The Gift of Dangerous Thinking
The Hannah Arendt Center is dedicated to the bold, open, vigorous, provocative, and honest discourse that can and will help reimagine our world. Give the Gift of Thinking in the spirit of Hannah Arendt. Gift a friend, a relative, or even an antagonist a membership to the Hannah Arendt Center.
Members gain access to our Virtual Reading Group, and receive two complimentary entrances to our Spring Social and our Annual Conference, plus exclusive invitations to special events and more!
A year of tremendous activity and growth at the Center
Our recent conference on Rage and Reason: Democracy Under the Tyranny of Social Media included talks from Myisha Cherry on the case for rage, William Davies on the “nervous states” of our world, Pankaj Mishra on our “Age of Anger”, Suzanne Nossel on the effort to keep discourse free, Colin Megill on the potential for technological platforms to encourage reasoned discourse, and Frances Haugen on how social media platforms can protect free speech while also incentivizing truth-based discourse. Read more about the conference here.
Arendt reminds us that the problem with rage is that while it is activated by injustice it rarely leads to the doing of justice. The reason is simply that rage aims less to remedy justice than to respond to hypocrisy. Instead of aiming at the productive doing of justice—alleviating poverty and hunger, guaranteeing security—the rage against hypocrisy leads to the destructive terror that enforces virtue. All those who seek to act in public come under the suspicion of hypocrisy and are subjected to terror and the guillotine. See my speech about the rage against hypocrisy here.
Save the Date for.... Friendship and Politics!
Our next Annual Conference will take place on October 12-13th and will ask about the importance of friendship in life and in politics. At a time when surveys show that over 30% of Americans report having not even one friend whom they can trust, the crisis of friendship is caught up in our epidemic of loneliness. Social media, which promises us easy friendships, further dilutes the bonds of friendship. And hyper-partisan politics suggests that we can only be friends with those whom we agree with politically. The conference hopes to remember and recover Arendt’s faith in the promise of civic friendship as a basis for pluralist democracy. As is always the case, members attend for free and bring a friend with them.
Our Virtual Reading Group (VRG) is currently reading Hannah Arendt’s: The Jewish Writings. We resume in January and will be reading Arendt’s letters and essays responding to the criticism of her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. Then in February, we will read a selection of Arendt’s writings on Race and Racism, including the chapters “Race Thinking Before Racism” and “Race and Bureaucracy” from the Origins of Totalitarianism, as well as her letters to James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Robert Hutchins. The VRG has grown to include between 60-100 dedicated readers every week and our discussions are a mix of real textual exegesis alongside broadminded efforts to think with Arendt about our present world. Learn more here.
The year has been packed with activity. In July we hosted a first ever 2-day training workshop for over 50 United States elected officials, public servants and civic engagement experts on how to plan, design and implement citizen assemblies. This practical training followed our 2021 Conference on Revitalizing Democracy. A dozen world-class workshop leaders -including the designers of the new permanent assemblies in Paris and Brussels, Claudia Chwalisz and David Van Reybrouck - joined with NY State Assembly members, representatives from the NYC and Philadelphia mayors' offices, numerous city council offices and others, to explore innovative participatory approaches to policy making.
That workshop has seeded a strong alumni network and has led to multiple projects in New York and beyond. We are excited to be planning a second workshop for the summer of 2023, as well as a training program for high school teachers to bring these collaborative tools into the classroom.
Our team continues to grow
Earlier this year, Jana Schmidt joined our team as the new Director of Academic Programs, working to build the community and profile of the Arendt Center in collaboration with students and faculty. She organizes the “Courage To Be” series and facilitates engagement with Arendt scholarship through programs like the virtual reading group, the HA Journal and beyond.
Jana is working with our student fellows on the new lecture series “Autonomies,” which takes cries for self-determination and self-governance seriously at a time when infringements on political, legal, and bodily autonomy seem omnipresent. Autonomies proposes that autonomy exists in the plural, not as an expression of individualism but as collective resistance against discrimination. The series highlights contemporary social movements, amplifies voices outside of the academy, and realizes spaces for action.
The first annual theme of Autonomies is “Reproductive Justice.” With it, we hope to offer students a forum for thinking through agency in the present, after the rollback of abortion rights and other policies that marginalize people for the fact of their bodies and choices. It asks: "What would justice look and feel like in the reproductive field?"
Nicholas Dunn also joined us as the new Klemens von Klemperer Post-Doctoral Fellow. Nicholas teaches courses in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Studies and for the Bard Prison Initiative. His primary research is on Immanuel Kant, with a focus on metaphysics of mind, ethics, and aesthetics. In March, Nicholas will produce and organize a Symposium on Judgment, Pluralism, and Democracy that explores the ways that the problematization of free speech is connected to a deeper loss of judgment. Instead of a polarized discussion about ‘free speech,” we ask about the desirability of talking to others in a pluralist democracy.
We are also pleased to announce the appointment of Thomas Chatterton Williams as a HAC Senior Fellow and Visiting Professor of Humanities. Williams will begin teaching at Bard in Spring 2023.
The Hannah Arendt Humanities Network (HAHN), established to nurture humanities projects across the OSUN Network, continues to thrive. Uday Mehta was named the 2023 Yehuda Elkana Fellow, and his book A Different Vision: Gandhi’s Critique of Political Rationality was the topic of a manuscript workshop at the Central European University in Vienna. In May, our Sortition Working Group hosted a conference on participatory innovations in Serbia. In June we held our second annual Text Seminar with 15 OSUN scholars joining to read Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition and her German version of the book Vita Activa. In August we partnered with the Alpine Fellowship to run a Forum on Freedom. Finally, we held our first two Ideas Forums on Why Antisemitism Now? (in New York in August) and Nationalism Around the World (September in Taiwan).
In February, we will co-host another Plurality Forum (see a video mini-doc here) with the Mercatus Center, this time focused on healthcare policy.
In honor of former Bard Classics Professor and Arendt Center friend Bill Mullen, we have founded the Bill Mullen Recitation Prize, awarded annually in competition amongst Bard College and Bard Early College Cleveland students. The recitation prize encourages the love of poetry and the joy in oral recitation, alongside the committing to memory of great poetry, the love of public speaking, and the agonal spirit, all of which are at the heart of how we remember Bill Mullen’s intellectual legacy. The next contest will take place on March 10th.
Your donations help us hire our amazing team of fellows, who keep the Arendt center buzzing with ideas and initiatives. They are Sage Saccomanno and Mike Parme [Center Fellows] Yizhen Dai and Maggie Hough [Courage to Be Fellows], Nick Franceschi and Sarah Scott [Autonomies Fellows], Georgi Valero, and Barak Fellner-Dublin [Media Fellow] and David Taylor-Demeter and Elisa Littin [Democracy Fellows]. Read our students’ bios & learn more about them here.
We can’t do it without you!
A large part of our annual budget, including our annual journal and 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 2023!
Founder and Academic Director
Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College