Public Seminar is dedicated to informing debate about the pressing issues of our times and creating a global intellectual commons. An independent project of The New School Publishing Initiative, Public Seminar is produced by New School faculty, students and staff, and supported by colleagues and collaborators around the globe.
Public Seminar is, above all things, dedicated to the intellectual and cultural work of democracy, and is open to a range of perspectives. Using the New School’s expertise in social science, humanities, design and the creative and performing arts, it aims to begin and sustain conversation. The views expressed by Public Seminar contributors do not necessarily represent those of The New School, or the editors and staff of Public Seminar.
Lives are being lost in a brutal government crackdown on protests for women’s rights after Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody. Can the long-standing control of Iran’s morality police on women be unsettled by a majority already resisting the dress code?
Giorgia Meloni could become Italy’s first female prime minister. Her political rise is no isolated case: ‘femonationalism’ is flourishing throughout Europe, disguising extremes as the next socially acceptable, mainstream choice.
The US Supreme Court has overturned two landmark cases that protected a woman’s rights over her own body for 50 years. How did ‘fetal politics’ — a political movement that has turned embryos and fetuses into ‘unborn children’ endowed with unique and inviolable civil rights – gain such momentum? And what will be the outcome of this new ruling?
It was only after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 that NATO broke off cooperation with Russia. Until then, Ukrainians themselves were largely against NATO membership. To frame NATO as a security threat to Russia caters to Kremlin propaganda.
Prison was a central pillar of communism and an experience shared by generations of eastern Europeans. The USA today can also be described as a carceral society, its prison system the expression of a ‘new Jim Crow’. What does the comparison mean for the definition of the ‘political prisoner’? A conversation.
Beyond fact-checking obviously false claims, of what use can professional historians be to society? In an age of denialism, one has to embrace history’s political potentials instead of reducing them to the task of safekeeping facts.
A virus and its impact described in closed terms: when under pressure, socio-political narratives often become divisive; perceptions can become negatively transfixed. To understand what has gone wrong right now, we need look at how the problem is framed.
Trumpism treated the US constitution as means to an end: the assertion of white supremacy. But to respond by venerating the constitution is to misunderstand Trump’s anti-elitist appeal. If the US constitution is to be claimed for democracy, it must be democratized itself.
The veneration of the US constitution is directly connected to America’s emergence as global hegemon. As the US’s democratic dysfunctions become ever more apparent, this culture is coming under strain. Why the end of the American Century coincides with the collapse of the country’s constitutional consensus.
An interview with Amanda Demmer
Comparisons to the evacuation of Saigon fail to account for the speed and scale of the Afghanistan collapse and the shock it has caused the US public. However, the post-war history of the Vietnam war may point to how the Afghan refugee issue offers the US a chance to redeem itself, and how, despite persistent hostilities, diplomatic relations could normalize.
Public displays of dissatisfaction against leading politicians make for striking headlines, especially when they expose a blatant inability to discuss key topics. Racism in France, hidden by a colour-blind society on both the left and the right, benefits Le Pen’s self-professed defenders of the Republic. So how can race and immigration take a more positive centre-stage position?
Can refugee scholars hold the line?
Those forced to flee from conflict, persecution, violence or human rights violations need protection; recognition of their plight is an ongoing struggle. And the causes of forced migration are growing. What now defines ‘survival’ – that all important refugee watchword – may indeed need reconsideration.
Global capitalism took a surprise hit when the container ship Ever Given ran aground, bringing mass transportation to a standstill. An environmental protest could not have staged a more spectacular blockade: the incident points to a murky history of worker exploitation, intensified fossil fuel consumption and racist quarantining.
Public Seminar, Week of 11 March 2021
‘Public Seminar’ assesses the politics of shame: how Afropessimism challenges the established meaning of privilege; the questionable religious fervour of antiracists; and when global human rights ‘naming and shaming’ backfires.
On the politics of confession and guilt
The discourse of white privilege is motivated by a genuinely anti-racist and democratic vision. But as a mode of confessional introspection aimed to provoke shame and guilt, its effects can be the opposite of transformational.
Trump wasn’t an aberration: he only renewed the US nation’s bitter, uncivil war over whether a clear majority of its people want to forge a republic of equals. The challenge for Biden will be to assert his ‘American ideal’ over the competing vision that Trump has left behind.