Past Event

Crises of Democracy Symposium

May 17, 2019
9:45 AM - 6:00 PM
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4, rue de Chevreuse, 75006 Paris

In our current moment, democracy seems to be in crisis: as a practice, a set of institutions, and an ideal. The tempo and tone of news cycles, the perceived volatility of the rule of law, and the pervasiveness of legalized zones of lawlessness only increase our anxiety about the state of democracy across the world. While certainly not immune to such anxiety, scholars and artists operate in a distinct space (and at an alternative pace) from which to analyze and speculate about democracy, its crises and absences, and about the technologies, places, and means through which democracy has historically been negotiated.

Drawing from alumni members of the Columbia Society of Fellows in the Humanities and in conversation with the Fellows of the Institute for Ideas and Imagination, this workshop explores the relationship between democracy and crisis as it is manifested in the humanities and the arts. Fellows from across fields, institutions, and cohorts are invited to present work on the ways in which ideals and practices of democracy have been debated in theory, probed historically, and produced and contested culturally. Is “crisis” endemic to democracy: a constitutive problem with the demos, with the enemies of democracy, or with the operations of democracy itself? How do the humanities and the arts render democracy and its crises visible? How do they reveal the contemporaneity of historical crises and the historicity of contemporary anxieties?

Speakers include: Tina Campt, Elsa Dorlin, Ilana Feldman, Kellie Jones, Hagar Kotef, Whitney Laemmli, Reinhold Martin, Emeka Ogboh, Maria Gonzalez Pendas, Will Slauter, Josef Sorett, Mickalene, Thomas John Tresch, and Andrew Zimmerman.

This event is co-sponsored by the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination, Columbia University, Columbia Global Centers | Paris, and the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.


FRIDAY, May 17

9:00-9:30am Coffee, Welcome, and Introduction

Murad Idris, Department of Politics, University of Virginia



9:30-10:20am LIMITS

Ilana Feldman, Department of Anthropology, George Washington University

“Untimely Optimism?: Recognition, Redress, and the Limits of the International in Palestinian Experience”

Andrew Zimmerman, Department of History, George Washington University

“Jacobinism, Totalitarianism, Populism: Democracy and the Demonologies of Liberalism”

Chair: Elsa Dorlin, Department of Political Science, Vincennes/St. Denis Paris 8 University/Institute for Ideas and Imagination



10:20-11:10am RESOURCES

Hagar Kotef, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London

“Normalities of Apartheid: Food and Colonization in Israel/Palestine”

Reinhold Martin, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University

“Oil, Paper, Fire: The Demos of the Winds.”

Chair: Eileen Gilooly, Executive Director, Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University


11:10-11:30am BREAK


11:30am-12:10pm EXPERTS

John Tresch, Art, Science, and Folk Practice, The Warburg Institute

 “The Shock of the Demos, 1830-1848”

Maria Gonzalez Pendas, Society of Fellows, Columbia University

“Public Experts: Architecture and Amnesia in Post-Fascist Spain”

Chair: Murad Idris, Department of Politics, University of Virginia


12:10-1:00pm MEDIA

Whitney Laemmli, Society of Fellows, Columbia University

“Dancing, Databases, Democracy”

Will Slauter, Université Paris Diderot

“Controlling News, Past and Present”

Chair: TBD


LUNCH 1:oo-2:30pm




In Conversation: Emeka Ogboh (Sound Artist, Institute for Ideas and Imagination) and Tina Campt (Departments of Africana and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College, Institute for Ideas and Imagination)


3:30-4:00pm Break



In Conversation: Mickalene Thomas (Visual Artist) and Josef Sorett

(Departments of  Religion and African-American Studies, Columbia University


Reception Dinner to Follow