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What is a Republic? May 23, Maynooth University – a Day of Definitional Controversy.

January 1, 2016


What does it mean to proclaim a “republic” rather than any other form of government? What positive characteristics belong to a republic that are distinct from the mere absence of a hereditary head of state? What are republican values? What is a republican aesthetic? And to what extent is the word “republic” different from, while cognate with, related terms like “democracy” or “commonwealth”. How has the definition of a republic changed over time and how does it vary cross-culturally?

On May 23rd 2016, at the leisurely end of an extended commemorative season, Maynooth University will stage a day of debate regarding the aspirational content of republican assertions.   We will have some very high profile plenary speakers, but we also want this to be a day when ideas bubble up rather than beam down.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be putting out some sort of Call for Very Short Papers.  It’s going to be a very interdisciplinary event.  We’d like people from Classics to talk about Cicero.  People from Art History can talk about Jacques-Louis David.   People from History can talk about everyone from Machiavelli to Padraig Pearse to Paul Keating.  Philosophers can dissect the republic, poets can sing about it, social scientists can find out how people live in it.

We’ll be trying to get away from narrowly technical discussions of treaty provisions as well as the logistics of munitions and post offices.  This 2016 commemorative event will be controversial rather than celebratory – or rather – celebratory because controversial, because controversy is worth celebrating.

Keep the date May 23 2016 in your diaries – and if you don’t hear enough about it quickly enough – then badger me about it.  May 23 2016 at Maynooth University will be all about a promise.  A promise made, broken, forgotten, misapplied, remembered, suppressed, confused, rediscovered and renewed.

Do come.


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