The newly launched Democracy Project promotes the study at Brown of democratic values, norms, cultures, institutions, and practices around the world, with a specific focus on North American, European, and Latin American experiences with democracy, often in comparative contexts. Democracy here names both electoral and procedural systems of representative government as well as direct, participatory action, citizenship and rule of law governance in all its varieties. Democracy is assumed to include a political and moral orientation toward equality and fairness for citizens/residents that depends on robust opportunities for voice, affirmation, mobilization, and dissent.
These are all part of a broad commitment to stable and renewable social orders conducive to human and non-human flourishing. Because nothing worth studying at the university level has only two sides, the Democracy Project will pay particular attention to how differences get cast as binaries and what can be done to alter such frameworks, asking: how do political and social theory, cultural and media studies (print, photography, cinema, digital and sonic media) shape people’s “imagined” political communities and their modes of belonging? How can we intervene into settled debates without getting captured by their terms? Is it possible to orient democratic media to the public good, rather than to so-called "both sides" neutrality.
The Democracy Project’s public facing work will include events showcasing timely scholarly and cultural work on issues of importance to democracy. For 2022-23, our first year, we will host two major public events. The first, “Begin Again: Democracy in Crisis” will be in February 2023 and will feature a keynote lecture by public intellectual Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. The second event in Sept of 2023, “What is a democracy project?” will feature 3-5 leaders of other similar efforts at other universities alongside Brown faculty. We will ask attendees gathered at this forum to share their impressions and to make suggestions about what they would like to see prioritized at Brown by the Democracy Project in the next 2-3 years.