Public Humanities Program Leadership

Diane O'Donoghue

Diane O'Donahue Headshot

Director, Program for Public Humanities
Senior Fellow for the Humanities


Diane O’Donoghue is the Director of the Program for Public Humanities and Senior Fellow for the Humanities at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. She has been the Visiting Professor of Public Humanities at Brown University (2018-2023), and is a Visiting Fellow at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard for the 2023-2024 academic year. She is also a scholar member and on the faculty of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, where she chairs their Division of Interdisciplinary Studies and directs the Ecker Fellows Program. A historian of visual cultures, she has chaired the Department of Visual and Critical Studies (now Visual and Material Studies) at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, and since joining Tisch College in 2015 her scholarship and public-facing projects frequently intersect. Her specialization in the visual culture and archaeology of early China helped facilitate two bilingual, archival exhibitions in Boston’s Chinese neighborhood. An interest in connections between archaeology and psychoanalysis brought her to Vienna, where she became involved in descendant advocacy for Nazi-era restitution of a large Jewish cemetery. This latter work in turn inspired aspects of her book, On Dangerous Ground: Freud’s Visual Cultures of the Unconscious, winner of the 2019 Robert S. Liebert Award from Columbia University; previous writings  on topics addressing psychoanalysis and visualities have received the Loewenberg, Deutsch, and Silberger Prizes. Her current scholarship now extends to contested sites of memorialization, constructions of public memory and amnesias, and forensic ethics. Read an essay that relates these issues to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with her colleague, Bridget Conley of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School at Tufts she organized a series of five panels during the 2020-2021 academic year. These presentations introduced twelve speakers who addressed, from various perspectives, ethical issues concerning human remains. Recordings of all the panels are available on the project’s site. A selection of these papers appeared in 2022 as a co-edited issue of Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

With funding from the Tisch College Community Research Center, she has curated the Program's current project—"Endurance Streets: Resilience and Response in Boston’s Chinese Community” (堅韌的街道: 波士頓華人社區的韌性和反應)in partnership with the Chinese Historical Society of New England and St. Francis House. A public-facing exhibition, installed at two locations in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, it opened in September 2022 and will remain on view until June 30, 2024.

Recent Publications

“On Dangerous Ground: Afterword.” In Psychoanalytic Intersections: Selected Writings of the Austen Riggs Center Erikson Institute Visiting Scholar Program, edited by Elise Miller.  London; New York: Routledge, 2023, 57-71.

Last Place: Burying the Death in Times of Pandemic.” Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 8, no. 2 (2022): 74-93. 

"Amnesias of a Freudian Kind, Part II.American Imago: Psychoanalysis and the Human Sciences, 78, no.4 (Winter 2021): 601-617.

"Amnesias of a Freudian Kind Part I.American Imago: Psychoanalysis and the Human Sciences, 78, no.1 (Spring 2021): 55-77. 

"What Readers Matter? Challenging the Disappearance of the Branch Library in Boston’s Chinese Neighborhood." In Doing Public Humanities, edited by Susan Smulyan. New York: Routledge, 2021: 114-129.

"Sigismund’s Wolves.American Imago, 76, no.4 (Winter 2019): 553-567.

On Dangerous Ground: Freud’s Visual Cultures of the Unconscious. New York; London: Bloomsbury, 2019.  

“Image, Loss, Delay.” In Grief and Its Transcendence: Memory, Identity, Creativity, edited by Adele Tutter and Léon Wurmser. New York; London: Routledge, 2016, 88-94. 

“Liquiphophia und der Schauplatz der Psychoanalyze.” In Verflüssigungen: Ästhetische und semantische Dimensionen eines Topos, edited by Kassandra Nakas. Berlin; Munich: Wilhelm Fink. 2015, 45-56.


PhD Art History, Harvard University

BA History, Mount Holyoke College

Selected Fellowships and Awards

2023-2024  Visiting Fellow, Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

2021-2022 Grantee, Tisch College Community Research Center (for the “Endurance Streets" project), Tufts University.

2020 Grantee, Arts, Sciences, and Engineering Diversity Fund, Tufts University.

2019-2020 Grantee, Tufts University Collaborates Grant.

2019 Robert S Liebert Award, in recognition of interdisciplinary work in psychoanalysis and the humanities. Columbia University and its Psychoanalytic Center.

2016 Mass Humanities, exhibition grant (for the “These Words” project).

2016 New England Foundation for the Arts (for the work of exhibition partner, Wen-ti Tsen, for the "These Words" project).

2015-2016 Grantee, Tisch College Community Research Fund (for the “These Words” project), Tufts University.

2014 Scholar-in-Residence, Erikson Institute, Austen Riggs Center, Stockbridge, MA.

2013-2014 Faculty Fellow, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University.

2010 Elisabeth Ortner-Chopin Visiting Professorship, University of Vienna.

2008 Tufts University Faculty Research Awards Committee (FRAC) Grant.

2006 Council for International Exchange of Scholars. William J. Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Fulbright Visiting Professor, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.

2005 Felix and Helene Deutsch Prize. Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

2002 Peter Loewenberg Prize (formerly CORST Prize) for writing on psychoanalysis and culture. American Psychoanalytic Association.

2001 Council for International Exchange of Scholars. William J. Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Fulbright/Sigmund Freud Visiting Scholar of Psychoanalysis, University of Vienna.

2000 Annual Excellence in Teaching Award, School of the Museum of Fine Arts / Tufts University.

Teaching/Courses Taught

Memory Politics: Memorials and Sites of Forgetting

Ethical in Public: Humanities as Moments of Encountering

Public Amnesias and Their Discontents

Critical Discourses: Genealogies and Visual Strategies

Recognitions: Re-Visioning the Uses of Objects

Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theories of Genders and Representation

Bronze Age of China and the Ethics of Metallurgy

Asian Painting/s and Empire

Acts of Emptying: Visual Cultures of Premodern Japan

Multiplicities: The Visual Cultures of Premodern India