*Inaugural Conference of Arendt in Aberdeen 2022-24 series.

Location: Seminar Room 224, Sir Duncan Rice Library, Second Floor, University of Aberdeen,

Date and time: June 23 @ 9:00 am – June 24 @ 3:00 pm

Registration is now open here.

Please see conference programme below this post.

2022 – 2024 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Hannah Arendt’s semesters at the University of Aberdeen and her celebrated Gifford Lectures, delivered here between 1972 and 1974. Arendt was the first woman to contribute to this prestigious practical theology lecture series, established in 1888. The lectures were later published as The Life of the Mind.

To mark this important anniversary, the University will hold a series of events to explore the contemporary relevance of Arendt’s thought, which now pervades a variety of disciplines in the arts, social sciences and beyond.

The series will commence with the conference on Council Democracy as An Alternative to Representative Democracy, by which we are exploring council democracy as a form of government, its applications throughout time and space, its contemporary revival in political theory, and its implications in relation to the nation-state and the concept of sovereignty.

Arendt’s enthusiastic promotion of “the council system” – particularly in her major work On Revolution – has been a matter of controversy in scholarship. Her political thought has often been described as classical or civic republican, and in line with the idea and institutions of liberal representative democracy. Yet, her council system is a bottom-up political organization which serves as an alternative form of government to centralized, bureaucratic forms of government, and to the party system. It centres on the notion of public freedom, a form of political liberty exercised by face-to-face communities through direct political action in public spaces open to all. The council system, for Arendt, is the foundation of a federation based on small-scale autonomous councils, as the only alternatives to representative democracy and the claim to sovereignty of the nation-state.

Council democracy is a timely topic because this aspect of Arendt’s political thought, and its relation to her larger corpus, has been understudied in Arendt scholarship, while it has inspired contemporary political initiatives from Occupy to the Rojava Revolution in Syrian Kurdistan.

We invited leading scholars of council democracy to discuss this form of government in Arendt’s writings, in its historical instantiations, and in the works and agendas of contemporary political theorists, movements, and activists. Please register here for the conference as the number of seats are limited.

For information about travel and about the city and region, see http://www.abdn.ac.uk/maps/index.php.

The conference is organised by Dr Hanifi Baris and Dr Trevor Stack; hosted by the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law (CISRUL); and funded by the Leverhulme Fund Early Career Fellowship grant and CISRUL. Questions should be directed to hanifi.baris@abdn.ac.uk

Keynotes are Prof Maria Tamboukou, University of East London; Dr James Muldoon, University of Exeter; and Prof Roger Berkowitz, Bard College & Hannah Arendt Center.

Keynote Speakers:

Prof Maria Tamboukou is Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of East London, UK. She has held visiting research positions in a number of institutions in the UK and overseas and is a member of the Scientific Board of the ‘Hannah Arendt’ Centre for Political Studies at the University of Verona, Italy. Her latest book Revisiting the nomadic subject was published in 2021. See Prof Tamboukou’s website for more details: https://mariatamboukou.org

Dr James Muldoon is Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Exeter and Head of Digital Research at the think tank Autonomy. He is author of Platform Socialism: How to Reclaim our Digital Future from Big Tech (Pluto, 2022) and Building Power to Change the World: The Political Thought of the German Council Movements (OUP, 2020). See Dr Muldoon’s profile for more details: https://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/politics/staff/muldoon/

Prof Roger Berkowitz is Founder and Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities and Professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Human Rights at Bard College. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The American Interest, Bookforum, The Forward, The Paris Review Online, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and many other publications. Berkowitz edits HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center and the weekly newsletter Amor Mundi.  He is the winner of the 2019 Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought given by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Bremen, Germany. See Prof Berkowitz’s website for more details: https://www.vernunft.org/

Conference Programme

23 June 2022, Thursday

9:00 – 9:15          Registration, Tea & Coffee

9:15 – 9:30          Opening Remarks

Dr Helen Lynch & Prof Michael Brown, University of Aberdeen

9:30 – 12:30        Session 1 – Conceptualisations of council democracy

Session chair: Prof Michael Brown, University of Aberdeen

9:30 – 10:30        Keynote speech: Hannah Arendt and the “Glorious” European Labour Movement

Dr James Muldoon, University of Exeter

10:30 – 10:45     Break

10:45 – 11:00     Hannah Arendt, Council Democracy and (Far) Beyond: A Radical View

Dr Matteo Bortolini, The University of Padua

11:00 – 11:15     The promises and possibilities of Arendt’s council system

Dr Shmuel Lederman, University of Haifa

11:15 – 11:30      The possibility for the new and the unexpected in politics: nuances between McIntyre and Arendt

Dr Joel Pierce, University of Aberdeen

11:30 – 12:30     Discussion

12:30 – 13:30     Lunch

13:30 – 16:30      Session 2 – The constitution of freedom in council democracy

Session chair: Dr Hanifi Baris, University of Aberdeen

13:30 – 14:30     Keynote speech: On Constitutional Council Governance

Prof Roger Berkowitz, Bard College & Hannah Arendt Center                                                                                                                                                       

14:30 – 14:45     Break

14:45 – 15:00     Arendtian Constituent Power

Shree Agnihotri, London School of Economics

15:00 – 15:15     Councils: Plurality as a Prerequisite, Federation as a Consequence

Dr Wolfgang Heuer, Free University Berlin

15:15 – 15:30      Arendt’s Council Democracy and the American Federalists: Two Rival Visions of Federalism

Dr Devrim Sezer & Dr Ünsal Doğan Başkır, Izmir University of Economics

15:30 – 15:45     Council democracy in local elections? A case of constitutio libertatis in Commercy, France

Sixtine Van Outryve d’Ydewalle, Catholic University of Louvain

15:45 – 16:45     Discussion

16:45 – 17:00     Break

17:00 – 18:00     Roundtable discussion: the political promise & possibility of an Arendtian council democracy

Session chair: Dr Rachel Shanks, University of Aberdeen

19:00                     Dinner

24 June 2022, Friday

9:00 – 9:15          Registration, Tea & Coffee

9:15 – 12:30         Session 3 – Council democracy in motion: Arendtian moments & experiments with the council system

Session chair: Dr Trevor Stack, University of Aberdeen

9:15 – 10:15        Keynote speech: Politicogenetic phenomena: Hannah Arendt, Rosa Luxemburg and their feminist interlocutors

Prof Maria Tamboukou, University of East London

10:15 – 10:30     Break

10:30 – 10:45     Incorporating the demos through the council system in contemporary democracies: from the 15M in Spain to the Chilean constitutional assembly

Prof Cristina Sanchez, Autonomous University of Madrid

10:45 – 11:00      From Chile to Turkey: The Communal Councils and Resistance Committees of 1970s as praxis of Council Democracy

Dr Kumru Toktamış, Pratt Institute

11:00 – 11:15     The Treasure of Revolution: Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan

Dr Joost Jongerden, Wageningen University

11:15 – 11:30     Council democracy as a mode of autonomy: a comparison of democratic innovations in Mexico and Kurdistan

Dr Hanif Baris, University of Aberdeen

11:30 – 12:30     Discussion

12:30 – 13:30     Lunch

13:30 – 15:00     Concluding discussion & closing remarks

Dr Trevor Stack, University of Aberdeen

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