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. Growing out of 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