Transregional Center for Democratic Studies

Applications for the 2020 DEMOCRACY & DIVERSITY INSTITUTE are now open!

29th Democracy & Diversity Graduate Summer Institute

Wrocław [Vrots-love], Poland, July 2-18, 2020

Reimagining Our Future

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

Given the combination of a diverse student body from various parts of the world, a dedicated faculty, a challenging curriculum, and a setting conducive to debate on both the past and the future, the Institute offers an intellectually, professionally, and personally transformative experience.

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 collaborators and alumni, and The New School’s reputation stemming from our long-term engagement in the region, the Democracy & Diversity Institute offers a program of critical inquiry on some of the most pressing problems of our time.

The program will be complemented by study tours of Lower Silesia’s political, cultural, and historical landmarks as well as evening gatherings featuring intellectuals and artists from the region. This year the Institute will conclude with a special two-day Democracy Seminar symposium attended by senior intellectuals from the region.

Our focus this year is on the need — and the opportunities – for Reimagining Our Future.


New School students register for 2 courses and receive 6 credits. Other participants will receive Institute certificatesAll participants select 2 out of the following 4 graduate-level seminars:

Ann Snitow Memorial Seminar: Feminism Beyond Nation

Shireen Hassim – Chair in Gender and African Politics, Carleton University, Ottawa

We live in (yet another) age of backlash against feminism’s victories: reproductive rights have been rolled back, global alliances have been formed to attack sexual rights and reinstate religiosity, and gender studies programs are being starved of funding or dismantled altogether.

In what ways might feminism matter in the 21st century? With the rise of nationalist right-wing movements that has once again pitched feminists against state and nation, this course proceeds from two key interventions by feminist scholars -Ann Snitow and Silvia Federici -which figure hope and uncertainty as ethical and affective choices.

Drawing on Federici, who emphasizes co-operation and responsibility against the closures of nationalism, we will consider ‘islands of hope’ in unexpected places. From Snitow, we will take seriously the insight that feminism must embrace uncertainty if it is to have a future.

How might feminism escape its own internal tensions, and move beyond its complicities with the democratic impasse? Can feminism reinvent itself without the gender binary? How is the relationship between labour and care being reconstituted in the current phase of capitalism? What are the relationships between bodily forms and gender identities? How is the idea of home and nation being reconstituted by the right, and what might a feminist response look like? Can the idea of equality encompass sexual freedom? What kinds of projects, relevant to the present, can mobilize the people as the makers of the future

The Politics of Resistance
and the Issues of Democratic Citizenship

 Jeffrey C. Isaac – Professor of Political Science, Indiana University

A specter is haunting Europe and the United States: the ascendancy of right-wing populist political leaders, movements, and parties that are explicitly hostile to liberalism, claim to act in “defense of the nation” against enemies foreign and domestic, and sometimes claim to institute a new and more authentic form of “illiberal democracy.”

This seminar will center on three interrelated questions: (1) what are the responsibilities of democratic citizenship under such circumstances? (2) how should we understand, evaluate, and judge practices of dissent and civil resistance under such circumstances? (3) how should we understand the relationship between protest and dissent, on the one hand, and more “normal” forms of electoral politics on the other?

This seminar intends to generate ethical-political discussion about contemporary events and challenges that confront us as scholars, intellectuals, and citizens of the world.

Authors that we will discuss include John Rawls, Jurgen Habermas, Albert Camus, Martin Luther King., Jr., Hannah Arendt, and Judith Butler.

The Power of Social Imaginaries: Making Sense of the Political Today

Elzbieta Matynia – Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies, NSSR

What has happened to that revolutionary imaginary that emerged in 1989, the one that promised comprehensive systemic change without bloodshed, and became a site of tangible hope wherever unfreedom and political violence still reigned? Are today’s reversals of democracy a necessary outcome of the alienation caused by today’s representative mode of democracy that relies on experts, incumbents, and money? Would not an exploration of shifting social imaginaries — those collective interpretive frameworks — help us make sense of the political and the social today?

This forward-looking seminar is organized around three sets of discussions, which examine the factors that made it possible for hope to take root in the first place; those that have facilitated both the unprecedented setbacks to democracy and the growing appeal of its alternatives; and those factors that sustain the promise of a reclaiming of democracy. We will examine the emergence of an infrastructure of public hope and its association with the performativity of democratic politics; we will discuss factors that led to the gradual dismantling of a shared narrative, such as the instrumentalization of public memory, history, and imagi-nation; and finally, we shall focus on the notion of the public square, and explore the possibilities for a renewal of the political.

The readings will include Cornelius Castoriadis, CharlesTaylor, Hannah Arendt, Thomas Mann, Paul Ricoeur, Vaclav Havel, Chantal Mouffe, Judith Butler, Jacques Ranciere, Adam Michnik, Bernard Crick, Achille Mbembe, and Olga Tokarczuk.

Rethinking Utopia

Dmitri Nikulin– Professor of Philosophy, NSSR

In this course, we will discuss the possibility of rethinking utopia within the context of contemporary philosophy, politics and art. As such, utopia will be compared and contrasted to dystopia, which becomes prevalent in modern thinking and action. The readings will include classical writings on utopia by Bacon, More and Campanella, as well as those by contemporary thinkers, such as Agnes Heller and Rainer Forst. We will also trace the treatment of utopia and dystopia in literature (in Zamyatin, Ursula Le Guinn and N.K. Jemisin) and film.


Please email us your initial expression of interest (an email will suffice) by latest March 15th at

For all New School applicants, complete applications are due March 30, 2020.

For all other applicants, complete applications are due April 6, 2020.

See the full PROGRAM INFO and start your APPLICATION FORM.

For more information, please see the full program description or contact us by e-mail at or by phone at 212 229-5100 ext. 3136.

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