Public Seminar

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.

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Associate's Articles

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.

In the aftermath of war

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?

‘Forced migrants’ in name and classification

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.

Can shame produce change?

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.

A genealogy of white privilege

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.

In 2020, the Republican Party continued to gain ground among voters identifying as religious – almost three quarters of the US electorate. The most dramatic shift was among Muslims. Why was this the case, given Trump’s irreligiousness and record of hostility towards Islam? And what does the trend have to do with race?

The truth about the electorate

Public Seminar 12+19 November 2020

Public Seminar blames the disappearance of local journalism for the over-dependency on polls. Also: why anti-racist literature may not signal a new conversation about race; and how schools remain arenas of exclusion in secular France.

Biden’s victory was not the decisive win that the Democrats had been assured. So why did the polling failures of 2016, that so underestimated Donald Trump’s influence with voters, persist into 2020? Historian Claire Potter canvassed for the Democrats and has some explanations.

How can intense description of what is irreducibly particular help us to extract elements that are universal? Parallels between the child separations at the US–Mexico border and the experiences of Holocaust survivors prompt historian Marci Shore to ask what we can and cannot understand by thinking in comparisons with the past.

The success of the French Popular Front lay in its ability to form a broad coalition on the left and to reach strata of the population traditionally ignored by communist parties. This is a lesson that antifascists today could do well to learn.

Debating the f-word

Public Seminar 15 October 2020

Is it accurate historically to apply the term ‘fascism’ to America under Trump? And is to do so strategically astute? A special issue of ‘Public Seminar’ weighs in on the debate over the f-word. With contributions from Jan-Werner Müller, David Bell, Natasha Lennard and more.