Turning on the Light with Interdisciplinary Humanities in Dark Times
This Special Issue of JSPE showcases the amazing creative academic work done in the past two years by Emory College undergraduates, majoring and minoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Law (PPL). The works you will find in this issue were originally their final projects in a series of interdisciplinary undergraduate courses that I have taught since Fall 2020. I curated the works in this special issue on the key concepts of history of political philosophy, namely, on justice, freedom, and revolution.
For their final projects in these classes, I asked the students to envision an interdisciplinary and public-facing component to their philosophical analyses of a number of political concepts. Students in response produced a wide genre of works ranging from poetry, short stories, Op-Eds and photo essays, pamphlets and zines, playlists, to drawings, paintings, collages, and short videos, showcasing not only their creativity and academic excellence, but also the unique ability of interdisciplinary humanities to analyze complex issues and offer imaginative solutions by using multimedia resources and methods.
Works in this Special Issue revolve around the following three premises on justice, freedom, and revolution. Following are those premises that we have established by means of presentations, discussions, conversations, and collaborations in and outside the classroom:
JUSTICE has to be studied as intertwined with definitions and histories of injustice, as found in the ideas of the social contract, the racial contract, the sexual contract, racial capitalism, modernity/coloniality, whiteness as property, and cisheteropatriarchy.
FREEDOM is best understood when we talk about its history as located in those of slavery, labor, property, land, colonialism and conquest, oppression, and the prison industrial complex.
The history of the American REVOLUTION, which provided a case study for the classes on the concept of revolution, is best analyzed by going back to 1492 (the invention of “Americas” through “discovery,” conquest, and colonization) and 1619 (first enslaved Africans landing on Virginia coast).
Authors here reflect on topics and themes ranging from social media activism to the Metaverse, from K-12 History Education in the U.S. to the political meaning of our identities, climate crisis and its long history, faces of structural and intersecting oppressions in every day life in the U.S., meaning of freedom under conditions of white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy, the relationship between Twitter and democracy, women’s invisible labor, immigrant and minor feelings, coloniality as an ongoing regime of truth and identity, whiteness as property, to prison industrial complex. Importantly and at the same time, each work functions as an interdisciplinary introduction of important historical and political concepts to a broader audience, such as theories of distributive and reparative and transformative justice, concept of the racial capitalism, concept of a racial-sexual contract, fundamental demands of the Black Panther Party Program, a brief history and primer on Identity Politics and the premises of CRT (Critical Race Theory).
When planning these interdisciplinary humanities courses in the midst of tumultuous and dark times (that we can trace back to March 2020), I had not counted on the pleasant surprise that I have come to appreciate again and again: the uncanny ability of GenZ’ers to take infinitely complex phenomena, and unpack and communicate them in unparalleled clarity. It was mostly this ingenuity of my students that gave rise to the idea for a Special Issue for JSPE, transforming it into an Interdisciplinary Humanities Public Project, which you are now browsing! Students and I also owe a debt of gratitude to our teaching assistant, Allison Garippa, who first imagined these works collected in a Zine, as well as our Philosophy alum Sarah Lee, who had first built in the infrastructure of an undergrad run journal under the umbrella of JSPE.
To paraphrase Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, these students’ breathtaking works proved that community “can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers how to turn on the light.” I am proud of each person who contributed to and collaborated on this issue, for reminding all of us that even in the darkest times, we can find community in each other, and together we can turn on the light with interdisciplinary humanities.
See for yourselves!