Arts and Public Life

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From John Dewey through Hannah Arendt and Jurgen Habermas, the notion of the public has remained central to a wide variety of debates in the humanities and social sciences. What is a public? How are publics constituted? And, most centrally for our purposes, what role can and do the arts play in the emergence of various kinds of publics? Central to this investigation is the emergence of new concepts of art as “social practice” and new modes of thinking about the public sphere not merely as a kind of space, but as the site of practices and actions. Over the course of the year, Arts and Public Life will also bring visiting artists, critics, and scholars to the University of Chicago campus to give a series of public lectures on the topic that will be considered for publication in a special issue of Critical Inquiry. WJT Mitchell, co-leader of the Arts and Public Life seminar and Neubauer Collegium project, will lead a discussion on these themes for Humanities Day.