Fall Symposium


2017 Theme: Civility and Incivility

Susan Herbst
President of University of Connecticut

"Rude Democracy: Civility & Incivility in American Politics" 

Incivility has a long history in American politics. Harsh language, personal attack, and even physical altercation were sewn into the fabric of our political culture from the earliest days of our founding. The years leading up to the Civil War were among the most brutal, and led to a conflict more horrendous than any 18th century founder could have possibly imagined. Citizen against citizen; state against state.

Not all incivility is a precursor to war of course, but we need to understand the forms that incivility takes, here in 2017. Is some incivility inherent in American politics? Has the nation changed in a fundamental way these past few years? What is to be done? These are the questions of our historical moment, and those that students, scholars, and indeed every citizen must ponder, if we are to build the kind of democratic nation we wish to inhabit.

Photos - Video


Joshua AzrielMelba Boyd & Ollie JohnsonRonald BrownElizabeth Dungee-AndersonKenneth JacksonBrad RothElizabeth Stoycheff, Kunto A. Wibowo, Juan Liu, Kai XuSteven L. WinterKelly M. YoungMarilyn Zimmerwoman, Margi Weir, Holly Feen-Calligan

"Speakers Corner at London's Hyde Park: Civility Still Reigns within Public Debate"

Joshua Azriel
Professor, Journalism and Emerging Media
Kennesaw State University

For more than 140 years, Speakers Corner in London's Hyde Park has served as a free speech forum. Parliament, in 1872, passed the Parks Regulation Act that granted individuals the right to visit Speakers Corner and use the location as a soap box to speak about any issue. Speakers have chosen many subjects to talk about: religion, politics, economics, culture, etc. During the Victorian period, Speakers Corner became the location for individuals and political groups to advocate for civil liberties. George Orwell, Vladimir Lenin, and Marcus Garvey are among the thousands who have spoken there. Speakers Corner is considered by many to be a "venerable" institution of free speech in the U.K.

Utilizing a research grant from Kennesaw State University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in March 2016 I visited London to conduct a series of semi-structured interviews with both Speakers Corner activists and BBC journalists. With approval from my university's IRB, I interviewed nine activists and three journalists asking them questions related to the historic site's impact on British society and their overall effectiveness of delivering their message. All interviews were transcribed and coded based on five subject areas: censorship, speaker goals, speaker relevancy, effectiveness in communication, and journalists' perspectives on Speakers Corner's relevance.

The research questions for this project are:

  1. Is Speakers Corner more of a tourist attraction than a genuine forum for free speech?
  2. What subject issues are discussed at Speakers Corner?
  3. Are there limits to freedom of speech at Speakers Corner?
  4. Do the speakers believe they are effective in advocating their causes?

Initial results:

  1. The activists indicate that censorship by police authorities and the government is not a main concern of theirs. In my two visits, all speakers were men. Women visited Speakers Corner but the activists were male. Most do not worry about any government sponsored actions to censor their messages.
  2. The topics mainly presented fall into three areas: religion, politics and health. Politics and health mainly dominate Speakers Corner during the morning and early afternoon with religion activists speaking in mid and late afternoons.
  3. Most speakers believe this site has become more of a tourist attraction than a place for effective debate about issues but that does not stop them from being active. The journalists interviewed for this project agreed upon this point believing that Speakers Corner's effectiveness as a serious place to discuss issues was in the past.  


Powerpoint - Photos - Videos: Part 1 - Part 2 (Q&A)


2016 Theme: Ideology

Date: October 14, 2016
Venue: McGregor Memorial Conference Center
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:40 PM

Please click here for the schedule


"From the reinstitution of Maoist ideology in Xi Jinping's China, to the resurgence of authoritarian nationalism in Putin's Russia, to the repugnantly self-righteous justifications for genocide and sexual slavery offered by ISIS in the name of a "caliphate", to homegrown xenophobia and racism, to the persistence of climate-change denial and supply-side economics in the U.S., and to the hegemony of standard language, we are living in an age of reborn, resilient, renewed ideology. Ideology was no less central to earlier periods of human existence, as shown by the religious ideologies of the medieval and Renaissance periods, the new discourses of class and gender fostered by the Enlightenment and the colonialist, imperialist and racial narratives on the 19th and 20th centuries. How does ideology refract our daily perception? Reframe our political discourse? Reflect our (non) responses to legal, social and cultural injustice? Reproduce itself in popular narratives? Theorists and practitioners of all relevant disciplines are invited to address and explore these questions and related ones at the Humanities Center's 2016 Fall Symposium"


Jason Stanley
Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University

"The Emergency Manager: The Neo-Liberal ideology and the subversion of democracy, from Schmitt to Snyder" 

In the state of Michigan, an anti-democratic power grab arguably without parallel for its scope and brutality in recent years in this country has occurred. Against the wishes of the majority of the residents of Michigan, the state has ended local democratic control of many municipalities, funneling their resources to banks, multi-national corporations, billionaires, and private developers. Public goods are being privatized, from EMS services to the education systems. Property and land is being seized from working class mostly black homeowners by arbitrary use of tax laws, while valuable Detroit land is handed essentially for free to billionaires. The multi-national corporation Nestle is allowed to siphon off 400 gallons of water a minute from the Great Lakes essentially for free, while the customers served by the utility with access to the world's greatest supply of fresh water pay the nation's highest fees for water, as the state attempts to starve the Great Lakes Water Authority of resources to make the case to sell access to the United States's most valuable asset, the Great Lakes, into private hands. All the while, "Emergency Managers" are forbidden from challenging the contracts that have done so much damage to the state of Michigan. The effects float to national attention from time to time; in 2014, the water shut-offs to Detroit citizens got some national attention, a year later the all-too predictable disaster in Flint occurred, and the national press is starting to pay attention to the crisis of home seizures, and the looting of the Detroit Public Schools. In this paper, I address the multiple ideologies that have made Michigan into the nation's poster child for anti-democratic practices, such as egregious environmental injustice. I will pay particular attention to the way that neo-liberal vocabulary masks and prevents democratic objections to be raised. I will argue that we see, in the state of Michigan, the pure essence of the incompatibility between neo-liberalism and democracy.


Alina KlinKai XuElizabeth StoycheffJeffrey T. HornerEun-Jung Katherine KimBarrett WattenAnne E. DugganSean Charles StiddA. Ronald AronsonSteven L. Winter

"Ideological Fights for the Constitution"

Alina Klin
Senior Lecturer, CMLLC

The 2015 parliamentary elections in Poland resulted in a significant change: after an unprecedented eight years in power, the central-right Civic Platform had to concede rule of the country to its long-time foe, the central-left (at least nominally) Law and Justice party. The zeal and speed with which Law and Justice has been bringing about so called "good change" by replacing competent governmental officials and managers of state-owned companies with its own, often incompetent members, has raised eyebrows and caused a lot of criticism, but has not yet brought people into the streets. There is already something, however, that brings thousands of Poles in many cities into the streets, and that is a constitutional issue. The vast majority of Poles does not usually have the kind of attachment or even knowledge of the constitution that most Americans seem to have. This is mostly due the fact that Poland, as other European countries with turbulent histories, rewrote its constitution many times. Now, however, this might change as the dispute over the Constitutional Tribunal has already activated hundred of thousands of people and given rise to a new political movement, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD). Interestingly, during the time of communism, some effective forms of voicing discontent with the government also used constitutional issues as their platform. It was a different constitution back then (the Poles rewrote the constitution after the fall of communism), and different forms of protests (mostly letters written by intellectuals) but the parallels are quite striking. In my paper I am going to take a closer look at both forms of protest in defense of the respective constitutions, and examine the ideologies that brought them about and the roles they played. What are these ideologies? To which extent are they overt or covert? What groups do they unify and how? These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer in my paper.  

Powerpoint - Photos - Videos: Part 1 - Part 2 (Q&A)