Diane O'Donoghue

Visiting Professor of Public Humanities PHUM 2022 Public in Persons: Along Humanities' Ethical Edges (Spring 2022)
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Diane O’Donoghue has been the Visiting Professor of Public Humanities since 2018 and became editor of Center’s blog in early 2019. She is the Director of the Program for Public Humanities and Senior Fellow for the Humanities at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, where she is currently on the faculty of Civic Studies. An art historian, she previously chaired the Department of Visual and Critical Studies (now Visual and Material Studies) at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, and since joining Tisch College in 2015 her scholarship and public-facing projects frequently intersect. Her specialization in the visual culture and archaeology of early China helped facilitate  a bilingual, archival exhibition (“These Words”) in Boston’s Chinese neighborhood, and an interest in connections between archaeology and psychoanalysis brought her to Vienna, where she became involved in descendant advocacy for Nazi-era restitution of a large Jewish cemetery. This latter work in turn inspired aspects of her recent book, On Dangerous Ground: Freud’s Visual Cultures of the Unconscious, winner of the 2019 Robert S. Liebert Award from Columbia University; previous writings have received the Loewenberg, Deutsch, and Silberger Prizes. Her scholarship now extends to contested sites of memorialization, constructions of public memory and amnesias, and forensic ethics. For an essay that relates these issues to the COVID-19 pandemic, refer here.

Professor O’Donoghue and her colleague, Bridget Conley, of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School at Tufts organized a series of five panels during the 2020-2021 academic year. These presentations introduced twelve speakers who addressed, from various perspectives, ethical issues concerning human remains. Recordings of all the panels are available on the project’s site.

For the 2021-2022 year, Professor O'Donoghue will develop a new bilingual exhibition with the Chinese Historical Society of New England (CHSNE), who partnered with Tisch College on the “These Words” project in 2016. This upcoming collaboration—"Endurance Streets: Resilience and Response in Boston’s Chinese Community”—will document the economic crises and racial violence experienced by this neighborhood since the winter of 2020. The installation also will include historical records and photographs, documenting a century of response to racism and to labor and health inequities. This latter material will come from the collection of the late Tunney Lee (李燦輝), an architect and professor of urban studies at MIT who grew up in this community and who amassed a remarkable local history. In recent months this collection has been bequeathed to CHSNE; “Endurance Streets”—a phrase that resonates through his preservation efforts—will introduce this gift to the neighborhood and to the city in the context of crucial contemporary issues, whose legacies are accessible to us through the activation of this archive.

Recent Publications:

"Amnesias of a Freudian Kind (Part II)." American Imago: Psychoanalysis and the Human Sciences, 78, no. 4 (Winter 2021): 601-617. 

Amnesias of a Freudian Kind (Part I).” American Imago, 78, no.1 (Spring 2021): 55-77. 

What Readers Matter? Challenging the Disappearance of the Branch Library in Boston’s Chinese Neighborhood.” In Doing Public Humanities, edited by Susan Smulyan. New York: Routledge, 2021: 114-129.

Sigismund’s Wolves.” American Imago, 76, no.4 (Winter 2019): 553-567. 

On Dangerous Ground: Freud’s Visual Cultures of the Unconscious. New York; London: Bloomsbury, 2019.  

“Image, Loss, Delay.” In Grief and Its Transcendence: Memory, Identity, Creativity, edited by Adele Tutter and Léon Wurmser. New York; London: Routledge, 2016, 88-94. 

“Liquiphophia und der Schauplatz der Psychoanalyze.” In Verflüssigungen: Ästhetische und  semantische Dimensionen eines Topos, edited by Kassandra Nakas. Berlin; Munich: Wilhelm Fink. 2015, 45-56.

Courses Offered:

Spring 2022

PHUM 2022:  Public in Persons: Along Humanities’ Ethical Edges

This course will offer a challenge and a potential to Public Humanities practices and theorizing: to place the irreducibility of individual human experiences as one of its most compelling and profound principles. This consideration differs from forms of “ethics” as they shaped traditional Western philosophy, where the focus was on the ways to lead “a good life” for a very specific, and small, part of the population. But recent ethical responses globally to racisms, genocides, and dispossessions now are frequency spoken of in terms of responsibility, radical difference, vulnerability, and hospitality. This course will introduce students to how such ideas might inform “ethical praxis” in Public Humanities, offering case studies and guest presentations alongside writings addressing these four areas of interaction.

Fall, 2020:

AMST 2630: Public Amnesias and Their Discontents

This course considers the consequences of forgetting as one of the challenges and provocations to the work of public humanities. By extending the histories of memory into discourses of “amnesia,” we will identify origins, effects, and the possibility of a return for material that has been forgotten or, more significant for the context of this course, made forgettable. These issues will become more vivid by the use, over the semester, of case studies to ground the conceptual material of the class in aspects of public practice.    

Fall, 2019:

AMST 2635: Ethical in Public: Humanities as Moments of Encountering

Ethics, with its roots in classical imperial thought and premodern European philosophy, emphasized the aspirations to a “good life.” But recent ethical responses to racism, genocide, and dispossession are frequency spoken in terms of responsibility, radical difference, vulnerability, and hospitality. This course will introduce students to how these latter ideas might inform “ethical praxis” in Public Humanities, offering case studies - a museum to victims of political mass murder in Ethiopia, a destroyed Jewish cemetery in Vienna, and two current projects in Providence - as examples of ethically-informed public-facing work.