Hello from Another New Insider

Michaela in front of Project Arts Centre in Dublin. Photo by Brianna Nofil.

“Only connect!…Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”

-E.M. Forster, Howards End

For a year or so now I’ve delighted in devising my email signature. Below my name and position—the latter of which has changed to reflect my transition from undergraduate to postgraduate (!)—are the words “only connect” (from Forster’s novel), a colon, and my phone number. The pairing serves as both resource and metaphor: You only have to call this number to get in touch with me. But it’s also an ethical invocation: What happens when connection—people to people, ideas to ideas, people to ideas—becomes the only option, when it feels intrinsically mandatory? How might we broaden and deepen our lives in turn? What implications does connection have on our social, cultural, and political behavior? And (without being too presumptuous) how might connecting with me alter your own life?

These are things I think about when I’m walking down Ninth Street with friends, sitting at my desk, or exploring movement in a contact improvisation dance class. And these are things I’ll think about through this blog and through my position as a Stephen and Janet Bear Postgraduate Fellow at Kenan this year. But, before I jump into things, I should do some connective work of my own and share a little more of me with you.

My name is Michaela Dwyer, and I’m from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I graduated from Duke in May and studied English, Art History, Documentary Studies, and Dance. I was heavily involved with journalism throughout my time at Duke: In 2011 I got to know Kenan through participating in DukeEngage-Dublin and writing for Metro Éireann, a newspaper serving migrant and refugee communities in Ireland. For the past two years I was arts editor and then editor-in-chief of Recess, the Duke Chronicle’s arts and culture section. There I worked to bolster the arts community at Duke while growing into one of my own. I’m helplessly curious about almost everything, but especially politics and culture in the American South, nonfiction writing, gender, and postmodern dance and performance art.

As you probably inferred, my personal and intellectual interests often spring from and center around the arts, and I’m especially fueled by the intersection of art and ethics (or, as a friend recently called it, “aesthethics”), as well as documentary ethics. What about art, and creating art, attracts, forms, and/or repels community? Should we, and how do we, prioritize ethical representation of artistic ‘subjects’? What does “ethical representation” mean in the first place, in art and in life? And are art and life necessarily separate?

As a Kenan Insider, I’ll surely delve into some of these questions. My role is twofold and unique: On the one hand, I aim to plant myself as far as possible inside contemporary issues in ethics and work (write) my way toward my own experiences and interests. On the other, I will start very much inside myself, following my inclinations until they run up against ethical issues in the larger world. My colleague Nathan Nye and I will be writing about these stories as they emerge from our home base—the Kenan Institute, and Duke University—and elsewhere, in the national and international context. My goal, no matter the topic, will be breadth and depth of connection: prose and passion on equal footing, exploring the world as it changes and changes us.

And on the subject of change—look out for my next post after I immerse myself in Project Change for the first time next week.

I’m glad to have you along for the ride!