The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello

Elizabeth Duclos-OrselloElizabeth Duclos-Orsello is an Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Salem State College. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University. Her research and teaching interests include the construction and experience of “community” in the US, ethnic and immigrant studies/literature, gender studies, Midwestern culture, and cultural geography. Current projects include work on the relationship between public culture and public discourse of community in modernizing America, radical activism of the women’s movement, and the relationship between place and memory. In addition to having taught at the college level, she has worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and as a museum educator. She has designed, directed, and taught in a number of Teaching American History grant programs and served as a scholar-in-residence and consultant for both Boston-area museums and K-12/university/museum collaborations. She currently serves on Mass Humanities’ Board of Trustees.

“Cast Your Whole Vote”: Conversations on the American Social Contract

Two days ago I had the honor of moderating the second of this fall’s four Created Equal: Conversations on Negotiating the American Social Contract events. The series of public film and discussion forums is designed to showcase the theme of Mass Humanities’ 40th Anniversary year (Negotiating the Social Contract) and encourage community organizations and cultural institutions to imagine, propose and carry out public humanities projects of their own.

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Occupy Boston: A Blast from the Past and a Look to the Future

On the last Saturday in October with brilliant blue skies overhead my son, husband and I went down to the Occupy Boston site at Dewey Square to meet a friend of a friend who is serving there with a group of Occupy chaplains. We wanted to get a better sense of the structure, goals, needs and “feel” of the movement here in our fair city.

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Understanding “Community” for Economic Development

Ipswich, MA is a beautiful riverfront and seaside town on Boston’s North Shore known far and wide for its significant number of first period structures, pristine beaches and quaint shopping. The town’s residents have been actors and witnesses to much change in American culture and history from first contacts between Europeans and Native Americans to the immigration, deindustrialization and emergent tourism of the twentieth and twenty first centuries.

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Food, Relationships and Morality: The Ethics of Eating

Norman Rockwell “Freedom From Want” (1943)Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Close your eyes and picture this scene: you and loved ones sharing food and memories, creating new ones, talking, laughing, lifting a glass of wine or a forkful of pie to toast love, camaraderie, blessings. Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday because it is about food and friends and family and does not involve costumes or presents!

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A View from the Grand Duchy: Reflections on What I Learned in Luxembourg

Moien, Äddi, and Kaweechelchen are the three Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch) words I know. They were committed to memory during my recent stint as a Fulbright Faculty Fellow at the University of Luxembourg where from February through June of this year I taught American Studies courses in the Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education.

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When Art Was a Stimulus Package: My Argument for a Reprise

Imaginary Headline, 1934: “Over 3,000 un/under-employed American artists put to work in last six months. Direct aid recipients produce 15,000 unique works of public art to enliven spirits and landscapes of America. Cost: a mere 1.3 million dollars with 90% of budget to artist wages. Project begun and ended on time! Successful government stimulus package! Keeping people off breadlines!

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“Ruined for Life”: Conscience and Convenience in a Liberal Arts Education

The year following my graduation from a small, liberal arts college in New England in 1995, I served as a full time volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) in Kansas City Missouri (making $300/month to be pooled and spent collectively with/by the five other women with whom I shared a home and a life).

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Are We Failing our 21st Century Students? The Shape and Impact of Bilingual Education in Massachusetts

Because of my husband’s job our seven year old son has spent the past year in a two-way bilingual program in a school in France. He spends half of every day with a native French speaking teacher doing first grade school work in French and the other half of the day with a native English speaking teacher doing first grade school work in English.

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The History of the Meaning of Poverty in the US

As the United States faces severe economic difficulties many Americans–myself included–are debating which public and private actions might best ward off even worse disaster. Yet at the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish I want to suggest that a “positive” outcome of the current crisis might be a renewed national look at the very real challenges of living either in poverty or on its brink.

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Seeing the US from Afar: How Foreign Observers Might Help Americans Understand Our Brave New World

I was in France this summer during the Democratic National Convention and here in the US for the Republican version. After both events had ended I realized that while I had been interested in the press coverage throughout I had been even more interested in the fact that I saw these conventions through very different and very particular lenses: one as an American watching Americans talk about the US, and another as an American watching the French talk about the US.

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Lessons from Looking Backward

Recently I have found myself more irate than usual about the lack of a living wage for all American workers; to me this is a moral issue that transcends all political posturing. A few weeks ago at my youngest brother’s college graduation Tavis Smiley spoke about the invisibility of the issue in recent political circles… at least until the re-emergence of John Edwards as an Obama endorser.

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Historic House Museums: Sites of History and Sites of Conscience?

Let me say at the outset that 1) I love historic sites and house museums and 2) I believe that there is a woeful lack of creative thinking about how to address and find solutions for local, national and global challenges. With that off my chest, let me proclaim loudly that I see historic sites/museums as one way to diminishing my lament.

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Left-Leaning Religion and Politics: An American Tradition

The holiday season is upon us (I’m sure you’ve noticed!) and while my extended family’s holiday table usually rings with heated discussions of politics, sex and religion (and the intersection of the three), I wonder how many others do? In the interest of full disclosure, my family is a bit out of the ordinary on the surface.

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The Uses of Second Wave Feminism: Lessons from the Takeover at 888 Memorial Drive

A recent post by Marisa Parham about students’ hesitation touse the “f” word (feminism) struck a chord with me. I have heard this for adecade from students as well as from my peer group (folks in their mid30s). Since this disavowal of“feminism” seems so severe and pervasive I’ve tried to sort out its genesis.

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Putting “Humanities Capital” to Work: The Public Role of Humanities and Humanities Scholars

In the very full arena of public policy discourse, what do humanities scholars have to add to the conversation? On some level, as non-policy experts, the answer would seem to be a simple “nothing” (or, if one is being more generous, “fairly little”).

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