Democracy & Diversity Summer Institute: The World in Crisis—Responses and Illuminations

 

Democracy & Diversity participants during introductions at the opening reception. Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel.

Located between Berlin, Prague, and Warsaw, and saturated with the history and memory of these three distinct cultures, Wrocław, Poland was the site of The New School’s 21st Annual Democracy & Diversity Summer Institute, offered by the university’s Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS). This year’s program unfolded around the theme “The World in Crisis—Responses and Illuminations” and considered the newest generation of social movements, the meaning of ‘the event’, the politics of public memory, and the promise and vulnerability of cosmopolitanism. The combination of remarkable students, dedicated New School faculty, challenging curriculum, and the magic of old Wroclaw, getting ready to be  the 2016 Cultural Capital of Europe, all contributed to make this a pivotal experience for all involved.

This year’s cohort of young scholars came from The New School as well as from universities in Europe and beyond, representing 14 countries (USA, India, Brazil, Israel, Poland, Iran, Germany, Greece, France, Romania, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic).

“The Institute provided students with highly professional classes, but at the same time it was a space for critical thinking,” said Oleg, a student from Russia, noting that the Institute boasted an “internal democracy that set it apart from many academic summer schools.”

Consisting of a rigorous program of critical inquiry, this year’s TCDS session featured four seminars conducted by New School faculty Robin Wagner Pacifici, professor of Sociology; Andreas Kalyvas, associate professor of Political Science; Jeffrey Goldfarb, the Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology; and Elzbieta Matynia, associate professor of Liberal Studies and Sociology as well as TCDS director.

Democracy & Diversity participants in discussion with the U.S. Ambassador Lee A. Feinstein, The New School President, David E. Van Zandt, and Elzbieta Matynia, Director of The New School’s Transregional Center for Democratic Studies.

The program also offered a gender studies workshop run by New School’s Ann Snitow, associate professor of Literature and Gender Studies, as well as evening meetings with global political and cultural experts, study tours, and artistic events. Guests speakers of this year’s Institute included Wanda Nowicka, feminist and the deputy speaker of the Polish Parliament, Lee Feinstein, the American ambassador to Poland, Krzysztof Czyzewski, the artistic director of “Wroclaw Cultural Capital of Europe”, and New School president David Van Zandt.

Crediting the program as a whole with giving her insight to her doctoral work, Polish student Kasia  highlighted  “contact with professors and students. The multiculturalism ever present in our discussions provoked new ideas and helped me to understand better what is happening now in the world, at the core of the new social movements.”

The Institute was designed and organized by the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) at The New School for Social Research, that conducts cross-departmental programs for research and graduate or advanced undergraduate study, in the quest for a better understanding of the larger world we live in. Students interested in its upcoming January 2013 Institute in Johannesburg, are invited to attend an Open House on September 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the Wolff Conference Room, 6 East 16th Street, room 1103.