Forget Open Society? Critical Conversations on a Contested Concept

Forget Open Society? Critical Conversations on a Contested Concept


October 28-29, 2021


While Open Society is, undoubtedly, a contested concept, we find at its very heart a commitment to open discussion and critical thinking. This critical ethos also applies to the idea of Open Society itself: What are its characteristics? How, if at all, can the concept be translated into practice? What is its potential and what are its limitations in today’s world? Is Open Society a ‘Western’ concept? In probing these and related questions, this is a conference on Open Society (as a philosophical/political concept) in the spirit of Open Society (as a critical ethos). As such, it seems apt to frame its overarching theme as a (deliberate) provocation: Forget Open Society?

Following a series of workshops and public events in its first year of existence, the Open Society Research Platform (OSRP) will host an academic conference to which we would like to invite everyone with a genuine interest in the concept of Open Society. The main purpose of this conference is to explore and open up further avenues for research on the idea(l) of Open Society in regional, national, international and global contexts. As such, this conference seeks to bring together and spark conversations between scholars, thinkers, and activists from various disciplines who will critically reflect on this contested concept, probe its potential and limitations in light of the global challenges that humanity faces, and carve out new ideas and insights of how to live with the tensions and frictions that an open society inevitably creates and constantly re-creates.

Program of the conference and video recordings

Thursday, 28 October

9.00 - 9:30         Welcome Address by Liviu Matei (Provost of Central European University) and Leon Botstein (Chancellor of the Open Society University Network) - video

9:30-10:30         Presentation of the OSRP Report - video

11.00-12.30       Panel 1: Opening Spaces

Chair: Liviu Matei (Central European University)

Discussant: Prem Kumar Rajaram (Central European University)

Rachid Boutayeb (Doha Institute for Graduate Studies), “Neighborhood and its Enemies. Plaidoyer for an Open Migration”

Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe (University of Nigeria), “The Home as a Contested Open Society Phenomenon in African Cosmology

Nazam Laila (BRAC University), “OSUN’s Role in Decolonising the Cyberspace”

11.00-12-30        Panel 2: Higher Education, Sustainability and the Open Society

Chair: Eduard Lezcano (Central European University)

Discussant: Saimum Talukder (BRAC University)

Maryna Lakhno (Central European University), “Aligning Open Society Ideas and the Sustainable Development Goals”

Helen Murray (University of Sussex), “In Search of ‘Publicness’ in an Open Society: Universities and the Public Sphere”

14.00-15.30        Panel 3: The Value of ‘Openness’

Chair: Christof Royer (Central European University)

Discussant: Anna Eva Grutza (Central European University)

Thom Scott-Phillips (Central European University), “The Value of Open Discussion: An Evolutionary and Cognitive Perspective”

Gazela Pudar Draško and Predrag Krstić (both University of Belgrade), “Don't Forget the Openness”

Mark Bovens (University of Utrecht), “The Open Society and its Challenges”

13.30-15.30        Panel 4: Narratives, Identities, and Open Society

 Chair: Valida Repovac Niksic (University of Sarajevo)

Discussant: Heather Grabbe (Open Society Foundations)

Lubomir Terziev (American University in Bulgaria), “’Sorosoids’ Can Serve as They Swerve: Open Society in Contemporary Bulgaria”

Katalin Fabian (Lafayette College), “The Gender of Illiberalism: New Transnational Alliances in Central and Eastern Europe”

16.00-17.30       Keynote Lecture   

Iveta Silova (Arizona State University): Education and Open Society - video


Friday, 29 October

9.00-10.30          Keynote Lecture

Thaddeus Metz (University of Pretoria): Popper’s politics in the light of African Values - video

10.45-12.15        Panel 5: Covid-19 and AI

Chair: Christof Royer (Central European University)

Discussant: Maryna Lakhno (Central European University)

Nahida Akter (BRAC University), “Gender and Public Policy Responses to Covid-19: Emerging Evidence from Bangladesh”

Saimum Reza Talukder (BRAC University), “Rights Based Use of Artificial Intelligence: A Way Out to Reduce Risks against Open Society in a Post-COVID World?”

10.45-12.15        Panel 6: Knowledge Production in Open Society

 Chair: Milica Popovic (Central European University)

Discussant: Lubomir Terziev (American University in Bulgaria)

Anna Grutza (Central European University), “The Historian as Scientific Prophet: The Danger of Sherman Kent’s and the CIA’s Scientific Method of Prediction and Data Evaluation to Open Societies”

Friedrich von Petersdorff (Independent Scholar), “Interpreting the Historical Past When Aiming at an Open Society”

Nazam Laila and Adeeba Asri (both BRAC University), “The Deconstruction of the Masculine Bias in AI Discourse: OSUN’s Roles and the Way Forward”

13.30-15.00        Panel 7: Open Society Beyond (and Against) Popper

Chair: Tatiana Schyttsova (European Humanities University

Discussants: Jean-Louis Fabiani and Christof Royer (both Central European University)

Jean-Louis Fabiani (Central European University), “Can Bergson’s Definition of Open Society be Useful Today?”

Andrea Timár (Eötvös Loránd University),“Reading with Hannah Arendt:  Literature and Open Society”

Piers Norris Turner (Ohio State University), “Open Society as an Achievement”

 13.30-15.00     Panel 8: The Global Rise of Authoritarianism

 Chair: Volha Biziukova (Central European University)

Discussant: Katalin Fabian (Lafayette College)

Ahmed Hmeedat (Al Quds Bard College), “The Reception of the Concept of Open Society in Palestine: The Rise of Authoritarianism and the Decline of the Individual”

Kenneth Ka-Lok Chan (Hong Kong Baptist University), “The Relevance of Open Society to Hong Kong’s Fight against Moral and Institutional Decay”

Gregory Joseph Lobo (Universidad de los Andes), “Identity and the Open Society”

15.30 – 17.00    Keynote Roundtable: Open Society and Covid-19 - video

 Albena Azmanova (University of Kent), Michael Esfeld (University of Lausanne), Shalini Randeira (Central European University), Tarun Weeramanthri (University of Western Australia), Christof Royer (moderator, Central European University),