Our program of activities include:
In her keynote speech to open the academic year, Dr Naema Tahir, delved into freedom and the family landscape. Dr Tahir teaches law at UCR, but is also an acclaimed author who has explored the theme of freedom and human rights in multicultural societies. Family, as she set out in her speech, is an important societal institution. It is the first place we exercise our freedoms and the first place those very freedoms are limited, e.g. the freedom to choose one’s friends, the freedom to pursue an education or the freedom to consent to marriage. Drawing from her recent research, Dr. Tahir offered perspectives on the freedom to consent, highlighting how different cultures value freedom.
Once the semester has started, students, staff and teachers are all invited to ‘short walks on freedom’. These will be organized flexibly, weather permitting, and always start at 13:00 with a 15 minute introduction in our outdoor classroom, followed by a walking discussion on the Bulwarks. Interested Middelburgers are, of course, welcome to join as well.
Here’s what you can expect from the some of the walks:
- Dean and philosopher Bert van den Brink discusses freedom and (in)visibility on the basis of Ralph Ellison’s classic novel ‘Invisible Man’. What does the fact that, as citizens, we have the power to either recognize or misrecognize the humanity of others mean for our interpersonal relations?
- Cognitive scientist Gerda Andringa takes a disciplinary perspective on freedom related to corona, and the elderly. What are the consequences of the degree to which old people have been confined during corona?
- Economist Bert Mosselmans introduces the idea of a 5thfreedom, the freedom to compete. Following Adam Smith and Theodore Roosevelt, market power should be checked and competition should be protected. If such a 5th award would exist, who could be a laureate?
- Media scholar Anya Luscombe throws up the question how free the press is, and how free it should be. Should freedom of expression apply to all press and who should be able to call themselves a journalist anyhow?
- Professor of music Albert Clement shows how closely music, Enlightenment thinking and Freemasonry are connected in a walk that also takes us the English church, and the Freemasonry lodge
- Environmental scientist Renata van der Weijden will share her experience with Citizen Science. Should research be confined to academics only? What is the relation between CitSci projects and freedom?
The theme of ‘Cultures and Institutions of Freedom’ will also figure prominently in a number of our courses. These include, but are not limited to:
- The Science and Cognition course, with a great deal of attention for the free will and decision-making
- The Public International Law course, with attention for how international law can strengthen or limit our individual freedom
- The German course, in which freedom features prominently in a number of assignments
- The US government and politics course; to what extent are we seeing the end of American liberalism?
Throughout the year, there will be guest lectures and special activities related to the theme of ‘Cultures and Institutions of Freedom’. Some examples include:
- An interactive walk through Middelburg, in Black Achievement Month in September, with special attention for the legacy of enslavement in Middelburg’s buildings and musea
- The launch of the book ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’s views on Diplomacy and Democracy: the global citizen’, by Anya Luscombe and Dario Fazzi, in October
- The Four Freedoms Awards and a Meet-Up with the laureates in Spring
- The 2021 May freedom month, with concerts and lectures
On the 24th of October, 75 years ago, the United Nations was founded to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind’ and ‘to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom’. Whether this has been achieved is an open question, to be critically assessed. Against this question, UCR is organizing a Modern United Nations, in which high school students will not only represent states, but also nature, future generations, cities and other entities to debate topics of global importance. The program, on the 24th of October, will be preceded by a range of interactive lectures and sessions.
In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.