The Faculty of Philosophy, the “beating heart” of the University of Sarajevo, will soon celebrate its seventieth birthday. This is a short period when compared to the history of prestigious universities abroad, but it is long enough if we take into account the accelerated pace of change in the humanities, social sciences and arts during this turbulent time in the contemporary history of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the first four decades of this period, primarily thanks to the efforts of extraordinary professors and authors in the disciplines offered at our Faculty, our society caught up with current trends in Europe and the rest of the world at a pace that is practically unbelievable. This small and to a large extent still feudal environment had to catch up to the Enlightenment while at the same time meeting all the challenges brought about by the tidal waves of modernism. The Faculty of Philosophy succeeded in this regard because of an extraordinary vitality of spirit that grew with each new generation, constantly accommodating new intellectual trends and emanating a positive social energy, while clearing new paths for social development. It was precisely at a point when the accumulation of achievements over several decades had resulted in a high academic standard that promised even greater heights in the colourful worlds of the humanities, social sciences and arts, that the most brutal aggression and the long-running siege of Sarajevo—an event that marked world history at the end of the 20th century—suddenly put an end to this trajectory. Although physically displaced, because its building was on the front line, the Faculty of Philosophy continued to operate during this period—a period when Gilles Deleuze’s words “every act of creation is [...] an act of resistance” rang truer than they ever had before. This too is part of the history of this Faculty and we have every right to call this period a time of spiritual resistance to destruction and barbarism. In the years that followed, there was a need to repair the material damage suffered and to make up for the loss of staff at the Faculty. Despite all of the anachronistic social processes that accompanied the end of the war and that are still ongoing, despite the provincializing and closing up of a once completely open environment that plunged it back into the deep past it had just emerged from, faculty and students at the Faculty of Philosophy continue their mission of “opening up” and again claiming the space of freedom of thought—thought that has always existed only as critical thinking. We have to always keep in mind that opening means allowing something to enter your space but also allowing for something to be taken out of your space and presented to the world. And freedom of thought, like any other space of freedom, has to be accompanied by a dimension of ethical responsibility—responsibility to the present moment, as well as to the time and generations that are to come. These are the principles according to which we must define and create curricula in the upcoming period.
Although I do not want to focus too much on the past, I have to mention two very important events from the recent past that will significantly determine the development of the Faculty of Philosophy during my upcoming four-year mandate: the finalisation of the integration process of the University of Sarajevo and the new Law on Higher Education that was adopted at the end of July 2017. Keeping these factors in mind, we can say that the Faculty of Philosophy finds itself before a new phase of development. This new phase will inevitably be marked by uncertainty and we must keep that uncertainty in mind when we discuss the principles and directions of our future development. It is clear that an institution of higher education like the Faculty of Philosophy, that is according to all European standards a medium-sized university (in the administrative language of the Law, an organisational unit with a large number of sub-units), has to be primarily based on legality, on a clear respect for legal and statutory requirements. And this is our first task. It is also clear, however, that within this framework, we must be proactive in asking for changes to the law and looking for solutions that benefit us by improving research and teaching and providing desirable international cooperation and necessary financial stability. At the same time, we must function according to the principles of institutional democracy and respect the decisions of representative bodies at this Faculty, with the Faculty Senate as the central decision-making body. We are responsible for respecting the legitimate will of the majority, while at the same time acknowledging dissenting voices and promoting academic dialogue by nurturing the culture of academic dialogue, safeguarding the dignity of faculty, staff, other employees and students, and working to create synergy instead of wasting time and energy on pointless debates, misunderstandings and frequent interpersonal conflicts.
Working together, being committed to the activities of the Faculty and being responsible for its successful functioning were and still are the measure of our worth. The Faculty has to be a space, a home, where everyone can express and live up to their potential. For too long, I have felt the existence of a gap between an indisputable academic and creative potential on the one hand, and teaching and research results on the other. Therefore, my programme is based on improving the management of processes that all lead to a single goal: liberating these potentials and directing them towards research projects, international cooperation, community engagement, further development of innovation in teaching and, finally, improving the quality of teaching and work with students, who are the reason we are all here. Also, we need to open the doors of this Faculty, as much as possible within the given circumstances, to frequent discussion of key social issues. Because, in a situation where the state practically does not exist, where community is dangerously fragmented and its very existence is brought into question when Bosnia and Herzegovina is denied as even a cultural fact (although this is its most certain anchor in terms of its historical continuity), we are obliged to return to the Faculty of Philosophy its role as a space where open debate on the most painful issues can take place, instead of continuing to fight small interpersonal wars in which the destruction from the outside enters this institution. In addition to our regular efforts, this would be the best way to motivate our students and other young people (who would be encouraged to enrol at our Faculty) to actively oppose the dangerous tendencies of recent local and global campaigns against the humanities and social sciences.
Teaching, scientific work, professional work, creative work, research, the internationalisation and further expansion of disciplines, the functioning of the administrative services at the Faculty, the activities of the student services, the library, technical support, and further digitalisation of the Faculty all have to be managed in accordance with standards and on the basis of criteria for international academic institutions and have to be compatible with the goals of developed European countries. All of that, however, will be in vain if we cannot invest our efforts in opposing as much as possible the avalanche of bureaucratisation that is threatening the entire University. Only by minimising and lessening this pressure, in combination with the aforementioned measures, will we be in a position to liberate the full scientific, professional, research and creative potential of each faculty member and associate. In other words, we must advocate for an efficient administration at the University which will be part of the solution and not part of the problem. If we are at least partially successful in this regard, we will help our struggle for quality, for aligning the Faculty with contemporary worldwide trends in the disciplines studied here, for international cooperation with other universities at all levels. We will help our struggle against brutal political attacks on our autonomy and on freedom of thought, our struggle for opening academic life against the manifestly catastrophic consequences of a decades-long autistic approach in all segments of society.
Based on our experience in teaching, it is necessary to continue with curricular innovations and to aim for interdisciplinarity. In this sense, we should make full use of the open dialogue that is taking place in relation to the process of external evaluation and accreditation to make changes to our curricula in disciplines and segments that will lead to us fulfilling the high standards of European academia. For the realisation of this programme, we will need the support of University bodies, the material and financial support of its Founders, and full cooperation of Department Councils, president groups of Department Councils, the Faculty Senate and all employees and associates at the Faculty. We will need to establish synergy and, again, to lessen bureaucratic pressure so that each faculty member can enjoy a space of freedom from which to continue innovating their own teaching plans and harmonising them with the overall curriculum. I will allow myself to point out one aspect that I will focus on in particular, during the upcoming period: the necessity of establishing a good balance between the traditional values of the humanities that need defending and the needs of young people today (who are primarily motivated by a desire to analyse new phenomena, tendencies and trends in the world) that are the result of historical changes. My orientation towards a new generation of associates and faculty is precisely in line with establishing this balance which is possible and, I am deeply convinced, easily attainable. It is necessary to establish a new role for the Faculty of Philosophy as part of the new institutional status of the University of Sarajevo and to position the Faculty through further phases of future development. This entails further improvement in areas that we are already working on, as well as initiating new areas that are missing on our “lingo-cultural world map”. Establishing lectorate programmes in Japanese, Chinese, Swedish and Norwegian languages would clear the path for serious cooperation with these significant civilisations and make the aforementioned “map” more complete, while at the same time contributing to the necessary further internationalisation of the Faculty of Philosophy. In terms of national disciplines, we will need to invest our efforts in making the first steps towards a study of Roma and Jewish heritage without which there can be no complete insight into the traditional multicultural tissue of this country. If we manage to at least partially realise these stated goals during the upcoming four-year mandate, we will have provided significant encouragement for future generations. Therefore, it seems necessary to work as a team and to establish synergy between three functions: namely, teaching, international cooperation and research. The vice-dean of academic affairs must act in synergy with the vice-dean of international cooperation and both have to act in harmony with their colleagues who run our Centre for Research and Professional Activities which consists of: the Institute for Archaeology; the Institute for Literature and Cultural Studies; Science and Research Incubator; the Language Centre; the Centre for Research, Education and Counselling in Psychology; the Centre for Professional Development and Lifelong Learning; publishing for our electronic and print monographs and journals that are already being indexed… From my point of view, this is all a single entity. The logic is clear. A step forward in research is a step forward in international cooperation and both are immediately reflected in an improvement to the quality of teaching. And, again, innovations in teaching are impossible to imagine without advancements in the two other arenas. Every success in international cooperation, every project accepted into a respected programme or institution will automatically have a positive effect on teaching and research. Thus, we can conserve energy, strength and time and concentrate them at our Faculty so that our young colleagues in particular have the opportunity to fulfil their responsibilities for academic advancement “at home” for the most part.
Perhaps this Faculty will never have the same kind of important role in society and the same kind of authority that it had when it was established and in the first decades of its existence. But we cannot fall into the trap of cheap analogies. Simply put, that was a different time, a different country, a different political and social system, and finally a different educational system. What we need to do right away is open the doors wide to a discussion on crucial social issues. In many ways, this kind of opening up would improve the public perception of the Faculty of Philosophy in these new, completely different circumstances. And given the circumstances, this Faculty is, unfortunately, no longer a beacon for the social sciences and humanities. On the contrary, as has already been said, many aspects of our society and our world are against us. We cannot close our eyes before the social deviations and factors that are present and that are allied against our disciplines: there is a lack of interest for many departments and the quality of candidates is falling. Opening the doors would make the Faculty of Philosophy more visible and more present and this entails an effort by all of us and by our guests to be recognised for quality, for style, for diversity, for different types and levels of activities… I am sure of only one thing: we have the necessary potential. We just need a space of openness and freedom of thought where no segment of social life is taboo. I sincerely hope that at the end of the upcoming four-year mandate we will see the end of a full generational renewal at the Faculty of Philosophy. My generation—a generation that began their academic careers in a completely different environment and that salvaged what it could at a time of the worst destruction in the history of this country—is slowly on its way out. We gave, more or less, what we could, in line with our capabilities and the circumstances. But it is my desire that in four years this Faculty will have a sufficient number of full professors and associate professors, assistant professors, teaching associates and teaching assistants, as well as all other staff from a new generation—one more capable and ready to face the highest demands of higher education in Europe and the world. This will be a generation that is much less burdened by the destruction and trauma of the past and is primarily oriented towards the future.
At first glance, much of what awaits us is not in our favour and we will need to look for new paths for affirming the humanities, social sciences and arts. The fragmentation and destruction of reality continues with further eradication of fundamental humanist values that are being represented as a burden or unwanted baggage. A pluralism based on monistic particularity, a homogenisation of the particular that leads to a homogenisation and abdication of thought itself sharpens the sense that reality is left without direction/meaning. The world that needs us only as a function reduced to the level of a resource cast out into the local or global job “market” has its enforcers who would like to eradicate the fundamental principles of humanity. But they do not see that already tomorrow the same old questions await: “What to do with Man?” and “How to understand this fragmented reality?”. It is clear that we can find answers only in the spheres of the humanities, social sciences and arts, although under changed social circumstances…
Professor Muhamed Dželilović, PhD
Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy