Academic Freedom and Democratic Backsliding in Comparative Perspective

Date, time: 28 January 2021, 14.00-15.00 (Bergen time)

Venue: Zoom

When it comes to the organizational, economic, personnel and scientific autonomy of universities, other academic bodies we bear witness to the multiple attacks on them – even in seemingly democratic countries. It is clear, that in certain instances governments look at universities and academia as a threat because of the critical thinking they enable and teach about. So as to suppress any possible debate that would go against the status quo and can count as oppositional they aim to suppress their freedoms.

This kind of attitude is not really unique though. We saw/see such attacks from all around the world – for example in the countries our event will focus on: In Turkey with the post-failed-coup crackdown on Turkish academia after 15 July 2016. In Brazil with education becoming a battlefield for conservative movements (i.e anti-sex education and anti-“gender ideology” movements) and especially with universities being attacked since the election of Mr. Jair Bolsonaro in 2018. In Hungary first with the exile of the Central European University, the banning of gender studies, the attack on the autonomy of the Academy of Sciences and now with moving universities to foundations.

Thus, in this seminar Gökhan Sen (Turkey, CMI-LawTransform), Marta Machado (Brazil, Getulio Vargas Foundation Law School in Sao Paulo), Namita Wahi (India, Centre for Policy Research) and Péter Molnár (Hungary, Central European University/Underground Slam Academy) in conversation with Tom Keck (USA, Syracuse University) will try to shed light on this phenomenon through a comparative lens, focusing especially on countries such as Turkey, Brazil, India and Hungary.


Gökhan Sen: Gökhan has a PhD in Law from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He taught constitutional law for several years in Turkey. He also spent one year at University of Geneva, Switzerland as a guest researcher and took part as a Research fellow in “Research Lab: Constitutional Politics in Turkey” funded by University of Humboldt Berlin-Germany. Gökhan has a continuing interest in Direct Democracy, Comparative Constitutional Law, Electoral Integrity, Theories of Constitution-Making, Turkish Constitutional Politics and Law, Human Rights and Democracy Education. He is the author of several books and articles in English and Turkish on these subjects.

Marta Machado: Marta Rodriguez de Assis Machado is Master (2004) and PhD (2007) in Philosophy and Theory of Law at University of Sao Paulo and since 2007 full time professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation Law School in Sao Paulo. She is also Associate Dean for Academic Master and PhD programs and a researcher at the Center of Democracy and Law of Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning. Her research is located in the inter-disciplinary field of law, political science and legal-sociology and focuses on the relations between social movements and law; and on the ambiguous role criminal law plays between recognition and repression.

Namita Wahi: Dr. Namita Wahi is a Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, and Founding Director of the Land Rights Initiative, a pioneering initiative in the land policy space in India. Namita is also a Visiting Fellow at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation where she has collaborated with the Centre on many international research projects on the scope and limitations of judicial enforcement of health, land and water rights. Namita’s research interests are broadly in the areas of property rights, social and economic rights, and eminent domain or expropriation law. She has written extensively on these issues in various academic journals and edited volumes, as well as newspapers and magazines.

Péter Molnár: Peter Molnar is the Founder and Editor in Chief of the Underground Slam Academy, Hungarian and European Slam Poetry Champion. A free speech scholar, has lectured and taught at numerous universities around the world since 1994; Affiliate, Democracy Institute, Central European University (CEU), where he invented and directs the “Hate Speech” Monologues that Turn Prejudices to Love, and was one of the founding researchers of the CEU Center for Media and Communication Studies in 2004. He was a member of the Hungarian Parliament (1990-1998). He is a writer, in 2007, the staged version of his novel, Searchers, won awards for best alternative play and best independent play in Hungary. He accepted in 1989 on behalf of Fidesz the Rafto Prize for human rights, and for the Rafto Foundation, he represents the spirit and activities that were awarded.

Thomas Keck: Tom Keck is the Michael O. Sawyer Chair of Constitutional Law and Politics and Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University‘s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is also a Research Affiliate at the Centre on Law & Social Transformation. He is currently leading a large-scale, collaborative project, funded by Carnegie and the U.S. National Science Foundation, on the political beneficiaries of free expression jurisprudence worldwide. Professor Keck received his B.A. in Politics from Oberlin College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons