C21 Conversational Symposium
Fall 2016
The Ideals of Politics

C21 Conversational Symposium

A series of six seminars, August-November, 2016

5:30 - 7:30 pm

$385 (includes books)

Meeting at The University Club of Milwaukee
924 E Wells St, Milwaukee, WI 53202

Organized by the Center for 21st Century Studies

Cosponsored by Dr. Francis Barry Silberg's Center for Comparative Studies and The University Club of Milwaukee

On the eve of one of the most contentious and unpredictable election cycles in U.S. history, we will investigate the roots of political ideas and convictions. What, above all, is the point of politics? Why do governance and loyalty exist? What is gained and what is lost in submitting to be ruled by someone else? How can one tell legitimate authority from illegitimate authoritarianism? Can individuals even exist without a polity?

Over the course of the semester, leading up to November’s election, we will read a wide range of political philosophers and authors, each of whom asks different questions and provides different solutions to these eternal questions. From the individual who stands against all law to the ruler who can determine when law needs to be followed and when it can be ignored, we will investigate a wide range political ideals. Each session will be guided by a different UWM professor, leading a conversation about the implications, problems, and promise of each book and author.

August 25 (Thursday)


Kennan Ferguson, PhD (Political Science)

Professor Ferguson, director of the Center for 21st Century Studies, is a political theorist known for his work on the politics of everyday life. He is coeditor of the 17-volume series Modernity and Political Thought and of the 8-volume Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Thought.

Image of SophoclesSeptember 8 (Thursday)

Antigone | Sophocles

Andrew Porter, PhD (Classics, Foreign Language & Literature)

Sophocles’ Antigone places front and center a heroine caught in a dilemma between private and public responsibility, in a tragedy that brings forward conflicts inspired by questions of love, loyalty, power, politics, and gender. • Professor Porter researches and teaches Classics, with a specialty in early Greek literature. He is currently writing a book on Homeric epic.

September 22 (Thursday)

Second Treatise of Government | John Locke

Ivan Ascher, PhD (Political Science)

When John Locke, in the 17th century, declared that “in the beginning all the World was America,” he said it was because “no such thing as Money was any where known.” But what exactly did Locke mean by this? And does it still matter today, when all around the world America is known as the land of milk and money? What is the American legacy of Locke, and what should we make of it? • Professor Ascher teaches and researches modern political and social theory. He recently published Portfolio Society: On the Capitalist Mode of Prediction.

October 7 (FRIDAY)

The Social Contract | Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Blain Neufeld, PhD (Philosophy)

Rousseau begins his famous work by declaring: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” A radical defense of direct democracy, civic equality, and liberty as non-domination, Rousseau’s political theory continues to inspire egalitarian and democratic movements. • Professor Neufeld’s research focuses on contemporary political philosophy. He has published articles on civic education, international justice, liberal feminism, political liberty, and public reason.

October 20 (Thursday)

The Concept of the Political | Carl Schmitt

Lisa Silverman, PhD (History, Center for Jewish Studies)

The Concept of the Political, first published in 1927, remains controversial legal theorist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt’s most influential work. We will discuss how it addresses liberalism, individual rights, and the state in the context of Schmitt’s troubling relationship to the Jews and the Nazis’ rise to power. • Professor Silverman teaches and researches Jewish history and culture; and German and Austrian history, literature, and culture. She recently co-authored Holocaust Representations in History: An Introduction.

Image of Chantal MouffeNovember 3 (Thursday)

Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically | Chantal Mouffe

Kristin Sziarto, PhD (Geography)

Chantal Mouffe is the philosopher most closely associated with the idea of politics as agonistics, i.e., that people will never agree on one, ideal model, and so the dynamics of conflict and contest become the central questions of how to behave politically. Arguing that political behavior will always been a kind of confrontation, Mouffe argues that ideas such as cosmopolitanism, feminism, and democracy can never be settled. • Professor Sziarto teaches and writes on urban social geography, the ways that social movements and governmental powers negotiate the spaces of cities and other communities.

General Information

Intended for community professionals, the C21 Conversational Symposium is a process of learning and inquiry at the level of graduate school—but with considerably less demand on participants’ time.

Classes are held at the end of the workday every other week, over twelve weeks, for a total of six classes. Enrollment is limited to sixteen participants. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in discussions with the guidance of talented University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professors who are eager to expand their roles in the community by exploring their favorite writings with motivated professionals.

All materials for the course, including the selected books, are provided with the assessed fee. Each session will be led by a different professor, who will ask questions and lead the discussions provoked by the readings. There will be no quizzes or tests; instead, participants are expected to arrive having read each session’s selection, ready to discuss, debate, and inquire about the text. Sessions begin with socializing and refreshments.

The faculty coordinator is the director of the Center for 21st Century Studies, Kennan Ferguson, who teaches contemporary political philosophy.

The C21 Conversational Symposium is organized by UWM’s Center for 21st Century Studies (C21), and cosponsored by Dr. Francis Barry Silberg's Center for Comparative Studies and The University Club of Milwaukee.

The Center for 21st Century Studies, a UW System Center of Excellence, is a leading force in the field of 21st century studies, focusing on the intersection of humanities, arts, and social and natural sciences. The Conversational Symposium enriches and encourages the intellectual work for which the Center is world famous. C21 is not only an academic institution; it is also a place for building the crucial relationships between the university and the community.

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