Thursday, November 2, 2017
A Conversation to Discuss Marc Jongen's Invitation to Hannah Arendt Center's two-day conference: Crises Of Democracy: Thinking In Dark Times
Olin, Room 205The Hannah Arendt Center and the Tough Talks Lecture Series will co-host a conversation to discuss the controversy surrounding the invitation of Dr. Marc Jongen to our recent fall conference. Here is a statement that Academic Director Roger Berkowitz prepared on behalf of the HAC in response to criticism within the community of scholars who penned a recent letter for The Chronicle of Higher Education to the Hannah Arendt Center. Below, are a number of responses from the Hannah Arendt Center's community supporting the center's decision to invite Marc Jongen.
Response by Roger Berkowitz
The letter says I made a mistake in inviting a speaker to a two-day conference. Not one of the 56 signatories attended the conference they are criticizing. At the same time, not one person who chose to attend the conference signed the letter. For those who would like to move beyond posturing, I suggest you take the time to view the conference in its entirety. You can do so here.
Response by Leon Botstein
I read with some sadness the open letter to the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities and Bard College, signed by a stellar cast of distinguished colleagues. The number and quality of the signatories are impressive. But that does not make the argument in the letter right. I am afraid therefore that we will have to agree to disagree.
Response by Peter Baehr
The Soviet style collective letter directed against Roger Berkowitz and Leon Botstein (The Chronicle Review, October 23), allows the following brief translation: "Stray from the orthodoxy that we demand of you, and we will seek to destroy your reputation." That Arendt scholars, of all people, should have fired this cannonade is nothing less than bizarre. Academic mobbing - a protest letter with 56 endorsements! - is not something one associates with the fiercely independent mind of Hannah Arendt. Nor is group denunciation. Both require a determined push back from all who believe that frank argument and opposing views are the beating heart of university life.
Response by Wilmot James
The politically conservative right is surging worldwide. If moderating forces wish to influence, occupy and hold the center so that things do not fall apart, they must come to grips with the issues that seizes the right and determine whether there are any upon which to build common ground. There may well be none, but it is fundamentally important to discern whether there are any.
Response by Robert Boyers
I write precisely to "belabor the obvious," to quote Roger Berkowitz. Of course the Arendt Center did not endorse the Alternative fur Deutschland when it invited Professor Marc Jongen to speak at the recent Democracy conference held at Bard. And of course the effort to understand ideas always inevitably entails a willingness to engage with persons with whom we disagree. To risk entering into what Arendt calls "the interminable dialogue" is the task of the Arendt Center, and that task inevitably requires a refusal to accept that we can learn only from those whose views safely accord with our own. Professor Jongen was invited to participate in a conference in which several competing perspectives were represented, and the Arendt Center saw to it that Jongen would be interrogated by a fully worthy antagonist in Ian Buruma, one of the leading intellectuals in the United States. The proper work of the Arendt Center is the examination of a wide range of ideas "that demand scrutiny, not suppression," as President Leon Botstein of Bard College writes in his own letter of support for the work of the center, and I want to add my own voice to say "thank you" and "please don't allow the voices of suppression and intellectual intolerance to prevent you from doing the brave work we have come to expect from the Arendt Center."
Date: Thursday, November 2nd
Time: 5 pm
Location: Olin Rm 205
Free and Open to the Public
For more information, call 845-758-6822.
Time: 5:00 pm
Location: Olin, Room 205