Dr Michael McCluskey (metaLAB, Harvard University)
Writing in 1922, Boston social worker Eva Whiting White argued that “play has too long been casually regarded. That must change.” Together with like-minded reformers White organized an entertainment network that offered alternatives to the dance halls, burlesques, and cinemas that city residents frequented. This “settlement circuit” used settlement houses and other unlikely venues to re-map Boston’s cultural landscape and connect the low-income, immigrant communities that the settlements served to local arts and educational institutions. What emerged was a varied program of moving pictures, drama, pageants, and performances: an “eccentric experiment” that intermingled education, recreation, and urban renewal. My paper looks at how this network made new connections between populations and parts of the city and used “purposeful” play to push for social and spatial change. More broadly, it considers how such discourse networks can help us to reconstruct places and patterns of behavior and reframe popular histories.
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Part of the Taking Place seminar series.
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