Humanities in transition : liberation of knowledge in Central Asia and the potential role of the European Union
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Concluding this article, the importance of the rational discourse in modern classes and local forums in contemporary Central Asia should be mentioned again. The liberation of knowledge should be a permanent part of educational initiatives in this region, which is on its long journey from one party autocratic system to the democratic pluralistic one. During this transition some few things should be central. 1. All innovations on education, including the revising role of humanities should be based on the indigenous traditions and the long history of the region including Islamic, Jadid’s tradition, but also soviet experiences in the last century (historically inherited German system). Furthermore, the modern international experiences on humanities should be not only superficially implemented from outside, but thoroughly integrated.
The development of independent and creative thinking of the learners (students) should be always central for reform initiatives. 2. The revised concept of knowledge and cognitive system has to be based on new epistemology with broader perspective, including all the types of knowledge. These different types of knowledge include not just so called “rationalistic” one, which in fact often serves the interests of ruling classes, but also the experiences of all slices of societies, as well as the cross-civilization approaches, which open the way of dialog and communication with others. 3. It should be suggested to remove the dominating dichotomy type of thinking, escape Manichean dualistic concepts in order develop new bodies and research areas of humanities, based on pluralism (but not on secularism only). Communication and collaboration with the educational and research institutions of developed countries like EU and US would be essential for achievement of the desired goals and implementation of projects.
During a conference on higher education in developing countries with focus on Muslim regions organised by the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilization AKU ISMC in February - March 2005 in London one participant pointed out the importance of mentioning the indigenous Islamic educational heritage like memorization in Central Asian education. Regarding this remark, the questions arises, whether the memorization is the only real indigenous Islamic heritage in education. In this case what is the role of memorization in Muslim philosophy, arts, sciences, other creative professions? Was memorization essential for such Muslim scholars and encyclopaedists from the10th to the15th centuries like Avicenna, Abu Raikhan Biruni, Nasiriddin Tusi and Mirzo Ulughbek, artists like Kamaliddin Behzod or esoteric teachers such as Sufis like Jalaliddin Rumi etc.? Memorizing was not the only learning method in Muslim culture. According to his autobiography, Avicenna read Aristotle´s ‘Metaphysics’ time, but not only for the sake of memorization, but mostly to find its adequate meaning. Every time time, when he understood the meaning of this book with help of Abu Nasr Farabi´s comments, he celebrated this event by sending charity to the people in mosque.
The memorization would be essential, if one accepts Islam only as religion, but not as culture and civilization. Of course, memorization has an important role in education, but only at the beginning, in elementary and secondary schools, but not at the universities. It is a useful tool for teaching and performing of religious rituals, for poetry and other humanities, as well as for medicine (for example, the formulation of the treatments in poetic form as in Urjuza fi-t-tib,Ibn Sina). Memorization in Muslim culture was the way to refer to the other sources, as scholars used to cite by memory, not by direct copying of the sources. It is well-known fact, that humanities have played an important role in Muslim civilisations (Goodman, 2003) and they had a strong impact on other cultures, especially, western European. Many scholars agree with the statement, that Muslim humanistic traditions was transformed by Europeans and served as one of the sources of humanism and renaissance. Recent scientific works on humanities have redefined the disciplinary organization of teaching and research and have introduced wider variety and new areas, such as gender or minoritie issues, studies of cultural diversities etc. However, many American scholars nowadays are worrying about the decline of humanistic research (Kernan, 1997) and about the shift of curriculum from university to “multiversity” and to “demoversity”.
It is necessary to analyse, rethink and spread the positive experiences of Jadids and AKHP, as well as to motivate and encourage humanities teachers for innovations. Central Asian scientists in humanities have wide field for new research area. There are so many unknown (unthought) slices of culture (formal, informal), which never have become the object of research because of the political correctness, ideology, religious, ethnics or gender superstitions. Central Asian universities need to develop new research programs in humanities, similar to the well-known works by Martha C. Nussbaum (2000, 2004), Peter N. Stearns (1993) and others in USA. However, these kinds of works depend on investments, which cannot be provided by the current central state budget due to corruption, turbulent financial crisis and economic stagnation. Regarding this issue, one should think about new projects for collaboration and integration with EU.
The courses in humanities with new approaches in arts, literature, sociology, philosophy, religions, political sciences, research in gender, cultural, religious and minorities issues, as well as analysis of such human behaviour like disgust, shame or hatred are important for liberation of thinking process in order to develop new generation of leaders in the region. Only the modern values, based on indigenous roots can help to build new and good society. However, this should not be implemented artificially.
Currently several educational programs organised by EU for Central Asian countries, like Tempus, Erasmus Mundus etc. are working in the region. Last years the majority of Central Asian countries joined Bologna-process of education. The dialog between higher education institutions is important and the communicative ethics (the notion of J. Habermas) play a central role in this exchange. More effective support in form of scholarships, research programs, training projects for teachers and the students will have a very positive influence on Central Asia with regard to the broader mutual understanding and democracy promotion.
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