Touching upon the university, liberal society and the globe as sites in which the humanities locate themselves, this essay argues that the traditional subject of humanist reflection needs to be rethought. How might an esoteric approach to scholarship constitute a productive necessity for the humanities, serving to question the academy’s public role as much as its traditional duty of cultivating a private individual? For the humanist subject and his interior life is threatened by the emergence of global realities such as the human race. These realities possess neither existential nor political forms, but are for the moment manifested in sacrificial practices whose negativity provides an important new subject for the humanities.
The paper was presented by Prof. Sumathi Ramaswamy in absentia.
A project of the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI) at Duke University, Humanities Futures is a multi-faceted exploration of the states and directions of the humanities, in light of the interdisciplinary developments of recent decades. Supported by a general grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Humanities Futures is a 3.5-year initiative running from Fall 2014 through Fall 2017.