Humanities Dialogues provides casual space to discuss meaning of words

Published: June 4, 2017

Students, staff and faculty have been discussing what words like “democracy,” “humanity” and “heroism” mean in meetings over the course of the year.

Humanities Dialogues consists of biweekly meetings, in which participants discuss a word and the different meanings associated with it. The program was created by various UCLA departments in languages and humanities in 2016 to understand how different cultures interpret certain words and concepts differently.

This year’s meetings culminated in a symposium Friday, where students presented on some of the words discussed in the program.

Students who participated in the program said they liked the meetings’ openness and informality and felt they were not judged when sharing their opinions on heavy words such as patriotism and duty.

“People don’t want to listen; they want to talk,” said Aaron Garcia Peretz, a third-year philosophy student and presenter. “And here, people listened.”

Alberto Flores-Arvizu, a third-year German student and also a presenter, said he thought the meetings were less like classes and more like casual conversations.

“(It is) the notion of it being ‘bar talk,’” Flores-Arvizu said. “It’s without judgement – building on conversation from past meetings.”

The faculty members who organized the program said they started the program because they wanted participants to understand how different backgrounds can lead to different interpretations of the same word.

“The meaning (of the word) probably varies according to the culture and the history of each (person),” said Hoang Truong, a lecturer in the Italian department.

Read the full story on the Daily Bruin.