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Humanities and Public Life

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A democracy, John Dewey wrote, “is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.” Perhaps then, the key institutions in a democratic society are not governmental but educational. At the heart of a democracy are practices and institutions that work to support communicative relations and cultivate dispositions in the citizenry needed to participate in the conversation. And within educational institutions, it is the arts and humanities that have consistently devoted themselves to addressing the plight of the public by cultivating the arts of conversation and the rigors of self-knowledge.


Speaker Biographies

Romand Coles, Australian Catholic University

Romand Coles is a scholar-activist who works at the intersections of continental and critical philosophy, radical democratic theory, and various modes of political organizing and activism. Some of the central themes in his published work include receptive generosity, dialogical ethics, and radical democracy; religion, secularism and pluralization; ecological thought and transformative action in the face of planetary catastrophe; social movements, protest, and broad-based political organizing; democratic educational transformation for commonwealth; action research and pedagogy; aesthetics and politics; and critical cosmopolitanism from below. Before coming to the Institute for Social Justice, he served as the McAllister Endowed Chair and Director of the Program for Community, Culture, and Environment at Northern Arizona University, where he co-led a prominent initiative for educational transformation around grassroots democracy and sustainability. During the two decades prior to that, he taught political theory and engaged in radical democratic political organizing at Duke University.

Carolyn Rouse, Princeton University

Carolyn Rouse is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University. Her work explores the use of evidence to make particular claims about race and social inequality. She is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam, Uncertain Suffering: Racial Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease, and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment. Her manuscript Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World examines discourses of charity and development and is tied to her own project building a high school in a fishing village in Ghana. In the summer of 2016, she began studying declining white life expectancies in rural California as a follow-up to her research on racial health disparities. In addition to being an anthropologist, Rouse is also a filmmaker. She has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), Purification to Prozac: Treating Mental Illness in Bali (1998), and Listening as a Radical Act: World Anthropologies and the Decentering of Western Thought (2015). As an extension of her commitment and training in visual anthropology, in the summer of 2016, she created the Ethnographic Data Visualization Lab to work with students and colleagues on ways to visualize complex ethnographic data. One project she is currently working on through the lab brings together 60 years of biological data with 60 years of social science data to study epigenetic effects on physical development.

Elaine Scarry, Harvard University

Elaine Scarry is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and General Theory of Value at Harvard University. Her interests are beauty and its relation to justice; mental, verbal, and material creation; citizenship and consent; the language of physical pain; 19th-century British novel; and 20th-century drama. Some of her selected works are Naming Thy Name (2016), Thermonuclear Monarchy (2014), Thinking in an Emergency (2011), Rule of Law, Misrule of Men (2010), Who Defended the Country? (2003), On Beauty and Being Just (1999), Dreaming by the Book (1999), Resisting Representation (1994), and The Body in Pain (1985).


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Illinois 150: The 21st Century Research University and the Public Good by Kevin Hamilton, Paul Michael Leonardo Atienza, Jessica Harless, Kelsey Hassevoort, Robin Holland, Marcelo Boccato Kuyumjian, Allison LaHood, Beatriz Esmeralda Maldonado, Robert M Rouphail, Majid Shafiee-Jood, Lettycia Terrones, and Kevin Wallington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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