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IU New Frontiers grant brings political symposium to Kokomo

January 5, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. —Indiana University Kokomo will host a symposium to discuss current political philosophy, with an IU New Frontiers in the Humanities grant.

Eric Bain-Selbo, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, received the $18,000 grant from IU to fund the March 29 to 31 symposium, The New Populism and the Politics of Dissensus

“The real question is, how can we best understand the various populist movements that are occurring across the planet, including Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 U.S. election, Brexit in the United Kingdom, and the campaign of Marine LePen in France,” he said. “How can we make sense of these movements, and what are their effects going to be on democracies?”

Experts in the fields of philosophy, political science, theology, English, and other disciplines will discuss the rise of populist movements in politics. All presentations will be open to the public.

“The success of the new populism was a surprise to many political analysts and pundits, perhaps believing the well-oiled machines of liberal democracies were safe from such movements,” said Bain-Selbo. “At the same time, a number of political theorists writing on the politics of dissensus have argued recently for a distrust of liberal democracy on very different grounds, viewing it as a mechanism to prevent dissent and opposition.

“This common distrust suggests potentially fruitful areas of investigation and raises compelling questions about liberal democracies and their future.” This doesn’t mean they are opposed to democracy, he said — they are just suspicious of the way it works right now. 

“You see that in President Trump, and the way in which he ran a campaign that was very much critical of ‘the Swamp,’ the Washington elites,” he said. “They are concerned that democracy as we have it isn’t working for the everyday person.”

The eight presenters will write articles on this topic, and will present them at the symposium. Each one will have a respondent, or a person who will share feedback and raise critical questions.  After the conference, all manuscripts will be published as a special issue in Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, which is affiliated with the Society for Values in Higher Education. The journal is a co-sponsor of the symposium.

Bain-Selbo appreciates the opportunity for grant funding to bring the symposium to Kokomo.

“This grant is designed for this type of program, for IU to contribute to an ongoing conversation, by making it possible to bring people together, and to disseminate information,” he said.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 01/05/2018