Edited by Julia V. Douthwaite
Rousseau and Dignity: Art Serving Humanity is a richly illustrated volume relating a series of events—a photography exhibit, lectures, commentary, and audience reactions by people ages seven to ninety-two—held in the name of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s tercentennial in 2012. Drawn together by the unexpected convergence of a lecture series and art exhibit held in South Bend, Indiana, and a documentary film that was shot simultaneously in Compiègne, France, the participants had several goals: to show why Rousseau’s moral philosophy is important for our time; to argue for the importance of subjective art forms such as photography, video letters, and autobiography; to reproduce the stunning photojournalism commissioned by Amnesty International to document and dignify people who suffer human rights abuses, such as substandard housing, nationless-ness, and ethnic prejudice; and to inspire new kinds of intergenerational teaching.
The book includes essays from world-renowned scholars on Jean-Jacques Rousseau; five chapters by photojournalists, which include fifty-four photographs from Egypt, India, Macedonia, Mexico, and Nigeria; and notes by youthful visitors to the exhibit. In the volume’s unorthodox combination of art and text, creation and reflection, the authors hope to elicit readers’ interest in, and commitment to, an engaged form of public humanities.
“Rousseau and Dignity: Art Serving Humanity makes an important contribution to our understanding of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his relevance to certain pressing contemporary crises. The volume’s unusual combination of scholarly essays on Rousseau, contemporary photojournalism, and film will appeal both to academic and non-academic audiences, all in the service of considering our philosophical past and our political present. The project’s ambitious and noble goal—extending decent and dignified treatment to the poorest and weakest among us—is to be embraced and commended." — Ryan Patrick Hanley, Marquette University
“A bold compilation of essays that underscores the enduring pertinence of one of the most critical and problematic of early modern thinkers. The varied contributions contained in this volume function as a collective call to arms both to the specialists of the Social Contract, and to all who concern themselves with the problem of inequity that first erupted in Rousseau’s writing. Filled with powerful photography from across the globe, Rousseau and Dignity is a stimulating experience; simultaneously political, scholarly, heartrending, and pedagogical, this book bridges the gap between an eighteenth-century thinker’s call for universal dignity . . . and our own.” — Andrew S. Curran, William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities, Wesleyan University
“A remarkable and unusual book, Rousseau and Dignity has as much to tell us about our present situation as it does the world of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Embracing varied responses to Rousseau’s work—from scholars in diverse fields, activists, artists, curators, university students, and schoolchildren—this collection laudably refuses the comforts of commemoration, shining a light instead on the vivid contemporary relevance of Rousseau’s thought. Global in their reach, erudite, and frequently moving, the contributions to Rousseau and Dignity are unafraid to address Rousseau in his complexity and contradiction, and demonstrate how the issues of social justice, human development, and education that emerge in his writing remain urgent concerns today.” — Richard Taws, University College London
The photographs of the DIGNITY exhibit are available for loan to institutions in North America; please contact email@example.com.
“A lecture series and art exhibit held in South Bend and a documentary shot in France were part of the celebration of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s tercentennial in 2012. Among the participants’ goals was to show why Rousseau’s moral philosophy is important to our time. The book includes scholarly essays on Rousseau, 54 photographs that document people who suffer human rights abuses, and notes by youthful visitors to the photojournalism exhibits.” — Notre Dame Magazine
“Rousseau and Dignity: Art Serving Humanity commemorates the 2012 University of Notre Dame lecture series dedicated to philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his idea of a social contract. . . . Photo chapters enhance essay ones, marrying theoretical discourse on dignity with real stories of what dignity means in context—a juxtaposition of which Rousseau of ‘Dialogues’ would approve.” — Foreword Reviews
“[N]o scholarly review can account for this extraordinary publication covering: a photography and art exhibit, a documentary film, video-letters, a scholarly conference, interviews, and audience responses from people aged seven to ninety-two, all of which took place in two countries (France and USA) and features material from four continents. What holds together this constellation of events is the tercentennial of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s birth, celebrated in 2012. . . . this edited volume shows . . . the power of the human example to communicate a context and lifeworld.” — H-France Review
“Rousseau and Dignity includes testimonies of a museum curator, cinematographers, and photo-journalists in addition to audience responses to the Dignity exhibit and to Rousseau’s work. Children’s responses are recorded, as are the voices of French senior citizens who react to their reading of Rousseau’s Rêveries du promeneur solitaire. The result is a refreshing take on Rousseau’s continued importance in the world today and his continued ability to solicit strong emotional responses and readerly identification.” — The Modern Language Review