Erika Doss is a professor in the department of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in American, modern, and contemporary art and cultural studies. Her wide-ranging interests in American art and visual culture are reflected in the breadth of her publications, which include Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (1991), Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995), Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image (1999), Twentieth-Century American Art (2002), and Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010). Her recent monographs include The Emotional Life of Contemporary Public Memorials: Towards a Theory of Temporary Memorials (2008). Doss is also the editor of Looking at Life Magazine (2001), a coeditor of the Culture America series for the University Press of Kansas, and a member of the editorial boards of Memory Studies, Public Art Dialogue, and Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief. The recipient of several Fulbright awards, Doss has also held fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her current research projects are "Spiritual Moderns: Twentieth-Century American Artists and Religion" and "I AM America: Art, Belief, and Ultra-Patriotism during the Great Depression."
In October 2003, the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial was dedicated in Duluth, Minnesota, where in 1920 three young African American men were brutally tortured and lynched by a mob of some 10,000 people. If lynching once fed a rapacious American appetite for sadistic racism, today's commemoration of lynching suggests growing recognition of the nation's shameful legacy of racist violence. Like other lynching recovery projects, Duluth's lynching memorial animates this shame, and redirects the dehumanizing spectacle of lynching to a project focused on "bearing witness" to its victims. Today, growing numbers of shame-based memorials, including those that recall the subjects of racial terrorism and slavery, are being raised. This talk considers why "sites of shame" are increasingly considered places worthy of commemoration in contemporary America, and their transformative impact in American culture and society.