Toward Cultural Citizenship

Jonathan Shaw in Harvard Magazine:

HumBhabha, the Rothenberg professor of the humanities, who is teaching “The Art of Reading” this spring with Marquand professor of English Peter Sacks, asserts that the humanities are “the preeminent sciences of interpretation.” Whether assessing linguistic, aural, or visual evidence, “the humanities through literature, the classics, modern languages, [or]…philosophy” use interpretation to create a “whole world of associations, contexts, significations, and values.” Interpretation, he stresses, is therefore an activity that through the exercise of judgment about important works (of art, literature, music, sculpture, architecture, etc.) “creates social and cultural values. And therefore, the humanities help us to become…not just political citizens, not social citizens, not citizens in a legal sense, but cultural citizens. That is the real force of the humanities.”

Humanistic interpretation also plays an important role in coping with the outpouring of information from the digital world, Bhabha says. “As we teach our students how to interpret, that allows the flood of facts and information to be turned into knowledge. Interpretation is the mediating force that winnows through all the information” to produce and categorize knowledge.

More here.