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IndyBuzz provides information about Central Indiana's most stimulating and thought provoking events -- discussions and conferences, art exhibitions, films, music performances. It tells you what's happening … explains why you should be part of what’s happening. More than an events calendar, though, IndyBuzz tries to make events more meaningful for participants by suggesting an article or two to read before the event, recommending books or websites that will be sources of further information after the event, and pointing out related events that are worth attending.

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Oct. 14: Jean Bethke Elshtain on the Role of the Public Intellectual in American Society


A talk by Jean Bethke Elshtain, The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at The University of Chicago

When: Friday 14 October, 7:30 PM

Where: IUPUI Informatics and Communications Technology Complex Room 152.

Author of the controversial Just War against Terrorism: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, and Democracy on Trial, among others, Elshtain is considered one of the country’s most influential public intellectuals. Her teaching and research areas include social and political theory and ethics (including the history of political thought), contemporary political and social theory, moral philosophy and women’s studies, and the just war tradition.

My quickie assessment of Elshtain: she hits all of the right issues, she gets half of them wrong in infuriating ways (assuming I know what I am talking about), and I am always happy that I have grappled with her books and articles.

But Jean Bethke Elshtain’s appearance in town has particular resonance for me for a different reason than her advocacy of an American empire or her hard-conservative stance on issues of the Catholic Church. IndyBuzz, after all, is devoted to connecting intellectuals to the public, to the mutual benefit (I hope) of both. All too many of our intellectuals have retreated to college campuses where their attention is focused inward, toward their students and their academic colleagues and their promotion-and-tenure files. Too many important public discussions are carried out without the larger vision and substance they need.

Indianapolis is fortunate to several intellectuals who take their public role as seriously as their academic obligations. You tend to see their names repeatedly in IndyBuzz: Pierre Atlas, Sheila Kennedy, Fran Quigley, others. They are my heroes as I pretend to be an intellectual. To be honest, even though I will be in the proverbial front row for her talk, we don’t need an outsider like Jean Bethke Elshtain to step in as a public intellectual, we have plenty of local talents.
Here’s the essence of IndyBuzz’s rationale: we don’t need public intellectuals either, not to explain to a non-intellectual public what it ought to think, how it ought to vote. If you attend these events plugged in IndyBuzz, if you read the books and articles it suggests, you will discover that these intellectuals — even the very articulate and clever Jean Bethke Elshtain, to say nothing of the chronic amateur John Clark — are interesting and insightful … but not indispensable. IndyBuzz exists to make public intellectuals of us all.

For more information… you should read Elshtain. If you are ambitious, read a couple of her books. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy I think is her best examination of a “public intellectual,” while her recent Just War against Terrorism: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World is the best example of Elshtain being a public intellectual. She wrote an article nearly a decade ago, “The Trials of a Public Intellectual,” that explains how she defined and adopted this role. More recently she participated in a forum on “The Future of the Public Intellectual” held by The Nation.

If you like this event, check out …many of the fine local public intellectuals plugged by IndyBuzz.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

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Who is IndyBuzz?

Provocate strengthens the intellectual and civic fabric of Central Indiana by connecting global & local, entertainment & education, culture & policy