Familiarize yourself with our keynote titles and workshops before making your way to Witten. Below you shall find the titles with short abstracts accompanying them. Be sure to check out our LITERATURE LIST in preperation
If you are joining us digitally, look at the Online Workshop section to see which interesting sessions you could register for. Also, be sure to have a look at our guide for online participants for more info.
Leviathan in the shadows: technocratic exceptionalism and new forms of state-market relations
Keynote speaker - Univ.-Prof. Dr. habil. Joscha Wullweber
Since the global financial crisis and the growing importance of the shadow banking system, the entanglement of the state and the financial system has profoundly changed. These changes are based on a reorganisation of the interaction between state and private actors and involve entirely new dilemmas and paradoxes. As a whole, these developments represent a major challenge not only for the governance of the financial system, but also for the management of future crises, such as the climate crisis or economic crises.
Democracy in Crisis?
Keynote Speaker - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Nils-Christian Bormann
There is a wide-spread sense that democracy is in crisis. Within countries, populist parties challenge established party systems across most European democracies. Elected governments from Brazil to India and Tanzania to Poland weaken the constraints placed on them by democratic constitutions. Internationally, China and Russia promote authoritarian forms of government and attempt to undermine democracies from within. This keynote explores the development of democracy in the last 100 years to understand how threatening these developments are to the quality and survival of contemporary democracies in Europe. Its main hypothesis is that conflicts over the definition of the nation threaten to overpower the ability of democratic institutions to resolve these conflicts. Yet while these conflicts might diminish democratic quality, they are unlikely to lead to complete democratic breakdown.
Sentiments and Revolution, and the Role of the Individual in (Political) History
Keynote Speaker- Dr. Edwina Hagen
How do individuals create political transformations and revolutions? This keynote will explore how human agency and emotions have led the winding path of political history towards the present. Dr. Hagen discusses how political culture changes with the affection of people’s emotions and attitudes toward power and political authority. The resulting democratic revolutions of political systems have empowered individuals to new rights and obligations. By expounding political revolutions of the 18th century, Dr. Hagen will discuss to what extent individuals have figured in the emergence of democracy.
Democracy, national and transnational
Keynote Speaker - Dr. William Outhwaite
‚Sovereignty‘ has become a shibboleth in the twenty-first century, notably in the US, Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Poland, and in the Brexit débâcle in the UK. Dr. Outhwaite traces the way in which Habermas’s concept of the postnational constellation has been developed more recently, and takes it as a reference point for the evaluation of the cult of national sovereignty which has become increasingly prominent in the present century. His argument outlines two broad responses: one is to ‚transnationalise‘ the concept of sovereignty to reflect the reality of an interdependent world; the other is to reject it as an inappropriate way of thinking about political self-determination under modern conditions.
In Presence Workshops
The Child as Narrator: demystifying cultural chaos through the viewpoint of those without power
Workshop Host - Dr Devon Campbell-Hall
Literature has long provided a fictional platform from which writers can offer powerful cultural commentary on political and global crises. Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy confronts hypocrisy and the political and economic challenges of a recently independent India in her first novel, The God of Small Things (1997). Her radical decision to present her story through the point of view of two innocent children, whose naivete highlights the corruption of their society, successfully exposes the lack of true democracy when one’s voice is considered too small to rate much attention from those in control.
This workshop will raise several points for discussion about how contending with the smallest and most modest of issues can sometimes serve as significant lenses through which to make sense of some of the chaos of the twentieth century. Although this is more of a discussion than a writing workshop, participants will gain insight into some of the benefits of using a child’s point of view for their own creative practice. It would be helpful if participants were able to read the novel beforehand.
The failure of politics and journalism to address democracy’s biggest threat: the climate crisis
Workshop Host - Peter Unfried
This Workshop will examine the relationship between the leading german political parties and the political journalists in Berlin. The main focus will be on how politicians and journalists interact in the “safe space of Berlin center” and how, through this close connection, the topic of the climate crisis never arose in the general debate. Was it due to the fact that with a climate agenda politicians couldn't make a career and journalists couldn't sell their articles? Together with Peter Unfried, himself a political journalist at the TAZ, the topic will be examined in more detail. Mr Unfried will share his insight and knowledge of the political and journalistic sphere of Berlin in this workshop. Participants will have the chance to critically reflect with him on the power structures between politicians and journalists.
Democracy as work in progress
Workshop Hosts- Dr. Erica Pasini & Noé Petitjean
On April 28th, 2021 US President Joseph Biden argued in his first speech to the US Congress that the US government had ‘to prove democracy still works. That our government still works — and can deliver for the people…..’ and continued by arguing that ‘It is clear, absolutely clear ... that this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies.’ In his press conference after the end of the G7 on June 13th, 2021, a similar tone was stricken with Biden arguing that ‘We're in a contest, not with China per se, ... with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century.’ For some democracy is a value in itself, for others just a superior form of governance to all others; however, it is clear that the notion of democratic governance is being challenged. States that understand themselves as democratic are ever more often asked to answer critical questions by their citizens and by states that are viewed as less democratic or even autocratic. Answering these challenging questions requires an understanding of democracy as work in progress, not as an established achievement; the recognition that the values underpinning democracy are continuously renegotiated in the changing environment and that therefore our bond with democracy needs to be continuously renewed. In this workshop we will reflect on the different aspects of democracy by asking very basic but also complex questions on the nature of democratic governance. Together, we will investigate the requirements of a working democracy in the 21st century and the avenues for pursuing those requirements and thus ultimately explore what democracy means to each of us thereby possibly also renewing our faith in the future of democratic governance.
Between power and privileges: Democracy starts with people
Workshop Hosts - Clara Leitz & Ludwig Sontag
The workshop focuses on the roles of states and individuals in democracies. Instead of discussing more political theory, we will put a spotlight on the behavior of individuals through small interactive games.
Recreating everyday situations gives us the opportunity to discuss its consequences and find possibilities for individual and state action. For this, we want to encourage participants to reflect on their mind-sets and become more aware of their own behaviors and values.
Joining Politics: Developing and propagating political ideas in democracy (SATURDAY)
Workshop Host - Philip Husemann from JoinPolitics
Pitch your political idea! Workshop with JoinPolitics
Whether it's the climate crisis, the future of work or the platform economy: all the big questions of our time need smart political answers. The non-partisan startup JoinPolitics is looking for the best political ideas and people who are willing to implement them. What political idea do you want to advocate for? In a two-hour workshop, you'll first learn who JoinPolitics is and what their mission is. Co-managing director Philip Husemann will introduce the topic in a short keynote speech and then explain the workshop, which will primarily take place in group work. With the help of a Political Impact Plan, you will roughly outline in a small group with which idea you would apply to JoinPolitics. The JoinPolitics team will support you during the 45-minute group work. Afterwards, the ideas will be pitched and discussed in plenary.
Thinking outside the box – New System Old Democratic Concept (SUNDAY)
Workshop Host - Erik Brüggemann - VOLT
The aim of this Workshop is working with a democratic concept that is fundamentally different from the existing system. Why? Both the European Union and democracy itself have to prove themselves anew at any time. Here we want to find out whether a radical-aleatoric composition of a parliament works and is desirable. The workshop addresses the concept of an aleatory legislative chamber composed of citizens randomly selected by lot. Current concepts limit the involvement of citizens selected by lot to predefined topics, budgets or a mere advisory role. The integrative potential could only be fully developed if such a body were included in the core area of the legislative process. Introducing this directly at the European level would also put the continent's political and democratic concept on a completely new (and hopefully strong) footing. Whether it is desirable at all, under what conditions it would be workable, and what consequences it would have are to be examined here.
Keynote Speakers & Workshop Hosts
This year we are very grateful to boast a diverse array of intellectuals who shall be leading the conference. Below you shall find some information on our esteemed speakers and workshop hosts to get an idea of their background and expertise.
Dr. William Outhwaite
William Outhwaite, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, taught at the universities of Sussex and Newcastle, where he is emeritus professor of sociology. Prior to his habilitation, he has received a BA from Oxford University and subsequently completed an MA and DPhil at the University of Sussex. William Outhwaite’s studies focus on the philosophy of social sciences and his writings revolve around the future of society. His works are inspired by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School of social theory, to which he has contributed extensive contemplations of the possible emergence of a transnational society and its political implications.
William Outhwaite is the author of Understanding Social Life: The Method Called Verstehen (1975, 2nd edn. 1986), Concept Formation in Social Science (1983), New Philosophies of Social Science: Realism, Hermeneutics and Critical Theory (1987), Habermas (1994), The Future of Society (2006), European Society (2008), Critical Theory and Contemporary Europe (2012), Social Theory (2015), Europe since 1989: Transitions and Transformations (2016), Contemporary Europe (2017), Transregional Europe (2020) and (with Larry Ray) Social Theory and Postcommunism (2005).
Univ.-Prof. Dr. habil. Joscha Wullweber
Joscha Wullweber currently holds the Heisenberg professorship for Politics, Transformation, and Sustainability at Witten/Herdecke University. His research revolves around national, international, and transnational governance of political-economic and -ecological processes and structures. Dr. Wullweber has studied history of politics and economics in Hamburg and subsequently finished a Masters in global political economy at the University of Sussex. He completed his PhD at the University of Kassel with a work titled Hegemony, Discourse, and Political Economy: The Nanotechnology project. His current research focuses on the role of central banks within the political process. His research is underpinned by a continuous interest in the dynamics of social and political transformations.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Nils-Christian Bormann
Nils-Christian Bormann is a political scientist in the Department of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Witten/Herdecke University. He obtained his Doctor of Sciences from ETH Zürich in 2014 and subsequently held positions at the Universities of Exeter and Essex in the United Kingdom. His research explores the causes of multiethnic coalitions and civil wars, the development of economic inequalities between ethnic groups, and the reasons why democracies fail. In 2020, he was awarded 1.5 Million Euro by the European Research Council to study the relationship between political coalitions and democratic breakdown in Interwar Europe.
Dr. Edwina Hagen
Edwina Hagen is an Assistant Professor of Cultural History and Undergraduate Coordinator of the VU History Department. She also teaches at the Amsterdam University College and the Radboud University Nijmegen. At the VU, she teaches courses at BA and MA level on Early Modern European History, Cultural History, Revolutions and History of Emotions. Hagen's research focuses on the connection between culture and politics during the revolutionary period in the Netherlands (1780-1815). Her qualitative and biographical approach reflects a particular historical interest in human agency and the individual, as evidenced by people’s changing practices, emotions and attitudes toward power and political authority. Her work highlights revolutionary efforts to reshape cultural norms about femininity, masculinity, gender and power relations, as well as religious and civic virtues and national identity.
Philip Husemann - JoinPolitics (ONLINE)
Philip Husemann is co-managing director of JoinPolitics. His goal: to connect politics and civil society much better. He has already worked professionally in both fields: as a press officer and communications consultant in politics; as co-initiator of HateAid and former managing director of the Open Society Initiative in political civil society.
About JoinPolitics: The political startup JoinPolitics promotes political talents who develop solutions for the big questions of our time with courage and passion. We support the talents in their implementation with start-up capital of up to 50,000 euros as well as the know-how and network of over 25 coaches and mentors. To find the best political talent, JoinPolitics actively scouts across the country; application rounds take place every six months.
Erik Brüggemann - VOLT (ONLINE)
Erik Brüggemann studied law in Marburg and Norwich and wrote a doctoral thesis on Privacy Law after graduation, which has been submitted and is currently being reviewed. After completing his legal clerkship he now works as an in-house lawyer in Düsseldorf. He is a member of Volt since 2019 and was Local Policy Lead for a time.
We are Volt. A pan-European movement and party. We were founded in 2017 - as a reaction and active counter-movement to rising nationalism and populism. We exist because we are convinced that the great challenges of the 21st century can only be solved if we act together across borders. In a Europe in which all people have the same opportunities to develop their full potential. A Europe that strives for the highest standards of human, social, ecological and technical development.
Dr. Devon Campbell-Hall
Dr. Devon Campbell-Hall is an energetic, transatlantic lecturer who loves every aspect of teaching literature. She completed a PhD entitled 'Writing Asian Britain in Contemporary Anglophone Literature' at the University of Winchester, where she also earned an MA in English: Contemporary Literature. Her BA in English is from Chapman University in California. She was a key contributor to the development of Solent University's English degrees and now serves as the course leader for the BA (Hons) English degree.
Devon is a fellow of the HEA, a member of the Association of Commonwealth Language and Literature Society (Europe), a member of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE), and is actively engaged in presenting her research at international conferences. Academic publications to date include a co-authored student guide, peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and reviews of several books on various aspects of contemporary and postcolonial literature.
Peter Unfried is a political journalist and lead reporter at the German daily newspaper TAZ. He is also editor in chief of the FUTURZWEI magazine, a journal exploring the future of politics.
Dr. Erica Pasini & Noé Petitjean
Dr. Erica Pasini is a teacher at Amsterdam University College and has worked as a trainer for mediation, conflict resolution and peace negotiations with The Pax Ludens Foundations. With an MA in International Relations and a PhD in Drug Chemistry, Erica Pasini advises governments, non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations on natural and human-made disasters. She has participated in several diplomatic missions around the world, employing a non-partisan approach to conflict resolution and crisis management. As trainer for the Pax Ludens Foundation, she has coached senior level officers at the Dutch Defence College on the diplomatic intricacies of the Greater Middle East, and has collaborated with several NGOs, the Red Cross Movement and the ICRC in training NATO forces to raise awareness of the diplomatic, political and ethical complexities of today’s operational environments in high-ranking military officers. She also works together with a number of world leading scientists of various universities in a joint effort to develop new malaria vaccines and drugs.
Noé Petitjean is a Master’s student in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University. In his Master’s programme Noé focuses on research methods in peace and conflict research, peace development strategies, and processes of mobilisations in violent organisations. In 2020, he graduated Cum Laude with a Honours Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the Amsterdam University College and completed a thesis exploring Youth’s behaviours in conflict environments. Today, Noé also works on various social entrepreneurial initiatives which aim to foster inter-community youth dialogue, youth collective action and youth participation in European democratic processes.
Clara Leitz & Ludwig Sontag - Colored Glasses
Clara Leitz, 25, is currently finishing her master’s degrees in environmental leadership and European economics in Nottingham and Tübingen. Before, she studied philosophy and economics in Bayreuth. Since 2012, she is active in the Colored Glasses movement and gives workshops around intercultural communication and discrimination in schools and other settings. Further passions of her are feminism and climate justice.
Ludwig Sontag, 21, studies Physics and Mathematics. From 2017 till 2018 he was an exchange student in Estonia. Since then, he is an active volunteer in Colored Glasses and gives workshops and trainings. He also worked on different European projects to strengthen voluntary work and active citizenship. During his voluntary year he advocated for education for outstanding pupils. His passions are dancing and music.
About Colored Glasses: Colored Glasses is an offer by and for young people that promotes more tolerance and peaceful coexistence in everyday life. Volunteer trainers conduct in a peer-to-peer approach workshops at schools or other institutions for teenagers and young adults. The workshops explain e.g. different treatment/discrimination, prejudices and cultural differences in an experience-based and simple way and make them tangible with a lot of fun. Our target group are young people between the ages of 10 and 20. We aim to reach as many young people as possible with our offer to prevent prejudice, stereotyping and racism and also want to contribute to an active civil society. We offer our workshops free of charge so that as many people as possible can take advantage of it. Colored Glasses is an educational offer of the German Youth for Understanding Komitees e.V (YFU)., an association that has been running international youth exchange programs for more than 60 years.