From July 8-24, the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies conducted its 20th Democracy & Diversity Institute in the vibrant city of Wroclaw, Poland, formerly Breslau. Centered on the theme The World in Crisis: A Critical Reading, the 2011 institute brought together 31 advanced graduate students and professionals from the New School and around the world for an intensive study of issues related to political violence, the salient role of new media, the contestation of gender, and the ethnicization of politics. For the third year, Wroclaw proved to be an excellent backdrop for the study of such issues with its rich, multicultural background and complex historical legacy ‘ German, Czech, Austrian, Polish, Jewish ‘ and its currently dynamic position in Poland and the European Union.
The institute’s four seminar courses were taught by the New School’s diverse faculty members Jeffrey Goldfarb, Ann Snitow, Sharika Thiranagama, and Elzbieta Matynia, and Professor Daniel Dayan from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris. Students also attended an evening session with Polish- American historian and sociologist Jan Gross, who spoke about his upcoming book, Golden Harvest. One of the high points was a special evening at the Falanster Bookstore/ attending Daniel Goode’s concert, surrounded by great books and a friendly atmosphere in the heart of Wroclaw.
A sequence of study tours of the city of Wroclaw included the landmark modernist structure Centennial Hall, the Raclawice Battle Panorama, and Tadeusz Tchorzenwski’s Katyn memorial, as well as a tour of the region of Lower Silesia, with its famous UNESCO Church of Peace in Swidnica, and the Gross Rosen concentration camp. Extracurricular activities were almost as dense as the academic components of the program, with visits to the old Jewish quarter of Wroclaw, today a trendy neighborhood of restaurants and cafes and exploration of Wroclaw’s museums, arts festivals, and numerous other cultural attractions. The final evening of the institute was enhanced by a Polonaise dance lesson and a violin concert offered by one of the Institute participants Andrey, from Russia.