2017: A Year In Review11-30-2017
We are witnessing a transformative shift from representative democracy to a populist media-driven democracy, that as Annie Proulx writes is now cascading over us in a garbage-laden tsunami of memes and GIFs. Mass letters of condemnation and semi-public anonymous lists of miscreants reflect a dangerous moment. Mass letters of condemnation and semi-public anonymous lists of miscreants reflect a dangerous moment.
The 10th Annual Conference "Crises of Democracy: Thinking in Dark Times" probed the wobbling of liberal democracies in Hungary, Austria, Turkey, Russia, Germany, and here in the United States. Moving beyond moralization and condemnation, speakers like Masha Gessen, Uday Mehta, Micah White, Tania Bruguera, Melvin Rogers, Yascha Mounk, Linda Zerilli, Jim Fishkin, Walter Russell Mead, Ian Buruma, Zephyr Teachout, Teju Cole and many more asked why so many citizens are rebelling against liberal democracy and turning toward illiberal democratic strongmen. To watch the full conference, view the video here or view the playlist on YouTube.
President Trump's ruthless cynicism reflects and furthers the corruption of our population and our political institutions. But the crisis that is Trump's Presidency is also an opportunity. A crisis, writes Hannah Arendt, “tears away façades and obliterates prejudices.” The rising of Resistance groups, the stirrings of a new political engagement, the success of groups such as the Arendt Center that insist upon a radical confrontation with reality—all these offer hope that we can embrace common sense ideas that inspire a diverse coalition to reimagine a shared democratic ideal.
More than ever our world needs Hannah Arendt's fearless and bold inquiry into the political need to fight cynicism with active citizenship. The Arendt Center is an intellectual space for passionate, uncensored, and non-partisan thinking that reframes and deepens the fundamental questions facing our world. We aim to nurture bold and provocative thinking that seeks in the spirit of Hannah Arendt to "think what we are doing."
We cannot do it without you! We are grateful for your continued support of the Hannah Arendt Center. Please renew your membership, or make a year-end contribution to the Center today!
Our dedicated team at the center continues to grow. We welcomed an incredible group of fellows: Senior Fellows: Wyatt Mason, Thomas Bartscherer and Zephyr Teachout; The National Endowment for the Humanities/Hannah Arendt Center Distinguished Fellow: Tania Bruguera; Klemens von Klemperer Post Doctoral Fellow: Libby Barringer and Visiting Professor in Political Studies and Hannah Arendt Teaching Fellow, Artemy Magun.
This year we added another stellar team of student fellows to our center: Paris Adorno, Rachel Braver, Sacha Medjo-Akona, Isabelle Emma Menuez Santana, and Maeve Schallert. We also welcome our returning student interns; Annah Heckman [Marketing Intern], Ann Burnett [Photography Intern] and Mark Williams Jr. [Tough Talk Fellow].
A large part of our annual budget, including our annual conference, is supported by contributions from members like yourself. Your support is necessary and deeply appreciated. We wish you a very thoughtful and provocative holiday season, and hope to see you at Arendt Center events in 2018!
Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College
In October, we hosted our 10th annual conference titled “Crises of Democracy: Thinking in Dark Times.” Over 1000 persons attended, 300 of whom were Bard early college students from Baltimore, Hudson, Manhattan, Newark, New Orleans and Queens, as well as the Harlem Children’s Zone.
Bard President Leon Botstein opened the conference celebrating the virtues of a vital public sphere, and Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director and Founder of the Arendt Center, discussed four prejudices underlying our crises of liberal democracy. During the two days, conference speakers and participants engaged the question: Has liberal representative democracy failed?
Masha Gessen discussed the trials of political truth in an age of mafia politicians, while AfD member Marc Jongen emphasized the necessity of nationalism to the nation state, and importance of sharing a cultural heritage. Occupy Wall St. co-founder Micah White explained why Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the Women’s March are failed protest movements, as Melvin Rogers, Professor of Politics at Brown University, pointed us back to the past to take refreshment in our shared history, and find a non-theological political faith. Yascha Mounk, lecturer at Harvard, offered the audience a more traditional, liberal view of democracy while arguing that the crisis of democracy is not retreating anytime soon.
The expansive conversation included a heated discussion between Walter Russell Mead, who pushed us to wrestle with the causes of populism in America, and Linda Zerilli, who defended an Arendtian conception of freedom and what it means to act collectively in the public sphere. Jim Fishkin took the audience on a journey through his public research project Deliberative Democracy, which tries to connect voters to their policy making by polling representative, random parts of the population. The conference was drawn to a close by acclaimed novelist Teju Cole. Weaving together bits of classical music and images from museum exhibitions, Cole argued that the crisis has already happened, and that we are living in the disaster. He left attendees with a question to consider: “If we survive, who will be left after the disaster?”
HOSTED OVER 30 EVENTS
We’re happy to have been able to partner with a number of organizations throughout the year, both on- and off-campus, to extend the reach of the Hannah Arendt Center.
WE COMPLETED THREE OF ARENDT'S BOOKS IN 2017
Our Virtual Reading Group continued to grow while reading and discussing three of Arendt’s texts, including On Revolution, Between Past and Future, and a 13-week reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism.
THE COURAGE TO BE AND TOUGH TALKS PROGRAMS CONTINUE
The student-led Courage to Be program hosted a number of speakers including Tania Bruguera and Mariame Kaba, as did our Tough Talks Lecture Series, including Laura Kipnis and Bret Weinstein (all pictured to the right, respectively).
EXPLAINING EVIL AT THE MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE IN NYC
We partnered with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC, hosting two events based around Arendt’s writings on the Eichmann trial (group photo at left). The first event revolved around a reading of the correspondence between Gershom Sholem and Hannah Arendt, while the second event will feature a panel discussion between Bard College President, Leon Botstein, Professor Seyla Benhabib of Yale, and moderated by Roger Berkowitz.
HA: THE JOURNAL, VOLUME 5
We released Volume 5 of HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities, featuring material from the 9th Annual Fall Conference, "Real Talk: Difficult Questions About Race, Sex, and Religion," including essays by Marianne Constable, Mary Gaitskill, Judith Shulevitz, Janet Halley, William Deresiewicz, and others.
HA CIRCLE CONFERENCE AT BARD
The Hannah Arendt Circle hosted their three-day annual conference at the Arendt Center this year!
UPCOMING IN 2018!
NEW YORK LIVE ARTS: RADICAL VISION
From April 18-22, 2018 in NYC, the Hannah Arendt Center is partnering with Brian Tate and New York Live Arts to host Live Ideas: Radical Vision. The festival brings together artists, activists, thinkers, and philanthropists to examine a radical vision for the future. From conversations to performances to cultural interventions, the festival will add unique perspectives from diverse sectors, examining new ways forward to deepen understanding, enliven dialogue, and inspire further action in these politically divisive times. More information.
EXCITING SPEAKERS THIS SPRING
Spring of 2018 will kick off another series of student-led dinners as part of our Courage to Be Dinner and Lecture Series. The program, now in its 4th year, will host a range of speakers from photographer and director Doug Menuez, to Reverend Sylvia E. Sumter, and documentary filmmaker Whitney Dow.
Our student-led Tough Talks series will feature several talks including one by professor and author, Tommy Curry.
Visit our events page at http://hac.bard.edu/events for the latest announcements on all upcoming events.
11TH ANNUAL FALL CONFERENCE
On Oct. 11-12, 2018, our 11th Annual Fall Conference, "Citizenship and Civil Disobedience," asks how to turn our crisis into real political regeneration. Arendt saw citizenship and civil disobedience as intimately bound. Civil disobedience means freely associating and joining together in to voice dissent and act with others to remake our common world. Civic associations are the “American remedy for the failure of institutions, the unreliability of men, and the uncertain nature of the future.” In the face of political emergency, Arendt turns to the people’s ability to form voluntary associations. This spirit of resistance that voices dissent when our institutions fail is the way we can move forward and face the future.
Mark your calendars, and remember, all members receive free access to the two-day conference!