political theory workshop

The Political Theory Workshop Presents: Arash Davari


Bandung against Bandung: Muslim Democracy as Realistic Utopia

Arash Davari, Politics, Whitman College
with commentary by Justin Theodra, Political Science, UConn
February 12th, 12:20–2:00p.m. via Zoom

At the end of the Cold War, Iranian “religious intellectuals” increasingly concerned with democratic politics and disillusioned with the revolutionary postures of an Islamic Republic rejected the third worldism long associated with the Asian-Africa Conference held in Bandung in 1955. Ali Shariati’s legacy played a prominent role in these debates. Many dismissed utopian aspirations altogether, announcing their differences with him. Others cordoned off the parts of Shariati’s oeuvre that invoked Bandung from the essence of his ideas, claiming the former expressed support for statist authoritarianism. This article draws on recent scholarship to reassesses Shariati’s utopian political theory. It shows how Shariati’s “middle doctrine” [maktab-i vāseteh] bears affinities with Plato’s arguments in favor of democracy in the Republic. The consequent utopian vision predicates democracy and realism on Islam, not against it, providing for a “Bandung spirit” equipped to answer the challenges posed by today’s positivist critics.

With generous support from the UConn Humanities Institute.

Questions? Email jane.gordon@uconn.edu

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The Political Theory Workshop Presents: S. Emre Gercek

The Political Theory Workshop presents:

‘Moral and Material Amelioration of the Lots of All’: Louis Blanc’s Theory of Democratic Associations

S. Emre Gercek, Political Science, UConn
in conversation with Mandy Long, Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy
December 8, 11:00 am–1:00 pm, on Zoom

This paper argues that democracy became an important idea in nineteenth-century Europe because it offered a vocabulary to address the problems of social disintegration and inequality. It turns to Louis Blanc’s work Organization of Labor to demonstrate how democracy expressed the demands for egalitarian solidarity. Particularly important was Blanc’s proposal of “social workshops:” a reorganization of industry in the form of democratic worker associations. Yet, this idea created a novel tension. While Blanc championed democracy to demand the inclusion and enfranchisement of the working class, this demand conflicted with the universalist aspirations of republican citizenship. Blanc reconciled this tension between the images of the working class and the citizen in his socialist and republican ideas when he suggested that democratic associations would allow workers to have egalitarian control over their conditions while simultaneously fostering their habits and opportunities to be participatory citizens.

Co-sponsored by the UConn Humanities Institute

Questions? Email jane.gordon@uconn.edu

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Political Theory Workshop Presents: Gregory E. Doukas

The Political Theory Workshop presents:

Political Responsibility in the Thought of Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt: Fundaments for a Shared World

Gregory Doukas, PhD Candidate, Political Science
in conversation with Darian Spearman, PhD Candidate, Philosophy
November 17th, 11:00 am–1:00 pm, on Zoom

In the 20th century, the rise of fascism inside geographical European polities prompted two thinkers indigenous to the Global North to question the fundaments upon which any form of collective autonomy and flourishing could be based. It was by returning to foundational questions of political theory, including the social nature power, that Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt arrived at the problem of political responsibility. Their reflections on this theme coursed through such political phenomenological issues as the intersubjective, or public, constitution of truth which, in turn, facilitated more radical forms of anthropological questioning related to the role of politics in human existence. The argument, in the end, was not only that political responsibility is distinct in critical ways from moral, legal, and metaphysical forms of responsibility, but also that political responsibility constitutes the very meaning of the set of normative and institutional arrangements called freedom.

Co-sponsored by the UConn Humanities Institute

Questions? Email jane.gordon@uconn.edu

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Political Theory Workshop Presents: Nina Hagel

The Political Theory Workshop presents:

The Stakes of Authenticity Claims

Nina Hagel, Wesleyan University
October 20th, 11:00 am–1:00 pm

Nina Hagel HeadshotFrom transgender persons seeking to become the gender they truly are to religious business owners seeking exemption from anti-discrimination laws, a wide range of political claims are cast in terms of authenticity. Despite the ubiquity of these claims, it is not always clear what is at stake and whether we should understand these stakes as political. Part of the difficultly is that our most prevalent ways of framing the stakes of authenticity claims—what Hagel calls the ethical frame and the recognition frame—downplay their political character. In this paper, Hagel articulates a third way, found in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For Rousseau, what is at stake in becoming authentic is our individual well-being, the character of our social world, and our possibilities for freedom and equality. In this chapter, Hagel draws out this last set of stakes in Rousseau’s work, articulating them as the democratic frame. According to it, what makes authenticity so crucial is the way it secures our freedom and equality. Even when Rousseau articulates the stakes of authenticity in terms of a more ethical or recognitional reading, we can read him against himself to see how this democratic framing remains implicit. Hagel concludes by showing that understanding the stakes of authenticity in terms of freedom and equality is promising in three ways: it helps us grasp the causes and consequences of becoming authentic better than alternative frames; it avoids some of the problems of essentialism and paternalism that arise in the other two frames; and it offers us a promising new way of thinking about authenticity—in which one is authentic when one develops oneself in a way that enhances, rather than corrodes, one’s possibilities for freedom.

Commentary by Altan Atamer, PhD student, Political Science

All PTW events are generously co-sponsored by the UCONN Humanities Institute

Questions? Contact jane.gordon@uconn.edu

Political Theory Workshop: Elva Orozco Mendoza

The Political Theory Workshop presents:

Some Considerations on the Maternal Contract

Elva Orozco Mendoza (Texas Christian University), with Deng Yinghao (Political Science) as discussant

September 15, 2020 12:20-2:00pm ON ZOOM

Scholars of maternal politics have traditionally characterized maternal activism as a social movement, a performance, a protest, and, lately, as a public expression of precariousness. These accounts of maternal politics have helped to illuminate the relationship between maternal activism and citizenship by analyzing the ways in which mothers’ groups from different localities work to challenge—and sometimes to legitimize—political regimes. However, most scholars overlook the relationship between maternal activism and sovereignty. This chapter develops the concept of the maternal contract by reading the social contract tradition in political philosophy alongside public statements, manifestos, and televised interviews of maternal activists. Orozco Mendoza argues that the proliferation of mothers’ collectives reveal the existence of a subaltern social contract— the maternal contract—whereby minoritized peoples are left to undertake crucial functions of sovereignty due to a pervasive context of extreme violence and institutional abandonment. By offering this argument, the chapter contributes to the study of sovereignty within political theory by suggesting that political theorists engage maternal activists to broaden our understanding of power and in-security in the twenty-first century.

Elva Orozco Mendoza is an assistant professor of political science at Texas Christian University. Her research interests include extreme gender violence, democratic theory and practice, protest politics and political action in Latin America, critical approaches to state sovereignty, and comparative political theory. Orozco Mendoza’s research has been published in journals, including Theory & Event, New Political Science, and the Journal of Latin American Geography. In fall 2019, Orozco Mendoza received the Claudia V. Camp Research and Creativity Award for academic excellence at Texas Christian University. She is a 2020 Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellow

Poster with same text as above and image of Elva Orozco Mendoza.
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Political Theory Workshop to Host Tacuma Peters at UCHI

Tacuma Peters (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is the first speaker of this year’s Political Theory Workshop (PTW). His talk is entitled “Black Caribs, Indigeneity, and Resistance in Eighteenth Century St. Vincent.” UConn Philosophy Ph.D. Candidate Darian Spearman will serve as the event discussant. PTW is co-sponsored by the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI). Peters’ talk is also co-sponsored by the REP Graduate Certificate Program.

PTW event flyer