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Research Residency in Paris: Thinking Europe - Rebooting Democracy

Deadline: 15.03.20 Research stays

The Collège international de philosophie (CIPh) and the Fondation de lʼAllemagne- Maison Heinrich Heine (MHH) have created an annual research residency entitled "Thinking Europe" in 2018. For its third year, the theme of the residency is "Rebooting democracy". The selected applicant will have to develop this theme.


Candidacy Requirements:

• postdoctoral researcher (junior or senior)
• duration: 2-3 months between May 1st and October 31st, 2020 - No nationality, age or academic discipline criteria
• Housing unit provided at the Maison Heinrich Heine at the Cité international universitaire de Paris
• Plane tickets will be paid by the Collège international de philosophie
• At the end of her/his residency, the successful candidate will have to give a conference at the MHH about her/his research project.

How to apply:

The application is to be sent on 15 March 2020 at the latest by email at this address: residence-mhh-ciph(at)ciph.org. The accepted languages are English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and ltalian. The results will be communicated in April 2020. The application must include: a CV, a letter of motivation (2 pages max.), a research project in connection with the theme of the residency (5000 signs max. included spaces) as well as a PHD certification.

Description of the project:

Research residence: THINKING EUROPE - Rebooting democracy

The early hours. Democracy appears in Greece about five hundred years before the Christian era with the institution of isonomy (equality by law) in the Athenian City. The regime of equality, inseparable from free speech in the public sphere and in the assembly, is a polemical process or regime of shared powers, wrested from the aristocracy. Paradoxically, this break with oligarchy (power of a minority), which followed the overcoming of tyranny, is an aristocratic movement. The Greek paradox then exposes us to an irreducible problem, perhaps an aporia: can democracy affirm itself in the face of the constant threat of oligarchy by way of a certain aristo-democracy? To paraphrase the actor, director and poet Antoine Vitez, "elitism for all" is the educational artistic, literary and scientific principle that lies at the heart of democracy.

Modern democracy. At a time when Europe lied in ruins and European populations were decimated by religious wars, when the inquisition reigned with terror and horror, Spinoza invented modern democracy in Amsterdam. He posits one of its radical conditions: the separation of religious and political authorities. Without this separation, religious assassination, civil wars and the censorship of words and opinions in Europe cannot end. Democracy, then, is the (impossible?) invention of European politics by way of a movement of distanciation from political religions and religious politics. Democracy’s primary purpose is to provide safety for all living beings, who should no longer live in fear, no be sacrificed, no longer lose their lives in war. But this greater power of life is also linked to freedom of speech, of thought and of learning.

Contemporary democracy. The totalitarian phenomenon shattered democracy as a political space freed from religious domination, where life was to be freer and more alive, and censorship, war and mass killings democratically interrupted. Fascism, Nazism and Communism have represented three forms of politics claiming to impose the truth of one type of mankind and striving to save it by way of a community based on new sacrifices. What is notable is the religious dimension of these totalitarian politics, the will to dominate a multitude and a plurality of men in the name of truth and knowledge, as well as a myth of purity and of perfection.

In her attempt to think through this totalitarian caesura, Hannah Arendt notes the anti-political hostility of totalitarian regimes to action and freedom. She proceeds to link politics to the presupposition of equality, manifested in political action. Democracy in this sense is not a regime but politics itself, unsettling the philosophical temptation of a subordination to a hierarchical principle of authority (of those who know over those who act) legitimized by tradition or religion. Political speech or action eschew, by virtue of their power of initiation, the totalitarian desire to dominate the plurality of men. Freedom of speech and of political action thus manifest the unpredictable dimension of democratic life between equals.

The anti-totalitarian thinking of radical democracy has been rebooted in philosophy by thinkers like Claude Lefort. Democracy, according to him, is a politics without basis, where power is an empty place that enables not only sharing, but also dissensus and disagreement. Divergence of meaning, the impossibility of common sense, but also the differend (in Jean-François Lyotard's sense of the impossibility of insight into the injustice done to others) allow not only for critical discussion in the democratic public space, but also a conflictuality that divides society and prevents it from congealing into a community or unity.

Where do we stand today with this belated, rare and endangered politics, democracy? Can democracy be rebooted beyond the social and political inequalities that destroy it from within and that condemn citizens to poverty or misery? Should we start over with democracy and re-endow the plurality with a possibility of speech and action freed from oligarchic domination? Can we re-initiate democracy, reinvent representation and democratic participation, when political religion and totalitarian politics hold sway today? Should such a reboot take place locally? And how do we arrive at the European dimension?

Source: Maison Heinrich Heine Editor by Maison Heinrich Heine Countries / organization: France EU Global Topic: Higher Education Ethical Issues and Society Humanities and Social Sciences

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