In the beginning of April this year I was involved in an international conference organized jointly by the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Science (BBAW) and the Studienkolleg zu Berlin. The conference was supported by the Fritz-Thyssen foundation and the Allianz Kulturstiftung. The bold headline was: “Understandings & meanings of democracy in Europe and the World”. We had some interesting speakers and outstanding scholars participating in this open doors event. The program of the event can be found here.
I was involved in Co-moderating the panel on meanings of democracy on a global scale with my friend & colleague Niklas Kossow. Our podium debate was complemented by Xiabo Lu (Columbia University) and Nora Lafi (center for the modern orient) and Sina Birkholz (Free University Berlin).
The discussion touched upon topics such as the universality of democracy as a normative order and source of legitimacy, justice, economic development, civil society and media pluralism.
The interesting debate on the podium was focused on perspectives from the Arab World and China. Here you can find the link to the audio file of the discussion (last link).
Besides the interesting podium debate I was also involved in organization a workshop on understandings of democracy in the Arab World with my colleague Laura Führer from the Free University Berlin and Thomas Claes from the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation. In the workshop we covered the contestation during the Arab Uprisings and the demands of the protesters such as freedom, justice, an end to corruption and democracy. We discussed varieties of understandings of democracy across the Arab World focusing on Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco. We highlighted the differences between these cases and came to the conclusion that the understandings of democracy –even within the seemingly homogeneous bloc of the Arab World, or even within the single countries– are very diverging. In short, there is no such thing as a common Arab understanding of democracy.
All in all the conference was very interesting and enabled a fruitful exchange between established and young academics, journalists and the interested public in Berlin. Overall despite the references to democracy by all actors across all regions the diversity of understandings and meanings of democracy was the central outcome of the conference.
I herewith also want to thank the organizers and my collegues for their efforts and participation in planning and contributing to the success of the event.
is a researcher and PhD student in political science, freelance journalist and photographer interested in Democracy, Transition, Authoritarianism and Security especially in the MIddle East and North Africa.