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IES 2022-23 Seminar Series

Recordings of past events are available below.

Centrism From the French Revolution to Today | November 29, 2022

Description
Memorably born during debates about what to do with the King, the left/right divide was not the only opposition, nor indeed the most dominant, available at the time. The Terror, for instance, opposed the Mountain to the Plane or the Marais: the Mountain was composed of radical Jacobin deputies who dominated the Committee of Public Safety – most famously Robespierre – who sat across the highest benches of the Assembly, whereas the Plain or the Marsh sat on the lower benches, closer to the tribune. What consequences for our understanding of history and contemporary politics of seeing political dynamics not through a left/right divide but a centre/extremes one?

Speaker 
Hugo Drochon, University of Nottingham

This event was cosponsored by French Studies, History, and Government.


Resurrecting the Jew: Nationalism, Philosemitism, and Poland's Jewish Revival | November 15, 2022

Description
Since the early 2000s, Poland has experienced a remarkable Jewish revival, largely driven by non-Jewish Poles with a passionate new interest in all things Jewish. Klezmer music, Jewish-style restaurants, kosher vodka, and festivals of Jewish culture have become popular, while new museums, memorials, Jewish studies programs, and Holocaust research centers reflect soul-searching about Polish-Jewish relations before, during, and after the Holocaust. In Resurrecting the Jew, Geneviève Zubrzycki examines this revival and asks what it means to try to bring Jewish culture back to life in a country where 3 million Jews were murdered and where only about 10,000 Jews now live.Drawing on a decade of participant-observation in Jewish and Jewish-related organizations in Poland, a Birthright trip to Israel with young Polish Jews, and more than a hundred interviews with Jewish and non-Jewish Poles engaged in the Jewish revival, Resurrecting the Jew presents an in-depth look at Jewish life in Poland today. The book shows how the revival has been spurred by progressive Poles who want to break the association between Polishness and Catholicism, promote the idea of a multicultural Poland, and resist the Far Right government. The book also raises urgent questions, relevant far beyond Poland, about the limits of performative solidarity and empathetic forms of cultural appropriation.

Speaker
Geneviève Zubrzycki, University of Michigan

This event was cosponsored by Sociology and the Jewish Studies Program. 


How Populism Deals with Complexity | September 6, 2022

Description
There is a strong tendency in social and political sciences to simplify the academic use of the concept of populism. This is what populists do when they dichotomise reality into friends and enemies. The goal of this talk is to highlight and discuss why scholars have to develop an adaptive and multifaceted perspective, and how changing realities across Europe and the United States, including the experience of Covid-19 pandemic, might contribute to strengthen this perspective.

Speaker
Oscar Mazzoleni, University of Lausanne


Dmitry Bykov in Conversation | March 24, 2022

Description
Dmitry Bykov is one of Russia’s leading public intellectuals, and a Visiting Scholar hosted by Cornell’s Institute for European Studies, under the auspices of the Open Society University Network. Meet with Dmitry for an hour of public conversation with Mabel Berezin, Director of the Institute for European Studies. Prof Berezin will ask him about the role of dissent and intellectual life in Russia, what drove him to becoming a poet and satirist, and his views on the current situation in Ukraine and Russia.

Speaker
Dmitry Bykov, Visiting Critic


The Return of History: The War in Ukraine and the Future of Great Power Competition | March 15, 2022

Description
Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was largely informed by his notion of a shared Russian-Ukrainian history, which allegedly does not give Ukraine the right to a sovereign state. The current conflict in Ukraine is, in this sense, also a dispute about history. This panel brings together two leading historians of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War to discuss the war’s roots and significance from a historical perspective. The speakers will address key questions such as: What has Ukraine’s relationship with Russia been over the long term and how might the war change it? Does the war in Ukraine mark a break with the post-Cold War order, a return to the Cold War, or the beginning of something completely new? How should we think about China’s role in the conflict? Is the war a moment of opportunity or crisis for the West?

Speaker
Serhii Plokhy, Harvard University
Odd Arne Westad, Yale University
Cristina Florea, Cornell University


From Populism to Fascism? | March 8, 2022

Description
Fascism denied the very nature of democracy, the legitimacy of democratic procedures and their electoral outcomes. Its proponents claimed that votes were only legitimate when they confirmed by referendum the autocratic will of their leader. Populists, in contrast, have used elections to stress their own democratic nature even when they advanced other authoritarian trends. These differences matter today as wannabe fascist populist like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and others, deny the electoral legitimacy of their opponents. The more we know about the past fascist attempts to deny the workings of democracy, the more worried we should be about present post-fascist and populist forms.

Speaker
Federico Finchelstein, The New School


Impossible Pluralism? Religious Minorities, Migrants and Unsettled European Democracy | February 15, 2022

Description
Is pluralism possible in Europe? Are far-right parties like the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the Front National (FN) fringe movements, or do they say something unsettling about the general state of democracy in Europe, today? The Post-World War II era in Europe was characterized by both devastation and hope for democracy, including a renewed political dedication to protecting plurality. Yet it was also characterized by the large-scale migration of guestworker and postcolonial migrants. Since these migrations, European nation-states and societies have grappled with the position of those who they first cast as foreigners, later as ethnic others, and today as Muslims in the European context. These boundaries between "us" and the other within came perhaps most pointedly into focus with the refugee crisis in 2015 that magnified long-standing conversations regarding who belongs to (and who is seen to threaten) the European imaginary, and the casting of both Muslims and refugees as uncivil in the political push for Brexit.

Speaker
Elisabeth Becker, University of Heidelberg


Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right | February 3, 2022

Description
Hate crimes. Misinformation and conspiracy theories. Foiled white-supremacist plots. The signs of growing far-right extremism are all around us, and communities around the globe are struggling to understand how so many people are being radicalized and why they are increasingly attracted to violent movements. Cynthia Miller-Idriss shows how tomorrow’s far-right nationalists are being recruited in surprising places, from college campuses and mixed martial arts gyms to clothing stores, online gaming chat rooms, and YouTube cooking channels. She demonstrates how young people on the margins of our communities are targeted in these settings, and how the path to radicalization is a nuanced process of moving in and out of far-right scenes throughout adolescence and adulthood. Most importantly, she offers ideas about the role that all of us – from academics to parents to TV presenters – can work together to halt the march of extremism in the US, Europe, and around the world.

Speaker
Cynthia Miller-Idriss, American University


Learn about upcoming seminars and more on our events page