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Academic Freedom in Historical Perspective (25th Anniversary Conference) -08-09-10/11/2018, Budapest


Twenty-Five Years of the European Review of History / Revue européenne d’histoire: An Anniversary Conference

Academic freedom is a central idea in modern scholarship. Even if a precise definition of it is difficult to state, it can be understood as the freedom for members of academia to teach and research without being restrained by political or social surveillance. The concept is not legally defined, it proceeds from customs, conventions or even traditions. Legally, discussions on academic freedom fall into the category of freedom of speech, even if this concept only partly corresponds.

When first created in the Middle Ages, universities were religious institutions. Throughout the centuries, they had to fight to escape the Churches’ influence. Modern universities created in the 19th century were both instruments of learning the new techniques of capitalism (in engineering, for example) and for the promotion of the new nation-state. They were instruments of nationalisms. In the 20th century, dictatorships and totalitarian regimes severely restricted any freedom in academic institutions. In the 21st century, academic freedom and freedom of speech can be found only in a few countries, mostly in liberal democracies. In many countries, it remains difficult, often dangerous, to criticise the rulers. Even in liberal democracies, academic freedom remains fragile and is never perfectly achieved. Neo-liberal governance of universities is a significant threat: academics are expected to follow the market-oriented, customer-satisfaction, impact-driven agendas of their employers. Rising bureaucracy and micro-management imposed on academics could also be a way of suppressing conflicting views. Critical thinking and freedom of expressions could also be restricted by students themselves. The recent emergence of ‘safe spaces’ on American campuses, in which students demand not to be challenged by conflicting views and/or by topics bearing on adverse personal circumstances which students have experienced in their lives, are examples of such a phenomenon. Identity politics and political correctness may also restrain debates.

Keynote speakers: Olivier Beaud (University of Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas); Paula Findlen (Stanford University); Oleg Kharkhordin (European University, St. Petersburg).

FECHA/DATE/DATA: 08-09-10/11/2018

LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Central European University (Budapest, Hungary)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Jean-Marc Dreyfus (University of Manchester); László Kontler (Central European University); Agne Rimkute (Central European University); Andrea Talabér (Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague); Bertrand Taithe (University of Manchester); Karin Tilmans (European University Institute).




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