On 4/9/2021, Hunter hosted this public program.
What is the Democratic Commons?
This panel concentrated on the challenges posed by an increasingly multi-racial and multi-ethnic public whose power to meaningfully participate in the political life of the nation is on the rise. How does one fashion an effective democratic commons that includes groups as well as individuals with conflicting experiences in relation to the nation’s domestic history as well as its foreign policy?
This was the first of three roundtables of the Public Humanities and the Democratic Commons Conference.
Hunter College extends its thanks and appreciation to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its generous support of the Mellon Public Humanities Scholars Program and this conference.
- Wendy Brown, University of California, Berkeley
- Ranjana Khanna, Duke University
- Lázaro Lima, Hunter College
- Dwight A. McBride, The New School
- Touré F. Reed, Illinois State University
- Sam Di Iorio, Hunter College (moderator)
About the Public Humanities and the Democratic Commons Conference
The public sphere for democratic debate is experiencing a real crisis in our country. Revisiting the ideal of the “democratic commons” is a way to explore our current challenges as well as feasible solutions. The democratic commons is a grand vision of open public space in which all can air their views and every constituency can be represented, whether these are defined in terms of social identities, economic classes, or political allegiances. For this open, imagined space to work in a meaningful way, we need not only safety, but a shared commitment to civil engagement and the right of all to be included.
Key to the health and vigor of our public spaces are various forms of popular media that have the potential for greater democratic participation than ever before, even while they have also become sites for advancing injustice. Also crucial for maintaining an inclusive public sphere is a consideration of the material culture of our current public spaces, our monuments and public commemorations. This conference—organized across three Friday afternoons in April—brought together a variety of scholars and practitioners with decades of experience engaged in the public work of the humanities in regard to all of these pressing issues. Our aim is to promote the idea of the Public Humanities as a way to advance our collective understanding of the crisis in democracy encountered today.
The Public Humanities and the Democratic Commons Conference is produced by the Mellon Public Humanities Scholars Program at Hunter College in collaboration with the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.
Watch the program below.