Transregional Center for Democratic Studies

29th Democracy & Diversity Graduate Summer Institute

This year ONLINE
July 6-20, 2021

Reinventing Our Future

We are very pleased to announce that the 29th annual Democracy & Diversity Summer Institute, organized annually by the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies of the New School for Social Research, will take place this year from July 6th to July 20th

Conducted for three decades in Krakow, Cape Town, Wroclaw and Johannesburg, this year’s Institute will “take place” as a borderless, transregional online site providing a forum for forward-looking debate on unprecedented challenges that now threaten our lives wherever we live. The central theme of the Institute is Reinventing Our Future. The opening address will be delivered by the 2019 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Olga Tokarczuk of Wroclaw. 

This summer we offer three intensive graduate seminars, which — along with distinguished guests’ talks, evening conversations, and micro-events — are designed to explore issues of social justice and the widespread dismantling of democracy and to illuminate the emergence of new social actors. Each interdisciplinary, comparative, and interactive course offers the equivalent of semester-length credits at the New School for Social Research. As with our regular on-site, in-person Institutes, even under this year’s exceptional circumstances we intend above all to create a community of civic-minded junior scholars that will be sustained well after the completion of the institute itself as part of a growing and thriving transregional network. 

We very much hope that you will be able to join us.


New School students register for maximum 2 courses and receive 6 credits. Other participants will receive Institute certificates listing the courses, and number of contact hoursAll participants select maximum 2 out of the following 3 graduate-level seminars:

Ann Snitow Memorial Seminar: Affective Fictions: Gender Ideology and Racial Fragility in Contemporary Politics

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 courses – along with critical theory and queer studies – are being starved of funding or dismantled altogether. Governments are recriminalizing non-normative sexualities, redefining citizenship and reinventing authenticity. Austerity programs reinstate the traditional nuclear family as the basis of policy making. Anti-feminist/ anti-queer ideologies are centred on narratives of fear. Equality and hospitality (particularly towards migrants) are reframed as socially destructive, with white men being foregrounded as the victims. Right wing narratives weave into their politics the defense of family, the nation and ultimately the reproduction of the white race itself. This robust, even aggressive, set of ideas creates public discourses that work to cohere social groupings around reconstituted nationalism. In defense of a ‘way of life,’ a coded framing of white privilege, new languages of entitlements are emerging against liberal and left movements. This course addresses the fictions that attend to this new politics, rooted in fear and loss, and with powerful material effects. We will consider the ways in which racism is woven into the founding myths of nations in Europe and North America, as well as some postcolonial countries. We will ask whether feminism itself is complicit in foregrounding the concerns of white women at the expense of people of colour, and the affective languages that are imbricated in dominant forms of feminism. We will think through the kinds of affective and political strategies that might weave together different types of democratic and radical demands.

*** This course will count towards the requirements of the New School Gender Studies Minor and the Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies.

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

Elzbieta Matynia – Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies, The New School for Social Research (NSSR)

What has become of that revolutionary imaginary so deeply implicated in the run-up to the fall of the WALL, which itself became such an inflection point for the whole world in 1989? After all, it had promised comprehensive systemic change without bloodshed, becoming a site of tangible hope wherever unfreedom, political violence, and social injustice still reigned. So what are the causes of today’s democratic backsliding?  Wouldn’t an exploration of shifting social imaginaries — those collective interpretive frameworks — help us make sense of the political and the social today? Hasn’t the chilling experience of global pandemic generated the space for a radical shift in our thinking about our futures, wherever we live? 

This forward-looking seminar is organized around a set of discussions addressing the factors that make it possible for hope to take root in the first place; those that can then facilitate both unprecedented setbacks to democracy and a growing appeal of its regressive alternatives; as well as those factors that now sustain the promise of a reclaiming of democracy while addressing the issues of social justice. 

Accordingly, we shall examine the emergence of an infrastructure of public hope (e.g., the Solidarity movement, Black Lives Matter) and its impact on the performativity of democratic politics. We shall discuss factors that led to the erecting of new walls and divisions through the instrumentalization of public memory, history, and the appeal of 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 include Cornelius Castoriadis, CharlesTaylor, Hannah Arendt, Karl Marx, Thomas Mann, Paul Ricoeur, J. L. Borges, Vaclav Havel, Etienne Balibar, Eugene Ionesco, Jan Patocka, Deva Woodley, and Olga Tokarczuk.

Democracy and Social Justice: Explorations in Public Sociology

Jeffrey C. Goldfarb– Professor of Sociology, The New School for Social Research (NSSR)

In this seminar, we will explore the complex relationships between democracy and social justice in the shadows of the Covid 19 pandemic. Our deliberations will be guided by explorations of a distinctive form of public sociology as it has been practiced in “The Democracy Seminar,” a special project of the New School for Social Research, formed in 1985 and recently revived in response to the ascendance of new authoritarian threats. 

The original Democracy Seminar was initiated with a reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism in clandestine meetings in Central Europe and open meetings in New York. In this course, we will also start with another Arendt classic, her On Revolution, and related essays, in which she maintains that there is a fundamental tension between the pursuit of social justice and the constitution of a democratic polity. Her position, and our critical examination of it, will then be applied to consider such urgent challenges as the new authoritarianisms, sexism and gender inequality, new media regimes and practices, market and religious fundamentalisms, and societal polarization.

The seminar has two distinct, but related, goals: studying the relationships between democracy and social justice, as they are experienced today, and examining and contributing to the public sociology of the Democracy Seminar. We will both draw upon the history and ongoing work of this seminar, and in our discussions and class papers, seek to contribute to its ongoing activities. 

Please read the FULL PROGRAM DESCRIPTION before filling the APPLICATION FORM.


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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