Spring 2013 : Spectacle
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Spring 2013 : Spectacle
Oregon Humanities: Spring 2013
Out at the back corner of my house sit two old oak whiskey barrels attached by a series of hoses first to the downspouts and then out again to the garden. The barrels fill up quickly: sometimes a heavy rain shower fills them with enough water to handle our modest garden for a couple of dry weeks. Harvesting rainwater is surprisingly satisfying, an almost uncanny way to make a difference, given the complexities of the world, the simplicity of the process, and the meagerness of the scale (a few hundred gallons at a time). My relationship to these rain barrels and the fact that they are now part of my home has provoked a surprising feeling of hope in me, a feeling derived from harvesting something so innocuous, and one that has left me wondering what it means to be a homeowner in today’s world and if there is something of epochal change at work in how people have begun to look at their homes and the idea of domestic life.
From the outset, I should admit that most of my life I have lived and owned homes in the suburbs of big cities, as have my friends and extended family. The ubiquity of homeowners in my life has not meant, however, that I have always fit in with them or had an easy relationship to their houses. As Jamaica Kincaid writes of her children in the New Yorker essay “Homemaking,” I, too, am an American “and Americans are unable to live adult lives in the places where they were born.”
When I was growing up in the 1970s, the idea of domesticity came under fire from writers and intellectuals critical of everything from white flight to the rise of the automobile, the strip mall, and the hope of “better living through chemicals” that seemed to be the wave of the future. Philosopher Richard Rorty, among others, decried the insular nature of suburbs, which had the effect of isolating different segments of society from each other. Marxists decried the house as the apotheosis of consumerism and bourgeois private property. Watching The Graduate, I identified with Dustin Hoffman’s character, who felt uneasy about going into “plastics.” For me, buying a house seemed to mean joining the respectable yet profoundly dysfunctional “propertied” classes.
Nevertheless, like many people in my generation, I went ahead and signed a mortgage, and yet nothing magical happened—this newly acquired “private property” did not transform me, at least not in the way I feared. Somehow, a new way to think of oneself as a homeowner has emerged over time, one that has evolved away from the suburban mind-set of the twentieth century.
Rafael, when painting his idealized School of Athens, placed Plato and Aristotle front and center and contrasted their visions of the cosmos by depicting Plato looking to his student and pointing his index finger to the heavens (idealism), while his student Aristotle looked back and gestured his hand out, palm down to the earth (realism). Much of the rhetoric of twentieth-century domesticity seems fueled by a similar tension between idealism and realism and other equally eternal dualisms: public/private, capitalist/communist, male/female, gay/straight, white collar/blue collar, city/country.
Yet, as Jürgen Habermas argued in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, such distinctions did not exist along at least one of these axes—the public/private—in the Middle Ages; instead, the notion of a “public sphere” evolved alongside the growth of a middle class of urban property owners. These urban property owners dubbed themselves “citizens,” or Bürgers (Burg is the German word for town—as is bourg in French, whence the term bourgeois). Indeed, to be a citizen—and to vote—one had to own sufficient property within the city walls. As these city dwellers grew rich, first from trade and manufacturing, and eventually from banking and finance, they began to rival the aristocratic landowners in wealth, and they sought, increasingly, to assert their political prerogatives over and against the prince and his peers.
The emergence of this middle class was significant not only for its eagerness to define itself in opposition to the aristocracy, but also for its novel understanding of property. If the aristocracy equated landownership with political and legal authority, the middle class argued just the opposite: that property was essentially a personal matter. The citizens who were leaders had to assure one another that they would not use elected office for their own selfish interests but, rather, would govern in the name of the common good. The reverse also had to be true—that elected officials would not meddle in the affairs of their fellow citizens. Hence they evolved a notion of the private household on the one hand, and the public purse on the other: public and private spheres from the outset were defined as a way to protect property and to create an avenue for collective action.
As these city fathers sought to improve their own household finances, they founded academies to educate their sons so they could read and write contracts and learn arithmetic and accounting. Professors soon wrote books for heads of households about ways to manage one’s household finances—which was the original sense of the term economics. The term first appears in the sixteenth century, as oeconomics, and derives from Greek words for managing one’s household—oikos (also the root of the word ecology, or oecological, as it was spelled in the nineteenth century). Gradually, these literate city dwellers began to meet each other outside the home to read, debate, and converse in new public spaces such as coffeehouses and public houses or “pubs.”
With the advent of a more developed sense of private property, Habermas argues, its opposite also developed—the idea of public property, or the public good. The conversations that started in coffeehouses, newspapers, and sermons were carried over into public opinion. But setting up this distinction between one’s private interests and the public good causes mischief, in that it takes the older, more expansive notion of “the commons” or the oikos (in which one’s interrelationships and interdependencies were implicit), abstracts the concepts of “private” and “public,” and treats them as competing spheres needing a strong dividing line to prevent one from encroaching on the other.
That one can now publicly declare something to be “private” suggests that we have lost the original sense of the word. To declare what happens in one’s home to be private implies that it is removed from, detached from, and unrelated to what goes on in public, or better yet that it is off-limits or out-of-bounds to the public. But, as I have become increasingly aware since moving to Portland four years ago, what one pours down the drain or sprays on the lawn affects others and does not remain private for long. More than anything, however, the word “private” lost its original, proximal sense when it became a rallying cry, especially as the notion of “private property” (so polarizing a term!) became incorporated into a conservative Cold War political ideology that tried to string together (among other things) biblical inerrancy, militant patriotism, masculinity, family values, and free enterprise.
The concept of the domus, or house, which we inherited from the Romans, also raises thorny issues—though the problem here is not that we have lost the idea’s earlier connotations, but that those earlier connotations threaten to live on powerfully, if implicitly. In Latin, the connection between the word for “lord” or “master”—dominus—and the word for house—domus—is explicit. From this root come the words domination and dominion, as well as domestic. And so the concept of the household extends from the concept of rule—to own something meant to be able to dispose of it as one saw fit, including women and children and slaves and animals, as well as land, buildings, and any inanimate objects contained therein.
To ears accustomed to critical theory of various sorts ranging from postcolonialism to feminism, the older Latin word for “master,” dominus, resonates noisily in today’s world. One would have to take the master out of the house before many of us would feel comfortable living there—in contrast to the Greek concept of oikos, which seems far more accommodating with its relatively inclusive ability to bridge home “economics” and “ecology.”
Historically, there has been little conceptual distinction between the world of work and the world of the home. In Rome, for example, much of the economy was founded on slave labor and plantation agriculture, and in medieval Europe, urban houses contained workshops, offices, boarders, servants, and extended families. Even in America, up until very recently being a homeowner of a certain class meant employing live-in domestic servants. The home was clearly a place of work, at least for some members of the household.
The twentieth-century division between work and home is more of an invention of nineteenth-century aristocracy and upper-middle-class families who wanted to live accordingly. For such families, a gentleman, by definition, was a man who by virtue of his wealth did not have to earn a wage. But if he didn’t work, what did the gentleman do with his time? If he were not at work, where and how would he demonstrate his class status? For some it meant the club, but often it meant entertaining people in one’s home or visiting others by making social calls. Hence the concept of the gentleman led to our relatively modern notion of leisure, something Thorstein Veblen aptly described in The Theory of the Leisure Class. Veblen argued that as the ideal of leisure became a sure sign of one’s class status, so, too, did a need for people uncertain about their class status to make a public display of their ability to have leisure time (even if they still had to work most of the time). Vacations were one way, but for many it meant more modest forms of recreation. Following on the heels of the need to make public displays of one’s class status arose leisure’s counterpart: conspicuous consumption.
In the twentieth century, both leisure and conspicuous consumption have reshaped the house and its contents. In the 1920s, having money to display meant being able to go out to music halls, amusement parks, movie theaters, nightclubs, dances, and fairs. But with the advent of radio and television, people’s leisure time and their conspicuous consumption merged, transforming the house into an entertainment center that could rival many movie theaters, not to mention malls, libraries, and music stores. At some point the house began to lose its human domestics and instead became filled with electronic appliances and processed foods. Washing machines were sold in part on their promise of providing greater leisure time to homemakers, many of whom were women who expected to be stay-at-home wives and mothers. The explicit promise of these labor-saving devices was that they would free up more time to entertain guests and help one’s husband relax after a hard day’s work. Implicitly they allowed people to live in suburbs away from servant labor pools, and with a kind of privacy that not having servants ensured. Indeed, leisure time became so pervasively identified with the nuclear family and located so thoroughly in the single family home that by 1963 Betty Friedan was moved to write The Feminine Mystique to combat the domestic ideal’s corrosive influence on the lives of women who were expected to define themselves so totally in relation to their husbands and in opposition to any meaningful work outside the home. And, not surprisingly, many 1970s communes explicitly rejected the suburban model of the single-family home in favor of a more extended community in which people worked to produce their own sustenance.Today, no matter how much people want to find leisure at home, technology makes it even easier to conflate public and private. The home is no longer clearly defined as either a place of work, a place of leisure, the sphere of women and children, or the domain of the paterfamilias. Similarly, the familiar, well-defined domestic opposition that accompanied the landscape of twentieth-century domestic life—the reified roles of husband and wife—no longer offers much guidance to couples facing the challenge of setting up a life together.
For many couples, living together involves invention and improvisation. The old, gendered, complementary model of coupledom, in which each person served a specific function according to set rules and expectations, has given way to a more relational, friendship-based, egalitarian model of relationships. Relationships often reflect a common level of education or professional status: doctors marry lawyers, stockbrokers commit to lawyers, teachers find teachers, and so on. While in the past older men often married younger women, or a secretary might marry her boss, or a nurse marry a doctor, after which they could set up house together, now many adults expect to be independent before finding a mate, which means that both people have learned to traverse the worlds of work and household alone before getting married. Relationships have come to reflect the traits and interests of the individuals rather than any well-defined, external models. Similarly, homes often reflect couples’ attempts to remake their homes in their own images, on their own terms (as the increasing array of home design periodicals, home furnishing stores, and do-it-yourself television programs attest).
The popularity of building green homes and going off the grid, eating locally produced food and buying biodiesel, is perhaps a response to the frustration of having had to face a false dichotomy between individual liberty and the common interest, a frustration that draws on an older American archetype: the pioneer who heads out into new territory, Jefferson’s virtuous yeoman farmer, and Emerson’s self-reliant thinker. It is a powerful antidote to the two kinds of collectivism that prevailed despite the rhetorical firestorms of the Cold War: mass-marketed corporate consumer culture on the one hand, and big government bureaucracy on the other. If the State and Business were ever truly opposing forces, clearly neither has triumphed over the other; if anything, they have grown in tandem to overshadow ever-greater portions of the domestic landscape. The idea of setting up a solar panel on one’s roof is a symbolic cry for something smaller in scale, more individualized, better adapted, more self-sufficient—something that can be said to reflect one’s terrior. Thus, local and individual—even bourgeois—sensibilities need not come at the expense of the earth but might begin, instead, to contribute to a more sustainable global ecosystem.
If the house is becoming a new kind of seat of production, it does so without needing employees, without a sense of domination over others, but as a move away from feeling helpless in the face of larger corporate forces, whether governmental, economic, or environmental. One has to have a clear identity to think for oneself. With the big-box chains and cookie-cutter houses, how is anyone to be an individual? I wonder if the move toward reclaiming older styles, recycling older building supplies, and adding green upgrades to one’s house doesn’t reflect the desire to assert something tailored to one’s own values.
As a child, I remember leafing through the Whole Earth Catalog. The life I imagined while reading its pages was a life far removed from the modern world—it was a world of whole-grain bread made from hand-sown wheat, baked in a wood-burning stove, eaten by grubby, half-naked, wild-haired waifs sitting around a campfire singing folk songs—a world as far removed from me as the photo of the earth that appeared on the cover. The images within the catalog showed people living communally, free from the oppression of cars, clothing, packaging, gasoline, plastic—all the trappings of modern, mass-media culture. It was idyllic and yet illicit, improper—unpatriotic, even; something about it suggested a retreat from the duties of life, a utopian escape from the worries and challenges of the real world.
My understanding of those images reflected my inability to reconcile the ecological with the economic, polite society with alternative culture, capitalism with communism, modern with traditional. Indeed, looking back, the seventies are the time in my consciousness most riven with the deep ideological fissures that set people of different mind-sets out of reach and almost out of sight of one another. Today things have become much more blurry, ideas stirred up like different kinds of cake batter swirled together in one bowl. The Cold War is over (as, I suspect, are the Culture Wars given the new concern for renewable energy across both Blue and Red states). Today, old hippies run large companies; the wealthy congregate in sleekly designed gourmet restaurants to feast on local organic free-range game hens; movie stars drive hybrid cars; corporations speak about sustainable industry (even if one waits to see what will really materialize); oil companies are investing in biofuels and solar energy (albeit not enough); and anybody, it seems, can ride a Harley or have piercings and tattoos.
But what I appreciate today is the Whole Earth Catalog’s statement of purpose, which, more than thirty years ago, contrasted the limits of what could be achieved by big business, government, and the church with what individuals could accomplish on their own. It spoke of an “intimate, personal power … of the individual to conduct his [sic] own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever [sic] is interested.”
An entry from the fall 1970 issue explained that the catalog’s editors owed their chief inspiration and intellectual debt to Buckminster Fuller, the designer of the geodesic dome, an early computer enthusiast, and the inventor of a computer game/simulation called the World Game that was designed to help people imagine solutions to world problems that benefited everybody—“you and me” versus “you or me.” The editors singled out Fuller’s Utopia or Oblivion, in which he proposed “to make every man able to become a world citizen and able to enjoy the whole earth, going wherever he wants at any time, able to take care of all the needs of all his forward days without any interference.”
I find myself increasingly surrounded by homeowners who, rather than decrying or relinquishing private property, are hoping instead to wield it as a force for progressive change—people who have begun to see their houses and their domestic spending, even their investing practices, as outlets for public-mindedness. The home is becoming a way to set an example—to follow the lead of the old bumper sticker, “Think Globally, Act Locally.”
No longer the apogee of retreat, the house itself has the potential to become a seat of activism that can be adapted and transformed independently of what is happening in Salem or Washington. One can drive a hybrid, install solar panels, compost, recycle, buy local and organic, walk or ride a bike, eco-build, micro-lend, green-invest, and opt for renewable energy. I suppose that is why the rain barrels and the water we harvest in them has come to mean so much to me—it represents a wish to bridge the gulf between myself and the world, between my concerns and my labor, my private life and my public yearnings—to participate in a larger movement directly and individually with the hope that through small actions taken together, “you and me” can change the world.
I have lived long enough to experience one of Thomas Kuhn’s famous paradigm shifts—I can now imagine a mode of thinking beyond the solipsistic view of private property, one that offers a more cohesive understanding of how things enter into our lives, where goods come from, how much energy they consume to make and to employ, and how one can then dispose of them properly. The notion of governance as something detached from or even at odds with the private life of the citizen is becoming less and less tenable. The promise of thousands of citizen policy makers represents a departure from the model of the citizen consumer—it’s a repudiation of Bernard Mandeville’s idea in The Fable of the Bees that private vice leads to public benefit. If anything, public-minded partnerships (domestic or otherwise) must compensate for national governments’ unwillingness or inability to act.
Strangely, by imagining how we might harvest rainwater or solar energy, conserve and reduce and recycle, invest through microfinance organizations in small businesses, I feel like a citizen of a larger community and a participant in something more international than what one typically imagines as domestic life. The house no longer represents to me a place of retreat as much as a stepping-off point, a portal, a tool for cooperation—a way to participate in a distributed public utility of sorts. For the issue is rapidly becoming not whether, but how best to harness new forms of domestic energy, finances, initiative, and consciousness—and the gulf between public and private is rapidly being rendered moot by both global warming and globalization.
We are all becoming homeowners by default, in the sense that the world has increasingly become our four walls—there is no way to imagine a property line strong enough to protect our things and ourselves from the forces of nature or, for that matter, to protect nature from the effects of human habitation. If the world is to become our house again, in a very real sense, then it is incumbent upon every person to become a property owner—responsible for the upkeep and expenses, for being a good host, a good neighbor, and a good steward. It also means that we need to look for tools in unlikely places: on roofs, in backyards, in light sockets. We need to refurbish old concepts such as public and private, global and local, economy and ecology, and strip them of their layers of flaking ideology to reveal their older, yet still solid, ability to help us think about how best to live together in this world we have inherited.
A photograph of the earth taken from space bedecked the cover of the old Whole Earth Catalog; and as that image attests, the boundaries of our home have always extended beyond the house—how did we ever learn to think otherwise?
From the Fall/Winter 2007 Domesticity issue
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Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland.
Alex Behr is a writer in Portland. Her last piece for Oregon Humanities appeared in the spring 2009 “Nostalgia” issue.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland and regular contributor to Oregon Humanities.
Kristy Athens’ nonfiction and short fiction have been published in a number of magazines, newspapers, and literary journals, most recently High Desert Journal, Eclectic Flash, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and Five Fishes Journal.
Rich Wandschneider was the founding director of Fishtrap, a literary nonprofit in eastern Oregon, and is now building the Alvin Josephy Library of Western History and Culture at Fishtrap. He writes a regular newspaper column and has written for the Oregonian, High Desert Journal, High Country News, and others. He is on the editorial advisory board of this magazine and on the board of directors for Oregon Humanities.
Ellen Santasiero is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Northwest Review, The Sun, Marlboro Review, Oregon Humanities, and in a recent anthology from the University of Oklahoma Press. She is at work on a memoir.
Caroline Cummins is the managing editor of Culinate.com.
Jedidiah Chavez is a visual artist and writer based in Portland. His work has been showcased in a variety of venues nationally and in the Pacific Northwest. Chavez was awarded a 2010 project grant by the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
Kristin Kaye is a Portland-based writer. Her book, Iron Maidens, was an Oregon Book Awards finalist. She has recently completed her novel To Catch What Falls.
Lucy Burningham is an independent writer and journalist who lives in Portland. She holds a master’s degree in nonfiction writing from Portland State University.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland and former communications assistant at Oregon Humanities.
John Frohnmayer is chair of the Oregon Humanities board of directors.
Sarah Gilbert is writing a book about mothers looking for emotional healing in food. In February, she decided to begin homeschooling her eldest son.
Courtney S. Campbell is the Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University. You can try friending him through his Facebook page.
Barry Johnson has written about the arts since 1978 when he started writing about dance for the now-defunct Seattle Sun. He has edited arts sections at Willamette Week and The Oregonian, where he recently finished a twenty-six-year stint. You can find his up-to-the-minute thoughts on the arts at http://artsdispatch.blogspot.com.
Nancy Rommelmann’s recent books include Transportation, The Bad Mother, and The Queens of Montague Street, a memoir of growing up in 1970s Brooklyn Heights that was excerpted by the New York Times Magazine. She is a long-form journalist whose work appears in the LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Byliner, and other publications.
Phil Busse recently took the position of editor of The Source, a weekly paper in Bend. He also continues to serve as the executive director for the educational nonprofit Media Institute for Social Change and is an adjunct instructor at Portland State.
Sarah Mirk is a Portland journalist who often writes about gender, sexuality, and politics as the online editor of Bitch magazine and as the author of the forthcoming book Sex from Scratch (Microcosm, 2014). Her other interests include writing comics and talking to strangers.
Courtney Campbell is Hundere Chair in Religion and Culture and professor of philosophy at Oregon State University. He is also an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project leader for the program “Friendship: Reviving, Surviving, or Dying?”
M. Allen Cunningham is the author of the novels The Green Age of Asher Witherow and Lost Son, and the recipient of a 2013 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission. His story collection, Date of Disappearance, was recently published in an illustrated limited-edition by Atelier26 Books and his first nonfiction volume, The Honorable Obscurity Handbook, is forthcoming. He leads an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project program on the subject of e-reading.
Margaret Malone’s work has appeared in The Missouri Review, Swink, Coal City Review, latimes.com, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2009 Oregon Literary Fellowship and a 2011 Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship. She lives in Portland with her husband and son.
Dave Allen is director of interactive strategy at NORTH, a branding agency in Portland. He is also an adjunct lecturer in digital strategy at the University of Oregon, as well as the founding member and bass player of the UK band Gang of Four.
Dmae Roberts is a Peabody-winning radio producer and Oregon Book Award–winning writer. Her work has been on NPR and published widely. She is a USA Rockefeller Fellow and received the Dr. Suzanne Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice from the Asian American Journalists Association. She lives in Portland with her hubby and twin kitties.
Brian David Johnson is a futurist at Intel. His book Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian and a Futurist Journey Through Steampunk into the Future of Technology, coauthored with James H. Carrott, wil be published next year by O’Reilly Media. He is featured in Oregon Humanities’ Bring Your Own video series. This essay was written on a 747 somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
Mott Greene is a historian of science and technology. He was an Oregon Humanities Think & Drink presenter earlier this year for a program about the future of human and artificial intelligence. A former MacArthur Fellow, he is affiliate professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington. He admires Portland’s civic life and wishes Seattle could figure that out.
Jill Owens works in marketing for Powell’s Books. She enjoys interviewing authors as part of her job and for publications like Oregon Humanities.
J. David Santen Jr. has written about books, business, the environment, and communities for the Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, and other publications. He lives in Portland.
For more than a decade Camas Davis has been a magazine editor and writer for national magazines such as National Geographic Adventure and Saveur, and local publications such as Portland Monthly, Edible Portland, and Mix. In 2009, she traveled to France to study butchery. Upon her return, she founded the Portland Meat Collective, a traveling butchery school.
Sarah Gilbert is a writer, photographer, struggling urban farmer, mama to three boys, and military wife in southeast Portland. She is editor-in-chief of the new literary magazine for parents, Stealing Time, and is working on two memoirs and at least one novel.
Photographer Jim Lommasson received the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice & the Will to Survive in American Boxing Gyms. Previous publications include Oaks Park Pentimento. His photographs have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries.
Margot Minardi is an assistant professor of history and humanities at Reed College, and the author of Making Slavery History: Abolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts (2010). She is currently working on a history of the nineteenth-century American peace movement.
Jill Owens works in marketing for Powell’s Books, where interviewing authors is the most interesting part of her job. She’s originally from the South but has lived in Oregon for eleven years and is here to stay.
Dionisia Morales is a freelance writer and teaches writing at Linn-Benton Community College. Her essays have recently appeared or are forthcoming in CAYLX, Brevity, Cream City Review, and Silk Road.
Wendy Willis is a poet, Conversation Project leader, and the executive director of the Policy Consensus Initiative and the deputy director for Research and Development at the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University. Her book of poems, Blood Sisters of the Republic, is forthcoming from Press 53 in fall 2012.
Carl Abbott is professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University. A specialist on the history of cities, his recent books include Frontiers Past and Future: Science Fiction and the American West and Portland in Three Centuries: The Place and the People.
Monica Drake is the author of Clown Girl (Hawthorne Books),which was optioned for film by Kristen Wiig. Her next novel, The Stud Book, is forthcoming from Hogarth Press in February 2013.
Tara Rae Miner is a freelance writer and editor, former managing editor of Orion magazine, and author of Your Green Abode: A Practical Guide to a Sustainable Home. She lives with her family in Portland.
John Holloran lives in Portland and teaches at Oregon Episcopal School. His last essay for Oregon Humanities was “After the Fall” (Spring 2011).
Rebecca Hartman is an associate professor of history at Eastern Oregon University. She received her PhD in history from Rutgers University in 2004. Her current research is focused on twentieth-century U.S. rural history.
Dmae Roberts is an award-winning independent radio producer and writer based in Portland.
Jennifer Ruth is a professor of English literature at Portland State University and the author of Novel Professions, a book of literary criticism.
Richard J. Ellis is the Mark O. Hatfield Professor of Politics at Willamette University. In 2008 he was named Oregon Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and in 2007 he was chosen as Oregon Scientist of the Year by
the Oregon Academy of Science. His book The Development of the American Presidency is forthcoming from Routledge in January 2012.
After ten years in Oregon, Leigh van der Werff now lives in central California, where she runs a record store with her husband and their dog, Edgar. When she’s not at the shop, she’s writing essays and music criticism.
Joanne Mulcahy teaches creative nonfiction and humanities classes at the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, where she is codirector of the Documentary Studies Certificate Program. Her writing combines memoir and personal essay with ethnographic exploration. Her book Remedios: The Healing Life of Eva Castellanoz was published by Trinity University Press in 2010.
Marion Goldman has passed through the social worlds of Rajneeshees, Jesus People, and Nevada prostitutes. In her latest book, The American Soul Rush (forthcoming in December 2011), she describes how a small group of 1960s seekers at California’s Esalen Institute cultivated and spread spiritual alternatives ranging from transpersonal psychology to yoga to Zen golf. She is professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Oregon.
Oregon Humanities editorial advisory board member Guy Maynard is the editor of Oregon Quarterly, the magazine of the University of Oregon, and the author of The Risk of Being Ridiculous, a historical novel of love and revolution set in Boston in the the late 1960s, into which he managed to slip several Red Sox references. He lives in Eugene.
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri is an associate professor of religion and humanities at Reed College in Portland. He is the author of A History of Islam in America (from which this selection is excerpted) and Competing Visions of Islam in the United States. He was also a faculty member at the Oregon Humanities Teacher Institute in July 2011.
Tim DuRoche is a writer, jazz musician, artist, and cultural advocate. He works as the director of programs for the World Affairs Council of Oregon. Tim hosts the The New Thing, a weekly jazz program on KMHD-89.1 FM in Portland, is currently developing a program on jazz and community values for Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project, and is the author of the recently published collection of essays, Occasional Jazz Conjectures.
Walidah Imarisha is a founding editor of AWOL, a national political hip hop magazine and has toured nationally and internationally as part of the poetry duo Good Sista/Bad Sista. She has taught in Portland State University’s Black studies department and leads three Conversation Project programs for Oregon Humanities on hip hop, the history of race in Oregon, and reenvisioning the prison system.
Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College and author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Muses Among Us: Elegant Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft. This essay is a section from his book-in-progress, 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do.
Debra Gwartney is the author of the 2009 memoir Live Through This, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Oregon Book Award, and the PNBA award. She is currently working on a memoir about growing up in the West and the heritage of Narcissa Whitman, a project for which she received a research grant from the American Antiquarian Society. Debra lives on the McKenzie River with her husband, Barry Lopez, and is on the nonfiction faculty at Pacific University.
After growing up selling corndogs and cotton candy at carnivals up and down the West Coast, Susan Meyers extended her gypsy lifestyle by spending several years in Latin American before coming home to the Pacific Northwest. Her work has recently appeared in CALYX, Dogwood, Terra Incognita, and The Minnesota Review, and it has been the recipient of several awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship. She teaches writing at Oregon State University.
Matthew Stadler is a writer and editor in Portland. He writes about cities and urbanism for journals including Volume, Netherlands Architecture Bulletin, Domus, and Camerawork. His book about urbanism, Deventer, is forthcoming from 010 Uitgevrij, in Rotterdam. In 2009 he cofounded Publication Studio (http://www.publicationstudio.biz) in Portland.
Amanda Waldroupe is a freelance journalist living in Portland. Whenever she fails, she buckles down and tries, tries again.
John Holloran lives in Portland and teaches at Oregon Episcopal School, where he is the chair of the history department. His last essay for Oregon Humanities was “Under a Spell” (Summer 2009).
Scott Nadelson’s most recent book is The Cantor’s Daughter. A new collection of his short fiction, Aftermath, is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books in Fall 2011. He teachers creative writing at Willamette University. His latest essay for Oregon Humanities was “Go Ahead and Look” (Spring 2010)
Todd Schwartz is in reality a very serious and reserved person who divides his time between being a Calvinist minister and a funeral home director. Wait…wait! A funeral home director and a Calvinist minister walk into a bar…
Courtenay Hameister is the host and head writer of LiveWire Radio, the co-creator of “Road House: The Play!,” a screenwriter and filmmaker. In her spare time, she likes to imagine what it would be like to have more spare time.
Ariel Gore is the author of seven books including Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), from which this selection is excerpted. She is also the founding editor of Hip Mama, and editor of the Lambda-award-winning anthology Portland Queer. She teaches creating writing online at the University of New Mexico and The Attic in Portland.
Jamie Passaro lives in Eugene, where she is a freelance writer and an editor for Northwest Book Lovers, a blog produced by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. Her last essay for Oregon Humanities was “Driving Mrs. Spacely” (Summer 2008).
Andrew Guest is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Portland. When not watching, playing, coaching or writing about soccer, he does research on youth developmental and educational experiences through sports, arts, and service activities.
David Bragdon served on the Portland regional Metro Council for nearly twelve years and was elected president in 2002. The major accomplishment of his service was an expansion of the regional parks and natural areas network known as the Intertwine. He resigned from the Metro Council in September 2010 in order to accept New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointment as director of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.
M. Allen Cunningham is the author of Lost Son, a novel about the life of Rainer Maria Rilke. His first novel, The Green Age of Asher Witherow was a #1 Booksense Pick and was shortlisted for the Booksense Book of the Year. He’s the recipient of an artist fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission and a Yaddo residency. His third novel, set partly in the Pacific Northwest, is forthcoming.
Bette Lynch Husted lives and writes in Pendleton. She is the author of Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land (OSU Press, 2004) and At This Distance: Poems (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2010). Lessons from the Borderlands, her collection of memoir essays about teaching, class, gender, and race, is forthcoming from Plain View Press. She is a 2004 Oregon Book Award and WILLA finalist and was awarded a 2007 Oregon Arts Commission fellowship.
Bob Bussel is associate professor of history and director of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. He has published numerous articles on labor history and contemporary labor issues, including a history of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. He is currently working on a book about working-class citizens.
Dave Weich is the president of Sheepscot Creative. The Portland-based company fosters engaging and profitable communication among businesses, consumers, colleagues, and fans. Weich is on the editorial advisory board of Oregon Humanities magazine.
Camela Raymond is a Portland-based writer whose work has appeared in Modern Painters, Plazm, the Oregonian, and elsewhere. She was previously an editor at Portland Monthly magazine and the founding editor/publisher of the Organ. She serves on the editorial advisory board of Oregon Humanities magazine.
Scott Nadelson’s most recent book is The Cantor’s Daughter. He teaches creative writing at Willamette University.
Karen Karbo‘s three novels, as well as her Oregon Book Award–winning memoir, The Stuff of Life, have all been named New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her most recent book is The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman.
Lisa Radon has written about art and design for Portland Spaces (as associate editor), Portland Monthly, Surface Design Journal, SHIFT (Japan), FLAUNT, Hyperallergic, and ultra (ultrapdx.com). She’s written a handful of catalog essays and is working on her first book.
R. Gregory Nokes has worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press and the Oregonian. His reporting about this incident has resulted in a formal designation of the massacre site as Chinese Massacre Cove. He lives in West Linn.
Christine Dupres is the former director of the Office of Sustainability and Community Engagement at the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland. She is a freelance writer and an Oregon Humanities board member.
Apricot Irving is a writer and radio producer whose most recent project, Boise Voices Neighborhood Oral History Project , brought together elders and youth in Northeast Portland. She has lived in Haiti, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom, but currently calls Portland home.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices, from One Day Hill Press in Melbourne, Australia.
Lucy Burningham is an independent writer and journalist who lives in Portland. During the past decade, she has traveled on assignment for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and Lonely Planet guidebooks. She holds a master’s in nonfiction writing from Portland State University.
Vicente Martinez lives in Portland and works at a fast food restaurant.
Susan W. Hardwick is a professor of geography at the University of Oregon. Her research and teaching focus on the geography of immigration, identity, and place in the Pacific Northwest. She is the author or co-author of nine books, including Russian Refuge: Religion, Migration, and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim (University of Chicago Press, 1993). This article is adapted from Hardwick’s Commonplace Lecture that she delivered for Oregon Humanities in 2007.
Sarah Gilbert is a writer and photographer who lives in Portland with her husband and three little boys. She writes about food and finance for several web sites, including DailyFinance, WalletPop and Culinate, is cofounder of the Portland parenting resource urbanMamas.com, and keeps a blog, cafemama.com.
Kevin Nute is a professor of architecture at the University of Oregon. He is the author of the American Institute of Architects award-winning monograph, Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan (1993) and Place, Time and Being in Japanese Architecture (2004).