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Network Winter 2014

The application deadline for Network Winter 2014 was Friday, October 4, 2013.

Network Winter 2014 will be held from
Monday, January 13 to Friday, January 17, 2014.

The 2014 Network Winter Seminars will be organized around the theme of “Democracy.” It is therefore fitting that the seminars will be held in the birthplace of democracy—Athens, Greece. This winter’s seminars will examine democracy from various historical and contemporary approaches, and the schedule will include plenary sessions where each seminar convener will present an analysis of democracy that spotlights the seminar’s themes.

The following seminars will be offered:

Democracy and Its Critics
Reacting to the Past: Democracy in Ancient Greece
Understanding the New Europe: Democracy and Politics

This seminar is part of the FRN’s new initiative, "A Network for Understanding the New Europe," which is funded by a grant from the European Union, and is open only to designated institutional ambassadors from the participating FRN Flagship Campuses.



About the Seminar

Democracy and equality have been deeply linked in the history of political thought. Critics of democratic practice, however, argue that formal equality among citizens has rarely prevented substantive economic and political inequalities from arising, inequalities that belie the very democratic character of self-described democratic states. One of the perennial questions of democratic theory, therefore, has been whether such substantial inequalities play a necessary structural role in democracy or whether democratic societies should strive to eliminate them. In an attempt to evaluate the nature and possibilities of democratic egalitarianism, we will use this particular controversy as a way of highlighting the character and policies of one of the world’s most radical and influential democracies, ancient Athens. Beginning with Thucydides’ complex historical account of democratic Athens at war, we will turn to ancient defenses of and attacks on democracy by Aristophanes, Isocrates, Plato, and Aristotle. We will then compare these ancient arguments to subsequent ones by James Madison, John Stuart Mill, John Dewey, Milton Friedman, John Rawls, Robert Dahl, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe in an attempt to appreciate the complex interplay between discourses of equality and inequality in democratic societies.

About the Convener

Philip Mitsis Phillip Mitsis is Alexander S. Onassis Professor of Hellenic Culture and Civilization at New York University. His publications focus on the history of ethical and political theory, and he has written most recently on Stoic political theory and on John Locke. He is a frequent convener of seminars for the FRN and, having lived for many years in Athens, is especially looking forward to discussing ancient Athenian democracy in Athens itself.


About the Seminar

In this seminar, participants will face the very issues with which the Athenians were confronted in 403 B.C. But they will not just hear about them. By taking part in the Reacting to the Past pedagogy, seminar members will debate the issues and vote to decide what actions they will take to rebuild the Athenian state.

Reacting to the Past: Democracy in Ancient Greece recreates the intellectual dynamics of one of the most formative periods in the human experience and immerses participants into the historical context. After nearly three decades of war, Sparta crushed democratic Athens, destroyed its great walls and warships, occupied the city, and installed a brutal regime known as “the Thirty Tyrants.” The excesses of the tyrants resulted in civil war and, as the session begins, they have been expelled and the democracy restored. But doubts about democracy remain, expressed most ingeniously by Socrates and his young supporters. Will Athens retain a political system in which all decisions are made by an Assembly of 6,000 or so citizens? Will leaders continue to be chosen by random lottery? Will citizenship be broadened to include slaves who fought for the democracy and foreign-born residents who paid taxes in its support? Will Athens rebuild its long wall and warships and again exact tribute from city-states throughout the Mediterranean? These and other issues must be sorted out by a polity that is fractured into radical and moderate democrats, oligarchs and Socratics, among others.

Reacting to the Past: Democracy in Ancient Greece is part of the Reacting to the Past pedagogy, which consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas–-in this case Plato’s Republic as well as excerpts from Thucydides, Xenophon, and other contemporary sources. Class sessions will be run entirely by participants in character and in debate. The Reacting to the Past pedagogy draws students into the past to promote engagement with big ideas and improve writing, oral communication and other academic skills.

Reacting to the Past was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award for pedagogical innovation. It has been featured in numerous publications including Change magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, among others. Reacting to the Past has been adopted by faculty at over 300 institutions worldwide.

About the Convener

Gretchen Kreahling McKay is Associate Professor of Art History and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History at McDaniel College. She holds a B.A. degree in Art from Colby College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the History of Art from the University of Virginia. First introduced to Reacting to the Past in 2006, she has helped many faculty members adopt it at her institution as Director for the Center of Faculty Excellence. She is also a member of the national Reacting Consortium Board. She has two Reacting to the Past games in development: one on late nineteenth-century French art and the other on Byzantine Iconoclasm. She has published on the influence of apocryphal writings on Byzantine iconography, Byzantine manuscripts, and the reception of Byzantine art in the nineteenth century. In addition to her pedagogical work, she is also pursuing research on Louis XIV and his collection of Byzantine artifacts.



This seminar is part of the FRN’s new initiative, "A Network for Understanding the New Europe," which is funded by a grant from the European Union, and is open only to designated institutional ambassadors from the participating FRN Flagship Campuses.

About the Seminar

Following the devastation of World War II and the division of Europe into nations belonging to the Democratic West and those trapped behind the Iron Curtain, a visionary new idea of a unified Europe began to take shape. The European Economic Community became the European Union and the historically embattled nation states of Europe entered a new era of growth, cooperation and maturity.

Yet, as Europe took shape, and the bonds between its member states deepened, its relationship with its most strategic ally and friend, the United States, began to change. Today, the United States is officially turning its strategic attention to Asia, and the relationship with Europe—though still strong—is being underdeveloped and undervalued.

America needs a deeper understanding of what the Europe of the 28 member states truly means, what exactly comprises the European way of democratic governance (multilateralism), its web of social policies, and its growing economic and political importance in global politics. While Europe has much to be proud of, it also is coming to terms with new challenges to further unification and integration. In a world where problems are becoming more global in scope, Europe has shown leadership and strength. Nonetheless, it is also faced with an unprecedented economic crisis that is testing the endurance of the institutions it has built over time and its ability to accommodate the needs of all its members, both old and new.

This seminar will examine key issues that will shed light on the building of the European Union, its institutions and goals, its leadership and economic strength, its vision for a low carbon world, its international goals and interests. We will also discuss the serious challenges posed by the persisting debt crisis that threatens not only the Eurozone but the political solidarity shown between member states over the last six decades.

About the Convener

Sophia Kalantzakos is Global Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Public Policy at New York University and teaches courses on the global politics of green growth, the politics of resource management, and the rhetoric of sustainability in the United States and Europe. Sophia Kalantzakos was born in Athens, Greece. She received her B.A. in History and Italian Literature from Yale University, her M.A. from the School of International & Public Affairs, Columbia University and her Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of the Peloponnese. In 2000 she became a Member of the Hellenic Parliament in 2000, the first woman to be elected from the State of Messinia. As a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, she was responsible for Greek-US relations and headed the Greek delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. In Parliament, she was a member of the European Affairs Committee, the Committee on Public Administration, Justice, and Public Order, and was alternate general secretary for the New Democracy Parliamentary Group. In 2007, she was appointed Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection, one of two women in the cabinet. Professor Kalantzakos has recently completed a book on the geopolitics of rare earths and the implications of China's near monopoly of these strategic materials. She has also written widely on economic, labor, and environmental issues in the press, while regularly appearing in the international media to talk about the current European debt crisis and the challenges facing the European Union.