apply for the 2019 Summer Institute of Civic Studies

The Summer Institute of Civic Studies is an intensive interdisciplinary seminar that brings together faculty, advanced graduate students, and practitioners from many countries and diverse fields of study. In 2019 it will take place from the evening of June 20 until June 28 at Tufts University in Medford, MA, and Boston.

The Summer Institute was founded and co-taught from 2009 to 2018 by Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Tisch College, and/or Karol So?tan, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. The 11th annual Summer Institute will be taught by Peter Levine alongside several Tufts colleagues. Each year, it features guest seminars by distinguished scholars and practitioners from various institutions and engages participants in challenging discussions such as:

  • How can people work together to improve the world?
  • How can people reason together about what is right to do?
  • What practices and institutional structures promote these kinds of citizenship?
  • How should empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy relate?

A provisional draft of the 2019 syllabus is shown below. You can read more about the motivation for the Institute in the Civic Studies Framing Statement by Harry Boyte, University of Minnesota; Stephen Elkin, University of Maryland; Peter Levine, Tufts; Jane Mansbridge, Harvard; Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University; Karol So?tan, University of Maryland; and Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania.

The seminar follows a three-day public conference, Frontiers of Democracy, which takes place in downtown Boston on June 20-22. Participants in the Summer Institute are expected to participate in the conference (free of charge) and then the Institute on June 23-28. This year, the Summer Institute also follows the American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER), which will take place on June 17-22, with ICER participants also taking part in the Frontiers conference.

Practicalities and How to Apply

Daily sessions take place on the Tufts campus in Medford, Massachusetts. Tuition for the Institute is free, but participants are responsible for their own housing and transportation. One option is a Tufts University dormitory room, which can be rented for $69/night (single room) or $85/night (double room). Credit is not automatically offered, but special arrangements for graduate credit may be possible.

The application consists of a resume, a cover letter about your interests, and an electronic copy of your graduate transcript (if applicable). The application deadline is March 31, 2019. You can sign up here to receive occasional emails about the Summer Institute, including a notification when we begin accepting applications.

For more information contact Peter Levine, Tisch College’s Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, at

European Institute

The fifth annual European Institute of Civic Studies will take place in Herrsching, near Munich, Germany, from July 14th to July 27th 2019. It is open to graduate students and scholars in any discipline who are citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. To apply, send a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and an academic transcript (if applicable) to Prof. Tetyana Kloubert at by March 31, 2019, for best consideration.


2019 Summer Institute Syllabus

Subject to change

June 20 (evening) to June 22 (lunchtime): Frontiers of Democracy Conference

June 23 (afternoon): Informal gathering to get to know each other; some sharing of our backgrounds and goals

June 24

I. Inspirations for civic work

9 a.m.-Noon: A “feeling of personal responsibility for the world”

II. Problems of Collective Action: Forming and Maintaining Functional Groups at Various Scales

1:00-2:00 p.m.: A simulated Tragedy of the Commons; reflections on game theory as a method of modeling interactions

2:00-5:00 p.m.: The work of Elinor Ostrom and colleagues

June 25

9:00 a.m.-Noon:  The role of social capital

1:00-3:00 p.m.: Collective action problems at scale

  • James Madison, The Federalist #10
  • Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracy, pp. 3-35, pp. 163-82, 290-8
  • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Chapters 1, 4 and Postscript, pp. 11-2154-70397-411.
  • James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed,Introduction (pp. 1-8), Chapter 3 “Authoritarian High Modernism”

3:30-5:00 p.m.: Public Work

  • Harry C. Boyte, Reinventing Citizenship as Public Work: Citizen-Centered Democracy and the Empowerment Gap

June 26

III. Problems of Discourse: Discussing and Reasoning about Contested Value Issues

9:00-10:00 a.m.: Deliberation

  • The Harvard Pluralism Project’s case entitled A Call to Prayer. What should the people of Hamtramck, MI do?

10:00 a.m.-Noon, 1:00-2:00 p.m.: The Frankfurt School, Habermas, deliberative democracy

  • Lasse Thomassen, Habermas: A guide for the perplexed. A&C Black, 2010, pp. 63-96, 111-130.
  • Jürgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” New German Critique, 3 (1974), pp. 49-55
  • Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action (selection) 

2:00-5:00 p.m.: Critiques

  • Danielle E. Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown, v. Board of Education, pp. TBA
  • Jean L. Cohen, “American Civil Society Talk,” in Robert K. Fullinwider, ed., Civil Society, Democracy, and Civic Renewal, pp. 55-85
  • Nina Eliasoph, Avoiding Politics, pp. 1-22
  • Lynn Sanders, “Against Deliberation”

June 27

IV. Problems of Exclusion

9:00-11:00 a.m.: Boundaries, good and bad

  • The Book of Nehemiah
  • John Gaventa, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, pp. 3-32
  • Dec 4: Audre Lorde, “ The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” and Steve Biko, “Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity”

11:00 a.m.-Noon and 1:00-3:00 p.m.: Gandhi

2:00-4-00 p.m.: Martin Luther King

June 28

V. Solutions?

9:00-11:00 a.m.: Community organizing

  • Mark R. Warren, Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy, pp. 4-70
  • Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, 1946 (1969 edition), pp. 76-81; 85-88; 92-100, 132-5, 155-158.
  • Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking, pp. 115-138

Noon-2:00 p.m.: Social movements and nonviolent campaigns

  • Charles Tilly, Social Movements, 1768-2004
  • Habermas, “New Social Movements,” Telos, September 21, vol. 1981, no. 49 (1981)
  • Marshall Ganz, “Why David Sometimes Wins: Strategic Capacity in Social Movements,” in Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper, Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Meaning, and Emotion (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) pp.177-98.
  • Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, chapters 1 and 2 

2:00-3:00 p.m. Closing reflections

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.