The Center for Humanities and Religious Studies at Al Maaref University (MU) held a dialogue session titled "Cultural Identity in University Curricula." Dr. Talal Atrissi, a sociology professor and the director of the center, presented the session on Friday, January 5, 2024. The event was held on the university campus (Block A) and was attended by members of the academic and administrative staff of the university, along with individuals interested in cultural and academic affairs.
Dr. Atrissi initiated the discussion by exploring the development of cultural identity in our modern world and the noteworthy events that facilitate intellectual and social transformations. He emphasized that the evolution of identity follows a complex path of progress and setbacks. Dr. Atrissi drew attention to global instances where nations have undergone cultural resurgence, expressing a collective desire to reclaim their identity and liberate themselves from the cultural, political, and economic influence of the West.
The sociology professor delved into significant historical events that have played a crucial role in shaping, and continue to shape, the cultural identity of the West. These events include religious wars, the French Revolution, and scientific discoveries. He underscored that these events "have left and continue to leave profound impacts on people's lives, influencing their ways of thinking and contributing to the formation of their cultural and social identity. Furthermore, they have significantly influenced the foundations, perspectives, and theories of the humanities and social sciences."
The center's director emphasized that intellectual and cultural identity have been molded by the university, influenced by philosophical ideas from thinkers like Darwin and Nietzsche, as well as economic and philosophical thought represented by figures such as Adam Smith. These ideologies span from the survival of the fittest to the erosion of ethics, condensing happiness into profit and wealth accumulation. He underscored that these theories and ideas are the outcomes of universities and research centers. Additionally, he pointed out that it is the university that has concurrently shaped perceptions of "the other" (the Eastern, the Muslim, the Chinese, the backward) through Oriental studies.
Dr. Atrissi concluded his seminar by addressing the crisis accompanying the establishment of Arab universities and their humanities. He reflected on the role and functions of universities, emphasizing the need for these institutions to go beyond being mere reproduction mechanisms for Western sciences. Instead, he urged that universities should actively engage in transferring and producing knowledge while serving the community. He stressed the importance of ensuring that our universities are not just replicating Western sciences but are capable of independently producing our cultural and intellectual identity.