The Humanities on the World Stage: A conversation with Abdullah M. Awad


As STEM dominates the aspirations of Arabs in the US, their contributions are measured in scientific output, entrepreneurial activity, and professional count. On the other side of the Atlantic, American-branded universities and centers shape the region, and knowledge production is associated with their size and visibility. Somewhere in between, a class of Arab bureaucrats navigates international organizations without much say in their structure or direction.

What happens when the participation of Arabs on the world stage is assured but only if certain roles are played? Is it possible to critically and creatively expand on these roles, as well as reflect on the stage itself? If so, what resources are available from the history of knowledge production in the Arab world? And at a time of crisis in governance, society, and identity, how might this knowledge uniquely address difficult issues facing humanity as a whole?

In this conversation, we will approach the above questions by looking at the status of the humanities in the region. Calling upon the history of philosophy, literature, and sociology, we will discuss innovative institutional frameworks, as well as pedagogies, research projects, and curricula in Amman and Cairo, Morocco and Iraq. Attendees are invited afterward to consider critical partnerships among scholars, politicians, and members of civil society.