Transregional Center for Democratic Studies


30th Democracy & Diversity Graduate Summer Institute


July 5-20, 2023


Climate Violence/Climate Justice

Alex Aleinikoff, University Professor and Director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School

Alice Crary, University Distinguished Professor, Philosophy, Liberal Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies, The New School for Social Research

Climate justice is an urgent demand given the disproportionate impacts of climate change and other forms of human-caused environmental degradation on people and places least responsible for causing the problem, in particular poor, racialized, and Indigenous communities. This course is about why appropriate responses to the unfolding global environmental crisis must be approached through the lens of climate justice and conceived as part of the struggle against climate violence. We start by exploring the work of scholars and activists who describe historical and structural ties between the modern emergence of capitalist social forms, for which racism and the oppression of women are foundational, and the devastation of more-than-human nature. These thinkers enable us to see crucial connections between the anthropogenic destruction of the natural world and a range of social, racial, and gender-based justice issues. We then focus our study of the theory and practice of climate justice on two important areas. First, we turn to biodiversity loss and harms to non-human animals as aspects of environmental cataclysm, discussing how justice for animals is only adequately conceived, and can only be pursued, in solidarity with justice for marginalized human groups. Second, we study the impact of the climate crisis on human mobility and immobility. Typically these issues are examined from the perspective of states seeking to avert and manage climate-induced displacement. Considering them from a justice perspective grounds us in a human rights approach and puts in play notions of accountability and reparations that are usually excluded from policy discussions.

Racecraft: Debates from Africa

Shireen Hassim, Canada150 Research Chair in Gender and African Politics, Carleton University, Ottawa

What is ‘race’ and how does racism shape the modern world? How do race, gender and sexuality interact with each other in producing social and economic hierarchies? Drawing on the argument of Barbara Fields and Karen Fields that race is produced by practices of racism, rather than an effect of the existence of racial difference, this course traces the ways in race is crafted. Thinking about ‘racecraft’ rather than ‘race’ enables us to make visible the historical processes that underpin race thinking, and thereby to make the concepts available for critique. The course begins from debates in (and about) Africa, rather than from the diaspora. Although African debates and diasporic debates intersect and shape each other, this course centres the vibrant intellectual and political work that accompanied some of the most profound challenges to colonialism and white supremacy. By examining contexts where blackness is the condition of the majority, and where challenges to white power are embedded in radical utopian imaginations of freedom, self-sufficiency  and sovereignty, we might rethink the relationships between race and democracy.

American Democracy on Knife’s Edge?

Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington

On January 6, 2021, a violent insurrection, seeking to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, took place at the U.S. Capitol. A special House January 6 Committee spent over a year investigating this insurrection and documenting the role of then-President Donald Trump and those closest to him in promoting and inciting it. Meanwhile Trump has continued to promote the false claim that the election was “stolen”—a claim that many journalists and pundits across the political spectrum now call “The Big Lie.” This claim plays an important role in Trump’s announced campaign for the presidency in 2024. Believed by many millions of Trump’s supporters, it continues to justify Republican-enacted voter restrictions, and threatens democratic legitimacy itself. 

This 12-session seminar will center on the relevance of “January 6”—the events of that day and what they symbolize– for thinking about the history and the future of American democracy. Behind it lie bigger and deeper questions about the genealogy of “democracy” and its contested meanings; the overall trajectory and meanings of “American history”; and even the nature of “neoliberalism,” “surveillance capitalism,” “modernity” and “postmodernity.” These deeper questions of social and political theory intersect with the work of each student in a different way. But while they must feature in any “complete” account of the current state of American democracy, together they can be regarded as the “subtext” rather than the “text” of the seminar. While focused on the American case, the seminar will have a strong comparative dimension, and the issues raised are of clear relevance to a wide range of cases—from Poland and Hungary to Turkey and India, and from South Africa to Brazil—where authoritarian leaders, movements, and parties threaten the institutions of liberal democracy.

Romancing Violence: Theories and Practices of Political Violence

Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies, The School for Social Research

It was only three decades ago that the world witnessed measurable success in the creation of both a political culture and political mechanisms that brought about a peaceful dismantling of military dictators and oppressive regime. So, how is it that the original sin of politics, namely the use of force and violence, seems to be enjoying a spectacular rebound? How to read the newly bourgeoning sources, forms, and targets of violence? To what extent are all of these transforming the world as we know it ? Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is only the most egregious example, and for us in Wroclaw comes closest to home.

While exploring classical propositions concerning the role of violence in bringing about social and political change – from Marx, through Weber, Lenin, Gramsci, Arendt, and Benjamin, to more recent thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida, Butler, Zizek, and Michnik – we will look at different types of political violence and its specific instances, and revisit Arendt’s well-known distinction between the justifiability and the legitimacy of violence.

Conscious of the traditional forms of political violence – wars, revolutions, and armed-struggle movements – we will pay attention to the forms and consequences of structural violence, and examine the forms of cultural and symbolic violence that routinely serve to legitimize violence. Using historical, but also hermeneutical and phenomenological approaches, we will explore ideas, practices, and events generated in different parts of the world, with an emphasis on Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Southern Africa.


The New School for Social Research
6 East 16th St., Rm 921, NY, NY 10003
212-229-5100 ext. 3136

Elzbieta Matynia, Director
212-229-5580 ext. 3137

Lala Pop, Program Manager,
PhD Student, Politics
212-229-5100 ext. 3136

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