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 Compiegne, 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-rewned scholars on Jean-Jacques Rousseau; five chapters by photojournalists, which include fifty-four photographs from Egypt, India, Macedonia, Mexico, and Nigeria; and tes by youthful visitors to the exhibit. In the volume's urthodox 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.
Julia V. Douthwaite is professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Notre Dame.