Enlightenment legacies: a new online resource

After a great Facebook response, I wanted to share this interesting initiative more widely – Greg Brown.

On January 7, 2015, two armed men claiming to belong to the extremist Islamic group Al-Qaeda entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper, shooting and fatally wounding several individuals. In the wake of this tragedy, French citizens were looking for answers on how to deal with this traumatic event. Voltaire’s 1763 Treatise on tolerance (Traité sur la tolérance) seemed to offer one potential answer, and copies of it were flying off the shelves of libraries and bookstores.

La Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen

La Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen.

This example highlights how, in times of crisis, people continue to turn to the Enlightenment as one way of understanding the current social and political climate. The repeated act of returning to Enlightenment philosophy to answer the most pressing current debates inspired us to seek just how much policies, philosophies, practices, and ideologies of the Enlightenment continue to shape our day to day existence.

Our project ‘Legacies of the Enlightenment: humanity, nature, and science in a changing climate’, explores how the Enlightenment informs – and haunts – our current worldviews. We created the website enlightenmentlegacies.org that contains a database of teaching and research materials, which we hope will be a useful tool for students, teachers, and researchers interested examining how and why we continue to practice and embody the legacies of the Enlightenment. The topics of our website include (but are not limited to):

  • evolutions of social and political relations;
  • theories of climate and climate change;
  • the nature of matter and objects;
  • structures of authority and institutions;
  • how notions of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and citizenship are questioned due to political upheavals and natural catastrophes;
  • how dualistic notions of embodiment are crucial for understanding the origins and the continued presence of racism and sexism;
  • how taxonomic practices influences our relation to each other, as well as to other (non-human) animals.
The first group meeting at Penn State University in April 2017.

The first group meeting at Penn State University in April 2017.

This site is the first step in a larger project – made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Humanities Without Walls consortium – which aims to scrutinize these questions in virtual and in-person environments. An important element of the project is a dedication to the mentoring of graduate students.

To that end, the second step of the project will involve a 3-day symposium at which graduate students will work with more senior scholars in various fields to refine an essay, article, or work of art for publication. Our hope is that we will find the funding to continue this important work of mentoring emerging scholars.

To find out more about the project, please visit our website. If you would like to get involved, please click the ‘Contact us’ tab and send us a message!

– Tracy L. Rutler

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