Essays

Between Freud and Einstein

On the homology at the heart of modernist art

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Presidential Elections in Poland: Something Old, Something New

The victory of Andrzej Duda, the nationalist, right-wing Law and Justice party’s candidate, came as a shock to many. Yet, in fact, his success over President Bronisław Komorowski, a center-right conservative, supported by the ruling party, Civic Platform, should not have been a surprise. After all, Duda also won the first round (albeit by a margin of less than one percent), and while Komorowski ran a lackluster campaign, defending the accomplishments of the recent past, Duda ran a much more dynamic one, running as the candidate of change in a country with much discontent. …

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Learning Baltimore

A student asked me whether I had arranged the Baltimore riots to take place now, at the end of our semester. The news out of Baltimore too perfectly illustrates so much of the history I teach. I suspect I am not alone in this odd feeling of validation — at once reassuring yet terrifying — that the patterns identified by historians are also incredibly important to activists. They may have never taken our classes. They live the experience that most historians merely describe in our research and teaching. “Sometimes,” Tom Sugrue declared recently, “I wish my scholarship wasn’t so relevant.” …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/Publics

My Living Room as a Public Sphere

An Iranian experiment in free society

“I’m not certain that the ideal society should be religious. I start from the premise that the ideal society should be secular.” So spoke documentary filmmaker, Mehran Tamadon, in a conversation with the four conservative mullahs, advocates of the Islamic republic, he invited to be part of his new movie Iranian. The conversation consists of five men sitting in a living room in Iran, arguing about the ideal society: this is pretty much the plot.

Behind closed doors, the mullahs’ wives are relegated to the bedrooms as their children play in the garden; in the living room, the four clerics and the self-avowed atheist embark upon a fascinating experiment. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionSex & Gender

Women in the Rulings of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights

Moving beyond the single story

After a long battle with the mainstream of human rights discourse and institutions dating from at least the era of the League of Nations, feminists organized in a transnational movement [1] have succeeded in placing women’s issues at the centre of human rights debates.

Here I want to take a step back from celebrating these achievements and ask: if women are now part of the transnational discourse on human rights, who are these women? How do transnational human rights institutions represent them? Or, put in other words, who is the female subject of transnational legal discourse and what gendered harms are made visible in this arena? …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

An Anniversary of Crimea Takeover: Borders and the Crime of their Violation

A year ago, Russia occupied Crimea, staged a disputed referendum about seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia, and annexed it to its territory. In postwar history, the annexation of a part of a sovereign country’s territory to the aggressor state has no precedent. There have been several occupations, invasions and secessions since 1945. But until a year ago no part of sovereign state was forcibly acquired by another state and made part of its sovereign territory. …

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Arts & DesignEssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Germany’s Awkward Farewell to Günter Grass

Can good poetry also be a good politics? I am paraphrasing a question that I have heard Jeff Goldfarb asking on several occasions. Günter Grass, German novelist, poet, sculptor, and a Nobel Prize laureate, delivered both — the finest literature and daring political insights. With his departure, Germany and the world have lost one of the last novelists who practiced the art of modern novel that Milan Kundera understood as being intrinsic to the existence of modern individual. Grass’ss novels capture depths and intricacies of human experience that he reiterated in epic yet unheroic stories free of pathos and sentimentality. …

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EssaysTheory & Practice

From Mythos to Logos and Back?

Machiavelli, philosophy, and fortune

At the opening of the Night of Philosophy in New York City on April 24, 2015, while Monique Canto-Sperber delivered a much-contested opening talk on freedom of speech, Chiara Bottici gave the following alternative opening talk addressing issues of philosophy, writing, and exclusion.

Giving an opening talk on Machiavelli at the “Night of Philosophy” is a double provocation. First, because few authors have generated as much turmoil in the history of philosophy as has Machiavelli. Excommunicated as the incarnation of the devil by some, celebrated as a saint by others, condemned for his “Machiavellism” or celebrated for his republicanism, the meaning of Machiavelli’s works seems to be destined to escape us. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

The Disappearance of the Liberal Illusion

Three recent decisions from the Israeli Supreme Court

Four months ago, I was present at a conference organized by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The conference focused on a report that the Association had published, entitled “One Government, Two Legal Systems,” which studied the apartheid methods that Israel applies in the West Bank. Among the participants in the second panel of the conference were former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner and Israel’s current Deputy Attorney General, Dina Zilber. Zilber’s talk was mostly apologetic, and not very successful at that: she tried to answer the claim that the State Attorney’s office consistently collaborates with the injustices perpetrated by Israel’s political system in the West Bank. …

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