Today begins the eighth annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life. That means 7-8 hours of seminar discussion each day for two weeks, based on thousands of pages of readings. The syllabus is largely unchanged from last year. My co-conspirator in all of this work is Prof. Karol Soltan from University of Maryland.
Participants this year include two professors of philosophy, several community organizers and NGO leaders, and current PhD students in political science/political theory, developmental psychology, sociology, and geography. They come from the US, UK, Argentina, Ecuador, India, Pakistan, and Thailand.
The curriculum is unapologetically theoretical, even though most participants are selected because of their practical interests. As I’ve argued recently, our civic practices have outrun our theories. We have a lot of wisdom about how to organize a meeting or an advocacy campaign or what makes a good learning opportunity for youth. We have much less clarity about what all of that is for and how it relates to large-scale social conditions and political institutions. The 2016 Summer Institute won’t answer those questions definitively, but it’s a chance to struggle with them together.