Global Studies and the Humanities

About the Conference

Subsidized by an NYU Global Institute for Advanced Study grant, faculty members of the NYU Global Liberal Studies program and the College of Arts and Science will meet on April 14th and 15th, 2016 to discuss the implications of Global Studies theory for the study of the arts (and vice-versa) under the direction of Principal Investigators Uli Baer and Robert Squillace).  The conference will feature three keynotes open to the entire NYU community.



David Damrosch: Global World Literature: From the Premodern to the Postnational

The discipline of Comparative Literature developed in tandem with the European nationalism that it at once embodied and opposed. In the postwar era, postcolonial studies opened a far wider frame of reference, while still largely following established colonial trade routes in exploring literature in the imperial languages. A fully global literary studies will need to become more multipolar, as Jan Nederveen Pieterse has argued, both in terms of the materials studied and the methods we use. Literary and disciplinary nationalism need to be engaged in new ways . . . [read full abstract]



at UKM comp


Critical theory in social science broadly parallels critical theory in humanities. A keynote of critical theory in social science is, following the Frankfurt school, an ‘emancipatory knowledge interest’, i.e. the touchstone of knowledge is whether it serves emancipation, writ large.

Keynotes of global studies thinking include approaches that are

  • Multicentric—i.e. rather than Eurocentric or west-centric
  • Plural—rather than singular (as in modernities rather than modernity)
  • Multiscalar—rather than privileging just the nation state
  • Multilevel—overcoming stratification bias (‘views from above’)

[Read full abstract]




Nationalism has been an extremely important factor in the institutional formation of the history of art. Not only has much attention been given to questions of nationality as evident in works of art, but art traditions are treated as if sanctioning national political order. Theorists of the history of art at the end of the 19th century argued that styles of ornament, as pure forms, most clearly expresses the spirit of a people, and there has been much anxiety . . . [read full abstract]



Conference Themes and Purpose

The implications of Global Studies theory for the study of the arts (and vice-versa) have only recently begun to receive serious consideration. Rapid globalization has affected social, cultural, and economic life in practically every corner of the earth. It is simultaneously transforming the paradigms of higher education by connecting universities that had primarily been institutions for the promulgation of national culture – “Princeton in the Nation’s Service,” as Woodrow Wilson’s formula ran – in an international network of students and scholars.  Scholars in the Humanities have been relatively slow to respond to the insights and challenges of new paradigms that have taken hold in fields such as History, Sociology, and Economics. The workshop will examine this delayed response, which may be caused by the organization of humanistic disciplines around nationally defined traditions (many of them scholarly fabrications in the service of nation-building enterprises) and by the fact that their methodologies have tended to universalize definitions of the arts that are often the contingent products of European histories. Part of our project is to disentangle the intertwining of the European Enlightenment project and the Humanities as academic disciplines today. To be certain, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial approaches to post-modernity have challenged universalisms of many kinds, but they still tend to take the nation-state, rather than the world, regions, or the environment as their main unit of analysis. Even these critical revisions tend to position themselves as extensions of earlier Critical Theory movements from within the humanities.  The purpose of our workshops is to examine what the Global Humanities would look like in analogy with Global Geography, World History, Global Social Studies, and similar developments in other fields.

Discussion Tranches

Global Studies and Critical Practice

Global Studies and Critical Theory

Global Studies and the Humanistic Curriculum

Global Studies and the Humanistic Disciplines