Democracy and Revolution


Past Event

Democracy and Revolution

November 19, 2021
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Event time is displayed in your time zone.
Hamilton 603 or Zoom

Columbia Classics Colloquium

Panelists: Nadia Urbinati (Columbia University) and Stathis Gourgouris (Columbia University)

2021 marks the bicentenary of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire. The legacies of this event have had deep consequences, as they contributed to the creation of enduring notions of democracy, West, freedom, and historical legacy. Beside having important implications for the field of Classics and its attendant ideologies, this occurrence also fits within a larger contemporary narrative about the character(s) of democracy.

The rhetoric surrounding democracy and its problems, merits, and discontents often takes root in nostalgic conversations about classical Athens, which in turn situate the ancient polis as the splendid archetype of the much mythologized Western civilization. Today, in turn, democracy seems more frail than ever -- means of mass communication, which promised to democratize democracy even further, turned out to threaten what we had taken for established and unassailable. Moreover, the recent developments in Afghanistan have once again forced the West to confront the mirror of its biases, mistakes, interests, and choices, which it often mystified under the guise of democratic advancements.

What resemblance, if any, is there between the democracy of classical Athens, that of the 1921 revolution, and our own form of democracy in the contemporary United States? What challenges do (or did) these democratic experiences face? Who was (or is) excluded from these democracies? These are only some of the questions this panel attempts to answer, or at least to problematize.

Additionally, the panelists will interrogate the role of academics and intellectuals within these complex debates. Bringing their unique perspectives from the humanistic field and that of social science respectively, they will discuss the place of the Academy within democratic structures, and vice versa. Do academics contribute to the advancement of democratic ideologies, or do they contrast populistic threats? On the other hand, is the Academy a democratic structure? Does it reproduce some of the flaws and challenges that we see talked about in sociopolitical analyses of our world?