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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Exporting the First Freedom

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Martha Bayles, Boston College
Date: Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

Rightly or wrongly, Americans continue to bear the glad tidings of our ideals, our way of life, and our religion to the 95 percent of humanity who are not American.  Despite the parlous state of our country’s reputation, it is widely agreed that the best form of public diplomacy is what President Eisenhower called “people-to-people” contacts.  Globalization has greatly increased the quantity of such contacts, but has it increased their quality?  This talk will focus on some of the pitfalls encountered by Americans who seek to share with others our distinctive understanding of religious freedom and tolerance.

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Martha Bayles writes and lectures frequently about the arts, music, media, and cultural policy. She is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal (where she was arts and television critic), Wilson Quarterly (where she was Literary Editor), Weekly Standard, and Claremont Review of Books. She blogs at World Affairs (“Hearts and Minds”) and at (“Serious Popcorn”).

Bayles is the author of two books, Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music (University of Chicago) and Ain’t It a Shame? Censorship and the Culture of Transgression (Center for U.S. Studies, University of London). Her new book, America’s Cultural Footprint, will be published in 2011 by Yale University Press.

In May 2006, Bayles was a Fulbright lecturer at Marie Curie Sklodowska University and the Catholic University in Lublin, Poland, as well as at Warsaw University and the Warsaw School of Social Psychology. Currently she serves as a Senior Academic Advisor to Business for Diplomatic Action. In 1998 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and during the 1990s she was arts correspondent for PBS’s “Religion & Ethics News Weekly” and writer-producer for New River Media in Washington, DC.

Bayles’s essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times; Washington Post; Atlantic Monthly; Times Literary Supplement; New Republic; Harper’s; Chronicle of Higher Education; Michigan Quarterly; Brookings Review; Public Interest; National Review; and many other publications. An excerpt from her memoir, Off White, appeared in the fall 2006 issue of the Antioch Review.

A native of Boston, Bayles is a graduate of Harvard University and a former teacher in the public schools of Philadelphia, Boston, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Between 1997 and 2003 she taught humanities at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. Since 2003 she has been a Lecturer in the Arts & Sciences Honors Program at Boston College.