, the dialogue of the soul with itself in contemplation, has been replaced by the idea of happiness as the happiness of the
greatest number and morality as something quantitative and utilitarian.
Morality becomes what Lacan calls ‘the service of goods’. This is paralleled
in the university discourse, which is also the discourse of capital. Both the
university and capital are obsessed with accumulation. Universities become
16
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE HUMANITIES?
factories for the production of knowledge in the form of degrees, Ph.D theses and research. Universities are phallic knowledge machines designed to
accumulate at all costs. Capital and the university collide in the model of the
rich American private university where the value of the institution really lies
in the size of its endowment. Everyone wants to be well endowed. Private
capital is the Viagra of the modern university.
Lacan works with an ad hoc distinction between knowledge and truth,
where truth is what bores a hole in the self-certainty of knowledge. In this
sense, truth is something new, something unpredictable and surprising,
something with a relation to enjoyment, something which perhaps even
idles in the relentless activity of knowledge and capital accumulation, something of the order of an event. What we should be trying to cultivate are the
conditions under which such an event might happen, in our teaching, in
our listening to students and our collaborative being-with others.
Are there forms, other than the traditional Humboldtian university or the
contemporary bureaucratic university machine, that might be more amenable to thinking, to collaborative thinking? Might there be collaborative
forms where we might actually enjoy ourselves? Let me sketch seven models
for thinking about institutions, each of which is an open question:
1.
2.
The anarchist tradition offers rich resources for thinking about
new institutional and collaborative forms. Contrary to popular
stupidity, anarchy is all about order and organization, which is
enshrined in directly democratic procedures like affinity groups.
Anarchists are rightly convinced that institutions should not be
organized hierarchically around a relation to the state or to God.
Institutions should not have to be legitimated by the state and
academics should not be the civil servants of humanity or the
police force at the procession of the sciences. Institutions should
be horizontally self-legislating and self-organizing, like small republics, entirely accountable to their students. Perhaps the path
to some sort of institutional autonomy is by keeping institutions
as small as possible.
The problem that has to be confronted is the relation between
such institutions and capital. For example, sometimes, on a
summer’s evening in central London, watching someone like the
curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist engage in two different conversa17
SIMON CRITCHLEY
3.
4.
5.
6.
18
tions while calling someone else, I think that contemporary art
institutions might offer a compelling form of collaborative thinking. It is undeniable that the art world has become increasingly
culturally hegemonic and sometimes provides a space where
thinking can take place. But the problem here is money, the way
in which this form of cultural life has become a slave to money.
Gallerists are often doing something really interesting, but are
equally often whores to the market.
Another model is the American private liberal arts college. We
have one at the New School in New York called Lang College for
the Liberal Arts. It is perfectly utopian and students have a freedom unimaginable in the UK and an ambition and honesty
about what they want from their education. Life in the United
States is an often dubious and complex pleasure, but the importance placed on education, particularly humanities education,
can be really breathtaking. Small liberal arts colleges are often
collectively governed and extremely radical. But it comes at a
high price, about $40,000 per year.
We might also think about other examples of new corporate
forms which are much more rhizomatic and horizontal than the
classical hierarchy that academics might associate with business
structures. I recently gave a talk at the Google offices in New
York and toured the site. It is a wonderfully fluid, soft environment full of seemingly very happy creative people, but that
shouldn’t blind us to the hard business reality just beneath the
surface.
The one place in academia where the question of the university is
still being vigorously posed is in the Catholic Universities. Think
here of the work of Charles Taylor and Alasdair Macintyre. Obviously, the question is posed in relation to the question of faith
versus reason and the nature of church hierarchy and church
teaching in relation to a secular state. But at least the question of
the nature of the university is still being addressed.
As I already mentioned, psychoanalysis is interesting to think
about in relation to institutions and the history of psychoanalysis
is a largely bloody history of fights over institutions. Lacan had a
highly fraught relation to institutions, but to his credit he constantly struggled with the psychoanalytic establishment around
the issue of autonomy. This turns on the question as to who is a
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE HUMANITIES?
7.
psychoanalyst, which has to be a question that is both selflegislating (‘I am an analyst. I take responsibility’) and requires
some other form of legislation (‘This institution legitimates your
claim to be a psychoanalyst’).
A final example that comes to mind in this connection is Georges Bataille. Throughout his life, particularly in the 1930s and
40s, Bataille constantly experimented with different forms of informal institutions, from Contre Attaque, the Collège de Sociologie and the Collège Socratique, through to the more mysterious
Acéphale. Now, I am not preaching human sacrifice in a forest
anytime soon, but I find Bataille an interesting example to think
about in terms of experimenting with institutional form.
Let me close by returning both to my own experience and to the importance
of ethos, both in the sense of atmosphere, climate and place, but also a disposition for thinking and thoughtfulness. I used to be the Director of something called the Centre for Theoretical Studies in Humanities and Social
Sciences (CTS). This was an initiative created by Ernesto Laclau in 1990 to
bring together theoretical work in a number of disciplines at the University
of Essex and provide a context where we could talk to each other. I took
over in 1995 and ran the Centre for seven years. Cecilia Sjöholm was affiliated to it for a couple of years. It was a success because it simply formalized
an existing informal culture of discussion and disagreement amongst a
range of colleagues. The fact is that there were people with common interests in philosophy and politics and we created a space where faculty and
students of Law, Art History, Sociology, Literature, History and various
natural sciences could take part. It was a genuinely interdisciplinary space
which produced a huge amount of research that went on to be published.
This was not due to some policy on interdisciplinarity, but because of an
existing interdisciplinary culture which could be ‘hegemonized’ as we used
to say in Essex, and organized organically.
The point of the tale is two-fold: on the one hand, the research flowed
from oral presentations and collective discussions in an atmosphere – and
this is crucial – of familiarity and trust. People took risks with their work
because, although debate was often highly critical and contentious, they
knew they would find a sympathetic ear. Secondly, at any point in the history of the CTS, probably only about 5 people were really active in planning
and creating ideas. The core personnel changed, but the number was always
small and I think this is a virtue. What I want to emphasize is the fragility of
19
SIMON CRITCHLEY
such an ethos, and any other intellectual ethos. It is the easiest thing in the
world to destroy. At the time of writing, the fate of the CTS is in grave
doubt. There has been a top down reorganization of the faculties at Essex,
with a new management structure, and it looks like the CTS will fall
through the cracks and probably disappear. It is a huge pity, but in no way
surprising.
I moved to the New School for Social Research (NSSR) in 2004 and
found myself in a very different academic culture, but with some surprising
similarities. I won’t go into the long and heroic history of the New School
and its origins in the opposition to US policy on the First World War, at
Columbia, and the period of the “University in Exile” in the 1930s and 40s,
when the New School was a home to many exiled German Jewish professors
and then their French colleagues. The aim of the NSSR is a programme of
critical social research on the model imagined by John Dewey, who was
involved at the origin of the institution. We don’t have humanities as such,
but a grouping of very humanistic social science departments along with
departments of philosophy and history. Although many people at the NSSR
are perhaps deluded about the importance of the NSSR in American academic life – I confess that I am one of them – it is a unique place with a
really strong intellectual culture and a live institutional memory. This is
combined with a secular Jewish leftist Weltanschauung and a healthy competitiveness amongst colleagues. Every year, there are threats to this culture,
this ethos, and the university central management is particularly incompetent. But we keep that ethos alive through conversation, playful joking relationships and a strong sense of solidarity. What I particularly like is that we
refer to ourselves as a collegium, as a collegial institution.
What is surprizing about the NSSR coming from the UK is the importance placed on teaching. We all teach pretty much the same load and it is
simply assumed that the faculty are doing research. What counts is the quality of your teaching, your engagement with students and your presence in
the institution. One’s kudos amongst colleagues comes from the buzz
around your teaching. Most of my colleagues are better teachers than I and,
as a consequence, I am constantly seeking to improve my pedagogical technique. Teachers have a level of autonomy over curriculum, assessment and
all the rest that would be unimaginable in the UK. But, oddly, or perhaps
not so oddly, this does not produce autocratic teaching. On the contrary,
classes are the most democratic that I have ever seen and students expect to
take the initiative and like to take it.
20
WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR THE HUMANITIES?
Of course, the question of the future of the humanities shouldn’t be answered by old farts like me talking whimsically about a lost golden age and
feeling powerless in the face of the new university machine. Maybe it is for
another generation to decide. Maybe we should ask the students what they
think? Maybe the students should design the curricula of their own institutions and their own manner of testing? Maybe we should allow for the
emergence of some radically autonomous institution of thinking by establishing its conditions, sketching a framework and then walking back and
letting the thing live on its own? Maybe. But what do students want?
21
L’engage, or The Faculty of Unnecessary
Things
Irina Sandomirskaja
On October 1, 1794, philosopher Immanuel Kant received a letter from his
monarch, Frederick William, by the Grace of God King of Prussia etc., etc.
The letter reads as follows:
Our most high person has long observed with great displeasure how you
misuse your philosophy to distort and disparage many of the cardinal
and holy teachings of the Holy Scriptures and of Christianity … We expected better things of you, as you yourself must realize how irresponsibly you have acted against your duty as a teacher of youth and against
our paternal (landesväterliche) purpose, which you know very well. We
demand that that you give at once a most conscientious account of yourself and expect that in future … you will be guilty of no such fault, but
rather, in keeping with your duty, apply your authority and your talents
to the progressive realization of our paternal (landesväterliche) purpose.
Failing this, you must expect unpleasant measures for your continuing
obstinacy.1
In his reply to this letter, Kant promised to “hereafter refrain altogether
from discoursing publicly, in lectures or writings, on religion, whether
natural or revealed”. And indeed, he kept his word; his famous book Der
Streit der Fakultäten (The Conflict of the Faculties (1798), which contained
a more developed answer to Friedrich Wilhelm, was to be his last. Here, he
gave, as required, “a very conscientious account of himself” as well as a very
conscientious account of the structure of his contemporary machine for the
production of learning, the university. The idea of such a public institution
handling the entire content of learning, he considered “not a bad one,” but
described the learning and the doctors produced therein, as divided into
1
Kant, Immanuel, The Conflict of the Faculties = Der Streit der Fakultäten, transl. and
Introd. by Mary J. Gregor (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1992/
1798), 11.
23
IRINA SANDOMIRSKAJA
three unequal, hierarchically arranged, classes. One was to produce die Litteraten, professional intellectuals like theologians, physicians, and lawyers –
the “businessmen of knowledge” in the service of the state. Such were to be
trained by the “higher faculties”, dictated by the purposes of the state. The
other two, the lower faculties, Kant described as “those who have their own
judgment of what they teach”, a knowledge produced in the service of reason and truth, of which one was to be based on the work of pure reason
(such as pure mathematics, pure philosophy, and metaphysics of nature and
morals) while the other on historical sources (history, geography, the humanities alongside with empirical knowledge contained in natural sciences).
These departments of lower faculty were to serve the interests of truth and
reason, not those of government. Kant demanded a liberal autonomy for
the lower faculties. This would leave it free to perform its service for the
higher faculty, by supplying a critical commentary to those doctrines of the
higher faculty directly contributing to government – and by doing this,
obliquely steering the government in the direction of still greater reason and
freedom. This lower faculty, deemed useless, un-needed, un-necessary
things by the state was thus claiming autonomy from the faculty of the useful, or needed, or necessary things. But more besides it was claiming a right
to criticize, comment on, and correct the content of “useful things”, i.e.,
practically speaking, to re-direct the interests of the state towards greater
reason and truth. Thus, in response to an act of censorship by the king,
Kant claimed the right of “useless” things to censor the king himself.
Towards a Confessional Turn in the Humanities
The question of learning whether necessary or unnecessary for government,
arose once again and dramatically quite recently at a big national convention in Slavic studies in the USA. The discussion in question showed that
Kant’s observation of the hierarchical division of all learning, as described
in Der Streit der Fakultäten over two hundred years ago, is more than relevant even today – while the leave-us-alone principle, of self-governing
knowledge, remains more than ever a matter of wishful thinking. I was
listening to a group of scholars/science bureaucrats discussing the principles
of American financing for Slavic research in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Taking part in the panel was an American scholar who very often acts as
reviewer in various, rather highly placed, grant programmes. He had agreed
to summarize and discuss his own experiences from the evaluation of pro24
L’ENGAGE, OR THE FACULTY OF UNNECESSARY THINGS
posals submitted by Russians, Byelorussians and Ukrainians. It was a rare
occasion to see an active participant (in grant programmes) appear at a
public discussion – given that the reviewer is a notoriously anonymous,
secretive, and invincible participant in the process who seldom accounts for
his or her own judgment.
In his speech, the reviewer systematically referred to the East European
grant applicants as “these people”, telling us colourful stories while sharing
his concerns about the weirdness of their academic interests, competence
and performance. His concerns clung faithfully to the Kantian hierarchy.
He divided proposals into three categories: the positivist ones (i.e., “useful”
research, archival or otherwise, that was good enough to be used as data for
further interpretation by American scholars in their own East European
research). Then followed a category that he termed “so to speak theoretical”
– a counterpart, one can believe, of Kant’s pure reason subjects – with
which in principle he sympathized, but rejected on account of its being too
general and too theoretical. He was particularly upset by the inadequate use
of Western theory in this category of research: “these people” quoted too
many Foucaults, Derridas, and Baudrillards, not understanding fully the
meaning of these theories, reading poor translations of these authors’ work,
thus missing the point in the Western debate and its relation to their theories. Yet still, this was not as alarming as the research produced in the third
category, what he termed “otherworldly” – a field of learning totally devoid
of any reason at all (Kant’s equivalent, evidently, would be “historical”, i.e.
based on “crooked” and dogmatic sources, not on the principle of reason,
and therefore would be a-reasonable, un-reasonable par excellence).
When I asked him (and the others on the panel) what recommendations
he could give Eastern European scholars in order to satisfy his standards of
evaluation, I received a staggering answer – unanimously supported by the
others on the panel as well as by many in the public, among them some
bureaucrats from academic funding agencies. The unexpected and unanimous answer was “sincerity”. That was strange: where other scholars are
expected to demonstrate academic quality, Eastern European scholars were
expected to make clear their intentions. I asked whether this confessional uturn in the practices of evaluation related only to Eastern European scholars. My attempt to insinuate that the American international funding agencies were discriminating against the ex-Soviets was repelled with a reference
to a certain American research proposal, in translation studies, which had
once also been rejected due to insufficient sincerity.
25
IRINA SANDOMIRSKAJA
The Cold War and the Autonomy of Knowledge: Why the
Leave-Us-Alone Principle Does Not Work
Does Kant’s claim to autonomy of university knowledge really hold water,
and especially today, when the Cold War has reportedly given way to a society of knowledge? Can the present-day humanities serve as a safe haven in
which one has the possibility of elaborating a critique of useful knowledge,
with its service to the purposes of the state? And how should one understand “state” in an age of globalization?
In the Conflict of the Faculties, Kant constructs his university as a complex system of binary oppositions, such as, for instance: knowledge/action,
use value/truth, public/private, intra-university/extra-university, fundamental (pure)/applied, pure/historical, philosophy/State, and so forth. Thus,
various faculties, and their respective functions, are given by Kant their own
distinct and mutually non-translatable languages; their domains are delimited, and it is on the delimitation of territories that the principle of autonomy in Kant’s philosophy is based. The principle of autonomy of knowledge, its leave-us-alone attitude, is thus guaranteed by non-translatability in
the division of intellectual labour between what is needed by the state and
what is required by reason. Given the mutual non-translatability of these
languages, what is not clear is how communication between these autonomies is possible, and why, eventually, the state – the ultimate receiver of the
critical message produced by the lower faculty – should be listening at all to
philosophy’s “pure”, “disinterested”, “power-free” formulation of reason
and truth; why the state, guided as it is by the liberal leave-us-alone principle, should respond to the power-free Gewalt of reason at all.
In his critique of Kant’s institutional architecture of knowledge (in Theology of Translation),2 Derrida uses Schelling’s idea of universal translatability. Derrida applies universal translation to the world of knowledge and
academic institutions through which the State and truth communicate with
one another. Universal translation is the negation of the principle of autonomy: in translation nothing is exempt from the circulation of meaning due
to the leave-us-alone principle. Schelling in this sense is radically opposed
to Kantian liberalism, and this allows Derrida to perform a critique of academic liberalism that is also valid for our present-day situation with liberalism in crisis.
2
Derrida, Jacques, “Theology of Translation”, Eyes of the University: Right to Philosophy
2, transl. by Jan Plug and Others (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 64-80.
26
L’ENGAGE, OR THE FACULTY OF UNNECESSARY THINGS
If one assumes Schelling’s translation as the economy that governs the
production and consumption of knowledge then the State itself, positive
sciences (the useful higher faculty), and philosophy (Kant’s useless lower
faculty, including the humanities with their raison d’être in history) are all
mutually translatable. Science and philosophy “resemble” each other as
knowledge based on imagination while the State represents “the becomingobjective of originary knowledge in the mode of action” (p. 76). The disturbing implication, as borne out by the 20th century, is the character of the
modern state: whether totalitarian, Nazi, Fascist, Stalinist, or other, a Schellingian-minded critic must accept that State is destiny, a translation of some
unidentified Ur-instance and in its origin genealogically related, not opposed, to knowledge. From this point of view, to presuppose any natural
autonomy or sovereignty of knowledge vis-à-vis the State is merely utopian.
Even legally autonomous corporations (like universities) do not take sovereignty for granted, sovereignty being an attribute of action, not of institution. Sovereignty can be achieved in (knowledge as) action, not through
mere membership in a formally autonomous institution.
The present-day situation, as Derrida characterizes it, is determined by
the epistemological and institutional conditions produced by the Cold War.
Its essence is the double shift of functions as compared to the one suggested
in Kant’s architectonics of power and knowledge. On the one hand, the
state (the king) is no longer the only commissioner and censor; the category
of the state nowadays should also include “the State, or … national and
international, State and Trans-State capitalist powers”3 and their respective
“calculations of techno-political profitability” (ibid.). On the other hand, the
university stopped being the only producer of knowledge. In the Cold War’s
East, research was performed by the academies of sciences. In the Cold
War’s West, research was carried out by think tanks, by PR, the media,
banking institutions, and other experts. As the prerogative to make knowledge is surrendered to other agents, universities find themselves solely “being confined to the pursuit of reproducible teaching” (ibid). The result is
that “the academics surrender any representation as guardian or trustee of
knowledge. One can no longer separate knowledge from power, reason
from performativity, metaphysics from technical mastery” (Ibid., 95).
Which, in its turn, results in the fact that “today, for reasons involving the
structure of learning, (it is) impossible to distinguish rigorously between
3
Derrida, Jacques, “Mochlos, or The Conflict of the Faculties”, Eyes of the University:
Right to Philosophy 2, transl. by Jan Plug and Others (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 2004), 94.
27
IRINA SANDOMIRSKAJA
scholars and technicians of learning, just as it is to trace between knowledge
and power, the limit within whose shelter Kant sought to preserve the university edifice” (ibid., 96).
When the usefulness of knowledge depends on the calculability of profits, by the commissioning/financing/censoring state, the elimination of any
distinction between fundamental knowledge becomes quite evident (the
world of pure reason and the applied one, the useful knowledge produced
for the “businessmen of learning”, the cognitive agents/manipulators on
behalf of the State). The geopolitical and strategic calculations as dictated by
the Cold War especially contribute to this situation of non-differentiation:
At the service of war, of national and international security, research
programs have to encompass the entire field of information, the stockpiling of knowledge, the workings and thus the essence of language and
of all semiotic systems, translation, coding and decoding, the play of
presence and absence, hermeneutics, semantics, structural and generative linguistics, pragmatics … literature, poetry, art, and fiction in general: the theory that has these disciplines as its object can be just as useful
in ideological warfare… 4
What I failed to find in Derrida’s Schellingian critique of Kant is how the
conflict inside the lower faculty – that between reason and history, according to the American reviewer, the “so to speak theoretical” and the “otherworldly”, between the timeless structures of pure knowledge and the historical situatedness of a text, between theory and hermeneutics – is retranslated into the terms of the Cold War, apart from the general thesis that
they can both be equally well utilized (prostituted) by war and security (of
which examples are too many, and need not be cited). Derrida does not
develop this further. The State can use history in the capacity of an ideological dogma, but can it use it in the capacity of information, as a calculable
(therefore controllable) future? In other words, isn’t it possible to say that
the conflict of the faculties in the post-Cold War era is no longer waged
between the State and the truth, nor between the lower and the higher faculties,
but inside the lower faculties, between theory (as calculable and reproducible
knowledge) and history (as knowledge dependent on interpretation)?
4
Derrida, Jacques, “The Principle of Reason: The University in the Eyes of its Pupils”,
ibidem, 143-145.
28
L’ENGAGE, OR THE FACULTY OF UNNECESSARY THINGS
“What is to be done?” A Russian question and a French answer
Again, this question can be asked only when we find the foundation for
questioning, a position from which it is possible to formulate the question.
This position is not given. By announcing the arrival of new times and some
new humanities (as the title of this symposium does) one cannot be sure
that the Cold War era has passed – nor can one reject the Cold War’s epistemological modus and institutional inventions as no longer valid. Kant’s
principle of reason is not postulated by reason itself, just as the principle of
knowledge does not belong to knowledge. Derrida suggested a solution
based on performativity in deconstruction, a new pedagogy and a new institutionalization of knowledge. This pedagogic and institutional work that
Derrida was engaged in during the 1970s and 1980s – the work he invites us
to engage in too – is a less known aspect of deconstruction in practice, an
episode of French intellectual history in action that is almost unknown both
to the critics of deconstruction (who reject deconstruction as universally
relativizing empty speech), but equally unknown to deconstructionists, the
producers of reproducible models of teaching under the auspices of Derrida’s posthumous cult.
What I am referring to is Derrida’s engagement in the institutionalization of philosophy as part of GREPH (the Research Group on the Teaching
of Philosophy) in the 1970s, his participation in the activities of the General
Estates of Philosophy in the 1970s and 1980s, and his leadership in the establishment of College International de Philosophie in 1983. In this situation, we can observe a deconstructive philosopher – in the world’s opinion,
an outright iconoclast – performing as institutional architect on commission from the State.
These forums and institutions were initiated by the Leftist thinkers in response to the so-called “Haby reforms” of the French secondary education
system in 1975. Derrida received his commission from Mitterand’s socialist
government, when it won the national elections and took over after
d’Estaing’s Gaullist administration, in 1981. The Haby reform was aimed at
the universalization, unification, and systematization of schools, to give
secondary education a more practical emphasis on technoscientific training
and an improved bureaucratic management of the school system by the
state. The French traditional system of schools was supposed to be unified
and simplified, requirements to “the general cultural level” of the students
were supposed to be lowered, and more hours were supposed to be given to
training in technology, science, and sports (which remained the only obliga29
IRINA SANDOMIRSKAJA
tory subject during the last year in the Lycée). The Haby reform was to
eradicate the seeds of May-June 1968 in French education. As a means of
preventing another 1968 in future, the reform proposed, among other
things, to increase the practical value of school education through a radical
reduction of teaching hours for philosophy.5
The protests against the reform in its preparation had been voiced long
before the announcement of the Haby Law in 1975, on the Left, and especially among the teachers’ unions and the intellectuals, which resulted in the
establishment of forums like GREPH and Etats Generales de Philosophie.
Mitterand’s socialist government, who came to power in 1981, supported
this movement by giving these forums an official status and asking them to
develop a system for education in the humanities in practical work, which
ultimately resulted in the establishment of the Collège International de
Philosophie in 1983, Derrida receiving the appointment as its first director.
Now, how did Derrida respond to the censorship of the Haby Law,
which was explicitly seeking to suppress philosophy, and to do it out of
purely landesväterliche, paternal considerations, for the best advantage of
the students? He did exactly what Kant had done in his Conflict of the Faculties: by defining the place of philosophy in the system of education, he expanded the domain of its responsibility – engagement – so broadly as to
encompass, within the field of philosophy’s concerns, all other sciences and
institutions of knowledge and censorship, including the State and State
censorship themselves.
It is important to note here Derrida’s use of “engagement”. Etymologically, the word belongs to the sphere of economics. The Medieval French
“gage” is a word with a meaning of “pawn”, and “engagement” thus can be
understood as “economic indebtedness, an economic obligation, something
to be given as guaranteed deposit to be further on reclaimed”. Derrida thus
conceives of the universe of knowledge as a general economy, a circulation
of mutual and reciprocal transfers, exchanges and obligations, a universe of
symbolic indebtedness with a respective set of responsibilities.
In the spirit of Schelling’s universal translatability, specifically his thesis
about “philosophy being everywhere”, Derrida attempted to radically open
5
On the Haby Reform, see Corbett, Anne and Bob Moon, Education in France: Continuity and Change in the Mitterand Years (1981-1995), 1996; Trifonas, Peter Pericles, The
Ethics of Writing: Derrida, Deconstruction, and Pedagogy, 2000; Thomas, Michael, “The
Deconstruction of Pedagogical Institutions: Derrida, Politics, and the Principle of Reason”, NUCB JLCC 6, 1 (2004), 47-58; Duclaud-Williams, Roger, “Centralization and
Incremental Change in France: The Case of the Haby Educational Reform”, British
Journal of Political Science, Vol 13, No 1 (Jan 1983), 71-91.
30
L’ENGAGE, OR THE FACULTY OF UNNECESSARY THINGS
up philosophy, to take away its privileged status as the judge of pure reason,
as assigned by Kant. Instead, philosophy becomes a practicable, performative tool for the translation of anything into everything. Philosophy is
not to be taught as philosophy, but as philosophizing (Kant’s belief, too),
and it should not exist as a sovereign subject in the curriculum (which had
been Haby’s idea as well). It is only in conjunction with other subjects, connected through a “slash”, that philosophy (philosophizing) makes sense: as
biology/philosophy, technology/philosophy, language/philosophy, and so
on. Thus, the focus of attention shifts from its previous fixation on either
philosophy or the discipline in question onto the slash between philosophy
and discipline: the interface of economic exchange, mutual obligatedness
(engagement), and reciprocal interpretation.6 Here, I admit that I am not
very well acquainted with the history of these institutions (they are all still
working and flourishing), and I do not know to what extent Derrida’s programme turned out to be practicable. My Russian scepticism tells me that
one should be cautious in one’s expectations of things that are designed for
the better, because there is always a possibility that eventually they might
turn out as they usually do. Still, one cannot deny that Derrida’s programme
– as it was designed in the midst of the Cold War and as it was reported, in
the form of a concrete curriculum, after its announced termination in 1990
– to a large extent remains unfulfilled, at least in the context of the Swedish
university, which has much in common with the French educational establishment. We still do not have a curriculum like Derrida’s, and, to be frank,
I cannot imagine a state that would be interested in institutionalizing it in
the way Derrida proposes in his report. Nor have we finished with his philosophy-slash-everything-else programme, his version of the conflict of the
faculties at the interface between them; the slash between philosophy and
every other discipline still remains unexplored. Philosophy nowadays still
cannot be considered a complement to, let us say, Slavic studies. Equally, let
us say, Slavic studies are not seen as a complement to philosophy; both
inferences thus preserve a peaceful status quo, an indifference towards each
other, and a neutrality along the frontlines of the slashes. So, is the Cold
War really over? Are there indeed new humanities that have come to replace the old ones, and are there any new times that these new humanities
have ushered in? All this still remains to be seen.
6
For the project for practical implementation of this program in curricula and teaching
plans, see Derrida’s Sendoffs (for the College International de Philosophie) and Reports of
the Committee on Philosophy and Epistemology, Derrida, ibidem, 216-249.
31
Giving Time, Sharing Space or The
Existential Turn in the Humanities
Michał Paweł Markowski
Because of lack of time (which, as we shall see, is the main threat to the
humanities, and their biggest disadvantage) let me reveal my point without
delay, with no introductory anecdotes or quotations, and no rhetorical devices. The humanities I want to live in, and practice, are neither a branch of
science, nor a separate academic discipline. They are, for better or worse, a
space where we put our contingency into question. Three factors determine
this desirable and working definition of the humanities: space, contingence,
and question. Let us browse briefly all of these three issues. This browsing,
again, due to the lack of time, is overloaded with ellipses and shortcomings
and open to further discussion.
1. Space inevitably refers to institution. There is no institution without space,
and probably no space which would not be potentially – let me use this
clumsy word – institutionalizable. The very gesture of instituere points to
“setting something and somewhere up”, and it comes from the Latin
statuere, meaning “to cause to stand”, obviously in space, which from the
very beginning is space to be filled with statues. There is a close connection
between statue and status, which makes all space (and status) monumental.
In 1771, a time when the memory of Latin culture was still vivid, in The
New Latin and English Dictionary Designed for the Use of Grammar Schools,
and Private Education1, status is presented by means of a four-fold definition:
•
•
As “a standing, the form, fashion, or gesture of the body”;
As “a state, circumstance, or condition” in general;
1
The New Latin and English Dictionary Designed for the Use of Grammar Schools, and
Private Education […], by John Entick, Gale Ecco, London 1771.
33
MICHAŁ PAWEŁ MARKOWSKI
•
•
As “the principal point, state, or issue of the case” in rhetoric, and finally,
As the synonym for “command, rule, government”. The expression in
statu esse meant “to be upon his guard”.
This knot of meanings, present in “status”, refers at the same time to politics, bodily standing, and rhetoric. Status is what defines the human being
in his public appearance, as the body, as the speaking subject, and as a
member of community, in short: as a cog in the symbolic machine from
which, I must admit, there is no way out insofar as we want to occupy any
space. One thing is worth remembering though: no space is given forever,
and no space is immune to redefinition. Changing the status of the humanities means to re-arrange their space inside an already existing framework, or
to design it anew. It also means to redefine each of the three public positions of the body: showing up, speaking and belonging. These three cultural
gestures cover the vast field of the humanities as fashion, discourse, and
schooling. This academic triad can be encapsulated in a very simple manner.
As far as a fashionable discourse of schools reigns over the humanities, no
thinking is possible, and no singularity of the body is called for.
2. Contingence refers to what happens in space. Latin contingens means both
“happening” and “touching”. Contingent is what happens in space inhabited by us, that which touches us, and what remains uncertain. This meaning was preserved in English contact and – which is no less important –
tactics. To be in touch means to keep tactically in contact with somebody
else. But “to be touched” means to be physically or mentally moved from
the position one has taken. A contingent being is a being exposed. This
“being exposed” or “exposition” is the meaning I would like to attach to
existence.
After Heidegger we got used to explaining ex-sistere as the movement of
an outstanding standing-out. Since Latin sisto, sistere means “to stop”, “not
to move”, the opposite attitude, ex-sisto, would, due to the double negation,
mean “to come out of a non-movement”, or “to leave a post”, or, finally, “to
depart”. Sistere means to freeze, and consequently to keep a position for good
(in American English it is called tenure). But we have to be aware that English and any modern (French and German at least) word position comes
from Latin verb ponere, to place something somewhere, which is a direct
translation of Greek thesei and thesis. Submitting a thesis in an academic
institution means to put it under the feet of the academic patrons, which
immediately recreates the hierarchical scale of power. As you can see, what I
34
GIVING TIME, SHARING SPACE
insist on is the reappraisal of the symbolic space in which the humanities
are doomed to develop. Sistere is strictly connected to “propose a proposition, or a thesis from a strictly determined position”, and this seemingly
analytical judgment sounds like a synthetic one. Since any proposition
launched from a position has to be grounded on understanding – which, to
make this series even longer, is a primordial attribute of the subject, subjectus (sub+jicere, to throw something under as to make it standing firmly,
or under-standing) – it is quite clear that understanding, proposition, position, and the subject form a conceptual whole which is impossible to imagine without sup-posing this kind of static attitude (let us remember what
static means in communication), and to which stasis in the Greek or sistere
in Latin refer. It leads me to the conclusion that the humanities, with all this
institutional equipment like proposition, position, thesis, understanding,
and the subject, testifies to being out of touch with existence. It is from here
that we arrive at the third issue of our exposition – questioning.
3. Questioning makes our position in space insecure. Thus, we might be seduced to read ex-sistere, or even ek-stasis, as a sort of critical position, or a
position put in crisis, which means a position ex-posed to a movement of
non-identity and non- understanding. Critical humanities would not be
then a discipline to reflect upon the human, but rather the only position in
academia to put its footing in crisis.
There are, generally speaking, two interpretations of ex-sistere, and thus
two approaches to the humanities. The first one, implicated in life considered as a development of self-consciousness, makes a perfect match of existence and understanding. This concept of existence is thoroughly based on
the fully self-conscious subject who does not dare to live unless his life is an
output of understanding and is not grounded on very firm soil. Existence,
according to this model, is just a result of well-written software, an outcome
of cognition, a consequence of reason, which programmes everything according to its own exigencies. Existing means just living one’s life, and not
being exiled into the menacing and deceptive world of the unexpected. Existence understood in this way is tantamount to displaying one’s position.
The humanities developed under the aegis of this approach gets rid of everything which is not certain and measurable.
There is, however, another possibility for taking existence into account,
which, as I suggested earlier, can be called exposure, or – expressed more
effectively – exposition. When is one exposed, and to what? What, really, is
exposition, Ausstellung? Under what circumstances may we say, about our35
MICHAŁ PAWEŁ MARKOWSKI
selves, that we are exposed? To approach this strange attitude, which does
not mean disrobing in front of other people, or to put one’s body under the
influence of the sun, let me refer briefly to one literary example. It comes
from a Polish-Jewish writer, Bruno Schulz and his short story called The
Old-Age Pensioner, included in the collection titled Sanatorium under the
Sign of the Hourglass:
My form of existence depends to a large degree on conjecture and requires a fair amount of goodwill […] You sober up—this is what is characteristic of my situation: […] you loosen up all ties and blow all the limits apart. […] I stopped gathering moss a long time ago.
With the idiom “to gather moss,” the translator unwillingly, but perspicaciously, reveals some Greek connotations hidden in the concept of the subject. The subject, or hypokeimenon, means almost exactly “to gather moss
under (hypo) oneself”. Sub-jicere has these connotations as well. The subject
means: I want to make myself comfortable in my standing, so I put some
moss under myself in order to stabilize my position. Doing this, I build up
myself as the subject whose only aim is to stop moving, to extinguish existence, to gather moss in order to prevail. Furthermore, moss grows also of
itself as a result of a great amount of time spent on a specific spot without
moving, and is a sign of this frozen time. Thus, the very act of building the
subject forbids being uncomfortable with oneself, and dis-placing: there is
no way for the subject to suffer from lack of comfort. Any discomfort in the
place taken over by the subject presses him to rearrange this position in
order to regain what has been lost.
4. This is exactly how people in academia work and this is why academia, as
we know it, is the perfect image of the metaphysical concept of the subject,
as the ultimate position to be taken. What is much worse, however, is that
the humanities, instead of keeping away from this urge for securing thesis as
the main instrument of power, confirm it, almost uncritically. I think that it
is due to their origins as the local branch of epistemology for which interpretation is just a way of producing adequate representations of the world.
In the remaining part of my presentation I will dwell on interpreting a short
passage from Derrida’s text on interpretation and existence, in order to
delineate a possible future for the humanities, as the non-epistemological
approach. It is taken from “Comme si c’était possible ‘within such limits’…”, an essay published originally in “Revue Internationale de Philoso-
36
GIVING TIME, SHARING SPACE
phie”, in 1998, and subsequently reprinted in his collection of addresses,
interviews and interventions called Negotiations.
An interpretation that was without flaw, a self-comprehension that was
completely adequate would not only mark the end of a history exhausted
by its very transparency. By prohibiting the future, it would make everything impossible, both the event and the coming of the other, the coming to the other [...].2.
5. Let us start with the simplest things. History and transparency exclude
each other. The perfect self-transparency of all cognitive acts, of the subject
who believes in impeccable adequacy, between words and things, concepts
and reality, remains beyond time, beyond history, and therefore beyond
interpretation. If to exist beyond time means not to exist at all, the very
desire for transparency which might irrevocably fasten discourse and existence is the desire for making all interpretation invalid. This urge to disinterpret our life, to deliver it from the burden of time is dangerously close
to – if not consubstantial with – death. This is tantamount to saying that the
only thing to deliver us from death, or, more precisely, from life covered by
death, is interpretation, or, as Derrida suggests, “the coming to the other”.
But it can be read in the reverse order as well: the ban put on interpretation
(and on the otherness of the subject, both individual and institutional) is a
kiss of death performed by the living corpses of our deans.
6. It is not difficult to reveal theological insights beyond this approach. If
there is still an existential and not – as in the case of Alain Badiou – political
exegesis of St. Paul possible, it is here: now we see in darkness, in aenigmate,
obscurely, and some day we will see clearly. Leaving the theological perspective aside, present in the possible fulfilment of the promise to see without
hindrance, without obstacle, we could say that our human condition is
nothing less than seeing in aenigmate, confusedly, not clearly, without a
promise, here, in this life, to see transparently. Due to this opacity, to this
obliqueness, there is still a future ahead of us, there is still time, and there is
still life, which could be defined as “coming to the other”. This approach, if
we identify this seeing in aenigmate with interpretation, is one of the main
figures of deconstruction in the sense that future (and hope) opens itself
due to the obscurity of our understanding which unavoidably calls for in2
I am quoting the American edition: As If It Were Possible ‘Within Such Limits’, in: J.
Derrida, Negotiations. Interventions and Interviews 1971-2001, edited and translated by
E. Rothenberg, Stanford 2002, p. 360.
37
MICHAŁ PAWEŁ MARKOWSKI
terpretation. A full self-understanding, a perfect answer to the question
“Who am I?” or “What is it?” abolishes the sharp discrepancy between
words and things, which is to say that it closes up the future. To put it mercilessly: He, who knows who he is, ceases to exist. On the other hand, misunderstanding lets the future sketch itself beyond the horizon of our expectations. He who wants to stabilize meanings acts like Stalin, for whom only
one form of institution – a totalitarian state – was capable of persisting and
thus capable of canceling time? This is why Kafka and Joyce, among other
writers, were forbidden in communist countries: they never helped to stabilize meaning and never suspended time whose unlimited promise was –
paradoxically – considered as a lethal threat. Totalitarianism, as the Polish
writer Alexander Wat remarked – who is both insightful and experienced
on the subject of Soviet prisons – begins in language by fixing the relationship between signifier and signified. If the same perfect match between
signifier and signified applies to the bourgeois mythology, as Roland
Barthes maintained, it is easy to see the connection between these two attitudes. Any gesture of closing up the irremovable difference between two
sides of a sign, especially if it takes place in Academy, produces dangerous
consequences of myth considered as a real thing and not as an arbitrary
construction, as it is.
7. The stake of interpretation is not a meaning of this or that text or this or
that artefact, but time. It is meaning which appears out of time, and not the
inverse. The phenomenologists say differently: it is time which comes out of
meaning, and this is why time experience is rooted in the internal experience of consciousness which posits both time and sense. One of the most
severe consequences of this stance is that the eradication of the dissymmetry
between mind and time leads to the eradication of meaning as well, and –
which is more than obvious – of interpretation. Knowledge, which presupposes a perfect match of time and mind, is supposed to expel the uncertainty of interpretation as well as each professor who does not want to submit him- or herself to this magic. This is why the real war on interpretation
does not take place between different schools of reading, but is declared by
the analytical philosophers who have already taken their positions and
bridged the gulf between two parts of the sign. To say it clearly: their repugnance expressed towards interpretation is nothing less than their abomination toward existence. For them the only affordable form of knowledge is a
timeless, therefore undisputable one. If there is a danger in the field of hu-
38
GIVING TIME, SHARING SPACE
manities it lies here: in the traffic of timeless truths smuggled by the partisans of logical positivism.
Deconstruction in turn, changes this relationship between time, sense, and
the egological consciousness:
The possibility of this evil (the misunderstanding, the miscomprehension, the mistake) is, in its own way, a chance. It gives time.3
More precisely: it opens our access to time, which would be impossible
without a prior lack of access, without a prior distance and chasm. Spiritus
flat ubi vult, time flows outside the grip of consciousness, and the originary
gesture of theoretical consciousness consists, as Heidegger remarked rightly
in Sein und Zeit, in stepping back from existence, and thus from its timely
condition. In this sense the humanities – against the claims of Dilthey and
his successors – cannot be founded on epistemology.
8. Giving time: this is how I define the future of the humanities. It means
that the new humanities should be considered as the space of unlimited
possibilities, which cannot be narrowed down in advance. Nothing is decided yet in the fields of the humanities and everything can be questioned,
because there is still time to be given. Giving time also implies “taking
time”: we have to take our time so as not to be in a hurry, and to be able to
postpone infinitely any measurable result. This postponing, this delaying is
announced in the very dissymmetry between the subject and the object of
his knowledge, or between the subject and the object of his desire. The humanities are not the space of fulfilled desires.
Giving time also means sharing space. As deconstruction incessantly recalls, nothing exists in and for itself, everything can be shared. The subject
of the humanities divides itself from the very beginning, before it even
wants to establish itself as the basis for institution (this is where the deconstruction of sovereignty and all its political or theological form begins4).
3
Derrida, As If It Were Possible “Within Such Limits”, p. 360.
“Today, the great question is indeed, everywhere, that of sovereignty. Omnipresent in
our discourses and in our axioms, under its own name or another, literally or figuratively, this concept has a theological origin: the true sovereign is God. The concept of
this authority or of this power was transferred to the monarch, said to have a "divine
right." Sovereignty was then delegated to the people, in the form of democracy, or to the
nation, with the same theological attributes as those attributed to the king and to God”
(J. Derrida, For What Tomorrow…, A Dialogue with Elisabeth Roudinesco. Trans. Jeff
Fort, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004, 91–92)
4
39
MICHAŁ PAWEŁ MARKOWSKI
This dividing process takes place across or prior to the disciplinary division,
and opens up the possibility of deconstructing the university, academy, or
any teaching institution. In other words, a seminar, as a shared space of
disseminating meanings (this is what seminar means literally), and not a
lecture, has to be the basic unit of the humanities. In this space no sovereign
rules or imposes his own decisions ad libitum.
9. Giving time (in order) to share space: this is how, in a telegraphic manner, I would define the future of our profession, which, as Derrida used to
remind us, is always a profession of faith. As a profession, it is nothing but a
public declaration of one’s dreams. Of course, one should be warned: there
is no profit in this profession. You sober up: as the oldest profession, it is
incessantly asked by the policemen5 for its I.D. and what it can provide in
response is, probably, only Id, the secret life of the singular body whose
gesture and future consist in sharing life with others.
5
I use the term “policy” in the meaning proposed by Jacques Rancière: “The essence of
police of the police is the principle of saturation; it is a mode of the partition of the sensible that recognizes neither lack nor supplement. As conceived by the “police” society is
a totality comprised of groups performing specific functions and occupying determined
spaces” (“Dissenting Words: A Conversation with Jacques Rancière”, Diacritics, vol. 30,
No. 2, Summer 2000, p. 13).
40
Valv bakom valv oändligt – några tankar
om humaniora igår, idag och imorgon
Sven-Eric Liedman
Skäms inte för att du är människa, var stolt!
Inne i dig öppnar sig valv efter valv oändligt.
Du blir aldrig färdig, och det är som det ska.
Så står det i Tomas Tranströmers dikt ”Romanska bågar” från samlingen
För levande och döda (1989). Dikten tolkas ofta i religiös riktning. Det kanske ligger nära till hands; scenen är en kyrka. Men ändå är det människan
som är dess föremål och inte Gud.
För mig är det en humanistisk dikt som handlar om enskilda människor,
så väl som mänskliga sammanhang, bilder, toner och texter. Lager efter
lager av innebörder kan friläggas, men det finns alltid något som återstår.
Från ”Romerska bågar” går tanken lätt till en annan berömd litterär
framställning om det mänskliga, men en som går i motsatt riktning. I Henrik Ibsens Peer Gynt (1867) försöker Peer i slutet av pjäsen finna sitt verkliga
jag och upptäcker att han är som en lök: när han avlägsnat skal efter skal
finns ingenting kvar.
Tomas Tranströmer har också skrivit en dikt om människan som lök. Jag
tänker på de korta raderna i Den stora gåtan (2004):
Vid vägs ände ser jag makten
och den liknar en lök
med överlappande ansikten
som lossnar ett efter ett.
Det är en dikt om maktens ansikten. Vi ser dem på tidningarnas ekonomisidor: en VD som går, en ny som kommer. Eller på nyhetssidorna: en president som avlöser en annan. Det ena ansiktet lossnar från maktens lök, nästa
blir synligt. Ingen hemlighet gömmer sig längst in, bara nya skal under de
gamla.
41
SVEN-ERIC LIEDMAN
Även detta är i mina ögon en humanistisk dikt. Det är bara ett annat sätt
att se det mänskliga, en annan utgångspunkt, ett annat sätt att tänka.
Det finns en klassisk motbild till både valven och löken, och det är bilden
av det mänskliga som ett plommon. Innanför fruktköttet befinner sig den
hårda kärnan, väsendet, den entydiga och slutgiltiga sanningen. Jag skulle
tro att det fortfarande är den föreställningen som vi möter oftast, trots att
den sedan länge varit utsatt för hård kritik. För det första är den pedagogiskt så tacksam. En dikt kan tolkas bara på ett sätt, och historiska förklaringar ska vara entydiga och ovedersägliga. Beethovens sjunde symfoni måste analyseras efter en given mall. På så sätt blir det lätt att skilja rätt från fel
och den som kan från den som inte kan. Man kan sätta betyg i en känsla av
säkerhet.
Plommonet ger också mallen för många förklaringar med vetenskapliga
anspråk som vill återföra komplexa sammanhang på en enda typ av
omständligheter, kanske ekonomiska, kanske psykologiska, eller rentav biologiska. Sanningen om det historiska skeendet, filosofens tankar eller Gustave Courbets målningar finns under det saftiga fruktköttet.
Sedan någon tid är det åter populärt med någon typ av naturvetenskapliga förklaringar av olika fenomen som traditionellt räknas till humanioras
område. Darwinismen blir en förklaringsmodell inom litteraturvetenskapen. Hjärnforskningen vill ha ett ord med i laget även när det gäller mänskliga skapelser. Var inte Wittgensteins tänkande i sista hand ett symptom på
Aspergers syndrom? Nog borde det enorma vetandet om hjärnan ha något
att säga om tillkomsten av Hamlet?
Det mest påfallande med denna typ av förklaringar är så långt jag har
kunnat följa dem deras enorma trivialitet. Det är en gammal tanke från
slutet av 1800-talet att Darwins selektionsmodell kan användas på kulturens
utveckling. Men är det samma slags mekanismer som arbetar här som bland
levande varelser? – Det är möjligt att Wittgenstein hade Aspergers syndrom
(om det är möjligt att fastställa något sådant långt efter hans död). Men
många har enligt experterna Aspergers syndrom men ingen av dem tänker
som Wittgenstein. Shakespeare hade säkert en briljant hjärna. Ändå kan
denna hjärna inte ensam förklara Hamlet eller ens säga något intressant om
dramat; resterna av den har multnat bort för längesen.
Missförstå mig inte. Jag är en stor beundrare av darwinismen som teoribyggnad, och jag finner hjärnforskningen fascinerande. Men deras bidrag
till humanistisk forskning är indirekta. Ju längre hjärnforskningen tränger,
desto mer avslöjar den om hjärnans enorma komplexitet. Evolutionsbiolo-
42
VALV BAKOM VALV OÄNDLIGT
gin visar att arten människa är en fullständig tillfällighet och inte ett givet
slutmål för någon biologisk utveckling.
Det ena är en tanke som stämmer till glädje och kanske den sorts stolthet
som Tranströmer talar om, den andra till ödmjukhet.
Det är valv- och lökmodellerna som kan ge lämpliga bilder för humanistiskt
arbete.
De motsvarar två olika inställningar till det material som man arbetar
med. Man kan skilja mellan ett inifrån- och ett utifrånperspektiv. Låt mig
försöka precisera vad jag menar genom några exempel.
Lökmodellen passar när man inte känner sig direkt berörd av studieobjekt. Jag har själv skrivit nästan en hel bok på det sättet. Den heter Israel
Hwasser (1971) och handlar om en originell, för att inte säga lätt bisarr men
också inflytelserik medicinprofessor i Uppsala i början av 1800-talet. Hwasser var en romantiker av egen sort, en kuf men också på sitt sätt en strålande
representant för sin tid och sin miljö.
Det innebär att jag såg Hwasser som ett symptom eller rättare sagt en rad
symtom. Allt vad han skrivit och gjort pekade utöver sig självt. Hans brev
och hans skrifter var typiska för det Uppsala där han levde och det Sverige
som han verkade i. Hans idéer var barn av romantiken men också av enklare och mer handfasta medicinska hantverksläror. Det som inte kunde skrivas på något av dessa konton måste bero på hans egensinniga person. Gubben Hwasser blev det innersta skalet i löken, men innanför detta skal fanns
ingenting.
Låter det trist? Kanske. Samtidigt är, menar jag, också denna sorts undersökningar en nödvändig del av den humanistiska forskningen. Man
skapar distans till sitt objekt. Man identifierar sig inte med det. Man håller
det hela tiden på armlängds avstånd.
Visst kunde jag finna några av Hwassers idéer intressanta, i synnerhet
det som gränsade till ett ämne som redan då fascinerade mig: den vetenskapliga specialiseringen, dess möjligheter och dess risker. Men han och
hans texter kom mig aldrig nära. Kanske kan man säga att jag arbetade på
ett traditionellt (idé-) historiskt sätt. Distansen till ämnet är också typisk för
olika grenar av kultursociologi, för att inte tala om den forskning där rent
språkliga, stilistiska egenskaper befinner sig i fokus. Även det vida och svåravgränsade fält som idag kallas cultural studies är samma andas barn.
Dessa typer av forskning är normalt sett materialkrävande. Man måste
gå genom stora mängder dokument för att vaska fram det väsentliga. Man
söker det talande, det karakteristiska.
43
SVEN-ERIC LIEDMAN
I valvmodellen är det inte det typiska utan det unika som är målet för undersökningen. Det är en gammal tanke för humanistisk forskning; jag tror
att det var Gustav Droysen som först uttalade den explicit i sin berömda
Grundriss der Historik (1858), och den har varierats på olika sätt fram till
vårt eget nu. Den håller säkert fortfarande – men inte för all humanistisk
verksamhet. Närmare bestämt behöver sökandet efter det unika alltid stöd i
en generaliserande forskning, eller åtminstone en forskning som söker de
stora överblickarna. Man kan inte säga vad som är ensartat om man inte vet
vad det skiljer sig från.
Det är möjligt att själva ordet ”det unika” kan vara vilseledande. Kanske
är det bättre att tala om det som inte låter sig uttömmas på innebörd.
Men vad är då detta outtömliga? Misstanken ligger kanske nära att jag
vill upprätta ett slags humanistisk kanon – alltså texter, bilder, musik som
skulle förses med en liten vimpel med texten: ”Odödliga mästerverk som du
bör ta del av och helst också hänföras av”. Men en sådan tanke är mig
främmande. En snabb blick tillbaka på den humanistiska forskningens historia visar också att tanken på en kanon av det slaget är illusorisk. Objekten
för en forskning som kan sägas använda sig av valvmodellen har skiftat över
tid och miljö. Även när det gäller verk som varit föremål för en tämligen
oavbruten uppmärksamhet – som låt oss säga Hamlet eller Das wohltemperierte Klavier eller Platons Staten – har perspektiven skiftat, väsentligt och
oväsentligt fördelats olika och anknytningen till den egna tiden alltid varit
väsentlig.
Det är något som över huvud är påfallande när det gäller humanistisk
forskning: den är nära relaterad till sin tid och miljö. I viss mån gäller det all
vetenskaplig verksamhet, men sambandet är mer påfallande inom humaniora. Anledningen är inte svår att finna: humaniora gäller omedelbart
mänskliga – och ständigt skiftande – förhållanden, och existensberättigandet ligger ytterst i att den direkt eller indirekt kan påverka människors föreställningar om livet, historien, ont och gott, vackert och fult …
Därtill kommer att humanistisk forskning av det slag jag här talar om
också har en viktig subjektiv komponent. Den kräver ett personligt engagemang och ett intresse inte bara för kunskapssökandet som sådant utan för
det specifika studieobjektet. Vi har våra livsledsagare och våra svindlande
nyupptäckter som vi så gärna vill övertyga andra om att de är värda både
uppmärksamhet och inlevelse.
Denna subjektiva komponent är påtaglig också i de stora, tunga och
mönstergivande verken i genren. Bara för att nämna ett enda exempel:
Erich Auerbachs Mimesis (1946). Den boken har sin självklara tyngd i för44
VALV BAKOM VALV OÄNDLIGT
fattarens lärdom, vidsyn och akribi, men den är också präglad av den mörka
tid i vilken den är skriven. Den har ett tema som är höjt över personliga tycken – verklighetsåtergivningens problem – men urvalet av de författare och
strömningar som behandlas är likväl präglat av Auerbachs egna preferenser.
I rubriken har jag lovat att säga något om humaniora igår, idag och i morgon. Indirekt har jag berört både det förflutna och nuet – däremot inte en
tänkbar eller sannolik framtid – men avslutningsvis vill jag ägna mig åt
några påståenden, iakttagelser och förmodanden som uteslutande handlar
om vad som nyss varit, vad som är och vad som kan komma.
Det är lätt att heroisera ett förflutet som man själv inte upplevt. Mitt eget
förflutna inom humaniora är långt nog för att jag ska kunna sätta dagens
situation i perspektiv – jag har varit med sedan sent 50-tal.
Den mest slående skillnaden mellan då och nu är att humaniora för femtio år sedan hade en mer självklar plats både vid universitetet och i samhället i stort. Humanisterna sågs inte som problembarn i det akademiska sammanhanget, och humaniora hade en skyddad tillvaro på gymnasieschema
och på kultursidor (i den mån det alls fanns sådana).
Samtidigt var utrymmet begränsat. Humanistiska fakulteten hade visserligen en större andel av både resurser och studenter på 50-talet, men hela
högskolesystemet har under samma period expanderat mer än tiofalt.
Humanisterna är alltså betydligt fler idag än då men överlag osäkrare,
mer stukade, ett slags fattig underklass som ständigt jagas av sparkrav från
högre instanser. Studenternas framtidsutsikter är osäkra men också gränslösa.
På 50-talet var humanisterna under attack – framför allt från de då starkt
expanderande samhällsvetenskaperna – men de hade mer mål i mun än idag.
De hade därtill att slags officiell, av staten mer eller mindre sanktionerad
roll till exempel i offentliga utredningar. Idag anser politikerna att de kan
klara sig själva när de rör sig på områden där de traditionellt rådfrågade
historiker, litteraturvetare eller filosofer. Kort sagt, humanister har ingen
ställning som experter idag. Politikerna nöjer sig med sitt eget allmänna småprat. Jag tror att deras inställning motsvaras av en bredare folklig opinion.
Förändringen kan beskrivas på följande sätt: En liten, tämligen fast enhet
har blivit en betydligt större, amorf massa.
Och framtiden?
Framtiden kan te sig dyster. Till de problem jag redan skisserat kommer
att hela den offentliga sektor till vilken både universitet och skolor måste
räknas på ett fullständigt genomgripande sätt formaliserats och byråkratiserats. Utrymmet för egna initiativ har därmed minskat drastiskt. Det krävs,
45
SVEN-ERIC LIEDMAN
tror jag, en modig nonchalans mot alla de påbud som nu utfärdas och som
hotar att stänga ute de väsentliga verksamheterna: undervisning och forskning.
Ändå menar jag att det finns hopp. Men i så fall krävs mycket av humanisterna. Dels måste de utföra forskning och undervisning av bästa klass. De
måste helst behärska både den skarpa och skoningslösa lökmodellen och
den valvmodell som kräver så mycket engagemang och tålamod.
Men det krävs också att de åter litar till sin auktoritet och tror att det de
har att säga är av betydelse för samhället i stort och därmed har en rättmätig
och viktig plats i det stora, allmänna meningsutbytet.
Jag slutar alltså snarare med ett program snarare än en prognos.
46
Vault Behind Vault Endlessly – Some
Thoughts on the Humanities Yesterday,
Today and Tomorrow
Sven-Eric Liedman
Don't be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly
You will never be complete, that's how it's meant to be.
(Skäms inte för att du är människa, var stolt!
Inne i dig öppnar sig valv efter valv oändligt.
Du blir aldrig färdig, och det är som det ska.)
This passage is lifted from Tomas Tranströmer’s poem “Romanesque
arches” (“Romanska bågar”) from the collection För levande och döda
(1989) [For the Living and the Dead] (eng. transl. by Fulton in The great
enigma. New Collected Poems, 2006). The poem is often interpreted in a
religious sense. This might be close to the truth; the scene is a church. Yet it
is the human being that is its subject matter, and not God.
For me it is a humanistic poem which treats individual persons, as well
as human contexts, images, tones and texts. Layers upon layers of meaning
can be uncovered, but there is always something remaining.
From “Romanesque arches”, thought easily moves to another famous literary portrayal of the human, but a portrayal which goes in the opposite
direction. In Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (1867) Peer tries at the end of the
play to find his real self and discovers that he is like an onion; when he has
peeled off layer after layer there is nothing left.
Tomas Tranströmer has also written a poem on the human being as an
onion. I am thinking of the short lines in “The great enigma” (Den stora
gåtan, 2004 – transl. Fulton, The great enigma. New collected poems, 2006)
47
SVEN-ERIC LIEDMAN
At road’s end I see power
And it’s like an onion
With overlapping faces
Coming loose one by one …
(Vid vägs ände ser jag makten
och den liknar en lök
med överlappande ansikten
som lossnar ett efter ett.)
This is a poem about the faces of power. We see them in the business section of the newspapers: a chief executive leaving, another one coming in. Or
the political section: one president replaced by the next. One face comes
loose from the onion of power, the next becomes visible. No secret hides in
an inner core, only new layers behind the old.
Also, this is in my eyes a humanist poem. It is just another way to see the
human, another point of departure, another way of thinking.
There is a classical counter-image to the vaults and the onion, that of the
human as a plum. Inside the pulp, there is the stone, the hard core, and the
essence, the unambiguous and ultimate truth. I would think that this is still
the view that we most often meet, although it has been subject to sustained
criticism. Firstly, it is so easy to present. A poem can only be interpreted in
one way, and historical explanations are supposed to be unambiguous and
irrefutable. Beethoven’s seventh symphony has to be analysed according to
a given model. In this way, it becomes easy to separate right from wrong the
one who can from the one who cannot. One can give grades with a feeling
of confidence.
The plum also provides the model for many explanations with scientific
pretensions, wanting to reduce complex contexts to one single type of circumstance, be it economical, perhaps psychological, or even biological. The
truth about historical events, the thoughts of the philosopher or the paintings of Gustave Courbet, can be found on the other side of the juicy pulp.
Lately different kinds of explanations modelled on natural science have
again become popular, even with regards to phenomena that are traditionally considered to belong to the humanities. Darwinism becomes a model
for interpretation of literature. Brain research wants to have a say even
when it comes to human creations. Wasn’t Wittgenstein’s thinking in the
end a symptom of Asperger’s syndrome? Shouldn’t the vast knowledge
gathered on the brain have something to say on how Hamlet came to be?
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VAULT BEHIND VAULT ENDLESSLY
What is most apparent with this type of explanation, as far as I have been
able to follow it, is its enormous triviality. The notion that Darwin’s model
of natural selection could be used for the development of culture dates back
to the end of the 19th century. Is it these same kinds of mechanisms that are
at work here though, as it is among living beings? It is possible that Wittgenstein had Asperger’s syndrome (if one can ascertain this so long after his
death). According to the experts, however, many people have Asperger’s,
but not one of them think like Wittgenstein. I am sure that Shakespeare had
a brilliant brain. Yet this brain alone cannot explain Hamlet, nor say anything interesting about the play; the remains of it have long since decayed.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am a great admirer of the construction of
Darwinian theory, and I find brain research fascinating. Their contributions
though, to humanist research, are indirect. The further brain research penetrates, the more it reveals about the enormous complexity of the brain. Evolutionary biology shows that the homo sapien is a complete accident and
not the intended goal of any kind of biological development.
The first is a thought that can inspire joy and maybe the kind of pride
that Tranströmer was talking about and the second can inspire humility.
It is the vault and the onion models that give suitable images for humanist
work.
They correspond to two different attitudes to the material with which
one work with. One can distinguish between an inside and an outside perspective. I shall try to specify what I have to say through some examples.
The onion model is adequate when one doesn’t feel personally involved
in the object of study. I have written almost a whole book in this manner. It
is called Israel Hwasser (1971) and tells about an original, not to say bizarre,
but also very influential medical professor in Uppsala in the beginning of
the 19th century. Hwasser was a romantic of his own kind, an eccentric, but
also in his way a dazzling representative of his time and his setting.
This means that I saw Hwasser as a symptom or rather a variety of symptoms. Everything he had written and done indicated beyond these individual actions and writings. His letters were typical for the Uppsala in which he
lived and the Sweden in which he worked. His ideas were children of the
time of Romanticism, but also of simpler and more robust doctrines pertaining to the medical trade. What couldn’t be referred to by way of either
of these accounts must depend on his peculiar personality. Old man
Hwasser was the innermost layer of the onion, but beneath this layer there
was nothing.
49
SVEN-ERIC LIEDMAN
Does it sound dull? Perhaps, but at the same time this kind of investigation also makes up a necessary part of humanist research. You distance
yourself from the object of study. You don’t identify with it. You always
keep it at arm’s length.
Surely I could find some of Hwasser’s ideas interesting, especially those
bordering on a field with which I was already, at that point, fascinated: the
scientific specialization, its possibilities and risks. He and his texts, however,
never spoke to me in that way. Perhaps one could say that I was working in
a way typical for a historian (of ideas).1 The distance to the subject matter is
also typical for branches of cultural sociology, not to mention the research
where purely linguistic and stylistic qualities are in focus. Even the wide and
indefinable field today referred to as cultural studies is a child of the same spirit.
These types of research are normally, materially, very demanding. One
has to sift large amounts of documents in order to bring out the essential.
One seeks that which is telling; the characteristic.
In the vault model, it is not the typical, but the unique which is the target of
research. It is an old model for humanist research; I think it was Gustav
Droysen who first explicitly expressed it in his famous Grundriss der Historik (1858), and it has been varied in different ways up until today. Surely it
still holds true – but not for all humanistic work. The search for the unique
always needs to find support in a generalizing of research, or at least a research that looks for the grand overviews. One cannot say what is of one
kind when one does not know from what it differs from.
Maybe the very word “the unique” is misleading. Maybe it is better to
talk of that which cannot be exhausted of meaning.
But what is “this” that cannot be exhaustively interpreted? The suspicion
might be that I want to construct a humanistic canon – i.e. texts, pictures,
music shrouded in bunting with the text: “immortal masterpieces of which
you should take part and preferably also be exalted by”. Such a thought,
however, is foreign to me. A swift glance back on the history of humanistic
research also shows that a canon of this kind is illusory. The objects of research that can be said to use the vault model have shifted over time and
setting. Even when it comes to works that have been the object of rather
uninterrupted attention – let us say Hamlet or Das wohltemperierte Klavier
or Plato’s Republic – the perspectives have shifted, the essential and the
1
Transl. note: Idéhistoria is an academic discipline that has existed in Sweden since
1932. It is usually translated as “Intellectual history” or “History of ideas”.
50
VAULT BEHIND VAULT ENDLESSLY
unessential have been distributed differently and the attachment to the context and age has always been essential.
This is always salient when it comes to humanistic research: it is closely
related to its time and setting. To some extent this is true for all scientific
activity, but the link is more striking when it comes to the humanities. The
reasons are not hard to find: the humanities concern the immediately human – and always shifting – conditions, and its raison d’être ultimately lies
in the way it directly or indirectly affects people’s views on life, history,
good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly …
To this must be added that humanistic research of this kind also has an
important subjective component. It takes a personal commitment and an
interest not only for the search of knowledge as such but for the specific
object of study. We all have our life companions and our dazzling new discoveries, and want so much to convince others that they are worthy of both
attention and empathic understanding.
This subjective component is remarkable also in the great, important
and exemplary works in the genre. Just to mention one example: Mimesis
(1946) by Erich Auerbach. This book has an obvious import through the
author’s erudition, broadmindedness, and precision, but it is also marked
by the dark times in which it was written. It has a theme which transcends
the mere personal opinion – the problem of representing reality – but the
selection of authors and movements addressed are nevertheless marked by
the specific preferences of Auerbach.
In the title I promised to say something about humanities yesterday, today
and tomorrow. Indirectly I have touched upon the past and the present –
not, however, on an imaginable or probable future – but finally I would like
to make some claims, observations and assumptions, which exclusively
apply to that which has recently been, which is, and which is to come.
It is easy to glamorize a past that one has not experienced firsthand. My
own past in the humanities is long enough for me to put today’s situation in
a perspective – I have been around since the late 1950s.
The most striking difference, between then and now, is that the humanities fifty years ago had a more unquestionable position at the university as
well as in society at large. Humanists were not seen as problem children in
academia, and humanities had a well-protected position in the high-school
curriculum and in the arts pages (to the extent that these existed).
At the same time the leg room was limited. The humanist faculty had a
larger share of the resources as well as the students in the 1950s, but the
51
SVEN-ERIC LIEDMAN
whole university system has, in the same period of time, expanded more
than tenfold. The humanists’ numbers are thus greater today than previously, but all in all less sure of themselves, more crestfallen, a sort of a poor
lower-class always hounded by cut backs and down-sizing. The prospects of
the students are unsure, but also limitless.
In the 1950s, the humanists were under attack – mostly by the strongly
expanding social sciences – but they had more power to speak for themselves than today.
In addition, they had sort of an official role, more or less sanctioned by
the state, for example in public investigations. Today, the politicians think
that they can manage on their own in areas where they used to request the
advice of historians, literary critics or philosophers. In short, humanists do
not occupy the position of expert today. Politicians are quite content with
their own general prattle. I think that their attitude finds a correspondence
in wider public opinion.
The change can be described in the following way: a small, rather solid
entity has become a significantly larger amorphous mass.
What of the future?
The future might seem gloomy. To the problems I have already sketched
out must be added another: the public sector, with which both university
and schools must be counted, has been formalized and bureaucratized in a
completely radical way. The space given for individual initiatives has
thereby diminished drastically. It takes, I think, a brave indifference towards
all the dictates that are issued and which threaten to shut out the two essential activities: teaching and research.
Still, I mean that there is hope. A great deal, however, will be demanded
of the humanists. Firstly research and teaching of the utmost excellence is
required. They must preferably master both the sharp and relentless onion
model and the vault model, which takes both commitment and courage.
It also requires that the humanists trust their authority again and believe
that what they have to say is of importance for society at large, and that it
thereby has a well-deserved place in the general debate.
I thereby end with a programme rather than with a prognosis.
52
Medicinens humaniora: Vad skulle det
kunna vara?
Fredrik Svenaeus
Titeln på mitt bidrag till dagens symposium om humanioras situation och
framtid är menad som en ärlig och öppen fråga. Någon ”medicinens humaniora” finns det inte i Sverige idag om man avser en beteckning på ett fält
med en tydlig identitet. Det hindrar naturligtvis inte att det kan finnas forskare som bedriver en medicinens humaniora. Det tror jag att det gör, och
ett av syftena med mitt inlägg är att skissa på en kontur som kan tjäna syftet
att förbinda enskilda insatser och förse dem med en delad agenda. Ett annat
syfte är att försöka ange en av många möjliga vägar framåt för humanistisk
forskning.
Tvivelsutan har humanistisk forskning blivit omsprungen av, framför
allt, medicin och naturvetenskap, när det gäller tilldelning av resurser, intresse utifrån och respekt för forskningsresultaten. Beror det på att humanistisk forskning är inåtvänd och inte bryr sig om vad som händer i angränsande discipliner och på den internationella scenen? Svaret på den frågan
beror på vilka humanistiska discipliner och vilka universitets- och högskoleinstitutioner man avser, men i viss utsträckning kanske kritiken ändå är
befogad om man betraktar det svenska exemplet. Den tvärvetenskapliga
forskning som alltid efterlyses och hyllas hittar man oftare i politiska dokument och forskningsansökningar än i den verkliga forskningen. Här skulle kanske beteckningen medicinens humaniora kunna vara ett samlande sätt
att blicka framåt för humanistisk forskning, eftersom den rymmer möjligheter inte bara till samling över de humanistiska ämnesgränserna, utan
också söker förbindelser med en helt annan forskningstradition än den
humanistiska, nämligen den medicinska.
Vad är en människa? Det är naturligtvis humanioras centrala fråga, åtminstone sedan Kant. Men det var länge sedan humanister kunde göra anspråk på någon egenrätt till den frågan. Idag är det också omstritt om humanister har prioritetsrätt till människofrågan. Om och när man hävdar en
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FREDRIK SVENAEUS
sådan rätt, måste den oftast försvaras med hänvisning till att andra discipliner – som medicinsk vetenskap – visserligen ställer frågor kring det mänskliga, men gör detta på ett begränsat, eller reduktionistiskt sätt. Tydliga exempel på detta idag skulle vara genetisk forskning och hjärnforskning. Här
ställs frågor kring det unikt mänskliga, men det görs så med utgångspunkt i
hur kroppens molekyler beter sig, inte med utgångspunkt i hur människor
tänker, känner, talar och handlar. Eller i alla fall är det alltför ofta så. Här
tror jag att en medicinens humaniora skulle kunna vara av betydelse, inte
bara för humanister, utan också för medicinare, när det gäller att vara mer,
och inte mindre, vetenskaplig. Reduktionistiska perspektiv föder inte bara
hård, utan helt enkelt dålig vetenskap.
Vad är då medicinens humaniora? På många universitet i USA, Storbritannien och Australien hittar vi institutioner eller program i ”Medical Humanities”, ofta tillsammans med ”Centres for Bioethics”. Här bedrivs forskning, men framförallt undervisning, främst på medicinsk fakultet. Oftast
handlar det om att förse läkar- och vårdutbildningar med lärare för kurser i
medicinsk etik, medicinens historia och vetenskapsteori. Det är alltså en
verksamhet som bedrivs av humanister, eller läkare med humanistiska intressen, med sikte på att göra medicinen mer mänsklig, för att apostrofera
titeln på en bok av Carl-Magnus Stolt som gavs ut för ett par år sedan :
”Medicinen och det mänskliga: vårdkonst och vardagsetik, humanism och
humaniora”(Stockholm 2003). Stolts ambition är just att göra medicinen
mer mänsklig genom den nya ämnesbeteckningen ”humanistisk medicin”
(han väljer alltså inte ”medicinens humaniora”). Humanistisk medicin är
helt enkelt humaniora för människor som jobbar inom vården, humaniora
på en nivå som de kan tillägna sig utan särskilda förkunskaper och som
kommer att göra dem till bättre vårdare.
Sådana verksamheter är viktiga och lovvärda och man önskar att det
fanns fler humanist-lärare på det medicinska utbildningarna i Sverige än
vad som idag är fallet. Men det är inte det som jag menar med en medicinens humaniora. Medicinens humaniora handlar inte bara om ett gränsöverskridande i så måtto att de humanistiska perspektiven förs in, om än i
mikroskala, på medicinsk fakultet, för att vi skall få bättre läkare och sjuksköterskor, det handlar om att delar av humaniora själv skulle finna en ny
inriktning och samling genom den medicinska länken. Hur skulle då det
kunna se ut?
Bioetikspåret är kanske mer relevant än undervisningsspåret i det här
sammanhanget. Centrumbildningarna för bioetik – eller medicinskt etik
som det ibland fortfarande kallas – i den engelskspråkiga världen har näm54
MEDICINENS HUMANIORA
ligen som regel inte bara till uppgift att sköta undervisning, utan också att
medverka i den kliniska verksamheten och forskningen på de medicinska
fakulteterna. Ibland är de till och med förlagda till humanistisk och samhällsvetenskaplig fakultet och kastar därifrån sina nät och fiskkrokar över
den medicinska verksamheten. Vad får de då för napp? Om vi exkluderar
den mer undervisande verksamheten.
Ämnet bioetik – för det har verkligen blivit ett nytt ämne under senare år
– inriktar sig främst på de etiska spörsmål som uppkommer till följd av att
nya medicinska rön, terapier och teknologier finner sin väg ut i samhället
och vården. Det behöver inte röra sig om uppfinningar eller upptäckter som
redan har gjorts. Bioetiker har varit väldigt upptagna, kanske alltför upptagna, med att spekulera kring vilka etiska frågor som skulle uppstå till följd
av framtida medicinska genombrott. Hur skall vi till exempel bete oss om
det visar sig att intelligens eller homosexualitet till en betydande del styrs av
vår genetiska makeup och att vi faktiskt också kan ändra detta med hjälp av
några snabba injektioner? Skall vi få göra det då? Vem skall betala? Och vem
ska bestämma? Individen själv? Föräldrar över barn? Och så vidare.
Bioetiker idag ser sig alltmer sällan som humanister. De vill faktiskt ofta
inte ens vara filosofer. (Det finns ju i och för sig gott om andra sorters filosofer som inte heller betraktar sig som humanister.) Istället identifierar
bioetikerna sig med undersökandet och lösandet av praktiska problem. Det
är inte så svårt att förstå varför bioetiken tagit en sådan vändning när den
växt och institutionaliserats. Det handlar om att vara nyttig och bevisa sitt
värde för yrkesgrupper (läkare, medicinska forskare, jurister, politiker) som
när en betydande skepsis inför det som de kallar filosofisk spekulation. Bioetiken måste ha betydelse på ett tydligt sätt och denna betydelse skaffar den
sig genom att ange normativa guidelines på ett lätt tillämpbart eller iögonfallande sätt.
Ett exempel på den första, lätt tillämpbara, strategin skulle vara att medverka i upprättandet av prioriteringslistor för olika behandlingsmetoder och
patientgrupper. Hur mycket får en ny cancermedicin kosta i relation till
dess förbättrande effekt? Är det rimligt att man själv skall betala för en
provrörsbefruktning? Skall rökare få samma behandling som ickerökare när
deras kranskärl börjar klogga igen? Ett exempel på den iögonfallande strategin skulle vara de många böcker som nyligen skrivits av bioetiker som pläderar för, eller förfasas över, den posthumana framtid som vi nu går in i
med den nya genetiken. Här handlar det nästan uteslutande om sciencefiction, men icke desto mindre är besvarandet av frågan: Vad bör göras? helt
central. Skillnaden är att nu är svaret inte särskilt praktiskt användbart, men
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FREDRIK SVENAEUS
desto mer spektakulärt. Låt oss, för att anknyta till många samtida, utilitaristiska bioetiker, ta evolutionen i våra egna händer och göra bättre människor utan de fel och brister som genom historien visat sig föra med sig så
mycket lidande. Bort inte bara med sjukdomar, utan också med fysiska och
psykiska svagheter, egoism, ojämlikheter, och plågsamt, meningslöst grubblande. Det är framtiden.
Om de posthumanistiska bioetikerna får rätt i sina prognoser och lyckas
genomdriva sina strategier är det nog slut med humanioran, i alla fall på
högskolor och universitet. En sådan posthumanistisk värld har vi ingen
sanktionerad plats i. Det blir till att bedriva gerillaverksamhet. Säkert blir
det några ”vildar” kvar i reservaten för att apostrofera Huxleys ”Du sköna
nya värld”. Så blir det ju alltid. Inte ens rökarna kommer någonsin att helt ta
slut. Nu tror jag knappast att de posthumanistiska bioetikerna kommer att
få rätt i sina prognoser. I så mån behöver vi inte vara så oroliga. Det som är
oroväckande är inte vad medicinarna håller på att förvandla oss till i laboratorierna utan snarare den bild av människan som redan kommit att bli dominerande i bioetiken. I många fall handlar det om en rationell nyttomaximerare av mycket trångt slag. Exemplen är antingen konstruerade på
grundval av en befintlig tradition i analytisk moralfilosofi eller utskurna ur
en ny bioetikverklighet på ett sätt som berövar dem all kontext och betydelse. Det är personer som slår om växlar eller knuffar varandra på järnvägsspåren för att en istället för fem individer skall bli överkörda. Det är personer som teleporteras till kroppar på andra planeter, eller svävar som hjärnor
i näringslösning. Det är nyfödda människobarn eller åldringar som just inte
befinns vara personer till följd av sin bristande rationalitet. Och det är föräldrar som väljer sina framtida barns egenskaper i ett kulturellt och socialt
vakuum. Sammanfattningsvis: exemplen varken fångar det mänskliga eller
öppnar för adekvata undersökningar av det mänskliga. Vad som saknas är
just vederhäftiga undersökningar och svar på frågan: Vad är en människa?
Vad jag skulle vilja föreslå här idag är att bioetiken behöver suppleras
med en medicinens humaniora som förmår ställa denna fråga på ett mer
vederhäftigt sätt. En sådan medicinens humaniora har förvisso en filosofisk
slagsida på så sätt att det är den filosofiska antropologin som utgör ryggraden i den. Det handlar om att undersöka och besinna människans plats i en
värld som i ökande utsträckning präglas och kontrolleras av bioteknologiska genombrott. Ofta är det inte först och främst frågan om att människan
förändras genom direkta, operativa ingrepp, utan om att den kunskap som
medicinen förser oss med förändrar betingelserna för och innehållet i vår
självreflektion. Genetiken är ett bra exempel på det: det handlar om infor56
MEDICINENS HUMANIORA
mation och kontroll, om hur DNA-sekvenser skall tolkas och vilka som ska
ha tillgång till dem.
Den filosofiska antropologins glansdagar är tiden mellan första och
andra världskriget när filosofer i mer eller mindre nära anslutning till den
fenomenologiska rörelsen utvecklar teorier kring det mänskliga, ibland i
anslutning till medicinska, oftare i anslutning till andra humanistiska eller
beteendevetenskapliga discipliner. Men även senare, mer profilerat antihumanistiska, strukturalistiska och poststrukturalistiska tänkare, särskilt de
som intresserat sig för det som ofta kallas biomakt, skulle höra till den tradition som jag här åberopar för medicinens humaniora. Liksom den förhistoria som griper tillbaka på den tid när den moderna medicinen ännu befinner sig i sin linda – den tyska idealismen. Det handlar i samtliga fall om att
undersöka och besinna det mänskliga på basis av kroppslighet, kultur, samhälle och historia.
Låt mig avslutningsvis ge två exempel på hur sådana forskningsprogram
i medicinens humaniora skulle kunna se ut. Jag väljer här inte genetiken,
som kanske är det mest uppenbara exemplet på hur filosofer och andra
humanister skulle kunna samsas med medicinarna i mer kontextuellt inriktade undersökningar. Så sker ju också redan på olika ställen i världen i viss
utsträckning – som jag sa inledningsvis vill jag absolut inte hävda att medicinens humaniora skulle vara något absolut nytt i meningen av att det inte
finns några humanister som redan är verksamma inom fältet.
Det första exemplet berör hjärnforskning. Det är uppenbart att de upptäckter som nu görs av medicinska forskare om hur vår hjärna fungerar
påverkar vår bild av människan. Känslornas neurofysiologi och hur denna
samverkar med tankeformation och handling är ett bra exempel. Vi kan
exempelvis i laboratoriet nu se på dataskärmen hur omedvetna ”beslut”
fattas innan vi upplever att vi väljer ett alternativ framför ett annat. Här
krävs tolkning av resultaten som särskilt uppmärksammar hur hjärnfysiologens tredjepersonsupptäckter låter sig samordnas med försökspersonens
förstapersonsperspektiv. Men magnetröntgenbilderna av den tänkande
hjärnan stannar inte i laboratoriet. De färgsätts och distribueras ut i ett
medielandskap och ett samhälle där de omsätts, och, just, tolkas på olika
sätt. Dessa bilder av hjärnan som en slags mänsklig etikett är inte de första i
sin genre. De griper tillbaka på en lång tradition med bland annat frenologiska förgreningar, som präglar dem på olika sätt. Och de har också ett fäste
i konst och litteratur av såväl samtida som historiskt märke. Vi ser här ansatsen till hur filosofer, medievetare, etnologer, antropologer, sociologer,
idéhistoriker, historiker, litteratur- och konstvetare skulle kunna bilda in57
FREDRIK SVENAEUS
tressanta allianser kring ett tema och fenomen i vårt samtida bio-teknosamhälle som öppnar viktiga frågor kring det mänskliga. Ett exempel på
något liknande är den forskning kring självets olika betydelser som just nu har
en kraftfull plattform på Centrum för subjektivitetsforskning i Köpenhamn.
Mitt andra exempel handlar om ett projekt som jag själv är inblandad i
för närvarande och som bedrivs med bas på Centrum för praktisk kunskap
på Södertörns högskola. Det heter ”Kroppen som gåva, resurs eller vara”
och går ut på att undersöka organtransplantationens etik ur olika humanistiska ämnesvinklar. I projektet samarbetar för närvarande filosofer, idéhistoriker, etnologer och medicinare.
Även om gåvan är den sanktionerade metaforen för att donera organ,
verkar det underliggande perspektivet från stat och myndigheters sida ofta
vara att kroppen skall uppfattas som en resurs. Den skriande bristen på
organ, som skapar en desperat efterfrågan i relation till ett i lika stor utsträckning desperat utbud, leder lätt till att gåvan i realiteten blir en vara i
illegal organhandel. Vilken beskrivning av kroppens organ – gåva, resurs
eller vara – bör vi i fallet organtransplantation egentligen använda oss av?
Skiljer sig det officiella språkbruket från det underliggande budskapet när
det gäller organdonationer och hur påverkar detta i så fall människors syn
på kropp och identitet? Har utvecklingen av organtransplantationstekniker och politiska förändringar lett till avgörande förändringar i synen på
relationen mellan en människa och hennes kropp under de sista 50 åren
(ta till exempel hjärndödsbegreppet)? Finns det viktiga skillnader, inte
bara historiskt, utan också kulturellt-nationellt, som får återverkningar
på relationen i fråga?
För att sammanfatta våra frågor i projektet: är gåvometaforen egentligen
lyckad och relevant i detta fall (en normativ frågeställning)? Hur tolkas
gåvometaforen – och de andra möjliga metaforerna – i fallet organtransplantation av läkare, patienter och allmänhet (en empirisk frågeställning)? I
projektet vill vi att låta de här normativa och empiriska frågeställningarna
mötas och ömsesidigt utveckla varandra. I mitt tycke är det ett relevant sätt
att försöka vidga den snäva blick som bioetiker kastar på det här fenomenet
och på så sätt verkligen ta med sig den fråga om människan, som är humanioras signum och unika bidrag, in i medicinen. Medicinens humaniora i
denna mening kan kanske vara ett välgörande piller för en humaniora i kris
både när det handlar om att vinna en mindre inåtblickande självförståelse,
och när det handlar om att finna existensberättigande i beställarnas ögon.
58
The Humanities of Medicine: What Could
This Be?
Fredrik Svenaeus
The title of my contribution to today’s symposium, about the situation and
future of the humanities, is meant as an earnest and open question. There
exists no “humanities of medicine” in Sweden today, if one means by that a
field with a distinct identity. This, of course, does not mean that there are
no researchers pursuing humanities of medicine. I think there are, and one
of the aims of my contribution is to unite individual efforts and provide
them with a shared agenda. Another aim is to try to show one of many possible paths ahead for humanist research.
Without doubt humanist research has been overtaken by, above all,
medicine and the natural sciences, when it comes to allocation of resources,
interest from the outside world and respect for the research results. Is this
an effect of humanist research being introvert and caring little about what
happens in neighbouring areas of study and the international scene? The
answer to that question depends on which humanistic disciplines, and
maybe which university departments, one is talking about, but to some
extent the criticism might be justified if we look at the example of Sweden.
The interdisciplinary research that is constantly requested and praised is
more often found in political documents and research applications than in
the actual research. Here the term humanities of medicine can be used as
the means by which humanist research could be gathered and moved forwards, as it leaves room for more possibilities than simply the unification
across the borders which now divide humanist departments. It facilitates
connections with a research tradition entirely different from the humanist,
namely the medical.
What is a human being? This is of course also the central question of the
humanities, at least since Kant. However it has been a long time since humanists could claim monopoly rights over this question. Today, one could
dispute whether humanists have priority rights to the question of what a
59
FREDRIK SVENAEUS
human being is. If, and when, such rights are claimed they often have to be
defended with reference to how other disciplines – such as medical science
– poses questions about the human, but do so in a limited, or reductionist
way. Obvious examples of this today would be genetic research and brain
research. Here, questions unique to human beings are asked, but the starting-point is how the molecules of the body behave, and not on how human
beings feel, think, speak and act. In reality this is much too often the case.
Here, I think that a humanities of medicine would be of significance, not
only for humanists, but also for medical researchers, when what is required
is to be more, not less, scientific. Reductionist perspectives yield not only
hard, but simply bad science.
So what is the humanities of medicine? In many universities in the USA,
Great Britain, and Australia we find departments or programmes for
“Medical Humanities”, often paired with a “Centre for Bioethics”. They
conduct research, but mainly provide education, and chiefly at the medical
faculty. Often in this instance medical and nursing programmes are provided by humanist teachers on courses in medical ethics, history of medicine and theory of science. The programme is run by humanists, or medical
doctors with humanist interests, aiming to make medicine more human,
thus apostrophising a book by Carl-Magnus Stolt published some years ago
(Medicinen och det mänskliga: vårdkonst och vardagsetik, humanism och
humaniora, Stockholm 2003 [Medicine and the human(e): art of caring and
everyday ethics, humanism and humanities]). The ambition of Stolt is precisely to make medicine more humane by the new denotation “humanist
medicine” (he doesn’t choose the term “humanities of medicine”). Humanist medicine is simply humanities for people working in the medical sector;
humanities on a level that they can take in without previous knowledge of
the field and that will make them better practitioners.
These activities are important and praiseworthy and one would wish that
there could be more humanist teachers in the medical departments than is
the case at present. But this is not what I mean by the “humanities of medicine”. To engage in humanities of medicine is not only about including the
humanist perspectives, even if only on a microscopic scale, at the faculty of
medicine, for the betterment of the doctor- and nursing- professions. It is
about component parts of the humanities themselves finding a new direction
and common ground through the medical link. What might this look like?
The bioethics track might be more relevant than the teaching track in
this context. The centres for bioethics – or medical ethics as it is sometimes
still called – in the English-speaking world, have as their object not only
60
THE HUMANITIES OF MEDICINE
teaching, but also participation in the clinical activities and the research of
the medical faculties. Sometimes they are even positioned in the faculties of
humanities or social sciences and from that position throw their nets and
fishing hooks in with medicine. What do they catch, if we exclude the teaching they do?
The branch of bioethics – which has really developed into a discipline of
its own in recent years – is mainly focused on the ethical problems that arise
due to new medical findings, therapies and technologies, making their way
into society and health care. It is not only about inventions or discoveries
which have already been made. Bioethicists have been very engaged, perhaps too engaged, in speculating on which ethical questions could arise
from future medical breakthroughs. How should we for example act if intelligence or homosexuality is shown to be mainly governed by our genetic
makeup and that we can change this by a few quick injections? Should we
then do this? Who should pay? And who should decide? Should it be left to
the individual? Should parents decide for their children? And so forth.
The bioethicists rarely see themselves as humanists. For the most part,
they don’t even want to be philosophers. (There are of course plenty of
other kinds of philosophers who don’t see themselves as humanists either).
Instead, bioethicists identify with the investigation and solution of practical
problems. It is not so hard to understand why bioethics has taken this turn
once it has grown and become more institutionalised. It is a case of having
to prove one’s utility and value for professions (medical doctors and researchers, lawyers, politicians) that harbour a sceptical attitude towards
what they choose to call philosophical speculations. Bioethics must show a
clear importance and they gain this importance by suggesting normative
guidelines in either an easily applicable or in an eye-catching manner.
An example of the first, easily applicable, strategy would be to take part
in establishing lists of priorities for different treatment methods and patient
groups. How much should a new medication against cancer cost in relation
to its effect? Is it reasonable that people pay for in vitro fertilization themselves? Should smokers get the same treatment as non-smokers when their
coronary arteries clogg? An example of the eye-catching strategy would be
the many books recently written by bioethicists, pleading for, or showing
indignation at, the post-human future that we enter with the new genetics.
This is almost exclusively science fiction, but nonetheless the answer to the
question “What should be done?” is central. The difference is that the answer is not very practically useful, but all the more spectacular. Let us, as
many contemporary utilitarian bioethicists argue, take the evolution in our
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FREDRIK SVENAEUS
own hands and make better humans without the flaws and failings that
throughout history have caused so much suffering. Let us do away not only
with disease, but also physical and mental weaknesses, egoism, inequalities,
and painful, meaningless philosophizing. This is the future.
If the post-humanist bioethicists are right in their prognoses, and manage to come through with their strategies, humanities has probably seen its
end, at least in universities and colleges. In such a post-human world there
is no place for us. We’ll have to resort to guerrilla warfare. Surely there’ll be
a few “savages” left in the reservations, as in Huxley’s Brave New World. It
always happens this way. Not even the smokers will ever be completely gone.
Not that I think that the post-humanist bioethicists will be right in their
prognoses. About this we can be sure. What is worrying is not what the
medics are transforming us into in the laboratories, but rather the image of
the human being that is already dominant in bioethics. In many cases man
becomes a rational utility maximiser in a very reductionist sense. The examples are either construed on the basis of an existing tradition, in analytic
moral philosophy, or cut out from a new bioethical reality in a way that
deprives them of all context and meaning. We have people, in the contemporary world, pulling switches or pushing each other onto railway tracks in
order for one individual, instead of five, to perish. People who are teleported to bodies on other planets, or floating as brains in vats, newborns or
elderly people who are not understood as persons because of their lacking
rationality, and parents choosing the qualities of their children in a cultural
and social vacuum. To sum up: the examples neither capture the human
essence nor open it up for adequate investigations of the human. What is
missing is precisely trustworthy investigations of, and answers to, the question: what is a human being?
What I would like to suggest here today is that bioethics needs to be supplied by a humanities of medicine which is able to pose this question in a
more solid manner. This kind of humanities of medicine certainly has a
philosophical bias in as far as its backbone consists of philosophical anthropology. It is about examining and contemplating the place of the human
being in a world increasingly marked and controlled by biotechnological
breakthroughs. Often it is not chiefly the question of how human beings are
changed by direct operative interventions, but about how the knowledge,
that medicine provides us with, changes the conditions for, and the content
of, our self-reflection. Genetics is a good example of this: it is about information and control, about how DNA-sequences should be interpreted and
who should have access to them.
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THE HUMANITIES OF MEDICINE
The glory days of philosophical anthropology was the time between the
First and the Second World Wars when philosophers of differing proximity
to the phenomenological movement developed theories about the human,
sometimes in connection to medical, more often in connection to other
disciplines, in the fields of the humanities or the behavioural sciences. But
later, more distinctly anti-humanist, structuralist and poststructuralist
thinkers, especially the ones interested in what is often referred to as “biopower,” would be part of the tradition that I am here referring to as the
humanities of medicine. So too would the prehistory of phenomenology,
the time when modern medicine was still in its infancy – German idealism.
In all these cases the focus lies on examining and contemplating the human
on the basis of corporality, culture, society and history.
Let me conclude by giving you two examples of how these kinds of humanities of medicine research programmes could be realized. I will not
choose genetics, which might be the most obvious example of how philosophers and other humanists could collaborate with medical researchers in
more contextually oriented investigations. This is already happening to a
certain extent in many places around the world – as I said in the beginning,
I absolutely don’t want to claim that the humanities of medicine is something absolutely new in the sense of there not being any humanists that are
already active in this field.
The first example concerns brain research. It is obvious that the discoveries now being made by medical researchers, about the functioning of the
human brain, affect our image of the human being. The neurophysiology of
emotions, and how they interact with cognitive information and action, is
a good example. We can for instance today see in the laboratory on the
computer screen how unconscious “decisions” are made before we feel
that we prefer one alternative over another. Here an interpretation is
called for, observing in particular how the third person discoveries of the
brain physiologist can be coordinated with the first person perspective of
the test subject. But the digitally rendered images of the thinking brain
don’t stay in the laboratory. They are coloured and distributed in a mediascape and a society where they are transformed and, again, interpreted in
various ways. These images of the brain, as a kind of human label, are not
the first in their genre. They hail back to scientific traditions of days gone
by, including phrenology, each of which would characterise them in a different way. They also have a footing in contemporary and historical art and
literature. Here we can see the beginnings of how philosophers, media theorists, ethnologists, anthropologists, historians, art critics, literary critics
63
FREDRIK SVENAEUS
could form interesting alliances around a theme and phenomenon in our
contemporary bio-techno-society, which opens up important questions
about the human. An example of something similar is the research in to the
different meanings of the self, which has now found a strong platform at the
Center for Subjectivity Research in Copenhagen.
My other example is from a project that I myself am presently involved
in, based at the Center for Studies in Practical Knowledge at Södertörn University. It is called “The body as gift, resource or commodity” and is aimed
at the investigation of organ transplant ethics from the perspectives of different humanist disciplines. In the project philosophers, historians, ethnologists, and medical researchers join forces.
Even if “the gift” is the sanctioned metaphor for organ donation, it seems
that the underlying government perspective is often that the body should be
considered as a resource. The lack of organs, which creates a desperate demand, in relation to an equally desperate supply, easily leads to “the gift” in
reality becoming a commodity, in the illegal trade of organs. Which description of the bodily organs – gift, resource or commodity – should we use in
the case of organ transplantation? Is the official use of language much different from the underlying message when it comes to organ donations, and
how does this influence how people view the notions of body and identity?
Has the development of organ transplantation techniques, and shifts in policy,
led to decisive changes in the view of the relationship between a human being
and her body, during the last fifty years (take for example the concept of brain
death)? Are there important differences, not only historically, but also culturally
and nationally, that have effects on this relationship?
In order to summarize our questions in this project: is the metaphor of
the gift really well chosen and relevant in this case (a normative question)?
How are the gift metaphor and the other possible metaphors interpreted, in
the case of organ transplantation, by doctors, patients and the community
(an empirical question)? In the project we want these normative and empirical questions to encounter one another and reciprocally help each other
to develop. I find that this is a befitting method for widening the narrow
view that bioethicists have on this phenomenon and thereby really bring the
question of the human being, which is the hallmark of the humanities as
well as its unique contribution, into medicine. The humanities of medicine
can in this sense perhaps act as a vitalizing pill for a humanities in crisis
both when it comes to gaining a less introverted self-understanding, and
when it comes to finding its raison d’être in the eyes of the people who are
paying for it.
64
Om nyttan och onyttan med humaniora för
livet – En annan humaniora – en annan tid
Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback
Vid det senaste Euroscience Open Forum som ägde rum 2008 i Barcelona
diskuterades humanioras vikt och betydelse. Humaniora sades inte bara
vara en ”soft” vetenskap utan alltför ”svag” och kraftslös för att bidra till en
forskning om framtiden. ”Humanister har ingenting att säga om framtiden”.1 Då de inte kan bidra med säkra resultat för en kunskap om framtiden
verkade humanvetenskaperna enligt den syn som dominerade forumet inte
ha någon större nytta för livet. Frågorna som jag här vill ställa är vad nytta
för livet innebär och vilket stors vetande som kan vara nyttigt för livet.
Titeln jag har valt för detta anförande är en allusion till Nietzsches kända
otidsenliga betraktelse ”om nytta och nackdel med historia för livet”. Allusionen är ett sätt att vända vår blick mot en tanke, mot ett minne för att
åter uppmärksamma det. I sin skrift diskuterar Nietzsche tre olika sätt att
förhålla sig till historien och som vi skulle även betrakta i relation till humanvetenskaperna. Han talar om det monumentaliska, det antikvariska
och det kritiska sättet. Alla tre kan vara livsfientliga när de använder
historien för en ideologisk konstruktion av det storartade och som en
normaliserande konstruktion av det likartade. Deras livsfientlighet består i att förtrycka all förvandlingskraft, allt liv och ny början, kort sagt
all framtid. Ett förhållande till historien och det förflutna kan emellertid
ha nytta för livet när det står i livets tjänst. Allusionen till Nietzsche syftar just till att ställa frågan om vad ett vetande som står i livets tjänst
innebär i kontrast till en förväntning om att det kan bidra med säkra
resultat för en kunskap om framtiden.
En central poäng i Nietzsches betraktelse som för det mesta blir förbisedd är den kritik av nyttobegreppet som ligger som bas till hans förståelse
1
För en kort sammanfattning se Tvärsnitt, Vetenskapsrådets tidskrift för humanistisk
och samhällsvetenskaplig forskning, 3:08, s.46-47.
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MARCIA SÁ CAVALCANTE SCHUBACK
av ett vetande som står i livets tjänst. Det är mot denna kritik som jag vill
vända vår blick.
När Nietzsche diskuterar historiens ”nytta för livet” beskriver han den
som att vara ”i livets tjänst”. Detta innebär en vändning i förståelsen av
människan. I stället för att betrakta livet som av människan brukbart och
människan som livets ägare och mästare, förstås människan som livets tjänare. Denna omvändning av människans ställning i relation till livet tolkas
mestadels fel eftersom det antas att Nietzsche med livet menar det materiella och biologiska livet, dvs. livet förstått som bevarelsedrift och överlevnadssystem. Så förstått framstår människan som en slav av sina instinkter, som
ofri och passiv. Men med livet menar Nietzsche en oändlig öppenhet, börjans och vändningens dynamik och förvandlingskraft. Och med människan
förstår han tjänaren till livets oändliga öppenhet eller som han också uttryckte det ”ett aldrig fullbordat imperfektum”, ”ett ännu icke fastställt
djur”. Människan förlorar sin betydelse av verklighetsbetingande för att
upptäcka sig själv som frågande, som ett ”konditionalt om”. Livets oändliga
öppning är därför människans mästare. I den nietzscheanska vändningen av
människans förståelse framträder människan som en vändning inom livet
självt. Därför blir det möjligt för Nietzsche att betrakta det mänskliga livet
som den ständiga faran av att leva emot och vända sig bort från livets oändliga öppning. Livet av detta aldrig fullbordade imperfektum – människans –
är därmed den ständiga faran att vilja härska över livet genom att förhålla
sig till det som ett överlevnadssystem av bruk och nytta. Därför kan även en
kritisk hållning bli lika livsfientlig som ett monumentaliserande och antikvariskt bevarande av det förflutna. Nietzsche lämnade efter sig den svåra
tankeuppgiften av att begrunda huruvida det mänskliga livet behöver mer
än behov för att kunna leva.
Tanken om att det mänskliga livet behöver mer än behov är svår, inte
riktigt på grund av den kontradiktoriska formuleringen utan för att den
skakar om den globala tron på att människan är det mest behövande djuret
och att livet inget mer är än ett överlevnadens system reglerat av en nyttooch brukslogik. Med denna tanke rörde Nietzsche vid ett grundläggande
problem som inte bara angår humanvetenskaperna utan även naturvetenskaperna idag. Han rörde vid frågan om hur människan är i en värld och tid
behärskad av människans strävan efter att bruka och ta nytta av allt som
finns inklusive sig själv genom en global teknisk rationalitet. När livet definieras globalt som ett överlevnadssystem av bruk och nytta blir allt omdefinierat som information och funktion. Med denna omdefinition kan allt
förvandlas till kalkyl och kontrollvariabel. Det gäller då främst människan
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OM NYTTAN OCH ONYTTAN MED HUMANIORA FÖR LIVET
själv. Därmed blir det möjligt att använda, förbruka, ersätta och om-sätta
allt och alla utan hänsyn till specifika determinationer. Samtidens tre globala dygder – ekonomi, effektivitet, produktivitet beror på denna omvandling
av determination till information som möjliggör att vad som helst och vem
som helst kan användas av vad som helst, vem helst och när som helst. Allt
och alla måste vara brukbara och det som inte kan tjäna till något sådant
bör antigen brännas eller rekontextualiseras, det vill säga konverteras till en
ny brukbarhet. Därmed försvinner traditionella gränser och skillnader mellan motsatser som det levande och det livlösa, teknik och natur, det offentliga och det singulära, mellan människan och icke-människan. Denna brukets mobilitet och cirkularitet som ligger som bas till det härskande brukets
och nyttans ekonomiska system i alla livets dimensioner definierar den nya
liberala meningen av frihet. Friheten omdefinieras som frihet till totalt bruk
av allt och naturen som den ofria domänen av beräkneliga, förutsägbara,
kontrollerbara, vinstgenererande, exploaterbara och brukbara ting och lagar. Den globala dominansen av denna nya liberala betydelse av friheten
och av naturens liv visar på en ny dimension av denna sedan länge antagna
motsats mellan frihet och natur. Det som här visas är att den nya post- eller
altero-moderna, genomsnittliga, brukbara, funktionella och institutionaliserade människan inte längre kan kontrollera sin egen vilja till kontroll och
upptäcker sig själv som en produkt av sin egen produktion, som en slav av
sin egen frihet. I den intensitet med vilken naturen denaturaliseras och
människan desispiritualiseras träder människan fram som en allt mer maktlös skugga av all sin makt över världen och naturen. Hon träder fram som
en försvunnen människa. Hon träder fram som bräckligheten av en vändningspunkt. Människan framträder som ett liv som har vänt sig emot sig
själv. Ju mer hon förbrukar naturen och jorden desto mer erfar människan
sig själv förbrukad av sin tekniska frihet. När alla dimensioner av livet definieras utifrån sitt bruk, nytta och användbarhet för en kalkyl och kontroll
träder det mänskliga livet själv som förbrukat och utmattat av sin vilja till
bruk och behov. I det globala kapitalistiska verkställandet av människans
gränslösa tekno-vetenskapliga makt över livet och naturen träder såväl naturen såsom människan själv fram som utmattad, förbrukad och bräcklig. I
den punkt där människan och naturen visar sig som bräckligaste blir det
dock möjligt att erfara hur människan är naturen och livet och inte en natur
utanför naturen, ett liv utanför livet. I bräcklighetens punkt blir det möjligt
att erfara hur människan kan sägas vara en vändnings punkt i naturen, en
vändningspunkt i själva livet, en vändningspunkt i och inom sig själv. En
vändningspunkt är en förvandlingspunkt. I denna bemärkelse kan bräcklig67
MARCIA SÁ CAVALCANTE SCHUBACK
heten bli förvandlande. För att inse detta är det dock viktigt att skilja åt och
inte likställa bräcklighet med svaghet. När människans bräcklighet blir synlig mitt i hennes förbrukande vilja till bruk och nytta – blir det möjligt att
finna en öppning mot en annan tid, mot en annan erfarenhetsgrund, mot
en annan människa och kanske mot en annan humaniora.
Det kritiska sättet att förhålla sig till historien, att bedriva ett sorts vetande som kallas för humanvetenskap utgår först och främst ifrån en kritik av
nyttobegreppet. Nietzsches kritik av nyttobegreppet är utmanande eftersom
han inte riktigt gör anspråk på att vetenskaperna borde bli nyttigare för
människor än för institutioner, maktinstanser eller staten. Utmaningen som
ligger till grund för hans kritik är ett anspråk på behov av en förvandling
inom människan som skulle möjliggöra en annan förståelse av människan.
Hans kritik syftar inte i första hand till att återintroducera värdet av det
mänskliga i natur- och humanvetenskaperna utan till att introducera skriket
för en förvandling i människan. I Nietzsches spår vill jag argumentera för
att en annan humaniora endast är möjlig på basis av ett annanblivande i
människan. Vad jag vill säga är att i vår tid ligger en möjlighet att utveckla
en ”annan humaniora” för en ”annan tid”. Denna möjlighet beror emellertid inte så mycket på hur humanvetenskaperna förhåller sig till naturvetenskaperna, vare sig genom att anpassa sig till eller att strida emot den nya
brukets positivism som genomsyrar den nuvarande legitimerade idén om
vetenskaplighet. Möjlighet för att utveckla en ”annan humaniora” beror
snarare på ett annat vetande om naturen och om livet som utgår ifrån den
bräckliga punkten i vilken människan upptäcker sig själv som bräckligheten
av en vändningspunkt i naturen, som en vändningspunkt i livet självt och
därmed som ett liv som står i livets tjänst.
Åtskillnaden mellan humanvetenskaperna och naturvetenskaperna är
inte så gammal. Dess filosofiska grundläggning som Wilhelm Dilthey föreslagit utgår ifrån en skarp gräns mellan naturens och människans ontologiska domän, mellan den lagbundna naturvärlden och den i friheten grundade människovärlden. Enligt Dilthey måste humanvetenskaperna ’vända
sig bort’ från naturvetenskaperna för att kunna bemöta det mänskliga livet i
dess säregna art. Sedan dess har vi kunnat följa en rad ”vändningar” inom
humaniora – som till exempel lingvistiska, kognitiva, kulturella, ikoniska,
hermeneutiska, imaginativa, existentiella vändningar. Dessa vändningar
kan betraktas som olika svar och reaktioner till den av Dilthey föreslagna
separationen mellan human- och naturvetenskaperna, mellan rationalitet
och natur. I en tid där naturen, livet, jorden, människan träder fram som
förbrukade, bräckliga och svaga framför det globala teknologiska brukets
68
OM NYTTAN OCH ONYTTAN MED HUMANIORA FÖR LIVET
ekonomi blir det dock även möjligt att erfara möjligheten av en vändning i
människans självuppfattning. Härmed uppstår kanske en möjlighet till ett
annat vetande om naturen, om livet, om det mänskliga som utgångspunkt
för ett sätt att bedriva vetenskap i livets tjänst. Här gäller det att skilja på
vetenskap och vetande, på det som måste baseras på evidens och det som
aldrig blir evident. I denna vändning anses människan inte längre vara annan än naturen, utan naturens icke-andra. Icke-annan som ett sätt att vara
samma utan att vara identisk, att vara annan utan att vara frånskild är ett
sätt att formulera vad en vändningspunkt är. Därmed sägs det att människan är en vändningspunkts transformativa bräcklighet i naturen och i livet
snarare än annan än naturen och än livet. I denna bemärkelse blir ett vetande om det mänskliga, humanvetenskapen, på samma gång ett vetande om
naturen. Min tes är att en annan humaniora i en annan tid innebär ett annat
vetande om naturen, om livet som antar en annan bas än den som möjliggjort distinktionen mellan natur- och humanvetenskaperna. Denna andra
bas utgår ifrån ett erkännande av det mänskliga livet som det bräckliga livet
av vändningspunkter. I denna bemärkelse definieras humaniora inte i kontrast eller i likhet med naturvetenskaperna utan som ett naturens och livets
vetande, ett vetande som erkänner människan som natur, ett liv i livets
helhet, natur i naturens helhet. Här menas en sorts naturens filosofi som
Schelling och Novalis skisserade på och som Heidegger visade i sina sena
tankar kring teknikens väsen. Detta innebär ett vetande som vänder sig bort
från en determination av naturen och livet som ett överlevnadssystem av
bruk och nytta. Detta innebär att för att leva behöver det mänskliga livet
mer än behov. Det behöver upptäcka sin bräcklighet och amplituden av sin
ändlighet – det vill säga den dimension där det mänskliga livet möter sig
själv som vändningspunkt.
Denna vändning mot ett naturens och livets vetande förutsätter dock
mer än en förvandling av teoretiska grepp och uppfinningar av nya dialektiska kategorier. Den förutsätter till och med mer än en etisk och politisk
hållning. Det förutsätter en förvandling av sensibiliteten för att en teoretisk,
etisk och politisk hållning ska kunna träda i kraft bortom tomma retoriska
formuleringar av trötta humanister. Med förvandling av sensibilitet menar
jag möjligheten att som teoretiker kunna se världen genom att bli sedd i sin
egen världsbild. Här menas en blick som ser dess blickande villkor och som
därmed erkänner vetandets säregna bräcklighet som förutsättning för ett
vetande. Detta innebär ett ifrågasättande som självt är redo att bli ifrågasatt.
Det är en typ av vetande som snarare än att söka göra det främmande bekant är redo att främmandegöra det bekanta. Vad jag här kallar för en för69
MARCIA SÁ CAVALCANTE SCHUBACK
vandling av sensibilitet syftar på möjligheten att läsa i en form dess formande kraft, i ett fenomen dess tillkännagivelses dynamik, i det synliga dess
osynliga kommande till en blick. Här blir det omöjligt att skilja isär det
subjektiva och det objektiva, att skilja på tingens vad från tingens hur, vad
som ses och hur och vem som ser det. I denna förvandlade sensibilitet har
teorin mycket att lära sig från det som sedan länge har kallats för ’konst’, det
vill säga från ett tänkande som känner och en känsla som tänker på samma
gång. När teorin, vetandet, konsten själv träder fram som förbrukad, svag
och bräcklig, när orden verkar ha förlorat sin makt i ett överflöd av böcker,
ord, diskurser blir det kanske möjligt att erfara ordens lyssnande dimension,
dimensionen där ordet snarare än medel blir början, en vändningspunkt.
Jag har valt att tala ur gryningen av en viss innebörd av utopin. I denna
innebörd betyder utopi inte en plats bortom det mänskliga utan människans platslösa plats i denna av människan förbrukade värld och natur. Att
kritiskt uppmärksamma, att följa i en blickvändning hur människan här
träder fram som en platslös plats, som en utopi, som ”skugga av sin makts
dröm” innebär att ge plats inte främst åt en annan människa utan åt ett
annanblivande i människan. Vid denna punkt lämnar människan sedimenterade idéer av människan bakom sig. Vid denna punkt kan också
människans exil från sig själv bli början på en förståelse av naturen och av
livet som oändlig öppenhet. Det var därför som jag valde att idag tala på
svenska, mitt exilspråk. Det var också därför som jag valde att inte föreslå
något nytt program eller en ny ”vändning” inom humaniora utan endast att
visa på behovet av att vända blicken mot det bräckliga och sårbara hos
människan. Att bidra till ett annanblivande i människan där ett vetande om
naturen och om livet innebär en ömsesidig början av människan och av
naturen, av människan och av livet anser jag vara ett ansvar som humaniora
får bära med sig.
70
On the Use and Uselessness of Humanities
for Life – Another Humanities – Another
Time
Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback
At the last Euroscience Open Forum held in 2008 in Barcelona, a discussion
took place about the significance and importance of the human sciences.
Described as “weak” the human sciences were said not to be capable of contributing to our knowledge about the future: “Humanists have nothing to
say about the future”.1 Since they cannot secure positive knowledge regarding the future, the dominant view, at this meeting, was that humanities were
not very useful for life. The questions which I would like to pose here are
the following: what does “use for life” mean and what kind of knowledge
might be useful for life?
The title that I have chosen for this address is an allusion to Nietzsche’s
famous untimely meditation “On the Use and Disadvantage of History for
Life”. An allusion is a way to turn our gaze towards a thought, towards a
memory in order to reawaken our attentiveness for it. In his text, Nietzsche
discusses three ways of relating to history that could be addressed in relation to the human sciences. He talks about the monumental, the antiquarian
and the critical way of relating to history and, let us say, of doing humanities. These three ways can be opposed to life when they use history for ideological constructions of greatness and as normalizing constructions of the
similar. Their being against life comes in the form of their repressing all
force of transformations, all life and all new beginning, in short: all future.
But in relation to history, human sciences can also be useful for life when
they are put in the service of life. The allusion to Nietzsche is meant here to
help us in asking the question about what knowledge placed in the service
1
For a summary of this discussion see Tvärsnitt, Vetenskapsrådets tidskrift för humanistisk och samhällsvetenskaplig forskning, 3:08, p. 46-47.
71
MARCIA SÁ CAVALCANTE SCHUBACK
of life would mean in contrast to the expectation for knowledge that can
produce positive results, for the sake of assuring knowledge of the future?
A central point in Nietzsche’s meditation, one which is often overlooked,
is his criticism of the notion of use, which is the basis for his understanding
of knowledge in the service of life. When Nietzsche discusses the “use for
life” he describes it as being “in the service of life”. This means a turning, an
inversion of the understanding of man. Instead of regarding life and nature
as usable by man and man as the owner and master of life and nature, man
is seen as the servant of life and nature. This inversion of the position of
man in relation to life and nature is usually misinterpreted, since it is assumed that by life Nietzsche means the material and biological life i.e. life as
the drive for self-preservation and as a system of survival. Then man appears as a slave under his instincts, as unfree and passive. By “life” though,
Nietzsche means an infinite opening, the dynamics and force of transformation of beginning and turning. And by man he understands the servant to
life’s infinite opening or as he also expressed it: “a never completed imperfectum”, “a not yet determined animal”. Man loses his meaning of being as
a condition for reality in order to discover himself as questioning, as a “conditional if”. The infinite opening of life is therefore the master of man. In
the Nietzschean turning of the understanding of human life, man appears as
a turning within life itself. Thereby it becomes possible for Nietzsche to
regard human life as the constant danger of living towards and turning
away from the infinite opening of life. The life of this never completed imperfectum – Man – is thereby the constant danger of wanting to rule over
life by relating to it as a system of survival, uses and utility. This is why a
critical attitude can be just as damaging for life as the monumental and the
antiquarian preservation of the past. Nietzsche left us with the difficult task
of thinking how and to what extent human life needs more than needs in
order to exist?
The thought of human life needing more than needs is difficult not because of the contradictory formulation, but because it shakes the global
conviction that man is the most needy animal and that life is nothing more
than a system of survival, ruled by a logic of use and utility. By this thought
Nietzsche touched upon a fundamental problem, not only regarding human
sciences, but also natural sciences today. He touched upon the question of
how man is, in a world and time governed by man’s desire to utilize and
make use of everything, including himself by means of technical rationality.
When life is globally defined as a system of survival, ruled by a logic of utility and use, everything is redefined as information and function. With this
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ON THE USE AND USELESSNESS OF HUMANITIES FOR LIFE
redefinition, everything can be transformed into calculation and control
variables. This goes first and foremost for man himself. Thereby it is possible to use, consume, displace and re-place everything and everyone without
regard for specific determinations. The three global virtues of today – economy, efficiency and productivity – depend on this conversion of determination to information which makes possible that anything and anyone can be
used by anything, anyone and whenever. Everything and everyone must be
usable and that which doesn’t serve any use must either be burned as rubbish or reintegrated in a new context, i.e. converted to a new usability.
Thereby traditional borders and differences between opposites disappear,
such as between the living and the lifeless, technology and nature, the public
and the singular, the human and the non-human. This mobility and circularity of uses, which provides the basis for the economical system of the
ruling use and utility in every dimension of life, defines the new liberal
meaning of freedom. Freedom is redefined as the freedom of total utilisation of everything and nature as the non-free domain of calculable, predictable, profitable, exploitable and usable things and laws. The global dominance of this new liberal meaning of freedom, and of the life of nature,
shows a new dimension of this long since assumed opposition between
freedom and nature. What is increasingly evident is that the new post- or
altermodern, average, usable, functional and institutionalized man can no
longer control his own will to control and discover himself as a product of
his own production, a slave under his own freedom. In the intensity by
which nature is denaturalized and man despiritualized, man appears as an
ever more powerless shadow of his power over the world and nature. He
appears as a disappearing human, as the fragility of a turning point. Man
appears now as a life having turned against itself. The more he uses nature
and earth, the more man experiences himself as used up by his technological freedom. When all dimensions of life are defined by their function, utility, and usability for a calculation and control, human life itself appears
used up and exhausted by its will to utility and need. In the global capitalist
effectuation of man’s limitless techno-scientific power over life and nature,
both nature and man appear as exhausted, used up, abused and fragile.
However, at the point where man and nature appear at their most fragile it
becomes possible to experience how man is nature and life and not a nature
outside nature, a life outside of life. At this point of fragility and vulnerability it becomes possible to experience how man can be called a turning point
in nature, a turning point in life itself, a turning point inside himself. A
turning point is a point of transformation. In this sense, fragility and vul73
MARCIA SÁ CAVALCANTE SCHUBACK
nerability may appear as transformative. In order to see this, it is important,
however, not to interpret fragility as weakness; when the fragility of man
becomes visible in the middle of his consumed will to use and utility, it
becomes possible to find an opening towards another time, another ground
of experience, towards another understanding of human life, and perhaps
towards another humanities.
The critical attitude towards history, the performance of the sort of
knowledge that we call human sciences takes its starting point in a criticism
of the notion of utility. Nietzsche’s critique of this notion is challenging
because it does not simply claim that science should become more useful for
human life as a whole rather than useful for institutions, authorities of
power and the state. The challenge underlying his critique of utility is his
claim for the need of a transformation of man that would enable another
understanding of the human. His critique does not aim primarily to reintroduce the value of humanity in natural and human sciences, but to introduce the call for a transformation of the human. Following Nietzsche, I
would like to claim that another humanities is only possible on the basis of a
becoming other in Man, in the human. What I would like to say is that in
our time lies the opportunity to develop “another humanities” for “another
time”. This opportunity depends not so much on how human sciences relate to natural sciences, whether by adapting to, or combating, the positivism of the new utility, which permeates the presently legitimized idea of
science. The possibility of developing “another humanities” rather depends
on another knowledge of nature and life, which begins from the fragile
point at which man discovers himself as the fragility of a turning point in
life itself and thereby as a life in the service of life.
The distinction between human and natural sciences is not very old. Its
philosophical foundation, proposed by Wilhelm Dilthey, starts from a sharp
distinction between the ontological domains of nature and man, between
the law-bound world of nature, and the human world founded in freedom.
According to Dilthey, human sciences must “turn away” from natural sciences in order to take into account the specificity of human life. Since then
we have been able to follow a series of “turns” in the humanities – e.g. linguistic, cognitive, cultural, iconic, hermeneutic, imaginative, existential
turns. These turns can be seen as different answers and reactions to
Dilthey’s separation between human and natural sciences, between rationality and nature. However, in a time where nature, life, the earth and man
appear as used up and abused, fragile and weak before the global technological economy of use, it also becomes possible to experience the possibility
74
ON THE USE AND USELESSNESS OF HUMANITIES FOR LIFE
of a turning point in man’s self-understanding. Maybe, then, a possibility
appears for another knowledge of nature, of life, of the human as the possibility to carry out science in the service of life. Here, the distinction between
science and knowledge becomes important, between that which must be
evidence based, and that which can never become evident. In this turning,
man is no longer seen as other than nature, but as the non-other of nature.
Non-other as a way of being the same without being identical, being other
without being separate: this is a way of formulating what a turning point is.
Thereby it is said that man appears as the transformative fragility of a turning point in nature and in life rather than other than nature and life. In this
sense, knowledge of the human, human science, becomes at the same time,
knowledge of nature. My claim is that another humanities for another time
means another knowledge of nature, of life that discovers a quite different
basis than the one from which the distinction between natural and human
sciences has been instituted. This other basis for a knowledge of nature, and
of life, departs from the acknowledgment of human life as the fragility of
turning points. From this other basis, humanities are not defined in contrast
or in likeness to the natural sciences, but as another knowledge of life and
nature, a knowledge that admits that man is nature, life in the whole of life,
nature in the whole of nature. I intend a certain meaning of philosophy of
nature, like the one Schelling and Novalis once outlined, and which Heidegger showed in his late thoughts on the essence of technology. This entails a knowledge which turns away from a determination of nature and life
as a system of survival of use and utility. This means that in order to live,
human life needs more than needs. It needs to discover its fragility and the
amplitude of its finitude – i.e. the dimension where human life meets itself
as a fragile turning point.
However, this turning towards a knowledge of nature, and life, implies
more than a transformation of theoretical concepts and inventions of new
dialectical categories. It even implies more than an ethical and political
attitude. It implies a transformation of sensibility for a theoretical, ethical
and political attitude to come into force, beyond the empty phrases of tired
humanists. By transformation of sensibility, I mean the possibility as a theorist to see the world by being seen in one’s own view of the world. By this, a
view is meant that sees the conditions of its own view and thereby recognizes the peculiar fragility of knowledge as a condition of knowledge. This
entails a questioning that is prepared to be questioned. It is a type of knowledge which rather than aiming to familiarize the strange is prepared to
make the familiar strange. What I here call a transformation of sensibility
75
MARCIA SÁ CAVALCANTE SCHUBACK
indicates the possibility to read in a form its forming force, in a phenomenon the dynamics of its appearing, in the visible its invisible coming to a
view. Here, it is no longer possible to separate the subjective from the objective, to separate the “what of things” from the “how of things”; what can be
seen and how; and who sees it. In this transformed sensibility, theory has a
lot to learn from that which has long since been called “art”, i.e. a thinking
which feels and a feeling that thinks at the same time. When theory, knowledge, and art itself appear as used up and abused, as weak and fragile, when
words seem to have lost their power in an excess of books, words, discourses, maybe it becomes possible to experience the listening dimension of
words, the dimension where the word, rather than means and instruments,
to an end, becomes the turning point of a beginning.
I have chosen to talk from the dawn of a certain utopia. In this sense,
utopia does not mean a place beyond the human, but the placeless place of
man in the world of nature and life, used up and abused by man. To be
critically attentive, to follow in the turning of a gaze how man here appears
as a placeless place, as a utopia, as “the shadow of the power of his dream”
means to give room not for another man, but for a becoming other in man.
At this moment, man leaves sedimented ideas of the human behind. At this
moment, the exile of man from itself may become the beginning of nature
and life as infinite openness. That is why I chose to talk to you today in
Swedish, the language of my exile. That is why I chose not to suggest a new
programme or a new turn in humanities, but merely to show the necessity
for turning our gaze towards the fragility and vulnerability of human life. I
think that to contribute to this becoming other of man where knowledge of
nature and of life means mutual beginning of man and nature, of man and
life is the responsibility incumbent on the humanities.
76
The Humanities in the Face of
Postcoloniality
Stefan Jonsson
As the title of my intervention, I have chosen “The Humanities in the Face
of Postcoloniality.” You will notice in due course that I could also have
chosen “The Humanities in the Face of the Other,” or “The Humanities in
the Face of the Subaltern,” or “The Humanities in the Face of the Masses.”
But I could also have chosen what apparently would seem like the opposite
title: “The Humanities Facing Themselves.”
Indeed, this will turn out to be my proposition this afternoon. It is partly
through postcolonial theories and methods that humanist scholars and
intellectuals have discovered the critical relation of humanist knowledge to
peoples, bodies, objects, and ideas that have had to be excluded in order for
this body of knowledge to constitute itself. In what follows, I will argue that
this discovery is also a rediscovery, that the critical relation at issue forms
part of the legacy of the humanities, though one that is often repressed, and
thus also one in need of constant resurrection. This also amounts to saying
that postcoloniality now serves as the vehicle for the self-reflexive moment
in the humanities. True, it is not the only such vehicle, but it is perhaps the
main one.
In order to enter this argument, I want to cite four characteristic passages.
The first one comes from Indian historian Ranajit Guha: “Bourgeois culture hits an insuperable limit in colonialism.”1
The second one is from Indian-American literary scholar and cultural
theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: “Check out your theoretical presuppo-
1
Ranajit Guha, Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India
(Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1997), 67.
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STEFAN JONSSON
sitions by testing them in areas as unlike the institution of learning/certification/validation/ information retrieval as possible.”2
My third quote is from Indian political theorist and historian Partha
Chatterjee: “If the day comes when the vast storehouse of Indian social history will become comprehensible to the scientific consciousness, we will
have achieved along the way a fundamental restructuring of the edifice of
European social philosophy as it exists today.”3
Finally, here is Walter Mignolo; Latin American intellectual historian:
“Border gnosis as knowledge from a subaltern perspective is knowledge
conceived from the exterior borders of the modern/colonial world system,
and border gnoseology as a discourse about colonial knowledge is conceived at the conflictive intersection of the knowledge produced from the
perspective of modern colonialisms (rhetoric, philosophy, science) and
knowledge produced from the perspective of colonial modernities in Asia,
Africa, and the Americas/Caribbean.”4
As you can gather, all four statements are made in support of the postcolonial perspective. Notice that the first two speak about how institutionalized knowledge, with all its ensuing claims of universality, reaches a limit in
the colony, beyond which it loses its validity. The last two, by contrast, assert the possibility of new knowledge or – to use Mignolo’s word (which he
in turn appropriates from Valentin Mudimbe) – of a gnosis being produced
in precisely that beyond, on the border or at the exterior of what all four
would define as the European humanist tradition.
It is rightly argued that postcolonial theory has served the humanities in
at least three ways. As representatives of formerly colonized societies have
emerged as custodians and narrators of their own histories, they have not
only shed light on peoples, artefacts, and ideas long ignored by the dominant humanities. They have also interrogated the reasons for that ignorance
and located those reasons within the epistemological presuppositions of the
humanities. Finally, they have suggested new epistemologies, and in this
endeavour they have joined forces with anti-humanist thinkers from the
European tradition (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud et al.). According to these new
epistemologies, the site of the production of knowledge is no longer a “sub2
Sara Danius and Stefan Jonsson, “An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,”
boundary 2 20, no. 2 (1993): 25.
3
Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories
(Princeton, 1993), 169.
4
Walter Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and
Border Thinking (Princeton, 2000), 11.
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THE HUMANITIES IN THE FACE OF POSTCOLONIALITY
ject,” “institution,” or “centre” – in relation to which what is known
emerges as “object,” “field,” or “periphery.” Rather, the site of knowledge
production here emerges as “relation,” “borderland,” “conflict,” “encounter,” or some other modality of “in-betweeness.”
The consequences of this shift in perspective are vast indeed. The point
is, for instance, to see the text or the writer, the work of art or the artist, not
as based in a subject, an institution, a tradition, a milieu, or an intention,
but as shaped by a relation or conflict that it remains for the humanist
scholar to historically reconstruct.
I will now digress in order to explain why this perspective may be crucial for
the future of the humanities – yes, crucial in Sweden too. I will do so by
relating the dominant trends in the current humanities to the process of
cultural globalization. We may identify four tendencies at work in the globalization of culture.5 First, US-based popular commercial culture continues
its conquest of the globe. Second, Western “high culture” is becoming part
of elite lifestyles not only in Paris and Washington, but in Beijing and Buenos Aires, as well. From each global city on the planet there now emanates a
sponsored noise of Pavarotti, Bach and Eric Satie, and in just about every
city you visit you will find a major exhibit of Dutch landscape painting,
Russian icons, van Gogh, or Andy Warhol, just as you will find a prestigious
film festival or a biennale of contemporary art.
We could spend the rest of the afternoon enumerating further examples
of these tendencies in various sectors of the arts and media, but there is not
time for this. Both have as their condition of possibility the establishment of
universal equivalents, or “value-forms,” which make it possible to rank the
“value” of different news stories, cultural products, works of art, knowledge,
events, ethical behaviour, and political systems, regardless of their cultural
origin and contexts. For our purposes, it is interesting to note that both
tendencies have their counterparts in two dominant ideas about which direction the humanities ought to take, in order to get out of its alleged crisis.
To the first tendency, the globalization of popular commercial culture, there
corresponds the idea that the humanities should be transformed into some
kind of global cultural studies, with a view to analyze and critique the now
planetary flow of messages and images. To the second tendency, the globalization of Western high-culture, with its touring mega-exhibitions, concert
5
This argument is developed in Stefan Jonsson, Världen i vitögat: Tre essäer om västerländsk kultur (Stockholm: Norstedts, 2005).
79
STEFAN JONSSON
programmes, film festivals, and art biennales, there is present an equally
global network of intellectual communities consisting of various centers for
advanced research and high-ranking elite universities. In this perspective,
the humanities can best save themselves by tapping into and supporting the
erection of an international circuit of centers of excellence, where a cosmopolitan class of scholars reflect on universal problems, in universal ways.
Now the third tendency, of course, consists of all the reactions to this
standardization of elite and popular culture. Here we find all the local, ethnic or national movements that aim to resist the globalization of culture.
Face to face with the new, global norms, people – be they Persian or Québécois or Swedes – are “discovering” that they have a cultural identity and that
it is under threat and needs to be defended. They thus maintain that their
values cannot be uprooted from their cultural context and equalized according to some universal standard. Here too, it’s easy to identify the expressions of this tendency in the humanities. The debate on the canon, on
the language of publication, on the importance of national research topics
vis-à-vis European or international ones all have their place here.
All intellectual work today is carried out in a field of tension between
these three tendencies. The debate on the crisis of the humanities may be
interpreted as a debate about which of these should take priority as we seek
to make the humanities relevant for tomorrow. The first choice is one of
immersion into the various spaces of cultural postmodernity; the second
option is that of rarification through competition, that skims off a selfproclaimed elite of researchers and the third one is the alternative of employing the humanities in a project of consolidation of heritage and tradition.
As I think you have gathered, I believe the humanities should opt for
none of these, because the humanities are already profoundly, and inevitably, caught up in and marked by all three projects. Instead, as an alternative
strategy, the humanities should place itself “in the face of postcoloniality.”
Why? Because it seems to be the only way to fulfil the fundamental idea of
humanist scholarship: self-knowledge and universality.
Let me now return to what I said above: that it is in great part through postcolonial theories that we today have re-discovered the critical relation of
humanist knowledge to all the peoples, bodies, objects, and ideas that have
had to be excluded in order for this knowledge to come into being. I went
on to say that, for this reason, postcoloniality serves as the vehicle for the
self-reflexive moment in the humanities. This implies that postcoloniality,
as my fourth tendency, is not so much a brand new invention, but the actu80
THE HUMANITIES IN THE FACE OF POSTCOLONIALITY
alization of a certain legacy and idea of humanist scholarship, which it thus
remains for us to rediscover and re-employ.
You remember my four quotes above. Once I started to ponder them
and then related them to one of my own areas of research – a study of the
fantasy of the masses in modern European culture – I realized that, with
slight alterations, they apply to an event that has already taken place once,
within the confines of the Western humanities and social sciences. Here’s
Guha: ”Bourgeois culture hits an insuperable limit in colonialism.”6 Eighty
years ago, several thinkers said the same, but about the masses: ”Bourgeois
culture hits an insuperable limit in the masses.” What they meant was that
“the mass,” according to the then-dominant social theories, designated
uncharted social terrain, a part of reality characterized by sheer negativity
and lack, the pure negation of all the criteria – organization, consciousness,
deliberation, individuality, reason – by which the thinkers of that era defined social structure and human action. Indeed, the mass was the big internal other of German sociology of the 1920s. In an analogous way, the sister
discipline of anthropology devoted itself to the study of the external other,
designated as “the savage.”7 Like the savage, the mass was wholly rejected as
a backward life-form by the social scientist, and yet tacitly folded back into
his or her system as a model of negativity against which the sociologist and
anthropologist could assert the superiority of his own reason and culture.
Theodor Geiger, for one, described the mass as “pure agent of destruction”8
Leopold von Wiese argued that the mass was to the elite as flesh was to
spirit: “Die Masse ist stets vorwiegend Fleisch. [...] Sie verteidigt Muskeln,
Rückenmark und Bauch gegen das Gehirn.”9
As intellectual historians have shown, it was only by questioning the
epistemological presuppositions of the social sciences and the humanities
that intellectuals were able to bring the mass into the field of analysis and
representation, at which point, of course, they ceased to be a “mass” and
turned into ordinary men and women, groups and collectives, each with
their own rationality.10 We thus see how Chatterjee’s statement, slightly
6
Ranajit Guha, Dominance Without Hegemony, 67.
See Patricia Lorenzoni, Att färdas under dödens tecken: Frazer, imperiet och den försvinnande vilden (Göteborg: Glänta Produktion, 2008).
8
Theodor Geiger, Die Masse und ihre Aktion: Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie der Revolution
(Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke, 1926), 151.
9
Leopold von Wiese, System der Allgemeinen Soziologie (2d ed. Munich and Leipzig:
Verlag von Duncker and Humblot, 1933), 443-444.
10
For two crucial early contributions to this issue, see George Rudé, The Crowd in History: A Study of Popular Disturbances in France and England, 1730-1948. 1964. 2d ed.
7
81
STEFAN JONSSON
altered, applies in this context too: ”If the day comes when the vast storehouse of the European social history of the masses will become comprehensible to the scientific consciousness, we will have achieved along the way a
fundamental restructuring of the edifice of European social philosophy as it
exists today.”11
This is precisely what happened. European social philosophy was fundamentally restructured once scholars gave up the idea of the masses as a specific sociological and cultural category.
There is more to be said about this process, and additional parallels between
the European subalterns called the masses and the non-European subalterns
once called savages and natives. For it can also be shown that many of the
cherished ideas of individuality, civilization, society, art, and culture of the
nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century humanities were shaped
precisely by the critical relation to these others who were called masses. One
of the first to discover this was Walter Benjamin. Unlike the scholars who
sought to insert the mass as a category in their hierarchic sociological and
civilizational theories, Benjamin argued that these theories were developed
in order to prevent the masses – or rather the men and women subsumed
under that category – from intruding upon their life world and political
arena. This is to say that most if not all ideas about individuality, culture,
civilization, art, and knowledge developed in this period were secretly
shaped by the pressure of an external force, which the thinkers of that time
designated as the mass and which served as the unacknowledged yet necessary condition of possibility for the knowledge, literature, or art they produced. Benjamin’s canonical statement on this issue is found in one of his
essays on Baudelaire. He writes: “Die Masse ist Baudelaire derart innerlich,
dass man ihre Schilderung bei ihm vergebens sucht.”12 In English: “The
mass has become so much an internal part of Baudelaire that one seeks in
vain for any descriptions of it in his work.”13 A page or so further on, Benjamin remarks about Baudelaire’s sonnet “A une passante” that – “the
crowd is nowhere named in either word or phrase. And yet the whole hap1981. London, 1995; and Leo Bramson, The Political Context of Sociology. Princeton,
1961.
11
Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories
(Princeton, 1993), 169.
12
Walter Benjamin, ”Über einige Motive bei Baudelaire,” in Illuminationen: Ausgewählte
Schriften (Frankfurt am Main, 1977), 198.
13
Walter Benjamin, ”Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” in Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in
the Era of High Capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn (London: Verso, [1973] 1983), 122.
82
THE HUMANITIES IN THE FACE OF POSTCOLONIALITY
pening hinges on it, just as the progress of a sailing-boat depends on the
wind.”14
This was Benjamin’s discovery: the mass, nowhere named or described,
yet omnipresent in the culture of modernity, to the extent that it could be
posited as the first obsession and primary content of that culture. To phrase
this differently, this was Benjamin’s discovery of the critical relation of
eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century thinking to its exterior.
Crucially, it was a dialectical relation, in so far as what appeared to be a
relation to an external phenomenon was in fact an internal tension within
that thinking in itself: the mass was internal to Baudelaire’s work.
Today, I think few would contest Benjamin on this point. We have accustomed ourselves to the view that the sociological and humanist knowledge of that era was shot through by a fear of the masses, as it claimed to
save civilization from death by drowning in the rising tide of mass society.
Far more numerable, however, are those who still contest the related
point: that the notions of Empire, imperialism, colonialism, European supremacy, or racism are internal to our history of art, literature, and ideas:
that the sails of the humanities are filled with the winds of Empire. Many
people in the humanities still tend to think of such matters as external to
their own enterprises. Their enterprises will therefore remain less relevant,
but also and more difficult to defend as against more immediate utilities
such as technology and medical science, until its practitioners, that is, we
ourselves, realize that all the urgent problems and horrors of the past and of
the contemporary world – including terrorism, warfare, torture, and neocolonial subjugation – have always been internal to the humanities, just as
the oppressed masses were the force that set Baudelaire’s poetry in motion,
and that the humanities therefore have important things to say about such
critical issues. Today, as I said, postcolonial theories offer the possibility of
re-discovering this critical relation of the humanities to the phenomena that
it has exteriorized, then rejected, and finally forgotten. This is why I submit
that the humanities should place themselves in the face of postcoloniality, in
order to eventually face themselves.
14
Benjamin, ”Some Motifs in Baudelaire,” 124.
83
What Are We Fighting For? Humanities
and the Legacy of Exclusion
Cecilia Sjöholm
In her novel Memories of a Pure Spring, Vietnamese novelist Duong Thu
Huong tells of a group of actors and artists in postwar Vietnam, living their
lives after the war with the US on the one hand, and the camps of reeducation on the other, camps that sent many thousands of Vietnamese to
spend months or years under subhuman conditions, in order to learn how
to live as socialists. Duong Thu Huong, one of the most prominent and
certainly one of the most brilliant authors of the post-war generation in
Vietnam, explores all aspects of life in a country that has suffered one of the
bloodiest and most brutal wars in recent history, in this work, as well as in
her famous breakthrough, Novel without a name. It took me a long time, in
reading her novels, to note that she never depicts the presence of Americans, she barely even mentions them; in fact, it was only when she did that I
discovered this omission, which of course corresponds to the lack of believable images of the Vietnamese in most American films and books that have
been released. However, in Huong’s novel, the refusal to mention the
Americans carries a weight; it is loaded with a meaning that is missing in
the American failure to reckon with the Other. The silence of the Vietnamese novel is powerful; the silence of the American film is cynical. A Vietnamese author has no obligation to depict Americans, not even in writing
about the war. An American, however, does. Why, then, is this so difficult?
The state of postcolonialism is often described as an eruption of the
Other in Western culture, in the face of which the West is trying to protect
itself through borders and limits. In reality though it is not the relation to
the Other that is problematic. It is the relation to one’s own.
As Benedict Anderson has pointed out, the postcolonial condition can
above all be defined through the erection of borders that, on the African
continent primarily, but also in Asia, must be considered a form of allegories; these borders are only fictional, they have been drawn straight on a
85
CECILIA SJÖHOLM
map without any consideration to cultures, languages or people. Europeans
have forcefully transposed their own order, and their own need of borders
on cultures where such a need has not existed beforehand. Of course the
reason for this is political and economic, caused by the need for economic
power and control. But at the same time the postcolonial condition means
that the Europeans themselves and the West on the whole, has had to submit to such a fictionalized form of setting borders. The nationalism of the
19th century has brought with it profound changes not only on the political
map but also in the interiority of the life of the European. It has meant that
the development of the Europeans themselves, from having been a people
submitted to states, have become a people submitted to nations. This
means, I personally think, that the nation became an object, directing the
desire of the European. The nation is not just a state or a function, and it is
not just a contract or an agreement. The nation is an object forming a fantasmatic undercurrent from the 19th century and onwards, well into the
contemporary consciousness of today.
The humanities themselves have an uneasy relation to this object. Although they claim independence from political or economic interest, many
disciplines are blind to their own contingent history and creation in close
relation to nation building or social engineering: art history, literary history,
history, philosophy etcetera all share this blindness to a greater or lesser
extent. It is no coincidence that the humanities in Sweden are so weak in
recruiting students and scholars from other ethnic origins to the field. If the
humanities are to be vitalized, the imaginary universe created around this
elusive object of the nation must be broken down — not just in the name of
political or ethical reason, but rather because the humanities themselves
need to question their own raison d’être, and understand the historical
premises of their function. As it is now, a lot of work in the humanities is
dedicated to the reproduction of certain ideological presumptions which
started with the service of the discipline in the name of the nation. The humanities have, historically, been deft at excluding and selecting so that only
a certain kind of knowledge has been produced. As it were, the academy,
with its hierarchies and its old patriarchal system of promoting the individual “genius”, is still pursuing a pattern of exclusion and selection it appears
to have difficulties breaking away from.
It is with this background in mind that I would like to say something
about a possible future for the humanities. The debate over the humanities
seems to have produced two camps: on the one hand, there are those who
argue that the humanities might well attempt to make themselves useful in a
86
WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?
way that they have not needed to in the tradition of the academy. Humanists should be working across the borders of the fields of the social sciences
and the natural sciences, they should cooperate with the arts and the world
of business in order to strengthen not only society with their own capacity,
but also their own place within society. On the other hand, there are those
siding with the argument that the humanities should be valued for their
own sake; that humanists can never be burdened with the demand that their
work should be useful in the derogatory sense of the world, neither in relation to other fields nor in society. From this point of view, the use of the
humanities lies in their independence in relation to economic or social interest. We need the humanities because of their unconditioned search for
something true and authentic concerning the human condition.
However, I would like to question the presumption that there is such a
thing as a study that is free and independent, or that it is possible to pursue
the production of knowledge beyond economic or political interests. If the
humanities is supposedly about humans and their artefacts, as is often
claimed, does it not rely on a definition of “the human”, which, in itself, is
ideological and thereby also prone to be used by economic and political
interests?
Hannah Arendt, in her book The Human Condition as well as in her
book on totalitarianism, has shown that humanity can never be essentialized. We can, however, talk about what is not human, which, at a certain
moment in time, was life outside of the state or nation, or life of the refugee:
…the calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality of the law and freedom of
opinion/…/ but that they no longer belong to any community whatsoever. Their plight is not that they are not equal before the law, but that
no law exists for them; not that they are oppressed but that nobody
wants even to oppress them.1
Even a slave has a place in society; the slave therefore surpasses the condition of the refugee, who on the contrary represents “the abstract nakedness
of being human and nothing but human.”2 The condition of the refugee has
proven that the assumption that human rights have the capacity to protect
humans in an abstract state as “human” is wrong: “the world found nothing
sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human.”3 What is lost by the ex1
Arendt Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism, London: Harvest, 1973, p 295-296
Arendt 1973, p 297.
3
Arendt 1973, p 299.
2
87
CECILIA SJÖHOLM
cluded is not primarily the freedom offered by the state of sovereignty. The
threat of exclusion outside of a state brings with it a loss of humanity:
If a human being loses his political status, he should, according to the
implications of the inborn and the inalienable rights of man, fall in to
exactly the same situation for which the declarations of such general
rights provided. In this case the opposite is actually true. It seems that a
man who is nothing but a man has lost the qualities which make it possible for other people to treat him as a fellow-man.4
Displaced to a position outside of the state or nation, man loses not only his
rights but also his humanity. Loss of humanity is not something that takes
place despite of the invention of human rights; the very notion of a human
being deprived of humanity is something that human rights has helped
produce. In the Germany of the 30s the Jewish population was deprived of
citizenship so that it was also possible to haunt and annihilate them. People
deprived of citizenship, declared as pariahs to the nation, were exposed,
beyond their identity as citizens, as “naked”, as human beings that were not
fully recognized as such. Ideologies of nationalism, in conjunction with
what is to be valued as human, have reduced the human who is “just” life to
naked life, to ethnic or biological difference: the Jew is just a Jew, the black
man is just a black man, and a woman is just a woman. If modern biopolitics
aims to control human life, this is a consequence of the idea of “the human”
displacing both the public space and plurality as the focus of politics.
Now the question is, to what extent do the humanities include and exclude through their very dependence on the nation, just as in the way that
Arendt describes the human rights as the end result of an exclusionary
power? How powerful is the capacity of the humanities to make visible or
invisible, to erase or create? If the humanities are to revitalize themselves,
and to make themselves relevant for the future, one factor must be to shred
the legacy of nation building. In the end, such riddance will also undermine
the very essentializing of “the human” which in itself is a historical artefact.
The humanities have a history that could be told through a variety of
versions in all the countries of modern Europe, a history about national
academies in the 18th century, about Geists and spirits in the 19th century,
about a will to discover the language and the culture of one’s own nation in
the 20th century and a will to protect the language and culture of one’s own
nation in the era of globalization. However, if we take a discipline such as
4
Arendt 1973, p 300.
88
WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?
literature, for instance, there is another aspect of its becoming that may be
tied to a certain community, and that community is not necessarily to be
submitted to the nation. Literature, as well as art, history and so on, takes
part in the way we perceive ourselves, not just as individuals of a certain
nation but as participants of a public space, It is in the context that literature
becomes meaningful – as Habermas has shown in his history of the public
space; it is through the very language used in discussing the intimate aspects
of literature, in discussing emotions, relations and so on, that the public
space in the modern sense has taken shape. Rather than being regarded as
the heritage of a certain language or nation, the history of literature may
well be regarded through the history of public spaces and the forms of mediation that belong to them.
Hannah Arendt, still to be counted as the most important philosopher of
the public space, has idealized polis as a retrospective vision of political
freedom. The most important aspect of public space however is its aspect of
plurality; the very existence of public space makes possible the capacity to
think and act in the place of the Other. This is a fundamental aspect of the
human condition. The useful intellectual or artistic product has not arisen
as a reflection over the self. It arises as a consequence of a dialectics through
the self and the community to which the self is directed. In this way, judgment, thinking, acting, creating and writing will be dependent on public
space. Our thought cannot direct itself. It is the expected communication
with others that makes us think.
With this in mind, I think we have to re-think the foundation of the humanities, and attempt to replace that elusive object of the nation as the object directing the desire of the scholar, with that of the public space. Public
space is already present in our way of thinking and acting, and public space
is not the same as the nation. As famously indicated in The Human Condition, “the polis, properly speaking, is not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organisation of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together, and its true space lies between people living for this purpose,
no matter where they happen to be.”5 But in The Origins of Totalitarianism,
we are shown that there are certain conditions under which public space is
foreclosed. The condition of the refugee, or enforced exile, is a symptom of
5
Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press,
1998, p 198.
89
CECILIA SJÖHOLM
such a foreclosure. In a world where the nation state has overtaken the responsibility for the rights of the individual, the refugee has become an exception that points to the great problem of modernity: how are we to define
a community? When we discuss the future of the humanities I think this is
the crucial question: where do we come from when we are speaking, and
who are we addressing? What is the legacy of the community we belong to,
and in what way does it limit our search for knowledge?
Personally, I think that the way forward for the humanities is in close relation to the arts. The arts are of a particular interest when it comes to creating spaces of participation that are public spaces, although of a different
kind than those that we relate to political debates. Art is often created in
assuming that we share a certain unspoken knowledge as members of a
society in a certain time. Art, however, helps reformulate the conditions of
such knowledge rather than reproduce them. One concrete example is the
way in which many artists question or undermine national identity as a
given in a community. Yinka Shonibare’s dance show, about the murder of
the Swedish King Gustav III in African clothes, for example, uses the idea of
national identity, only to make it visible or undermine it as fictitious (thus
could use the same freedom, and redress the presumptions concerning the
expectations of the community towards which he is working. A great deal
could be gained).
Today art and science are facing each other as two opposing fields. I
think, however, that there is every reason to work towards a much closer
relationship with the practice of the arts. The debate of the humanities has,
for a long time, been concerned with its theories. In what way, however, are
we to consider its practices? Research in the arts is not scholarship in the
traditional sense, and challenges the academy in claiming to produce a
knowledge that is not possible to verify or scrutinize in the same way as a
piece of scholarship. Instead, it mirrors a process that can be both considered creating knowledge and a form that belongs to that knowledge. It is,
then, examining the very process of creating knowledge. The humanities
has everything to win by cooperating in this approach, working together
with art institutes and artists of various kinds in discussing how practice
and theory could be brought together. If we dare experiment with the way
we produce knowledge as well as with the way we present it, it can only help
to show that the humanities, in the end, are not conservative and fearful,
but vital and flexible. I would also argue that the humanities, rather than
reproducing the ideologies concerning the kind of national communities
that lies at the root of their emergence, must look towards the kind of
90
WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?
communities that art is looking towards: communities shaped in and
through various forms of public space. As Arendt has shown, public space is
not the same as the state or the nation, it is a community arising and perhaps dying through other conditions. In making visible what we do, we
submit to a completely different kind of test than the endless kind of scholarly scrutiny that is part of our work now. I would then argue that the humanities, rather than attempting to study a preconceived notion of what is
human and the artefacts of humanity, and thereby taking part in the reproduction of the kinds of exclusions and limitations that such preconceived
notions bring with them, must participate in the very creation of the human
condition and human life, undermining any attempt to define “the human”.
It is a creation and recreation that is endless.
91
Författarna
Simon Critchley
Professor i filosofi
New School for Social Research, New York
Södertörns högskola
Irina Sandomirskaja
Professor i Cultural Studies
Södertörns högskola
Michał Paweł Markowski
Professor i litteraturvetenskap
Jagiellonska universitetet, Kraków
University of Illinois at Chicago
Sven Erik Liedman
Professor emeritus i idéhistoria
Göteborgs universitet
Fredrik Svenaeus
Professor i den praktiska kunskapens teori
Södertörns högskola
Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback
Professor i filosofi
Södertörns högskola
Stefan Jonsson
Docent i estetik
Södertörns högskola
Cecilia Sjöholm
Professor i estetik
Södertörns högskola
93
The Authors
Simon Critchley
Professor of Philosophy
New School for Social Research, New York
Södertörn University
Irina Sandomirskaja
Professor of Cultural Studies
Södertörn University
Michał Paweł Markowski
Professor of Literature
Jagiellonian University, Kraków
University of Illinois at Chicago
Sven Erik Liedman
Professor emeritus of History of Ideas
Gothenburg University
Fredrik Svenaeus
Professor in Studies of Practical Knowledge
Södertörn University
Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback
Professor of Philosophy
Södertörn University
Stefan Jonsson
Associate Professor of Aesthetics
Södertörn University
Cecilia Sjöholm
Professor of Aesthetics
Södertörn University
95
Södertörn Philosophical Studies
1. Hans Ruin and Nicolas Smith (eds.), Hermeneutik och tradition: Gadamer
och den grekiska filosofin (2003)
2. Hans Ruin, Kommentar till Heideggers Varat och tiden (2005)
3. Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback and Hans Ruin (eds.), The Past´s Presence:
Essays on the Historicity of the Philosophical Thought (2006)
4. Jonna Bornemark (ed.), Det främmande i det egna: Filosofiska essäer om
bildning och person (2007)
5. Marcia Sá Cavalcante Schuback (ed.), Att tänka smärtan (2009)
6. Jonna Bornemark, Kunskapens gräns, gränsens vetande: En fenomenologisk
undersökning av transcendens och kroppslighet (2009)
7. Carl Cederberg and Hans Ruin (eds.), En annan humaniora, en annan tid /
Another Humanities, Another Time (2010)
8. Jonna Bornemark and Hans Ruin (eds.), Phenomenology and Religion: New
Frontiers (2010)
How could we describe the situation and obligation of the humanities today, theoretically, historically, institutionally, and
culturally? In a time of increased control over academic research,
it is of special importance to reflect on the academic task. We
need to explore new avenues for a relevant and creative humanistic
culture. This bilingual volume contains contributions by Simon
Critchley, Michał Paweł Markowski, Sven-Erik Liedman, Cecilia
Sjöholm, Stefan Jonsson, Fredrik Svenaeus, Marcia Sá Cavalcante
Schuback och Irina Sandomirskaja. They originate from a conference
at Södertörn University in December 2008.
Södertörns högskola
Biblioteket
S-141 89 Huddinge
[email protected]
www.sh.se/publications
Red/Ed Cederberg & Ruin
Hans Ruin is professor in Philosophy at Södertörn University.
Carl Cederberg holds a PhD in philosophy from Södertörn University.
En annan humaniora – En annan tid / Another Humanities – Another Time Hur kan vi beskriva humanioras situation och uppgift idag,
teoretiskt, historiskt, institutionellt, kulturellt? I en tid av ökad
kontroll av forskningen är det av särskild vikt att reflektera
över det akademiska uppdraget. Det gäller att formulera nya
vägar för en angelägen och nyskapande humanistisk kultur.
Den här boken, som är tvåspråkig, innehåller bidrag från Simon
Critchley, Michał Paweł Markowski, Sven-Erik Liedman, Cecilia
Sjöholm, Stefan Jonsson, Fredrik Svenaeus, Marcia Sá Cavalcante
Schuback och Irina Sandomirskaja. De härrör från en konferens
på Södertörns högskola i december 2008.
En annan
humaniora
–En annan tid
Another
Humanities
–Another Time
Redaktörer/Edited by
Carl Cederberg
Hans Ruin
Södertörn Philosophical Studies 7
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