About "The Country and the City: Common Ground in the Prairie State?"

Contrasts between rural and urban perspectives on society have manifested themselves prominently in the news in recent years, but they are hardly new. Aesop’s famous fable, “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” indicates that such contrasts were on the minds of Ancient Greeks two and a half millennia ago. Rural-urban dynamics formed a significant part of the culture of the Mississippian people who occupied much of present-day Illinois 700 to 1,200 years ago, and they have influenced seemingly every aspect of public life here in the Prairie State throughout its 200-year history. Our social and political discourse appears to reflect deep divisions and oppositional relations between urban and rural Illinoisans, yet those who are familiar with both city neighborhoods and rural communities across the state sometimes comment that their residents’ needs, concerns, and values may be more similar than they realize. To what extent can rural and urban Illinoisans find common ground on issues that affect both the country and the city?

The Country and the City: Common Ground in the Prairie State? probes that question in conjunction with both the Illinois Bicentennial and the 2018-2019 Illinois Humanities-facilitated statewide tour of Crossroads: Change in Rural America, a new Museum on Main Street exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. Each program in this series occurs in two iterations, one in a rural venue and the other in an urban venue. Each event features a text-based panel discussion of a theme relevant to both urban and rural communities in Illinois. The panelists include three people who can comment insightfully upon that theme from rural perspectives and three who can do so from urban perspectives. They reflect upon humanities texts that provide a shared basis for conversation. Although the themes of these discussions are broad in scope, the conversations are focused by the content of the texts, the knowledge and experiences of the panelists, and questions and comments from the audiences. We hope the urban and rural Illinoisans who participate in these programs emerge with more substantial understandings of one another’s cultural experiences and a desire to remain in dialogue.

Past Events

Cultural Sustainability and the Pursuit of Community IFree Press Coffee House – Tuesday, September 18, 2018, Pittsfield, IL 

“Cultural Sustainability and the Pursuit of Community II” – SIUE East Saint Louis Center – Thursday, October 25, 2018, East St Louis, IL 

“Land Use and Environmental Ethics I” – Illinois State Museum-Dickson Mounds – Thursday, November 15, 2018, Lewistown, IL 

Land Use and Environmental Ethics II – American Indian Center – Thursday, December 6, 2018, Chicago, IL 

“Local Law Enforcement & Community Relations” – AARC at Booker Washington Community Center – Tuesday, February 19, 2019, Rockford, IL

“Media Coverage of Urban and Rural Communities & Sustaining Positive Momentum” – Shilling Environmental Education Center at Scovill Zoo – Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Decatur, IL

“Social and Economic Impacts of Incarceration” – York Township Public Library – Thursday, May 9th, 2019, Thomson, IL 

“The Changing Local Media Landscapes of Rural and Urban Communities” – Du Quoin State Fairgrounds  – Thursday, May 30th, 2019, Du Quoin, IL

“The Country and the City: Christine Brewer and Noam Pikelny in Performance”Old State Capitol – Friday, August 9, Springfield, IL

View the conversations here.

Upcoming Events

Additional events to be announced.