WR18 Full Program Information

27th Democracy & Diversity Graduate Summer Institute

Wrocław [Vrots-love], Poland

July 6-22, 2018


Shifting Ground: The Politics of Fiction & Reality Today

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

Given the combination of an amazingly diverse student body from all over the region and beyond, the dedicated New School faculty, a challenging curriculum, and a setting conducive to both debate and esprit de corps,– but also unsettling reminders of the last century’s darkest hours (and the graphic presence of the current crisis) – the Institute has invariably become a transformative experience personally, intellectually, and professionally.

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

In response to the new, disturbing, and often unpredictable political environment everywhere, we have chosen to make the theme of summer’s program Shifting Ground: The Politics of Fiction & Reality Today.

This year’s courses will highlight the following important questions:

  • What are the reasons behind the absence of tragedy, as a form of art and as literary genre, in our otherwise catastrophic times?  (The Time is Out of Joint, Agnes Heller, Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, author of A Theory of Modernity)


  • What has been the role of the global digital sphere — and especially social media, with its mixture of aspirational and cynical politics – in the crisis of democracy today?  (Politics of Social Media, Claire Potter, Professor of Historical Studies, Executive Editor of Public Seminar, author and co-editor of  Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back)


  • What lessons can we can learn for today from Vaclav Havel’s “mentor,” the brilliant Czech philosopher and dissident Jan Patocka, who agitated for the renewal of the European project in the wake of the multiple catastrophes of the twentieth century? (Europe is Dead,” James Dodd, Professor of Philosophy, author of Violence and Phenomenology)


  • What are the social factors and political forces that have facilitated the emergence of a strikingly widening phenomenon: a transition FROM democracy? What are the sources of the appeal of an illiberal order and a retreat from the intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment?  (We the People, Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies, director of TCDS, author of Performative Democracy and An Uncanny Era)


The program will be complemented by several study tours of Wrocław’s political, cultural and historical landmarks as well as evening events featuring major intellectuals and artists from the region.  The program will conclude with an event hosted by the NSSR–Europe Collective of former alumni, presenting the fourth annual Courage in Public Scholarship Award.



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


The Time is out of Joint: Tragedy and its Absence in Our Comic/Catastrophic Times

 Agnes Heller – Professor Emerita of Philosophy, NSSR

We will explore tragedy as a literary genre that presents clashes between two opposite value systems and systems of beliefs, carried on by two protagonists. Initially the content of tragedy was provided by mythology, and then it was history that provided its substance. We will ask the question: Why have modern class societies not “produced” tragedies, but comedies, with the exception of those that focus on clashes between cultures, and between genders? Why was it the absurd drama that replaced comedy? Why is it that mass society has not produced its own representative drama? In the seminar we will discuss 5 major theories of tragedy and tragic theater as generated by different socio-historical epochs. We will read dramas, including at least one play of the theater of absurd, e.g Waiting for Godot. 



“Europe is dead,” Philosophy, History, and Politics in the Thought of Jan Patocka

 James Dodd – Professor of Philosophy, NSSR

This seminar will consider the sources, motivations, and influence of the philosophy of history of the Czech philosopher Jan Patocka. Particular attention will be paid to his conception of Europe, his reaction to the Cold War, and—above all—possible lessons we might draw from his thought for today. Close readings of Heretical Essays, Plato and Europe, as well as other essays spanning Patocka’s intellectual career.


Democratic Crisis and the Politics of Social Media

Claire Potter – Professor of Historical Studies, NSSR

This course seeks to understand the recent history of democratic crisis by examining the rise of a global digital public sphere. In the past three decades, the politics of social media have been both aspirational and cynical. While increased communication within and across national borders, as well as the possibility of instant translation, can inspire global democratic organizing, digital communication has also fueled authoritarian and anti-democratic coalition building. The benefits of social media are not abstract: it fuels resistance movements; supports access to privileged information, local journalism, and fact checking; and powers networks that guide refugees and immigrants fleeing state violence. Yet the same apps and digital tools have also fueled the rise of nationalism, authoritarianism, surveillance and global terror. Using Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983) as a provocation, we will chart the similarities and differences between social media and its non- digital predecessors, work to understand the present terrain in which citizens manage information, and imagine principles that might guide a democratic digital public sphere.


We the People: Nationalism, Populism, and the Precariousness of the Democratic Project

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

Democracy – a major political imaginary in the last two centuries — has lost its aspirational role, and seems to be in retreat everywhere. What are the social factors and political forces that have facilitated the emergence of a striking phenomenon: a transition FROM democracy? Trying to understand the appeal of an illiberal order and a retreat from the intellectual legacy of the Enlightenment, this seminar explores recent attempts by two competing forces to recast the democratic promise: nationalism and populism, both of which — in their varied historical and modern expressions – speak as we the people.

While examining the plurality of concepts and forms of nationalism and populism, we will discuss a new fusion of ethno-nationalism, xenophobia, and ultra-populism that plants fear, distrust and does not shy away from violence. But we will also look at instances of the kind of inclusive social engagement — critical to any democracy — in which the key identity of its actors is that of citizens enacting democratic practices, in which the good of society as a whole is what’s at stake. Our discussions will consider material from a variety of sources and examine cases from different parts of the world, including Europe and the United States.



The Institute participants will be housed in the ‘Brownstone Under the Angels’ Residence located adjacent to the historical city center. http://kamienicapodaniolami.pl/en/



Graduate applicants: Applicants should have completed their undergraduate studies by the time of the Institute and should be either enrolled in a postgraduate degree program or working as junior university teachers or researchers. Preference will be given to those applicants who can demonstrate active involvement in civil society and civic life.


Advanced undergraduate applicants: Applicants must be enrolled as juniors or seniors. Preference will be given to those applicants who, while academically inclined, can demonstrate an active interest in civic life.



~Participants from The New School:

Tuition: Tuition for applicants from The New School is based on the tuition they pay at their respective home divisions. New School financial aid is applicable. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid for more information.

Program Fee: The program fee of $1,500 covers participants’ room and partial board (breakfast and lunch) for the duration of the Institute, as well as the cultural program of lectures, tours, opening and closing receptions, etc. Travel costs are not included. Successful applicants can apply for support in their respective divisions. New School for Social Research (NSSR) students may apply directly to TCDS for support in covering the program fee.  We encourage all applicants to look for outside funding sources.


~Participants from other institutions in the US and abroad:

Program Fee: The program fee of the 2018 Graduate Summer Institute for non-New School students is $1,500, covering tuition (non-credit), room and partial board (breakfast and lunch), and the cultural program of lectures, tours, opening and closing receptions, etc. Travel costs are not included. TCDS does give a limited number of partial scholarships to go toward the Program Fee.  Each applicant will be considered for these scholarships, no additional application is necessary.  We strongly encourage all applicants to look for funding sources from their home institutions and local organizations.



Application form is available on the TCDS Web site at: http://blogs.newschool.edu/tcds/wr18-application/


~All Applicants from The New School need to submit:

Completed application form ● CV or resume ● Application essay (approx. 500 words describing how the Institute would complement one’s academic experience to date and enhance educational and professional goals for the future) ● New School academic transcript (unofficial)


~All other Applicants need to submit:

Completed application form ● CV or resume ● Application essay in English (approx. 500 words describing how the Institute would complement one’s academic experience to date and enhance educational and professional goals for the future) ● One letter of recommendation sent from the e-mail address belonging to its author or as an attachment to the application letter if scanned ● TOEFL or other evidence of substantial English language skills is required if coming from a non-English speaking country ●Applicants affiliated with an NGO or a civic organization should also include a brief description of the nature of the work undertaken by their organization.



~Applicants from The New School except for Eugene Lang College:  Please submit application materials to TCDS via e-mail: tcds@newschool.edu with the subject “WR18 Application.” You can also submit your application in person at TCDS, 80 Fifth Ave, 5th Floor, Room#517, NY, NY 10011.

~Applicants from Eugene Lang College:  Please submit application materials to TCDS via e-mail: tcds@newschool.edu; via mail or in person: TCDS, 80 Fifth Ave, 5th Floor, Room#517, NY, NY 10011; please be sure to CC LangStudyAbroad@newschool.edu in your email and include “WR18 Application” in the subject line.

~Applicants from Poland: All applicants from Poland should apply through the International Institute for the Study of Culture and Education (IISCE) at the University of Lower Silesia. Please submit application materials via e-mail: iisce@dsw.edu.pl with the subject “WR18 Application”; or via fax: +48 71 356 15 72.

~All other Applicants: Please submit application materials to TCDS via e-mail: tcds@newschool.edu with the subject “WR18 Application.”tcds@newschool.edu You can also send your application by mail to The Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS), 80 Fifth Ave, 5th Floor, Room#517, New York, NY 10011.



For all New School applicants, the extended application deadline is April 8th, 2018.

For all other applicants, the application deadline is April 16th, 2018.

For more information, please visit our website: http://blogs.newschool.edu/tcds

or contact us by e-mail at tcds@newschool.edu or by phone at 212 229-5580 ext. 3137.