Humanities is a synthesis of the human experience, it is the representation of what it means to be human, no matter who you are or where you are from. It is the documentation of what it means to be human, the innermost identity that we all share as people, independent from any difference. To define Humanities, one first needs to understand what it means to be human, and based on these basic understandings, build upon it to understand the proper uses of this word.
Language is an essential backbone for communication capable of uniting and dividing people. During the translation panel plenary lecture in the second unit, I saw that there have been people dedicated to bridging the gap between languages. It was in this lecture that I saw where humans and Humanities converge. People use language as a form of expression of their thoughts, feelings, and culture. Differences in languages create a disconnect between people and ideas. While some ideas shown in the Humanities may be tangible to some people and cultures, there may be cases where the ideas may be tangible to one person while it may be alien to the other. Sometimes these ideas do not transfer smoothly between languages, creating confusion and divide; and, as a result. a language barrier arises.
In the first unit, Professor Quillen started the Humanities course with a plenary lecture on being human and exploring the properties humans possess as storytellers. Through the unit, we analyzed the ideas of philosophers from the past and present and I remember observing how every one of us possesses complex identities that define our individuality, as well as our humanness. Through this belief that each of us has complex identities, I would say that humans are equal and independent entities that bear the rights to life, health, property (including their body), and liberty. All humans are capable of thinking and producing ideas in their environment. Based on our findings, I saw that Humanities is to look back to our past and see, as well as understand our scholarly ancestors through their works. In doing so, we as historians can piece together the story of humans so that we can understand the story of us.
Unit two taught me to train my eye to perceive humans as creatures capable of using scientific knowledge to learn and grasp a better understanding of the world––growing with their paradigms by either reinforcing them or shifting them as they continue to acquire more information. From that, I also observed that Humanities is the collection of related concepts that include intellectual, literary, socio-political, artistic, and scientific beliefs that are commonly agreed upon. These beliefs can be seen or potentially originate from different cultures, from people with different conceptual schemes than what we may have. Through the existence of differences, these beliefs are constantly susceptible to change.
By way of the third unit, the perspective on humans and humanity took a turn and analyzed these terms at a more corporeal level of analysis. We understood the Rwandan genocide and how the way that it was portrayed through the media, as well as through the perspectives of multiple people. Through this understanding, I observed that a human is not only limited to their mind and their abilities; but rather, they also have a body with a soul that has had experiences that include ideas, pain, love, suffering, and violence, among other things. Through this understanding of the human body, I saw how Humanities is a documentary reflection of the past––it is a collection of different parts of history. This allows people in the present to learn about their past; therefore, motivating people to produce a better future
Moving on from this bodily form of understanding humans and Humanities, we enter a more spiritual understanding of humanity in the fourth unit. In this unit, we were analyzing the Civil Rights Movement in which the leaders based their core values on teachings from Gandhi and Christianity. From what the teachings preached, I noticed a trend in which they were focused on peace and love. But as time passed, the state violently restrained and harmed the bodies of demonstrators, showing that the state was not willing to enact the change people wanted. This showed that there are other tactics that one can use to enact change. Through this unit, I saw humans as weapons, a tool that is capable of putting an idea into action if honed properly. The message that these people are trying to express is that anyone and everyone is human. As humans, all are entitled to equal rights and equal and fair treatment. With this in mind, Humanities is the interpersonal expression of culture in our society. Therefore, anyone can play a role in taking part of humanity through their self-expression.
This unit took a completely different approach by looking at how performance intersects with the power of being able to bear witness to something. This unit challenged me to think about how to approach human bodies as a tool of expression. Something as simple as a human being is capable of expressing very complex messages and ideas by way of movement. These movements can be understood by others. As a result, we encounter Humanities: a product between people and culture in the form of artistic performance expression, which means that the Humanities are not limited to just text, but rather, open to the expression of the human experience.
Along this vein of artistic expression, unit six took us to look at, as well as understand, the psychological thought processes behind understanding visual art as human viewers. Through this unit, we looked at abstraction and saw how different people see art differently, it is based on our backgrounds and in the experiences that we have encountered as individuals. By way of art, this unit showed me that humans are both the creators as well as the thinkers when they express themselves. From this knowledge, we gained a more profound understanding of art, and as a result, saw that similar to how the canon changed to redefine art with abstractionism, the Humanities are capable of changing with the changing times; the Humanities are dynamic.
By way of the material we were exposed to, including Sofia Petrovna and Burnt By the Sun, we learned about Stalin’s terror, as well as the cultural and political situation of the Soviet Union during the ‘30s. Through this unit, we saw that humans were considered units in society, with every person contributing to it by playing their role. Through the imprisonment of authors, we saw that Stalin recognized the power authors as the truth-tellers since the people would listen to authors. Subsequently, Stalin issued the creation of propaganda to block out the information from other authors. Unit seven showed me that the Humanities holds massive amounts of power in being able to influence the masses and cause (revolutionary?) change, which was why Stalin tried to silence them. Consequently, this is why it was not until recently when we started learning about first-hand accounts on the ugly truth of Russia during Stalin’s terror
Unit 8 took us to the 1970’s Germany in which we studied the Red Army Faction, co-founded by Ulrike Meinhof, a militant terrorist organization. The RAF garnered strength from the public, depending on students to support their movement. This shows that humans can accomplish big feats when they work together in big numbers, something similar to what I cover in my research paper. Humans are capable of change. They are the ones that can catalyze and give a face to a movement. By how this group was documented, I saw that Humanities is not limited to paintings (like Richter), or publications; but rather, it can also include newsreels and movies. These forms of expression are just as capable of capturing and documenting the human experience.
Throughout all of the units and the topics that each unit addresses, there is a paradigm for the definition for the terms human and Humanities. These units showed me that a human is a being that inherently possesses their body as a form of property. They are capable of spreading and creating ideas by using their bodies, as well as influencing the minds and bodies of others. Furthermore, humans can collaborate with others, each one playing their part as a cog in the machine; as a result, humans can achieve a means by working together, be it good or bad. With Humanities, I saw that it is the collection of works by humans from the past. It is a representation of human history as well as any concept of the era. The Humanities come in different forms; nonetheless, the Humanities documents the human experience, with shifts and revolutions that occur throughout.