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Conference to Explore Cultures of Democracy

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April 19, 2005

A three-day conference exploring the cultures of democracy will take place at Northwestern University from Thursday, April 21, through Saturday, April 23. Free and open to the public, “Cultures of Democracy” will bring scholars from countries from Mexico to China to the Evanston campus to search for enlightening contrasts between different systems of democracy.

The conference will open with a panel discussion from 3 to 6 p.m. on April 21 in Room 18 of Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road. All Friday and Saturday conference events will be held in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive. Call (847) 467-5254 for more information.

“The impetus for the conference began with the observation that democracy today, in halting steps, appears to be spreading across the globe. At the same time, the greater the geographical scope of democracy, the more difficult it is to understand,” says Dilip Gaonkar, associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University.

Gaonkar, with Charles Taylor, professor of philosophy and law at Northwestern, organized the conference. Among the questions that participants will attempt to answer are: What are the conditions that make for stable democracies? Why does democracy take place in one country but not in another?

In considering the conditions of democracy, the participants will not assume that there is a single recognizable political culture of democracy and a set of economic and political conditions that enable it. Instead, conveners will turn back to an older tradition that finds its source in political philosopher Montesquieu to grapple with these questions.

“Just as speak of ‘multiple modernities,’ so will we have to recognize different democratic forms,” says Professor Gaonkar. “We will explore the diverse democratic models and cultures of countries such as Brazil, India and the United States.

The conference is sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication at Northwestern’s School of Communication. For lecture times and other information, call (847) 467-5254.