Woodrow Wilson

Department of Politics

2017-2018 Speaker Series

Presenter Name: 
Alexander Livingston
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Assistant Professor, Cornell University
Title of talk: 
Beyond Birmingham: King, Disobedience, and the Powers of Non-Violence
Abstract/Description: 
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ is commonly celebrated as an authoritative statement of the theory civil disobedience. A generation of scholars in the 1960s and 70s drew on King’s essay to codify a normative theory of disobedience as an act of fidelity to constitutional law. However, this liberal discourse of disobedience came to prominence just as King’s own theory of disobedience was shifting in a more radical direction. This essay critically examines King’s late theory of civil disobedience as an experiment in power. Drawing on published and archival sources, it reconstructs King’s Janus-faced conception of power and its role in reconceptualizing non-violent direct action as an illegal but loving act of taking freedom.
Date and Time: 
Friday, September 15, 2017 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Uday Mehta
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Distinguished Professor of Political Science, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Title of talk: 
Thinking without History: Gandhi on Patience
Date and Time: 
Friday, September 29, 2017 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Robert Vitalis
Presenter title and affiliation: 
University of Pennsylvania
Title of talk: 
White World Order, Black Power Politics: Race in the Making of American International Relations
Date and Time: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM
Presenter Name: 
Ross Mittiga
Presenter title and affiliation: 
PhD Candidate, University of Virginia
Title of talk: 
What's the Problem with Geo-engineering?
Abstract/Description: 
Before long, geo-engineering may offer the most cost-effective option for preventing further harm from climate change. Should this be the case, utilitarians and liberals will have difficulty explaining the sense of aversion and tragedy many feel about intentionally manipulating the climate. Appeals to precaution only partially explain these feelings. For a fuller picture, we need a thicker conception of the proper values and ends of political society. To this end, I examine how classical Buddhist and Greek notions of temperance, justice, and freedom bear on the question of geo-engineering.My intention is not to pronounce on whether geo-engineering is morally “right” or “wrong,” but to highlight reasons for thinking it unattractive in a broader sense, thereby strengthening the case for exhausting conventional, emissions-reductions options.
Date and Time: 
Friday, October 20, 2017 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Jill Frank
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Cornell University
Title of talk: 
Seeing through Lies: Plato’s Republic on How to Avert Tyranny
Abstract/Description: 
Developing capacities to see through a tyrant’s stealth, deception, and lies depends on the capacity to distinguish representation from truth, which, drawing on Republic 10’s account of mimesis, my paper calls mimetic knowledge. Positioned at a third remove from the truth, mimetic representations are false, of course. On the basis of the taxonomy of lies Socrates offers in Republic 2, my paper distinguishes between the tyrant’s lies, which seek to deceive, and mimetic representations, which do not, to bring to appearance the ways in which the Republic positions mimetic knowledge as the key antidote to the lies of the deceiving tyrant. In short, my paper shows that seeing through (remaining unpersuaded by) the tyrant’s lies depends on seeing through (by way of) the falsity of mimetic representation. On this reading, the Republic turns out not to indict mimetic poetry, as is often thought, but rather to bring to light that there can be no anti-tyrannical politics without mimesis. The paper explores the repercussions of this reading for the famous “noble lie” that founds the Republic’s ideal city and the political and social policies enacted and enforced through deception in the name of justice by the ideal city’s philosopher-kings.
Date and Time: 
Friday, November 10, 2017 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Academic Year: