Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .
. . . Poets
The full list of Peter’s books

Peter McDonough

An interview by John Coyne
YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS A STUDENT at Saint Louis University, one of the really smart undergraduates was a kid from Brooklyn, Peter McDonough. Peter, along with his brother, Tom, were the Irish literary geniuses on campus. Peter then became, if not the first, then one of the first graduates of that urban Jesuit university to join the PeacePrinter friendly version Corps. Over the years, we have kept in touch, lately mostly by emails, but our interests still have ways of connecting because we are both Irish, were in the Peace Corps, and most importantly, Jesuit educated.
     For those unfamiliar with the Jesuits — the Society of Jesus —, the order was founded by Ignatius Loyola in 1540. Today it is the largest and most controversial religious order of men in Catholicism. Since the time when Peter and I were undergraduates, the Jesuits in the United States have lost more than half of their members, and they have experienced a massive upheaval in what they believe and how they work and live.
Passionate Uncertainty           Today, Peter is a professor of political science at Arizona State University, and among the books that he has written, are two about the Jesuits. Just published is Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits. Co-authored with Eugene C. Bianchi, a Professor Emeritus of Religion at Emory University, Passionate Uncertainty traces the transformation of the Society of Jesus from a fairly unified organization into a smaller, looser community with disparate goals and an elusive corporate identity. From its role as a traditional subculture during the days of immigrant Catholicism, the order has changed into an amalgam of countercultures shaped around social mission, sexual identity, and an eclectic spirituality. The story of the Jesuits reflects the crisis of clerical authority and the deep ambivalence surrounding American Catholicism’s encounter with modernity.
     When the book came out, I emailed Peter and asked about the book and how he went from the campus of Saint Louis to Passionate Uncertainty.
  Where were you a Peace Corps Volunteer and when?
    I was in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) from mid-1961 to mid-1963. Ours was the second group of PCVs; the first was sent to Ghana. I was stationed at the Comilla Academy for Rural Development.
  What was your job?
  I was an audio-visual specialist. My job involved setting up a darkroom and other photo facilities at the Academy. I also worked on some training films about tractor driving, how to raise chickens — a big step for a Brooklyn boy.
  When you returned from the Peace Corps, what did you do next?
   I returned to New York and worked for about a year as a staff photographer and house-organ writer for Johns-Manville Corporation. Then I got funding to attend Georgetown University grad school, where I studied politics for a year. Next I got a National Defense Foreign Language Fellowship (in Hindi), which took me to Ann Arbor in the fall of 1965. There I enrolled in the graduate program in political science.
     I received my doctorate in 1969 for a dissertation entitled “Electoral Competition and Political Participation in India.” It was based on statistical data deposited in the University of Michigan. I didn’t return to the subcontinent after my Peace Corps stint until a brief visit during a sabbatical in 1996.
Home | Back Issues | Resources | Archives | Site Index | Search | About us | To contact us

Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers | PC writers by country of service

E-mail the with comments
or to be added to the new-issue notice list.
Copyright © 2008, (formerly RPCV Writers & Readers)
All rights reserved.