Friday, July 17, 2015

You're Invited: "Public Discourse in America" Salon Series

The Minnesota Humanities Center and Marty Case are hosting a three-part summer salon series entitled, "Public Discourse in America." The series of discussions will interrogate notions of dominant culture and master narratives as they relate to public life in America. Gather with other community engagement practitioners to connect and share thoughts and insights!

Salon Series

Photo credits: Jens Rost / Foter / CC BY-SA,Official U.S. Navy Imagery / Foter / CC BYGeorgie Pauwels / Foter / CC BY.
Modifications by Elizabeth Fei.
What assumptions shape our public spaces? In a country that sells itself as a democracy, public spaces are sacred spaces. People with differing identities and perspectives meet there and our success in negotiating those differences determines the health of our democracy. How is it that some perspectives are rendered invisible in public, while others are reinforced? And how do the (often unstated) assumptions of public life limit our collective ability to address important issues?

Public Discourse in America

Dates: Tuesday, July 21, August 11, and September 1, 2015
Time: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Location: Minnesota Humanities Center, 987 Ivy Ave E, St. Paul, MN 55106
Cost: $5 per session or $15 for the series
Clock Hours: 2 clock hours per session are available upon request

In a series of three discussions, participants will be invited to engage in conversations about the state of public discourse in the United States. In each session, a short presentation given by Marty Case will serve as the foundation for an open and challenging discussion that requires a broad range of perspectives. These dialogues will center on the following topics and questions:

Session One: Defining Terms—Nature, Public, Community, (Dominant) Culture What makes something “public”? What is community? How do some cultural practices garner the mantle of natural, normal, or sane while other practices – even those shared by millions or billions of people – are positioned as unnatural, exotic, or crazy? In this session, discussions will be centered on the definitions and lack of definitions that establish the peculiar dynamics of public life in the United States.

Session Two: Master Narratives 
Certain stories dominate discourse in America, reinforcing some identities and rendering others invisible in public. What are those “master” narratives and how do they originate and operate? Does the contentiousness of American public life indicate that master narratives are crumbling? Where and when does physical force emerge to “buttress” master narratives? Marty Case will present the origins of one master narrative. Discussion will be an invitation to reflect on master narratives and our relationships to them, and to articulate the often unstated assumptions that shape public life in the United States.

Session Three: Making Counter Narratives More Public
Given an environment where certain narratives dominate, how do we go about including and valuing “counter” narratives in the public? How can the inclusion of these narratives help to change the dynamics of public discourse as a whole? Which elements of our collective identity as Americans should be changed, cherished, or abandoned? In the final session, participants will be invited to consider the urgency and feasibility of making counter narratives more central to public discourse.

Marty Case researches the networks of people and businesses that represented the U.S. in treaties with American Indian groups. His work challenges the “master narrative” that shapes many assumptions about U.S. history and identity. He has also worked as Director of Development and Planning for a state-wide arts organization, and as writing and planning consultant to 45 widely diverse organizations in the fields of art, culture, education, social service, religion, and politics.

Questions: Shandi DiCosimo,

This event is funded in part with support from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that was created by a vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008 and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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