Democracy & The Informed Citizen


Humanities TN is pleased to present the Democracy & The Informed Citizen special initiative, which seeks to examine the critical role of journalism and the power of the humanities to enrich understanding of local and national issues and to inspire an engaged citizenry. This initiative is made possible by funding from the Mellon Foundation national grant program.


Prior to the 2016 national election, Tennessee ranked 40th in voter registration and 50th in voter turnout. Alarmed by these statistics and compelled to discover the reasons why Tennesseans have increasingly disengaged from this fundamental form of civic participation, Humanities TN has partnered with other organizations across the state to create public programs around these topics.


Community Conversations

Humanities TN, in partnership with ThinkTennessee, launched a series of community conversations to address Tennessee’s consistently low voter registration and turnout. The goal of the conversations is to encourage voter turnout in advance of the 2018 midterm elections and discuss ideas to strengthen the state’s democracy. Attendees take part in a discussion based on short readings of texts that focus on the First Amendment and the responsibilities of citizens. Attendees engage in conversation about their news sources and how they affect voter participation.

The following events were held across the state. All events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, August 28
Kingsport Chamber of Commerce (Kingsport)
Facilitator: Dr. Daryl Carter, East Tennessee State University
*co-sponsored by Kingsport Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, September 6
Polk Home & Museum Presidential Hall (Columbia)
Facilitator: Dr. Barry Gidcomb, Columbia State

Thursday, September 13
Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce (Paris)
Facilitator: Dr. Chris Baxter, University of Tennessee-Martin

Thursday, Sep 13
Memphis Urban League (Memphis)
Facilitator: Dr. Andre Johnson, U of Memphis

Thursday, Sept 27
The Emporium Center (Knoxville)
Facilitator: Dr. Daryl Carter, ETSU

Southern Festival of Books track

The 30th annual Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word will feature a special track of sessions as part of the Democracy & The Informed Citizen initiative. The track welcomes authors and scholars from around the country who are experts on voting, public policy, democracy, and the media. Each session will feature readings and conversations, including audience Q and A, that encourage citizens to share their thoughts and concerns about democracy and the media.

Below is a list of sessions. All are free and open to the public, with no advance registration required. All sessions take place in the main Nashville Public Library (NPL). This track is presented in partnership with the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University.

Friday, Oct. 12
2:00-3:00 pm NPL Conference Room 1A
Can Democracy Work?: A Short History of a Radical Idea, from Ancient Athens to Our World
Panelist: James Miller

Saturday, Oct. 13
11:00am-12:30 pm NPL Conference Room 1B
Grand Divisions: Tennessean Podcast Recording
Panelists: Mariah Cole, Joel Ebert, Jennifer Kavanagh, Arthur Lupia

1:30-2:30 pm NPL Conference Room 1B
Power, Politics & Promise: Public Policy Plays out in Democracy
Panelists: Loka Ashwood, Katie Cahill

2:00-3:00 pm NPL Conference Room 1A
HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (Inalienable Rights)
Panelists: Emily Siner, Nadine Strossen

2:30-3:30 pm NPL Conference Room 1B
Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution
Panelists: Ben Fountain

3:00-4:00 pm NPL Conference Room 1A
Voting in the Volunteer State
Panelists: Eric Barnes, Charlane Oliver, Dawn Schluckebier

3:30-4:30 pm Artober Performing Arts Stage
Citizen Illegal
Panelists: Jose Olivarez

Sunday, Oct. 14
1:00-2:00 pm, NPL Conference Room 1B
The Art and Science of Polling
Panelists: John Geer, Marc Hetherington

3:00-4:00 pm NPL Conference Room 1A
The Power of We the People: Practicing Democracy and Balancing Power
Panelists: Dana Nelson,  Alan Wiseman

Please visit the Southern Festival of Books schedule to learn more about each panelist and their session.

Visit the SFOB Schedule

Partner Organizations