SPECIAL 2007 THEME - Discourses Veiled and Unveiled: The Public Intellectual and Islam in New Directions for the Humanities

It was a widely held view of the participants of the 2006 Humanities Conference, that the conversations commenced in Tunis about Islam and ‘The West’ should continue in Paris, particularly because France is the site of one of the most vociferous discussions of this issue. Alice Craven and Oliver Feltham, American University of Paris, have framed this special theme for the 2007 conference as follows:

On today’s world stage, the word “veil” seduces one immediately into the controversies surrounding the veil’s religious symbolism. This conference takes a new tack. We want to make use of the “veil” as a metaphor in its myriad of possible uses and meanings. Constricting academic administrations, economic and cultural imbalances, and unethical globalizing practices can serve as veils to free and critical public discourse. Those veils can harden into impenetrable walls for the voices trying to speak from behind them. Even the act of translation can leave cultures permanently veiled from each other though its intended goal is to bring them together.

One of the conference's central concerns is nonetheless with the intersection between public space and Islam: not only in terms of ideological analyses of public images of Islam in the West, but also in terms of the concept of public space in the light of Islam and its various notions of the individual's relation to the body politic. Such an interrogation opens up another avenue of investigation: what is a public intellectual if the very notion of public space is contested both within and between nation-states and their diverse cultures. The very metaphors we use to designate the public - veiling and unveiling, walls and the open, isolation and the network - take part in the conflicts over the nature of such space.


Theme 1: Meaning and Communication
  • Language and human meaning.
  • Cultural dialogue as a local and global imperative.
  • Linguistic diversity: its nature and meanings.
  • Communications outside of the humanities: making the connections.
  • Humanities and technologies: bridging the gap.
  • Education for a new humanity.
  • Values, attitudes, sensibilities: what role the humanities?
  • Freedom and tolerance: within what latitudes?
  • The dynamics of culture and identity.
  • Language and linguistics in the humanities.
  • Languages: global English, multilingualism, language death, language revival.
  • Communicating: media, film, theatre.
  • The nature of the literary.
  • The social mind: linguistics in theory and application.
  • Old forms and new insights: the novel, poetry and other literatures.
  • New media, new messages, new meanings.
  • The art of engagement: music, visual arts, theatre.
Theme 2: Frames of Reference for the Humanities
  • The stuff of knowledge in a 'knowledge society' or 'knowledge economy'.
  • Modern, postmodern and other ways of knowing.
  • Subjectivity and objectivity, truth and relativity.
  • Consciousness revisited.
  • Ethics and knowledge.
  • Semiotics: the modalities of meaning.
  • Philosophy in the humanities.
  • Making knowledge: research in the humanities.
  • Intellectual property: private property or creative commons?
  • Interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinary.
Theme 3: Agendas for the Humanities
  • Globalism and localism; cosmopolitanism and backlash.
  • History and its futures.
  • Immigration, minorities, refugees, diaspora.
  • Citizenship: national and global.
  • Cities and regions: the dynamics of proximity and distance.
  • Violence and peace.
  • A third way? And the first or second futures of our recent past.
  • Colonialism and neo-colonialism.
  • Terror and anti-terror.
  • Differences: gender, sexuality, families, race, ethnicity, class, (dis)ability.
  • Family and community.
  • Aesthetics and design.
  • Place making in the humanities: geography and its sites.
  • Land and place: framing indigenous identities.
  • Nationalism and racism.
  • Religious meanings and their human significance.
Theme 4: The Humanities in Practice
  • Teaching and learning in the humanities.
  • Humanities in cyberspace.
  • Meaning in the 'information society'.
  • Politics in the humanities.
  • Science and humanity.
  • Biotechnology, bioethics and aspects of body and environment.
  • Sustaining the human, ecologically and culturally.
  • Archaeologies of the material and the ephemeral.
  • Museums and cultural heritage.
  • Technology, between humans and nature.
  • The 'ism's of the humanities: feminism, multiculturalism …
  • The 'new economy' and the 'knowledge economy' - where do the humanities fit?