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Patrick Deneen: Focus Lecture – September 27, 2018

Patrick Deneen spoke to Focus students about the difference between ancient and modern conceptions of freedom. His talk touched on themes from his most recent book, Why Liberalism FailedDuring his trip to Duke, Professor Deneen also gave a public lecture sponsored by the Kenan Institute, and spoke to Frank Stasio, the host of WUNC’s The State of Things, about the limitations of American liberalism.  Listen to the full interview here.  Professor Deneen teaches Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, where he holds the David A. Potenziani Memorial Chair in Constitutional Studies.


Jean Yarborough: Constitution Day Lecture – September 18, 2018

This is the first of a series of blog posts written by Duke undergraduates. David Frish is a junior and political science major.  

In honor of Constitution Day, Professor Jean Yarbrough of Bowdoin College spoke to Duke University undergraduates on September 20th and 21st. But for Bowdoin’s Gary M. Pendy Sr. Professor of Social Sciences in Bowdoin’s department of Government and Legal Studies, this visit was more than a Constitution Day talk—it was also a reunion.

Almost two decades ago, Professor Yarbrough encountered a particularly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman named Jed Atkins. Jed, she explained, had a deeply ingrained passion for the classics coupled with an unmatched work ethic. Skipping over Professor Yarbrough’s freshman seminar, Jed decided to take her upper-level seminar. In the years that followed, Professor Yarbrough became a mentor and friend to Jed as he worked his way through college and earned a prestigious graduate scholarship at Cambridge University. Fifteen years later, Jed (now Professor Atkins) had the pleasure and privilege of introducing Jean to his students.

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Citizen Activism Panel – April 17, 2018

We were proud to collaborate with the Center for Political, Leadership, Innovation and Service to host a panel discussion on citizen activism. All three panelists—Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson, chair of the NC Libertarian Party Susan Hogarth, and former organizer with NC for Trump Mitch Myers—have years of experience with grassroots organizing.  Moreover, they offered different perspectives on how citizens can be politically involved, despite not completely identifying with either of the two major political parties. Myers sought to change the Republican party from within; Johnson ran for local office to ensure more progressive voices in Durham politics, and Hogarth has been actively organizing a third party. The panelists were honest about their struggles, but they also suggested that citizen activism can be a lot of fun. Click here to learn more about the discussion!

Arash Abizadeh: Political Theory Workshop – April 12, 2018

McGill University Professor Arash Abizadeh presented a paper entitled, “Representation, Bicameralism, and Sortition: Reconstituting the Senate as a Randomly Selected Citizen Assembly.”  Professor Abizadeh’s specializes in both contemporary political theory and the history of political thought; his research focuses on questions of identity, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, as well as the relationship between rhetoric, passions and discourse.  His work has been published in Political Theory, American Political Science Review, and numerous other journals. He also has a book, Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.  This was our last installment of the 2017/2018 Political Theory Workshop.  Look for information about next fall’s workshop on our calendar this summer.



Pierre Rosanvallon: Public Lecture – March 22, 2018

Pierre Rosanvallon’s public lecture, “Populism and Democracy in the 21st Century,” discussed whether democracy has a future, given that the leading parties in many countries seem more interested in cultivating the interests and favor of the elite than with representing mass opinion.

Professor Rosanvallon is an intellectual historian at the College de France.  He is the author of numerous books, including The Demands of Liberty: Civil Society in France since the Revolution (Harvard University Press, 2007), and Democracy Past and Future (Columbia University Press, 2007) .  In addition to AVI, the lecture was sponsored  by the Political Science Department, and a Humanities Futures grant from the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Stephen Macedo: Political Theory Workshop – March 1, 2018

Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2003), and Liberal Virtues: Citizen, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Oxford University Press, 1990).On March 1, Professor Stephen Macedo gave a talk entitled: “Regulating Offensive Expression: The Roles of Self-Censorship, Social Norms, and Civility.” Professor Macedo is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.  He is the author of Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2003), and Liberal Virtues: Citizen, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Oxford University Press, 1990).

Political Theory Graduate Conference February 8-9, 2018

The 2018 Graduate Conference in Political Theory took place on February 8-9.  This year’s graduate student presenters were:

  • Yuna Blajer de la Garza (University of Chicago): “The Meek and Mighty: Two Models of Domination”
  • Paul M.B. Gutirrez (Brown University): “Incorporating Land: Reassessing the Legal Origins of the Corporation in America”
  • Ferris Lupino (Brown University): “American Stasiology: Racial Conflict Between the Rule of Law and Civil War”
  • Pavlos Papadopoulos (University of Dallas): “Plato’s Model Educational Institution”
  • Eraldo Santos (Pantheon-Sorbonne University): “The Invention of a ‘Great Tradition’: A Plea for a Conceptual History of Civil Disobedience”
  • Naomi Scheinerman (Yale University): “Democratic Moral Decision-Making: Automated Vehicles and the Trolley Problem”

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Living Learning Community Accepting New Members

We are proud to sponsor the  Visions of Freedom Living Learning Community,  a group of Duke students with a passion for politics, philosophy, and economics who have decided to create a “space for not-too-serious intellectual conversations outside of the classroom and traditional extracurricular settings.”  Students live in Edens 1A.  In addition to a house course, the LLC organizes numerous field trips and social events. The community is currently recruiting up to 28 new members.  Applications are due on February 12, 2018 (deadline extended to February 14, 2018).   Reach out to David Wohlever Sanchez at with any questions or to express your interest!


The Ridiculous and the Ridiculed: Humor and Politics Workshop – February 6, 2018

The Humor & Politics Working Group held its first meeting of the spring semester on February 16. The workshop’s theme was “The Ridiculous and the Ridiculed.” Participants watched selections from South Park, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and Tomi Lahren, and completed a few short readings from Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft in advance of the meeting. The conversation explored the use of ridicule by both liberals and conservatives, and considered whether ridicule has dangerous political consequences.

The Humor and Politics Workshop explores the sarcastic and the sophomoric, the witty and the ridiculous, as well as the irreverent and morbid. Anybody is welcome to join, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and friends. Check back for information about future meetings.