Building on the interdisciplinary tradition of the New School for Social Research, the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) creates and conducts cross-departmental programs aimed at addressing special needs and opportunities for research and graduate or advanced undergraduate study that can help in the quest for a better understanding of the larger world we live in. Our programs (public events, workshops, conferences and summer Institutes conducted at home and abroad) facilitate study, research and debates on the challenges of democracy and democratization and the related issues of development, citizenship, and intercultural conversation in a globalized world.
We cultivate research on the increasingly globalized public sphere and the emergence of autonomous publics, and nurture a new kind of citizen-researcher concerned with the ways in which society, embedded in a specific cultural and historical context, pursues a debate on — and seeks solutions to — problems that we all share in common. By creating a vibrant and durable transregional community of students and faculty for mutual learning and the sharing of intellectual, social, and cultural experiences, we believe that we help to shorten distances between geographically or culturally distinct regions.
While linking regions in order to enable a deeper and more textured understanding of the issues that divide the contemporary world, TCDS’s programs are also aimed at building bridges between academic research and the “real” world of democratic practice, where policies and local strategies are designed and civic innovation comes to life. For this reason, the Center invites partners and collaborators who are scholars actively involved in public life and in efforts to strengthen civil society. We expect that the students drawn into our programs, a smart combination of graduates and undergraduates from the New School and the regions, will demonstrate a similar commitment to both academia and civic life in their respective societies.
TCDS activities currently provide a solid link between the New School campus in New York and two regions of the world: Eastern Europe and the Southern Africa, both sites of ongoing democratic transformations — and in the case of Eastern Europe, reintegration into the European Union project — but also sites that reveal the vulnerability of democracy to illiberal solutions and even violence. Our TCDS work abroad, continually building upon almost two decades of scholarly contacts, academic partnerships, and collaborative projects, attracts students from these regions to the New School, and further diversifies the distinguished alumni base of the university.
Our flagship programs are the region-based Democracy & Diversity Institutes held annually in two extraordinary settings: Johannesburg, South Africa (January) and Wroclaw, Poland (July). The Institutes are intensive three-week programs of study, where up to 40 young civic-minded scholars engage through discussion and debate in a rigorous quest for a deeper and more textured understanding of the challenges to democracy in the contemporary world. Half of the participants come from the New School, and another half from the host region. Upon fulfilling the Institute’s requirements, New School students receive credits for the two seminars they select from four courses offered and the participants from the region receive Institute certificates.