Democracy & Diversity Graduate Summer Institute, 6-22 July 2017, Wrocław, Poland

Publish Date: Apr 18, 2017

Deadline: Apr 24, 2017

Democracy Under Siege – An Effort in Understanding

The Democracy & Diversity Institute, organized annually by the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS), is widely admired as an intimate international forum for lively but rigorous debate on critical issues of democratic life, offering an interdisciplinary, comparative, and highly interactive approach to the social, political, and cultural challenges facing today’s world.

Given the combination of an amazingly diverse student body from all over the region and beyond, the dedicated New School faculty, a challenging curriculum, and a setting conducive to both debate and esprit de corps,– but also unsettling reminders of the last century’s darkest hours (and the graphic presence of the current crisis) – the Institute has invariably become a transformative experience personally, intellectually, and professionally.

Located between Berlin, Prague, and Warsaw, and saturated with the history and memory of these three distinct cultures, Wrocław (formerly Breslau), is a beautiful and booming city that uniquely conveys both the challenges and the promise of a united Europe. Drawing on Wrocław’s culture of the borderland, TCDS’s network of distinguished and dedicated collaborators and alumni, and The New School’s reputation stemming from our long-term engagement in the region, the Democracy & Diversity Institute offers a rigorous program of critical inquiry on some of the most pressing problems of our time.

In response to the new and disturbing political environment everywhere, we have chosen to make the theme of summer’s program Democracy Under Siege – an Effort in Understanding, and we will consider the nature of “events” as they produce ruptures in history, identity, institutions, and social relationships; the predicament of democracy as seen from the global south; media and its role in facilitating a new authoritarian politics; as well as nationalism and populism and their threat to democratic practice.  The program will be complemented by several study tours of Wrocław’s political, cultural and historical landmarks as well as evening events featuring major intellectuals and artists from the region.  The program will conclude with an event hosted by the NSSR–Europe Collective of former alumni, presenting the third annual Courage in Public Scholarship Award. 


New School students register for 2 courses and receive 6 credits. Other participants will receiveInstitute certificates. All participants select 2 out of the following 3 graduate-level seminars:


What is an Event?

Prof. Robin Wagner-Pacifici, University in Exile Professor of Sociology, The New School for Social Research

Events are central to the way that individuals and societies experience life. The course, What is an Event? explores the complex set of experiences of events as they produce ruptures in history, identity, institutions, and social relationships. We will read extant theories of the event, theories that focus on micro and macro events including birth and death, political elections, revolutions and wars. We will analyze the ways that events emerge, take shape, gain momentum, flow forward, and sometimes get bogged down. And we will consider ways to resist, redirect, or overcome events that threaten democracy and freedom. 

Anti-, Post- and De-colonial: Re-thinking Democracy’s Predicaments from the Global South

Prof. Shireen Hassim, WiSER/Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

Read from the south, the crises of rights, social protection and institutional certainties experienced by established democracies appear as everyday familiars. This course engages with the provocation of Jean and John Comaroff that the north is increasingly resembling the south. We will think through some of the fundamental questions facing us: what does it mean to be human in a world in which so many, refugees, the poor, are considered surplus whether to the logic of the market or to the logic of nation? Can the very idea of politics be rescued from the tendencies of late capitalism to depoliticize key decisions? And if so, what kind of politics would be adequate to the task of redefining community and mutuality in a world in which racism, sexism and elitism appear to be strengthening, not abating? We will consider the return of affective politics, the significance of radical, disruptive politics, and new modes of transnational political solidarities.

Media, the New Authoritarianism, and Its Opposition

Prof. Jeffery Goldfarb, Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology, The New School for Social Research

In this course, we will explore the development of a new form of authoritarianism, observable in many different places, but all appearing at the same time, the early years of the Twenty First Century. We will consider the economic, political, cultural and social supports and dimensions of the new authoritarianism, but focus on the way the contemporary media regime facilitates the new authoritarianism, as it also provides the grounds for the opposition to the authorities. Hannah Arendt will be used as a guide for considering the new authoritarianism, and its relationship to the political challenges of globalization, so called neo-liberalism and perceived clashes of civilizations. We will study Arendt’s accounts of modern tyranny and barbarism, and their alternatives, and apply them to understanding postmodern tyranny and barbarism, and their alternatives. We will consider how the media of the twentieth century, the centralizing mass media of radio and television, were knitted into the fabric of the major political formations of those times, and compare and contrast that to the way the politics of our times are constituted through contemporary media: cable television, talk radio, social media, and online publishing. 

We the People: Nationalism, Populism, and the Precariousness of the Democratic Project

Prof. Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies, The New School for Social Research

Democracy – a major political imaginary in the last two centuries — has lost its aspirational role, and seems to be in retreat everywhere. What are the social factors and political forces that have facilitated the emergence of a striking phenomenon: a transition FROM democracy? Trying to understand the appeal of an illiberal order and a retreat from the intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment, this seminar explores recent attempts by two competing forces to recast the democratic promise: nationalism and populism, both of which — in their varied historical and modern expressions – speak as we the people.

While examining the plurality of concepts and forms of nationalism and populism, we will discuss a new fusion of ethno-nationalism, xenophobia, and ultra-populism that plants fear, distrust and does not shy away from violence. But we will also look at instances of the kind of inclusive social engagement — critical to any democracy — in which the key identity of its actors is that of citizens enacting democratic practices, in which the good of society as a whole is what’s at stake. Our discussions will consider material from a variety of sources and examine cases from different parts of the world, including Europe and the United States. 


The Institute participants will be housed in the ‘Brownstone Under the Angels’ Residence located adjacent to the historical city center. 


Graduate applicants: Applicants should have completed their undergraduate studies by the time of the Institute and should be either enrolled in a postgraduate degree program or working as junior university teachers or researchers. Preference will be given to those applicants who can demonstrate active involvement in civil society and civic life.

Advanced undergraduate applicants: Applicants must be enrolled as juniors or seniors. Preference will be given to those applicants who, while academically inclined, can demonstrate an active interest in civic life.


~Participants from The New School:

Tuition: Tuition for applicants from The New School is based on the tuition they pay at their respective home divisions. New School financial aid is applicable. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information. 

Program Fee: The program fee of $2,000 covers participants’ room and partial board (breakfast and lunch) for the duration of the Institute, as well as the cultural program of lectures, tours, opening and closing receptions, etc. Travel costs are not included. Successful applicants can apply for support in their respective divisions. New School for Social Research (NSSR) students may apply directly to TCDS for support in covering the program fee.  We encourage all applicants to look for outside funding sources. 

~Participants from other institutions in the US and abroad:

Program Fee: The program fee of the 2016 Graduate Summer Institute for non-New School students is $2,000, covering tuition (non-credit), room and partial board (breakfast and lunch), and the cultural program of lectures, tours, opening and closing receptions, etc. Travel costs are not included. We strongly encourage all applicants to look for funding sources from their home institutions and local organizations. 


Application form is available on the TCDS Web site.

~All Applicants from The New School need to submit:

Completed application form ● CV or resume ● Application essay (approx. 500 words describing how the Institute would complement one’s academic experience to date and enhance educational and professional goals for the future) ● New School academic transcript (unofficial) 

~All other Applicants need to submit:

Completed application form ● CV or resume ● Application essay in English (approx. 500 words describing how the Institute would complement one’s academic experience to date and enhance educational and professional goals for the future) ● One letter of recommendation sent from the e-mail address belonging to its author or as an attachment to the application letter if scanned ● TOEFL or other evidence of substantial English language skills is required if coming from a non-English speaking country ●Applicants affiliated with an NGO or a civic organization should also include a brief description of the nature of the work undertaken by their organization.

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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