“The Status of American Democracy”

Moustafa Bayoumi (Brooklyn College, City University of New York)
David Sirakov (Atlantic Academy Rheinland-Pfalz)
Sean M. Theriault (The University of Texas at Austin)
Chad E. Seales (The University of Texas at Austin)

Friday, 10 December, 2.15 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Zoom Access: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83617326549?pwd=ODMzRmVyUTZ2RmNFVDV6K0VERkZkdz09
Meeting Code: 874368

Everyone is welcome to join us for this series of guest lectures on the status of American democracy!

Please see below for all details or click here for an overview of the program.

 

The Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies organizes a lecture series by internationally renowned fellows of the Obama Institute and eminent critics of current crises and challenges of democracy as visible in the United States of America and elsewhere. For long, American democracy has served as an exemplary model for the introduction and practice of democratic principles which have inspired and determined transnationally the growth of nations. Germany is certainly one of the prime examples.
In his publications, Barack Obama has repeatedly addressed issues of democracy in crisis and questioned for whom democracy works at home and abroad. „And so the world watches America … to see if our experiment in democracy can work“ and he continues to believe „in the possibility of America—not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind“ (A Promised Land). We will begin with the following lectures:

2.20 p.m.
“That’s the thing about the Americans. They’ll believe anything but the truth.”: What reading Guantánamo Bay Literature Can Tell Us About the Future of American Democracy
Moustafa Bayoumi

Abstract: Since near the beginning of the War on Terror, the American penal colony in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba has been considered by many to be an “exceptional” space, a prison seeking to exist beyond the reach of the laws of war. But what happens if we consider Guantánamo Bay as something “ordinary” instead? In so doing, do we discover, within this very ordinariness, an even more pressing threat to the future of American democracy? This lecture takes up these questions and examines them through reading some of the contemporary literature that has been produced out of Guantánamo Bay.

Bio: Moustafa Bayoumi is the author of How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (Penguin) and This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror (NYU Press). He is also the co-editor (with Andrew Rubin) of The Edward Said Reader (Vintage), which was recently reissued in an expanded edition as The Selected Works of Edward Said (1966-2006). Bayoumi is a regular contributor to The Guardian and The Nation and is a professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.

3.15 p.m.
The Populist Moment: Populism and Polarization in the US
– David Sirakov

Abstract: Political and societal polarization in the U.S. at least over the past 30 years has paved the way for the rise of populism and the electoral victory of Donald J. Trump. In his talk, David Sirakov explores the meaning and interrelation of these two phenomena that so profoundly shape US politics and society today.

Bio: Dr. Sirakov is the director of the Atlantic Academy Rheinland-Pfalz. He studied political science and public law at the University of Trier and obtained his doctorate on the U.S.-Russian relations in the Bush-Putin era (2000-2008) at the Technical University Kaiserslautern. His research focuses on polarization in U.S. Congress and American society, the rise and challenges of authoritarian populism, U.S. foreign policy and transatlantic relations. Amongst others, he is a member of the advisory boards of the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies.

4.15 p.m.
American Politics and the Midterm Elections 2022
– Sean M. Theriault

Abstract: Professor Theriault will describe the status of American politics at the end of 2021 with an eye toward the 2022 midterm elections. He will place these elections into a broader context taking into consideration both the lessons from history and the polling of today.  He will end his presentation with his predictions of what is likely to transpire in November 2022.

Bio: Professor Theriault, who is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Government Department at the University of Texas,  is fascinated by congressional decision-making. He is the author of five books and numerous articles and is currently researching the effect of interpersonal relationships within the U.S. Congress. Professor Theriault, whose classes include the U.S. Congress, Congressional Elections, Party Polarization in the United States, and the Politics of the Catholic Church, has won a number of the biggest teaching awards given on campus.  Before obtaining his Ph.D. from Stanford University (2001; M.A. in Political Science in 2000), he attended the University of Richmond (B.A., 1993), and the University of Rochester (M.S. in Public Policy Analysis, 1996).

5.15 p.m.
The System Will Not Be Labeled: Industrial Food and American Democracy
– Chad E. Seales

Abstract: This talk examines the relationship between the industrial food system and participatory democracy in the United States. It focuses on the lack of transparent labeling for Genetically Modified (GM) foods, despite citizen support for effective federal legislation, to show how the marketing of biotechnology obscures relationships between production and consumption. On the side of production, biotech companies clearly brand and market GM seeds to farmers, in order to protect their proprietary claims. However, on the side of consumption, biotech companies do not reveal GM ingredients of food products produced through industrial agriculture. The goal of the talk is to consider how the producer/consumer split is part of a broader American secularism that hides the very industrial and consumer religions it produces within neoliberal democratic ideals of free markets, personal choice, and moral goodness.

Bio: Chad Seales is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Brian F. Bolton Distinguished Professor in Secular Studies. He taught at New College of Florida in Sarasota and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia before arriving at The University of Texas at Austin. He earned a B.A from the University of Florida, an M.T.S. from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research addresses the cultural relationship between religion and secularism in American life, as evident in the social expressions of evangelical Protestants, the moral prescriptions of workplace chaplains and corporate managers, and the salvific promises of neoliberal capitalism. He is the author of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism (Penn State University Press, 2019), and The Secular Spectacle: Performing Religion in a Southern Town (Oxford University Press, 2013),and has published articles on industrial religion, corporate chaplaincy, religion and film, and secularism and secularization in the United States.

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