Programme Snapshots | Understanding Others

Programme Snapshots | Understanding Others

Can you describe your Being Human event(s) in 140 characters?

Imagine what human life would look like to alien visitors. Imagine how inscrutable it would be without the lens of the humanities…

Tell us a bit about your research interests

Our event is cross disciplinary, drawing on the work of researchers active in various branches of the humanities—including art history, philosophy and theology—and bringing them into conversation with leading voices in the heritage and technology sectors. Our joint aim is that venerable goal: human understanding.

What will people learn or experience that they can’t experience elsewhere?

For centuries Oxford has been at the centre of research in the humanities. During a day of dialogues, presentations, debates and conversations we shall demonstrate the continuing vitality and relevance of the humanities today and for the future. The discussions will be focused on issues arising from reflection on a range of exhibits in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum. We will address questions concerning explanation and understanding in historiography, the misguided scientistic denigration of the humanities, the role of museums in understanding other cultures and their heritage, how consideration of the divine can illuminate what it is to be human, and how the humanities can play a role in informing the development of communication technology. Visitors will also be led through a set of exhibits that illuminate these questions by our Museum Guide to Understanding Others.

How is this relevant to everyday life?

The day will be a celebration of communal learning and understanding. Our event will raise awareness of the role played by the humanities in helping us to understand other people. Human beings regularly have trouble understanding each other: our words, thoughts, intentions, motives, actions, outlook, and lives can be opaque or distorted to our fellows. Such failures can occur at both local and global levels, for example, within families or across cultural divides. Barriers to understanding are multifarious and manifest themselves in situations pertaining to phenomena as diverse as those of faith, politics, crime, ethics, aesthetics, psychology, and ethology.  In order to overcome them we need to explore the possibility of understanding between humans and we need to understand what it is to be human.

And finally, tell us your five favourite things about your location/venue.

The Ashmolean Museum is one of the jewels of Oxford because:

  1. It is one of the world’s leading small museums and art galleries—the world’s first university museum, established in 1683.
  2. Our university—Oxford Brookes—started its life here, as the Oxford School of Art (now the Taylor Institute) in 1865 in one room of the East wing. Next year Oxford Brookes will be celebrating its 150th year.
  3. A stunning collection of paintings and drawings. One can spend a rainy afternoon in the inspiring company of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Turner, Picasso, Titian, and Cezanne.
  4. An ever-changing and developing programme of events, including international touring exhibitions such as Cezanne and the Modern, Stradivarius and Francis Bacon/Henry Moore: Flesh & Bone. It hosts the local hub of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, run by Oxford Brookes Philosophy, and our Why Philosophy Matters series of talks are given by some of the world’s leading philosophers and attended by ever-increasing numbers of local people.
  5. It has a wonderful rooftop café and restaurant. One can linger over a cappuccino and the gleaming spires before descending again to the wonderful collections below.


Understanding Others  is just one of many activities during Being Human which connects cutting edge research in the humanities to issues shaping our everyday lives. For updates on the latest Being Human news follow us on Twitter @BeingHumanFest, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. Don’t forget to sign up to our e-newsletter too!