Looking to the East: A New Orientation for the Humanities
The future of the humanities lies in learning from other cultures; in our case, learning specifically from Asian cultures. We will share knowledge gained from our development of a Concentration in Asian Studies in our History Department and from our recent field trip in China with seven students of literature and history as well as our proposal to prove the benefits of meditation by using it in our classrooms. We will build on the past tradition of knowledge sharing that leads from the Baghavad-Gita to Henry David Thoreau to Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. and discuss how this chain of knowledge has favorably impacted society. After ourselves learning to infuse Asian Studies into the undergraduate curriculum from the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, we were successful at creating a Concentration in Asian Studies in our History Department. Both we as professors and our students were able to become personally acquainted with professors and students from a university in another culture during our 17-day field trip to Beijing, the People’s Republic of China in July 2007. We believe that this kind of familiarity is essential to understanding another culture and another language and leads to benefits for society. As well, we hope to prove the benefits of meditation practice, with its roots in Asian cultures, by conducting classes which will include periods of meditation in the classroom. We will create an assessment instrument to compare the outcomes of these meditating students with the outcomes of students from a similar class who do not meditate. We believe that we can change the direction of the humanities by infusing Asian Studies into the undergraduate classroom and by assisting students to experience other cultures first-hand, both through travel and through practices from another culture.
Keywords: Asian Studies, Curriculum Development, Study Abroad, Meditation Practice, Building on Tradition
Dr. Patsy J. Daniels
Associate Professor of English, Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages, Jackson State University
Dr. Elizabeth Overman
Assistant Professor of History, Department of History and Philosophy, Jackson State University