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The Future in the Humanities Podcast

Reimagining the Humanities from the Global South

Launched during Wits University's centenary anniversary - the series tackles critical questions on the role and future of the Humanities. The arts, philosophy, anthropology, and literary studies are increasingly perceived as under attack. And yet, in the Global South, these disciplines have never been in a position of greater strength. Scholars in Africa and South America are displaying unprecedented confidence in challenging frameworks that used to be uncritically adopted from centres of knowledge in Europe or North America. Reflections on race, power, or how we interface with our planet that emerged from societies once perceived at "the margins" are gaining increasing centrality on a global stage.

The series addresses some of these innovations and contradictions, drawing in different voices within and outside the academic world. Each episode focuses on a specific challenge, puzzle, or problem, rather than on a piece of research or a prominent researcher, in ways that display the unique sensitivities and insights that distinguish academia in the Global South.

The Future in the Humanities podcast is written and produced by Andile Masuku and Iginio Gagliardone and co-produced by Brendan "Spike" Ballantine. Hosting and interviews by Andile Masuku. Editing, sound design, audio mix, and mastering by Brendan "Spike" Ballantine.

S1 Ep1: Touching Brains

Is touch perceived differently across societies? How has COVID-19 changed the perception of proximity in different parts of the world?

The opening episode of the series, featuring Sahba Besharati and Victoria Williams, connects the humanities and the neurosciences to show how a greater understanding of localized experiences can strengthen, rather than challenge, universal principles. Most of the world is not 'WEIRD' (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), but most research in fields like psychology and neuroscience is conducted in WEIRD contexts. Until recently, this research implicitly sought to apply to just everyone on the planet. This principle is increasingly being challenged. In some cases, this requires radical revisions of existing theories. Others, including some discussed in this episode, can lead to those theories being more inclusive.

Click here to learn about the work done at the Wits Neuroscience Research Lab.

Studies referenced in this episode:

  1. Kirsch, L. P., Besharati, S., Papadaki, C., Crucianelli, L., Bertagnoli, S., Ward, N., ... & Fotopoulou, A. (2020). Damage to the right insula disrupts the perception of affective touch. Elife, 9, e47895.
  2. Jenkinson, P. M., Papadaki, C., Besharati, S., Moro, V., Gobbetto, V., Crucianelli, L., ... & Fotopoulou, A. (2020). Welcoming back my arm: affective touch increases body ownership following right-hemisphere stroke. Brain communications, 2(1), fcaa034.