Changes to the landscape of higher education in the United States over the past decades have urged scholars grappling with issues of privilege, inequality, and social immobility to think differently about how we learn and deliberate. Thinking Together is a multidisciplinary conversation about how people approached similar questions of learning and difference in the nineteenth century.
In the open air, in homes, in public halls, and even in prisons, people pondered recurring issues: justice, equality, careers, entertainment, war and peace, life and death, heaven and hell, the role of education, and the nature of humanity itself. Paying special attention to the dynamics of race and gender in intellectual settings, the contributors to this volume consider how myriad groups and individuals—many of whom lived on the margins of society and had limited access to formal education—developed and deployed knowledge useful for public participation and public advocacy around these concerns. Essays examine examples such as the women and men who engaged lecture culture during the Civil War; Irish immigrants who gathered to assess their relationship to the politics and society of the New World; African American women and men who used music and theater to challenge the white gaze; and settler-colonists in Liberia who created forums for envisioning a new existence in Africa and their relationship to a U.S. homeland. Taken together, this interdisciplinary exploration shows how learning functioned not only as an instrument for public action but also as a way to forge meaningful ties with others and to affirm the value of an intellectual life.
By highlighting people, places, and purposes that diversified public discourse, Thinking Together offers scholars across the humanities new insights and perspectives on how difference enhances the human project of thinking together.