Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Known Citizen

Thursday, May 10, 2018 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Registration is required
Members Free and Non-members $15

The Known Citizen

Sarah E. Igo

Every day, Americans make decisions about their privacy: what to share and when, how much to expose and to whom. Securing the boundary between one’s private affairs and public identity has become a central task of citizenship. How did privacy come to loom so large in American life? Sarah Igo tracks this elusive social value across the twentieth century, as individuals questioned how they would, and should, be known by their own society.

Popular journalism and communication technologies, welfare bureaucracies and police tactics, market research and workplace testing, scientific inquiry and computer data banks, tell-all memoirs and social media all propelled privacy to the foreground of U.S. culture. Jurists and philosophers but also ordinary people weighed the perils, the possibilities, and the promise of being known. In the process, they redrew the borders of contemporary selfhood and citizenship.

The Known Citizen reveals how privacy became the indispensable language for monitoring the ever-shifting line between our personal and social selves. Igo’s sweeping history, from the era of “instantaneous photography” to the age of big data, uncovers the surprising ways that debates over what should be kept out of the public eye have shaped U.S. politics and society. It offers the first wide-angle view of privacy as it has been lived and imagined by modern Americans.

Sarah E. Igo is an Associate Professor of History who received her A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University. An Editor’s Choice selection of the New York Times and one of Slate’s Best Books of 2007, Igo’s first book, The Averaged American was the winner of the President's Book Award of the Social Science History Association and the Cheiron Book Prize. Igo has been awarded a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Richard S. Dunn Award for Distinguished Teaching.

To register, follow the registration button on the right. If you would prefer your information to pre-populate, log in to your My Athenæum Profile. To log in to your My Athenæum Profile click on the profile icon found in the upper right corner of each page on our website.

If you do not yet have a profile, select “New User? Create an account” on the Profile Login page. Members create their own accounts; a username and password are not assigned when you join the Athenæum.

Assistive Listening Devices image

Most programs held in the Bayard Henry Long Room on the Athenaeum's first floor are amplified and assistive listening devices are available for patron use.

ASL Interpretation image

To request ASL interpretation services for any of the Athenaeum's programs, please contact Hannah Weisman at 617-720-7617 or weisman@bostonathenaeum.org.