CAS SEE Weekly Seminars with Guests

CAS SEE Seminars with Guests – Gergana Dimova

On Thursday, October 22nd, we continued with the CAS SEE Seminars with Gergana Dimova. The talk revolved around a challenging topic – Democracy beyond Elections: Government Accountability in the Media Age.

What do media scandals have to do with democracy? After all, couldn’t just about anybody level allegations, even when they are untrue, at the power-holders? In this virtual talk, based on her book “Democracy beyond Elections”, Dr Dimova argues that we can judge democracy, to an extent, by the way incumbents are held to account for media allegations. Gauging these patterns of accountability is complicated, because it is uncertain who will be most outraged about the accusations, what kind of investigations will ensue and whether there will be any sanctions at all. Based on a comparative analysis of nearly 6,000 media claims leveled at the governments of Russia, Germany and Bulgaria, the book suggests that there are nevertheless some revealing signs, which set democratic accountability from non-democratic accountability apart. Thus, the study highlights the importance of thinking about democracy not only through the lens of electoral delegation, but also in terms of accountability in the periods between elections.

Gergana Dimova received her PhD from Harvard University and has subsequently assumed research and teaching positions at the University of Cambridge and at the University of Winchester in the UK. Her most recent book is Democracy beyond Elections (Palgrave 2019) and her forthcoming book is Political Uncertainty (Ibidem 2020). She is the convener of the Anti-Politics Specialist Group of the UK Political Science Association. She serves on the editorial board of Democratic Theory, the Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society and the Journal of Liberty and International Affairs, and consults for the European Commission. Gergana’s academic articles have been published in Democratizatsiya, Observatorio, Global Media Journal and others. Her media expertise has been featured in the Atlantic Council, the Huffington Post, the LSE Policy Institute, Global Risk Insights, Bulgarian TV and radio.

Watch the CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Gergana Dimova:

 

CAS SEE Seminars with Guests – Bonnie Honig

On Thursday, July 23rd, 2020, the CAS SEE Seminars with Guests continued with questioning the (nature/s of certain) politics in the Arendtian fashion, introducing Professor Bonnie Honig, who was presented by our fellow Valentina Moro. The seminar took place at 4 PM CET due to different time-zones.

Saidiya Hartman’s “Fabulation” is an important concept in Black Studies, connoting the effort to supplement and amplify archives that erase rather than preserve the joy and freedom of Black life. Critics worry about fabulation’s departures from “facts” though we might well note fabulation’s commitment to the archives, with which Hartman always begins. In this paper, Bonnie Honig asks: How might Hartman’s “fabulation” be illuminated by Hannah Arendt’s idea of story-telling? And what sort of politics is postulated by each of these thinkers? The Bacchae, Euripides’ 5th-century tragedy of women refusing or rising up, and its reception history, is used as an example of how archives are shaped and facts established for the future. In the play, truths are established rather than discovered. And so, toward the end of the play, when the women return to the city, we may see this as a move in the agon over facticity.  The women demand glory for their refusal. That they fail need not mean we have nothing to learn from them. Quite the opposite.

Bonnie Honig is Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Political Science at Brown University. She is the author of Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics (Cornell, 1993, Scripps Prize for Best First Book), Democracy and the Foreigner (Princeton, 2001), Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy (Princeton, 2009, David Easton Prize), Antigone, Interrupted. (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair (Fordham, 2017). She has edited or co-edited several collections, including Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt (Penn State, 1995) and Politics, Theory, and Film: Critical Encounters with Lars von Trier (Oxford, 2016).  Her articles have appeared in the journals ‘Arethusa’, ‘New Literary History’, ‘Political Theory’, ‘theory&event’, ‘Social Text’, ‘differences’, the ‘American Political Science Review’, and more. Her forthcoming book, based on her 2017 Flexner Lectures, deals with “a feminist theory of refusal”.

CAS SEE Seminars with Guests – Giovanni Maddalena

On Thursday, July 16th, 2020, the CAS SEE Seminar with Giovanni Maddalena, presented by our fellow Alessandra Scotti has taken place on Zoom. The seminar was dedicated to the presentation of Maddalena’s new book – The History and Theory of Post-Truth Communication.

Giovanni Maddalena is an Associate Professor of History of Philosophy and Philosophy of Political Communication at the University of Molise. His academic work focuses on American Philosophy, especially on Charles S. Peirce and classical pragmatists. He is Senior Fellow of the Institute of American Thought (IUPUI, Indianapolis) and Member of the Scientific Board of the Philosophy Department at École Normale Supérieure (Paris). He is the founder and executive editor of the Journal European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy. He is the author of The Philosophy of Gesture, Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press (2015).

In The History and Theory of Post-Truth Communication, Palgrave 2020, co-written with Guido Gili, Maddalena explores the notion of Post-Truth, its history, and meaning for human beings. Philosophy, as it is understood and practiced in the West, is and has been generally considered to be the search for truth. Nevertheless in the history of “a-philosophy”, conceived as the historical attempt to reverse the “official philosophy”, from Nietzsche’s idea of truth as “a mobile army of metaphors” to Foucault’s investigations of the nexus of truth, subjectivity, and discourse, many have attempted to deconstruct ‘Western’ claims to objective and universal truth. If these are the roots of Post-Truth, what is behind the current rise in interest and alarm about the concept?

Chosen by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘word of the year’ in 2016, post-truth has entered both journalistic and common languages. There is, however, much confusion and suffocating rhetoric about what it is, how it became such a powerful force, and its positive or perverse effects.

Discussing philosophical concepts, sociological theories, communication strategies, and original interpretations of historical events from the birth of mass media until today, we did our best to better understand current times and what is going on in our politics and society.

Watch us on Zoom:

 

CAS SEE Weekly Seminars with Guests – Kateřina Vráblíková

On Thursday, June 11th from 10.00 to 12.00 am we have hosted the third CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Kateřina Vráblíkovápresented by our Fellow Professor Ondřej Císař. The seminar revolved around Vráblíková’s new book – What Kind of Democracy?: Participation, Inclusiveness, and Contestation.

Kateřina Vráblíková is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Bath, UK. Her work focuses on political participation, social movements, political attitudes, and culture in contemporary democracies, Eastern European politics, and research methods. She was a Fulbright fellow at the University of California, Irvine (2010-11), an Assistant Professor at the University of Mannheim (2012-2016), a Post-doctoral Fellow at The Ohio State University (2016-2018), and an Istvan Deak Visiting Professor in East-Central European Studies at Harriman Institute, Columbia University (Spring 2019). Her other work has been published in “Comparative Political Studies and European Journal of Political Research.

What kind of democracy enhances more politically engaged citizenry? In her book, Katerina Vrablikova, develops a new approach to democracy and argues for democratic structures that are based on inclusiveness and contestation. Inclusiveness provides access and protection of diverse voices while contestation promotes system’s accountability and responsiveness that increases the chances that the various voices will be listened to. Vrablikova’s inclusive contestation perspective on democracy draws on pluralist and radical democratic visions formulated by Dahl or Mouffe and challenges other classical perspectives that are built on the ideas of inclusive consensus, such as deliberative and consensual democracy. The strong theoretical approach is combined with empirical analyses of public opinion surveys across multiple democratic countries that examine the role of various individual, institutional, and cultural factors for citizens’ political participation beyond elections. The results have important implications for policymaking aimed at enhancing democratic citizenship that usually relies on enhancing citizens’ political skills and knowledge, strengthening social capital, or building consultative and deliberative institutions.

 

Watch the Seminar on Youtube:

 

CAS SEE Weekly Seminars with Guests – John Keane

On Thursday, May 28th from 9.00 to 11.00 am we hosted the second CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with John Keane, presented by Vedran Džihić and Sanja Bojanić, and dedicated to the presentation (and discussion) of Keane’s new book The New Despotism.

In his path-breaking new book, John Keane, Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney and at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), and the co-founder and director of the Sydney Democracy Network (SDN), analyses and connects the antidemocratic and illiberal developments seemingly scattered through our geopolitical reality, and invites us to recognize them as a steady formation of the despotism upgraded for the 21st Century.

Despotism is an insidious form of totalitarianism, shape-shifting, complex and clever. Governments around the world have been mastering the forces of “patronage, dark money, steady economic growth, sophisticated media controls, strangled judiciaries, dragnet surveillance, and selective violence against their opponents”, and gaining influence in the population drained by deep inequality and disillusioned by what they perceive as inefficient and polarizing democratic politics. The consolidation of these top-down systems of power, plutocracies marked by top-to-bottom corruption, and media manipulation, mimicking democracies while dissolving them, is the key socio-political threat in the age of advanced technology, climate crisis, rising inequality, and post-pandemic biopolitics.

The detailed, sophisticated and deeply relevant examination of The New Despotism is one of the fundamental texts for understanding our current global political reality, and developing the theory and practice for upgrading democracy for the 21st Century, redesigning and strengthening the bulwarks of power-sharing against the creeping totalitarianisms, and making a different future possible. Ranked by Maclean’s magazine among top ten “books to watch in 2020”, John Keane’s book is described as “injecting one hell of a scary book into an already frenzied world”. In this edition of CAS SEE public seminar John Keane will present the book and establish links between his arguments and the great pestilence of our time, Covid-19 pandemic.

The following extracts from the seminar were noted by our communications interns, Magdalini Spyridon, and Eleni Maria Sifaki, University of Crete.

  • John Keane criticizes the modern regimes of power using the term “despotism” to proclaim that the new, emerging democracies are turning into authoritarian regimes.
  • The democracies of the 21st century transform into despotic ways of governance. These regimes have democratic features like voting procedures or even communist characteristics, like China’s example. The example of China serves to explain a new form of a political system that entangles authoritarian practices and control of the population. The power is concentrated in one “charismatic” leader who monopolizes power and popular opinion.
  • The “New Despotism’s” main goal is the centralization of the power into one person. The leaders of these regimes are tending to patronize the subjects by making them loyal to this system. At the same time, top-to-bottom patterns of dependency are being transformed whilst leaders are entangled with people of power (plutocracy).
  • The new-arising “despotisms” preserve certain feudal characteristics such as “vassalage”. Keane uses it in order to explain the power relations in the top-to-bottom pyramid. At the same time of being feudal, these practices are also modern because they are based on an election system in a society where “the leader” controls the media and the public opinion.

 

Watch the CAS SEE Seminar with John Keane

Important note: the seminars will be filmed by the CAS SEE. The personal data collected during this project will be managed according to the GDPR standard.

CAS SEE Weekly Seminars with Guests – Adriana Cavarero

On May 21st, 2020 at 10 AM we held our first “CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Guests”, where we welcomed Adriana Cavarero who spoke about her latest work “Resurging Democracy”.

The Italian philosopher Adriana Cavarero is among the most influential feminist theorists in the international debate. Her latest book “Democrazia sorgiva. Note sul pensiero politico di Hannah Arendt” (Raffaello Cortina, 2019) draws the attention on the crucial notion of democracy, entering in a debate with several scholars, such as Zola, Canetti, Pasternak, and, particularly, Arendt. Using Arendt’s philosophical vocabulary, Cavarero identifies democracy as the primal experience of politics itself: “common space of mutual appearance where a plurality of unique human beings acts in concert”. Cavarero’s idea of democracy as a “source”, an “origin”, differs from Arendt’s account of vita activa, as it is grounded on the bodily presence of political subjects who depend on material facilities and on the reciprocal support of other subjects.

In the current times of populist politics, is there any room left for a truly democratic experience of political participation (the Arendtian “public happiness”)? Cavarero revisits several philosophical interpretations, interrogating democracy in light of recent political events and discussing also contemporary issues such as the idea of digital democracy.

 

The following extracts from the seminar were noted by our communications interns, Magdalini Spyridon, and Eleni Maria Sifaki, University of Crete.

  • Cavarero is an advocate of Hannah Arendt’s notion of democracy. Democracy is for her a procedure which can take place in the physical social space where every human being can express her/his uniqueness.
  • Another point discussed at the seminar was the notion of “felicita” or “felicity” which happens when we participate in collective actions and events like uprisings or demonstrations. Cavarero describes active participation as a truly bodily experience instead of the representation which is the most dominant political action and choice. This feeling of happiness is connected with natality, (re)birth, of creating something new from scratch.
  • For Cavarero, “Democrazia Sorgiva” or “Spring Democracy” is a concept correlated with the feelings of growing and blossoming. In this sense, the social space is fertile enough to bring new hopes and possibilities for our future. Her term “Pluryphony” is the way of collectively undertaking the performative exercise of politics.
  • Using Hannah Arendt’s quote “Public space is a space of appearance”, Adriana Cavarero stresses out the public space as essential because there, the development of democracy will take place in a vocative, bodily and emotional way.

 

Watch the CAS SEE Seminar with Adriana Cavarero: