Recognizing that democracy is not inevitable, and that its future is far from certain – the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) is dedicated to an interdisciplinary examination of democratic theory and practice, with the principle of open, rational, public debate by citizens at its core. As a commitment to dialogue has been at the very heart of all our projects, we keep an eye on the vibrancy of the public square as an indispensable incubator and maintainer of democracy, but also as a site that is vulnerable to erosion by the politics of distrust, nativism, resentment, and exclusion.
Inspired by the peaceful dismantling of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, and building upon our earlier semi-clandestine collaboration with democratically minded intellectuals in that part of the world, TCDS launched its first project, the East and Central Europe Program, in January 1990. With the ensuing spread of democratic aspirations and transformations around the globe, TCDS’s integrated set of activities has drawn upon the concept of the “region”, rather than the “nation-state”, as a promising perspective from which to illuminate the relationships between local aspirations and global developments. Given the role of social science, the arts, and humanities in bridging an increasingly fractured world, TCDS works with a new breed of practice-oriented scholars to critically re-think the sources and processes of both the enacting and — more recently – the dismantling of democratic projects.
TCDS’s transregional and cross-departmental research and study programs, conducted both at home and abroad, bring together civic-minded students, junior and senior scholars, and civil society actors from various regional contexts. Our activities — region-based institutes, workshops, conferences, talks, and fellowships — are designed to further strengthen social and human capital, i.e., individuals and organizations concerned with the promise and sustainability of democracy. Our flagship projects have been the annual Democracy & Diversity Graduate Summer Institutes (held in Poland since 1991 and also in South Africa from 1999 to 2015), aimed at a rigorous quest for a more textured understanding of the precariousness of democracy as it arises almost everywhere.
TCDS programs have generated over 1700 alumni from both The New School and more than 50 countries around the world. Our NSSR-Europe Collective is a tight and growing network of scholars and activists launched by a group of European alumni of NSSR/TCDS now living and working in Europe, many of whom hold important positions in academia, government, and non-governmental organizations.