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Socrates Courses: Freedom and Society

Our courses are offered in English and in German, and explore topics in various academic disciplines, such as history, literature, philosophy, art history, sociology, anthropology, political thought, and academic writing, in small discussion groups led by instructors from Bard College and partner institutions in Berlin.  Each year we explore a different theme that speaks to the problems and crises of our time. In 2021, our theme will be ‘Freedom and Society’. 

The courses are taught in the evening, from 18.00 - 20.30 h, and may involve academic excursions and extra-curricular activities at other times, including weekends.  No payment is required, all course materials are supplied, and childcare for participants with young children may be available*. In 2021, our courses run for 11 weeks from September to November and students who complete their chosen courses successfully will receive a participation certificate.

*Course dates and services are subject to change according to Berlin COVID-19 regulations. 

Course 1: From Cave to Wine Cave

Course 1: From Cave to Wine Cave 
September 6 - November 26, 2021*
18:00 - 20:30h
Instructors: Betsy Leimbigler and Paul Festa

From Cave to Wine Cave: Extreme poverty, government intervention, and unforeseen consequences in postwar Italy and beyond: The course begins with readings on governance, globalization, media and inequalities. Students will first broadly discuss freedom within the context of government systems, media systems, and how inequalities are addressed. This grounds a study of the transformation of the prehistoric city of Matera between 1945 and the present. We pay special attention to the role of antifascist writer and painter Carlo and to the present-day forces of commercialization and gentrification that threaten one of the signal success stories of 20th century socialism.

Course 2: Freedom, Un-freedom and Emancipation

Course 2: Freedom, Un-freedom and Emancipation
September 6 - November 26, 2021*
18:00 - 20:30h
Instructors: Hans Staufacher and Joshua Paul

Freedom, Un-freedom and Emancipation: This course explores how freedom has been defined, what un-freedom looks like and how people have envisioned achieving true freedom or emancipation. The course introduces a brief history of thinking on freedom with such questions as: What is freedom? Are there different kinds of freedom? How do we gain freedom, through thinking or through action? The course then builds on this foundation to explore histories of un-freedom such as slavery: For one person to be free must another person be un-free? Where and how can we be truly free?

Teaching Approach

Discussion-based: Classes are conducted as discussions among equal participants. The purpose of a discussion is to fully understand the selected text or materials and to offer potential different interpretations of the reading.

Text-based: In preparation for the class students read a text assigned by the instructor in advance. Classes normally begin with an introduction of the assigned text by the instructor, followed by a general discussion where everyone is encouraged to contribute.  

Interdisciplinary: The questions tackled in the classes are connected by a common theme. In 2021 our theme is ‘Freedom and Society’. This theme will be explored with instructors with different disciplinary backgrounds and expertise in diverse areas.

Are you interested in courses in German? 


Socrates Partners

The Socrates Project is a collaboration between Bard College Berlin and Central European University in Budapest and Vienna, supported by a grant from the Open Society University Network.
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