On October 13, 2022, The New School will host the first inaugural event on behalf of the new Henry H. Arnhold Forum on Global Challenges, “American Democracy in Crisis: Perspectives from Tocqueville, Douglass, Wells, Dewey, and Arendt.”
Funded by $3 million gift from the Arnhold Foundation, the Henry H. Arnhold Forum on Global Challenges will give international visibility to New School activities on global issues. Under the lead of Will Milberg, NSSR Dean and Professor of Economics, the Forum will bring together scholars from different disciplines, and sponsor conferences and events on issues such as climate change, threats to democracy, and global inequality. The Forum will encourage an interdisciplinary approach to understanding global challenges and a cross-pollination of graduate student training. According to Dean Milberg, this year, the overarching theme for the forum is to interrogate and locate the relationship between democracy and ethnonationalism with in the U.S. as well as global perspectives.
This year, the forum will focus specifically on threats to democracy, and the “American Democracy in Crisis” event, organized in collaboration with The New School for Social Research, will be a debate and discussion focused on the meaning of democracy in the context of the United States today and the ways in which racism, immigration, and citizenship are entangled in these varying perspectives of democracy.
The inaugural event of the new Henry H. Arnhold Forum on Global Challenges. PRESENTATIONS: “Alexis de Tocqueville on democracy and its culture” Jeffrey…
This debut event will consist of five presentations and a roundtable discussion to engage the audience and invite different perspectives. Each speaker is a leading expert and has been assigned an important figure in the conceptualization of American democracy based on their expertise and research interests.
Jeffrey Goldfarb will present “Alexis de Tocqueville, democracy and its culture.” Goldfarb is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at The New School for Social Research and Senior Fellow at the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies. His work primarily focuses on the sociology of media, culture, and politics.
Juliet Hooker will provide insights on “Frederick Douglass, abolition, civil war, and democracy.” Hooker is a Professor of Political Science at Brown University. She is a political theorist specializing in racial justice, Latin American political thought, Black political thought, and Afro-descendant and indigenous politics in Latin America.
Paula Giddings will join us from Smith College to talk about “Ida B. Wells, race, gender, and the struggle for voting rights.” Paula J. Giddings is Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor Emerita of Africana Studies.
Deva Woodly will give a presentation on “John Dewey, the prospects for democracy in war, peace, and Depression.” Professor Woodly is Associate Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research, interested in investigating democratic politics in a non-traditional way.
James Miller will give a lecture on “Hannah Arendt, insurrection and constitutionalism.” Miller is a Professor of Politics and Liberal Studies, and Faculty Director of the MA in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism at The New School for Social Research.
These presentations will be followed by a roundtable discussion with all the presenters interrogating the question “What does democracy mean today in the US?” Participants will be encouraged to ask questions and provide insights into the overarching question as well.
In 1988, Arien Mack had been editor of Social Research journal for almost 20 years when it occurred to her that organizing conferences would be one way to cultivate a wider audience, and a larger public voice, for the journal and The New School at large.
The topic of the first conference presented itself readily. Macksets the scene for me in a Zoom discussion: In 1988, thousands of people were dying from AIDS, the U.S. government was not acting, and there was much public hysteria stoked by misinformation and prejudice. A conference situating the epidemic in social history seemed like “a calmer and more effective response to the problem,” says Mack. So Social Research presented a conference and attendant journal issue called “In Time of Plague: The History and Social Consequences of Lethal Epidemic Disease.”
Mack describes the conference as “very successful,” and it inaugurated a deeply involved series of conferences that then coalesced into the Center for Public Scholarship (CPS). Mack, Professor Emerita of Psychology and Director of the New University in Exile Consortium says this move followed the spirit of Alvin Johnson, co-founder and first president of The New School, who launched Social Research to provide the university with a public voice. CPS raised the money for the conference series with a mix of “work and luck,” as Mack tells it, and covered “a huge range of wonderful, fascinating subjects,” in her words. CPS also became one of several interdisciplinary centers and institutes at The New School for Social Research.
Now, after more than three decades of successful conferences and public lectures and events, CPS is wrapping up its programming.
Reflecting on standout conferences, Mack cited 2007’s “Punishment: The U.S. Record,” which invited professors of law, religion, and penal and social theory, as well as gathered writings from incarcerated individuals, to speak about the devastation wrought by mass incarceration in America.
In 2012, Mack established a branch of CPS called Public Voices, which sought to bring in singular, leading voices to discuss and think through the most urgent problems of the present. Mack fondly remembers a Public Voices event, one that “really mattered,” called “The Pros and Cons of US Universities Operating Campuses and Centers in Authoritarian Countries,” which discussed the extent to which universities with campuses in authoritarian countries are aiding and abetting, or complicit with, the oppressive regime.
CPS’s conference series attracted artists and academics alike. Mack says that the view of the Center was “very much to the outside, facing the world, trying to address these subjects” in “non technical, non academic,” but intellectual, terms. Poet John Hollander spoke at multiple conferences, including “Home, A Place in the World” in 1990, which approached the making and meaning of home amidst housing and migration crises, and one of Mack’s personal favorites, “In the Company of Animals” in 1995, which discussed animal rights and protections, our connection to them, their role in literature and religion, and more. A CPS conference on the artist’s necessary freedom of expression attracted artists such as Paul Chan, Ricardo Dominguez, Ai Weiwei, Shirin Neshat, and Chaw Ei Thein, and critics such as Holland Cotter. The 2019 conference, “Loyalty and Betrayal” coincided with The New School’s centennial celebration and featured a keynote address from Andrew McCabe, former Deputy Director of the FBI.
In 2020, CPS reissued the “In Time of Plague,” newly edited with analysis from experts on a wide range of subjects including, but not limited to, parallels between COVID-19 and the AIDS epidemic. Read a past Research Matters story on the issue, and listen to Mack discuss the issue below.
The penultimate CPS event, a panel on the future of higher education that was part of the investiture of New School President Dwight A. McBride, took place on October 6, 2021. While Mack planned the final CPS conference and latest Social Research issue well before the pandemic, “it couldn’t have been more timely,” says Mack. The subject? Loneliness. Read more about the event and register here.
As CPS wraps up, Mack will have more time to focus on the New University in Exile Consortium, an initiative she launched in 2018 to shelter, connect, and support scholars whose political views threaten their livelihoods, or their lives. She put it bluntly: The choice to close CPS was difficult because her heart was in it, “but all things being equal and life getting shorter and shorter,” raising money for the Consortium — they’re currently trying to bring at-risk Afghan artists to The New School — is an urgent priority.
Bessie Jane Rubinstein is a writer and a student in the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism MA program. They live in Brooklyn, are rotating between 3+ books, and are always taking recommendations for more.
Graduate students at The New School have a unique opportunity to enrich their academic experience through cross-disciplinary study in graduate minors. These programs give students an opportunity to immerse themselves in disciplines outside of their primary field of study, gain exposure to new ideas and research methods and practices, and develop new ways to think about the world. Recently The New School for Social Research (NSSR) announced three new minor programs launching in the fall 2021 semester: Global Mental Health, Anthropology and Design, and Critical Perspectives on Democratic Anti-Colonialism.
These new minors build on NSSR’s innovative academic approach, combining social theory, policy, and design. “These new graduate minors will enhance the experience of graduate students at The New School by giving them access to focused knowledge outside the boundaries of the standard learning pathways,” says Will Milberg, dean of The New School for Social Research.
Today mental health problems are among the leading causes of mortality and disability around the world. The Global Mental Health graduate minor explores some of the most pressing issues contributing to the ever-increasing number of people living with mental health disorders worldwide. Organized by Adam Brown, associate professor of psychology and vice provost for Research, the program is open to graduate students across the university and draws on a variety of disciplines and methodologies to give students a foundation from which to critically examine mental health treatment gaps and disparities in care. Brown was interested in creating a program that would address the many intersections that factor into this problem.
“There continue to be major gaps in access to care and stigmas that make it hard for people to gain access to mental health care throughout the world,” says Brown. “Some of the current challenges require the development of new mental health interventions. However, many of the challenges are related to policies, inequities, and other aspects of basic human rights. We need not only psychology graduates, but also students from across the university to think carefully and ethically about ways to work across sectors and contexts to re-imagine mental health delivery and care.”
The field is expected to experience tremendous growth in the next few years, as concern about mental health and well-being expands to new environments . “We are already seeing companies, schools, and governmental agencies investing more in mental health strategies to support their staff. I am hopeful that this minor can prepare our graduates to take on leadership and transformational roles in this space, whether they are coming from the perspective of psychology, strategic design, political science, economics, and so on.”
Blending social science with design, the Anthropology and Design minor prepares students to think more critically and creatively about anthropology and ethnography, the designed world, and their own research. Students have the opportunity to study design and technology through an established discipline that emphasizes reflective methodology, ethical frameworks of analysis, and awareness of the political stakes of both research and creative practice. It builds on the Anthropology + Design area of study, which was created two years ago and attracted students from various programs in NSSR, Parsons School of Design, the Schools of Public Engagement, and Eugene Lang College.
In organizing this program, Shannon Mattern, professor of anthropology, drew on the relationships she’s built from her numerous collaborations with faculty and students — everything from organizing events to curating exhibitions to serving as a guest critic in Parsons studios — in her 17 years at the university. “Every semester, I reach out to select faculty to make sure Anthropology students would be both welcome in and prepared for their classes. Students in those other programs — Data Visualization, Design and Technology, Design and Urban Ecologies, Environmental Policy, History of Design and Curatorial Studies, Media Studies, Public and Urban Policy, Theories of Urban Practice — also join us in NSSR. This intermixing makes for a dynamic, constructive space of collaboration and knowledge sharing,” says Mattern.
Also launching this fall is Critical Perspectives on Democratic Anti-Colonialism, which explores the theoretical foundations and political manifestations of radical democratic and anticolonial traditions. Organized by Carlos Forment, associate professor of sociology, and Andreas Kalyvas, associate professor of politics, the minor examines the changing meanings and practices of dissent, resistance, and self-rule that have emerged in the modern world. Currently available only to NSSR students, the minor will provide participants with a sophisticated understanding of alternative approaches for the study of power relations, regimes of knowledge, and the social movements that develop in response to them.
“The minors allow participants to engage more deeply with faculty and students from different disciplines who share their intellectual interests,” adds Milberg. “This represents an important innovation in our graduate curriculum, and I look forward to seeing how students take advantage of this opportunity.”
Transregional Center for Democratic Studies responds to COVID-19 and explores a path for political recovery
In 2019, The New School began its fall semester like most other years. Students excitedly returned to campus, some walking through its doors for the first time. There was an added layer of exhilaration in the air as the academic year marked The New School’s centennial. The university looked back to its beginnings in 1919 with the founding of its University in Exile — the predecessor to The New School for Social Research — as a safe haven for scholars fleeing Nazi Germany, and a century’s worth of scholarship and community activism. It also began to map its next century amid a current time of unprecedented global turmoil.
Building on this spirit, the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) launched its Democracy Seminar amid the October Festival of New. This “worldwide network of democratic correspondence” met to celebrate the centennial as well as to navigate the rise of authoritarianism around the globe and chart a path forward for the preservation and advancement of liberal democracy.
TCDS was founded at The New School for Social Research in the 1990s, inspired by the dismantling of communist governments in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. Since then, TCDS has been dedicated to an interdisciplinary and international examination of democratic theory and practice.
Now, almost a year after that October meeting, the fall 2020 semester looks and feels much different, as does most of daily life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, TCDS has transitioned much of its global programming online, including holding virtual conferences to address pressing issues of the current moment.
Democracy and the Pandemic
Democracy Seminar is a revival and reimagining of the Democracy Seminar of the late 1980s and early 1990s, conceived of by Polish dissident Adam Michnik and brought to life by Michnik; Jeffrey Goldfarb, Gellert Professor of Sociology and Democracy Seminar chair; and Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies and TCDS director. The original Democracy Seminars were semi-clandestine cross-border meetings of pro-democracy intellectual dissidents in East and Central Europe.
Democracy Seminar — also organized by Goldfarb, Matynia, and Jeffrey Isaac, Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington — now fosters worldwide and open discussion among pro-democracy academics, journalists, activists, and more. Originally the group was supposed to reconvene in person this summer for an update on global democracy. Instead, they met over Zoom. On May 20, TCDS held its conference “Democracy & the Pandemic.” In July, they held a public panel: Democracy in a Time of Plague: Challenges & Opportunities in the Struggles Against Authoritarianism, COVID-19 and Racism.
“The Democracy Seminar, our worldwide committee of democratic correspondence, moved to Zoom in May,” says Goldfarb. “We met to urgently consider how the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of authoritarianism are related. There was bad and good news reported from Brazil, China, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and the United States. While the virus is being used by authoritarians to strengthen their positions in innovative ways, their opponents are also innovatively working to strengthen their opposition, and we used our conference to compare notes. I think there was a general consensus that the situation is bleak, but not hopeless.”
“The alarming worldwide trend of abandoning democratic rule began at least five years ago, but the pandemic has sharpened its visibility,” says Matynia. “We discussed how the pandemic has provided opportunities for authoritarian regimes everywhere to expand their emergency powers in order to consolidate their peculiar autocratic legalism; but we also asked whether it might — under certain conditions — serve to topple them? The issue that was of particular interest to me was whether the very experience of this borderless occurrence, the pandemic, might provide an opportunity for the rebuilding of cross-national bonds of social solidarity.”
Students across NSSR participated in the discussions. “The Democracy Seminar is a great and meaningful event for me to hear the voices of the international scholars and activists from all over the world and their insightful reflections on the current global pandemic and democratic crisis,” says Sociology MA student Chang Liu, who contributed an article on China and the pandemic.
“The virtual Democracy Seminar was a truly inspiring event for me,” said Malkhaz Toria, a Sociology MA student and coordinator of the Memory Studies Group at The New School. Toria is also an associate professor of history and head of the Memory Studies Center at the Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. “The distinguishing participants — scholars, journalists, activists, and graduate students from the Americas, Eastern Europe, South Africa, and China — addressed backsliding from democracy exposed by COVID-19. In many countries, we witnessed rising authoritarian rule and right-wing populism before the coronavirus outbreak. However, the already existent pressing issues re-appeared in new lights during the ongoing pandemic. Insightful discussions and debates at the seminar covered an array of topics on how the pandemic is employed by authoritarian governments elsewhere. The Coronavirus revealed disturbing practices of using and abusing power to further impose governmental rules and restrict civil rights while failing to deal with the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19. But panelists also observed democratic ‘innovation’ and ‘awakenings’ to protest and resist these troubling signs of undermining democracy. Fortunately, we also hear strong critical voices from observed countries, and the Democracy Seminar exemplified these sincere hopes for the global defense of democracy.”
In the Same Boat
After a summer of rigorous online programming and intellectual discussion, Goldfarb published an update on the Democracy Seminar, titled “We’re All in the Same Boat.”
“As I wrote over two years ago, when our current group first began to take shape, this is the second iteration of the Democracy Seminar,” wrote Goldfarb “Back then, our immediate situations were strikingly different on each side of the “iron curtain.” Now, we are all in the same boat. The papers prepared for the conference, and our discussions on Zoom all attest to this.” Reflections on TCDS work done this past summer and more ongoing writing can be viewed on Democracy Seminar at Public Seminar.
TCDS is preparing for an online fall 2020 semester and another season of programming via Zoom. They are re-launching the Memory Studies Group at The New School and are looking at summer 2021 for holding their next graduate Democracy & Diversity Institute in Wroclaw, Poland.Among the first events of the semester, TCDS will host Toria and Mykola Balaban, two former Open Society Foundations (OSF) Global Dialogue Fellows at TCDS (2016). They will talk in an online public panel about their collaborative research on “Narrating Conflicts in Post-Truth Era, Facing Revisionist Russia: Ukraine and Georgia in Comparative Perspective,” supported by a ‘Global Dialogs’ Collaborative Research Grant, funded by OSF (2019-2020).
TCDS plans to continue to grow and adapt, standing up to the ever-evolving threats to liberal democracy.
Cailin Potami is a writer, an editor, and a student in the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism MA program. They live in Queens with their cats, Linguini and Tortellini.
Mental health disorders are currently the leading cause of disability worldwide. Still, access to culturally relevant treatment is complicated by a wide range of social and economic barriers. And with more than 40 percent of the world population under the age of 25, many child and adolescent mental health problems are largely neglected.
Faculty and students at The New School for Social Research are spearheading a major effort to expand both research on global mental health and interventions to help people on the ground.
An Interdisciplinary Cohort
In Fall 2019, NSSR launched the Global Mental Health subject area as a way for Psychology students to explore this specialized area of study while deepening their research, developing closer relationships with faculty, connecting with outside job opportunities, and more.
Adam Brown, Associate Professor of Psychology and head of the subject area, notes that courses on the topic have filled up quickly, and that the cohort of students interested in Global Mental Health — like Psychology PhD student Evan Neuwirth — is growing substantially. And it’s not just Psychology students who are involved; increasing numbers of Parsons School of Design students interested in how design can support mental health are enrolling in courses, too.
Opportunities in the field are also growing. Students in Brown’s Spring 2020 Global Mental Health course were excited to partner with the Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC to help address critical gaps in New York City’s mental healthcare system — a project that was unfortunately disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Brown says, “it speaks to amazing potential community partnerships that exist locally with international implications about ways to work with different organizations and agencies, while building on the creativity and knowledge basis of New School students.
“This is a very innovative program because there are very few global health programs within psychology doing this kind of work,” Steele says. Steele’s work has largely looked at childhood development, bridging psychoanalytic thinking and clinical practice with contemporary research practices.
Her current course explores current trends in child and adolescent mental health services and examines responses to social and cultural traumas, with specific focus on refugee populations and displaced children. NSSR MA and PhD students from across disciplines, as well as Parsons design students, engage in team-based project work, partnering with government agencies and NGOs working to deliver interventions to children in Africa and South Asia. Together, they work to find innovative solutions and prototypes for the global mental health challenges their stakeholders propose.
The course’s Teaching Assistant, Zishan Jiwani, is a Psychology MA student and a Zolberg-IRC Fellow in Mental Health in Humanitarian Settings who has also studied transdisciplinary design at Parsons. “Zishan and I will really co-teach the class,” Steele says. “Together, we will deliver a blend of psychology, intervention science and design education to guide students in conducting user experience research, prototyping, and testing solutions remotely.”
“An important objective of this class is to support the cultivation of a deep understanding of how mental health and psychosocial support is delivered for children and families in low-income settings in the Global South,” Steele says. “The interdisciplinary design challenge helps students engage meaningfully with the promise and pitfall of mental health interventions.”
The course will benefit from a distinguished list of guest speakers who are at the helm of child and adolescent global health include Aisha Yousafzai from Harvard School of Public Health, Lisa Cogrove from the University of Massachusetts – Boston, Marinus van IJzendoorn from Erasmus University Rotterdam & the Department of Public Health and Primary Care, School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge, UK.
Mentors from partnering organizations will help guide the student teams through the nuances of their specific challenges. Current projects include partnering with Strengthening Families for the Well-being of Children in Nairobi, Kenya to support teen mothers reintegrate into society after giving birth, and working with the Effia Nkwanta Regional Hospital in Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana to help parents of special needs children cope with their children’s diagnosis.
For the Fall 2020 semester, Steele and Jiwani were successful in securing funding from the Association for Psychological Science Teaching Fund, which was then matched by the Two Lilies Fund, a global early childhood mental health initiative. Microgrants will be awarded to all group projects that show courage, creativity, depth and provide a clear rationale for how they plan to use the funding. Teams will also have an opportunity to request a small amount of funding to develop prototypes midway through the semester.
Steele hopes that publicizing this work will inspire students from across a range of disciplines to engage with these crucial issues at The New School, which is unique in its ability to blend design and psychology in this particular way. The class, which will be offered online in Fall 2020, will also set up a protocol for other universities to develop their own global mental health studies, as well as offer an outline for an engaging and experiential online classroom experience.
“COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge for teaching complex subjects like child and adolescent global mental health through an online format,” Steele said. “However, we plan to use the online format to greatly benefit the classroom experience by expanding our reach outside of New York and bringing in more collaborators virtually.”
From the Lab to the People
In Brown’s Trauma and Global Mental Health Lab, faculty and students are investigating disparities in mental health issues as well as developing innovative solutions and interventions that can reduce barriers to care in low and medium-resourced contexts, especially in the wake of COVID-19.
Recently, Brown connected with the World Health Organization about a short-term mental health treatment plan called Problem Management Plus (PM+). The pilot program to train his Lab students in PM+ would have been conducted in partnership with the Danish Red Cross, which has used PM+ primarily in areas facing humanitarian crises. Now, his ab students are learning PM+ remotely so they can help deliver it online to those in need. Read more in this New School News story.
Brown is also working with three students — Psychology MA students Camila Figueroa Restrepo and Jamie Gardella, and Milano MA student Maria Francisca Paz y Mino Maya — on a study about intergenerational memories among immigrant communities in New York City.
Together with a local nonprofit, they’re working with families of Ecuadorian heritage to understand how their narratives of migration get passed down through generations, and the extent to which knowledge of that narrative is connected with better mental health outcomes.
And, funded by a grant from the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, Brown and his lab students are working with Danny Horesh of Bar Ilan University on an international study examining the psychological implications of the pandemic. Together, they are assessing multiple factors including stress, anxiety, and quality of life, and looking at predictors of distress and well-being.
Cailin Potami is a writer, an editor, and a student in the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism MA program. They live in Queens with their cats, Linguini and Tortellini.