Texas Tech University

2023-2024 Annual Theme


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The Humanities Center Announces Value/Values as Its Annual Theme for 2023-2024

What is the difference between “value” and “values”?  Why does the plural form of the word connote morality while the singular suggests exchange?  What inheres in the word's basic meaning that unites these two seemingly disparate realms?  Etymologically, “value” stems from an Indo-European root meaning “to have strength.” More proximately, the word comes into English from French, via the Latin verb valeo.  Valeo connotes strength, health, and power, but is also used to describe the worth of goods as well as the meaning of words.  Strangely, the moral dimension that is so prominent in the word's modern versions is absent from its ancient precursor.  While an etymology controls a word's meaning no more than its other historical and social contingencies, this information does offer a point of entry for considering the discrepancy between these two senses of value.  

For 2023-2024, the Humanities Center at Texas Tech will program events around the theme Value/Values.  We will explore the range of meanings across these two words through conversations across humanities disciplines.  Among the questions that will frame our programming are:  What are the historical conditions—material, political, economic, social--that produce and exclude values? How does value entail practices of interpretation? How do we think about aesthetic value both in the past and today? How do different disciplinary frameworks render values legible? How do systems of political value produce systems of devaluation across identities and subject positions?  

Throughout the year, we will explore the friction between values and value—between pluralistic and normative conceptions of value. What are we doing, exactly, when we evaluate something?  And what does that mean about the assumptions we bring to our habit of assessment, moral and otherwise?