November 08, 2013

Center for Dewey Studies opens affiliate in Brazil

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A person might walk right past the Center for Dewey Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and never realize that the modest building is the hub of worldwide discussions in academia, education administration, democracy, and public policy.

This October, the center welcomed its 10th international affiliated center.  The newest affiliate, the Center for the Study of Dewey and Pragmatism, opened in Salvador, Brazil, at the Universidade Federal de Bahia (Federal University of Bahia).

“There is a lot of interest in the works of John Dewey,” said Larry A. Hickman, director of the center and professor of philosophy, said.  “That’s due in part to our work here at the Center for Dewey Studies, including the work of my predecessors.”

What is “a lot of interest?”   It’s more than 6,500 hits to the Center for Dewey Studies website per month.  It’s 554 American and 242 foreign scholarly visitors to the center since 1993, including six Fulbright Scholars.

And, of course, it’s also the nine other centers, located in: Germany, Italy, Hungary, Japan, Poland, Turkey, Spain, Argentina, and China.

New SIU affiliate Centers for Dewey Studies share SIU’s Dewey resources: SIU sends them the 37 volume print edition of “The Collected Works of John Dewey,” the same thing in a CD library, and the CD version of “The Correspondence of John Dewey,” as well as subscriptions to other online resources and the annotated bibliography, “Works about Dewey.”

In return, the new center in Brazil will, like all of its sister centers, host conferences to promote Dewey’s philosophy, make resources available to scholars, and, if possible, create translations of Dewey’s works.

Hickman takes a relationship-building approach to establishing new centers.  Nothing happens without solid groundwork.  The affiliate centers are meant to be active, and for that, they need SIU’s support in the early stages.

Buy why do universities in foreign countries care so deeply about an American philosopher?  Hickman answers the question by pointing out that Dewey’s pragmatist philosophy centered on questions of democracy (what is it, where does it come from, and what does it look like in foreign clothes?) and education (why should everyone receive an education, what is an education?). The countries most interested in establishing Centers for Dewey Studies also tend to be countries grappling with issues pertaining to education and political identity.

Exactly how Brazil will use its SIU affiliate Dewey studies center is still a developing idea.  Hickman will remain in close contact with the center as it launches into its first activities.  Already, though, he’s anticipating a new center in Vietnam.

“Scholars and other guests come here, and they go home and want a Center for Dewey Studies,” he said.