Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Technology, Cultural Exchange and the Place of Humanities Education: Experiences in China and India

Harold Sjursen.

For Cardinal Newman "useful knowledge" was a "deal of trash." This currently very unpopular notion has been stood upon its head so that now, within the modern, technologically oriented curriculum, it is the humanities that are very often so regarded. For the market-driven, globalized and technology focused education of today the perceived value of the humanities is frequently reduced to the subordinate status of enhancing "useful knowledge." It is often assumed that cultural understanding and communication skills are the great benefits of and the basis for the argument to include the humanities within technology focused curricula. From this is seems that direct cross-cultural experience, including foreign study and international exchange, would be an important means to further the goals of humanities education within these programs. The hope is that the "true" value of the humanities will be realized as well as the pragmatic justification. The question raised here is whether international exchange, when it is the primary means by which humanities education is offered, contributes to or counters the reductionist view that values the humanities only for the perceived pragmatic and utilitarian benefits.
The discussion will be based upon the experiences of Polytechnic University's foreign exchange programs in China and India. Recent writing of Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran), Seyla Behhabib (The Claims of Culture), Martha Nussbaum (Cultivating Humanity), Gayatri Spivak (Death of a Discipline) as well as David Kirp (Shakespeare, Einstein and the Bottom Line) will give theoretical focus to the discussion.


Harold Sjursen  (United States)
Professor of Philosophy, Director of Liberal Studies
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Polytechnic University

  • Technology
  • Humanities
  • Globalization
Person as Subject
  • Behhabib, Seyla Kirp, David Nafisi, Azar Nussbaum, Martha Spivak, Gayatri Chakrovorty

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)