Capetown, South Africa

About the Democracy & Diversity Institute

More than a decade after introducing an imaginative program for the creation of a post-apartheid society, South Africa provides an exceptionally stimulating destination for discussion and debate about the nature of democratic transition. The Democracy & Diversity Institute is designed and administered through the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS) at The New School for Social Research in partnership with collaborating scholars and public intellectuals from the region. The program enrolls approximately forty students, junior scholars, and civic leaders from nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, and the United States. The institute facilitates a convergence of international scholars and activists engaged in discussions about civil society, united through a desire to investigate critical issues of democratization in the host region (and beyond).

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The Democracy & Diversity Institute allows collaborative study in an international environment with free, intellectually rigorous discussions about the problems of democratic life in contemporary societies and cultures. Each year, the institute offers four intensive seminars equivalent to a full-semester graduate course. All courses are taught jointly with faculty from both Africa and the United States. In addition, students attend a series of plenary sessions to provide a thematic thread for the special seminars and featured speakers from the region. This “master course” sequence examines global challenges to democracy filtered through the prism of the South African experience. Students register in two of the scheduled seminars, and receive appropriate credits upon completion (6 total credits). In previous years, seminar courses have focused on boundaries, group conflicts, and war in democratic politics; democratic culture, mass media, and the public sphere; gender identity and agency; and economic development and global governance.

The curriculum is also complemented by evening discussions, study tours and cultural excursions, and a special conference. In the past, guest speakers have included prominent scholars, civic leaders, legislators and policy makers, and public intellectuals from the region. For admission, preference is afforded to young scholars who, while pursuing academic goals, demonstrate a commitment to the improvement of civil society and interest in establishing bridges with other universities, NGOs, and local communities. The program should be of particular interest to undergraduate students at Eugene Lang College, especially those in the Social Inquiry area of study with previous coursework exploring the challenges of democratization.

About Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, located in the Western Cape Province, is a historic and picturesque city of 17th-century origins, as well as the dynamic legislative capital of South Africa. The city is situated on the peninsula, Cape of Good Hope, whose southernmost point is the richly symbolic tip of Africa. With its vivid fusion of historical sites and energetic social and political change, the region represents an ideal location for the Democracy & Diversity Institute. The main facilities for the institute are a waterfront campus at the University of Cape Town and a residential complex whose history is intertwined with apartheid. The residence hall was used briefly as a prison, and until 1989, as a hostel for migrant workers from rural regions working in Cape Town harbor. From this vantage point, students are further confronted by a sobering view of Robben Island, home to a massive prison where anti-apartheid leaders from the African National Congress (including President Nelson Mandela) were held.