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Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse Mission

Rooted in the University of Chicago’s principles of freedom of expression and academic inquiry, the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse offers an innovative curriculum in the theory and practice of public discourse and deliberation. It strives to foster vigorous, inclusive, and productive public discourse by developing capacities to seek and engage difference and disagreement and effectively articulate and communicate. Theory-driven as well as practice-oriented, the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse offers courses at multiple levels of instruction. Courses study the history and theory of free expression, rhetoric, and discourse, and examine and apply principles and practices of public speaking, deliberation, and public engagement. The curriculum aims to study discourse theory and develop communicative competence within a wide variety of academic, professional, and civic contexts. The Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse will be integrated into the College’s distinctive undergraduate curriculum and reflects the conviction that open discourse can advance probing and challenging critical thought.

Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse Courses

PARR 22100. No Justice, No Speech! Free Speech and Palestine in the University and Beyond. 100 Units.

Are there-or should there be-limits to free speech? What is the relationship between free speech and hate speech? Does speech deserve special kinds of protections (or limits) in the context of the university campus? In this course, we will critically engage with these questions as they relate to political organizing and political expression on (and in) Palestine. Our course will examine these foundational questions before turning to some of the sticking points in the debate over free speech and Palestine today: What is freedom of expression in Israel-Palestine, and what does it have to do with the politics of US campuses? What is BDS, and is it intended to foster or limit academic freedom? Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitic? To consider these questions, we will do critical readings of primary texts such as the BDS guidelines issued by PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) and the definition of anti-Semitism issued by the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), as well as ethnographic and other accounts of the problem of political expression in Palestine today.

Instructor(s): Callie Maidhof     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): GLST 25850, PBPL 25850, NELC 25850, LLSO 25850

PARR 23500. Freedom of Speech on Campus: Ideologies, Scenarios and Modes of Discussion. 100 Units.

Free expression always involves strong emotions and tensions with others, who come from a different perspective. To live a full academic life, you want to be authentic. You also want to be civil and professional. What can and can't you say on campus and in the classroom? What should or shouldn't you say? How could you make a conflict more constructive, if it will exist? This course connects the philosophical foundations of free speech and free expression practices at US Universities, and explores the ongoing tensions around this issue. You will develop a thorough understanding of the issue through readings, writing and dialogue involving your peers at and outside of the University of Chicago. You will also practice the skill of moderating discussions on difficult issues that involve matters of free expression and inquiry in the academic setting. Readings will include influential philosophical texts of the Anglo-Saxon tradition (Milton, Locke, Mill, Meiklejohn, Berlin, Fish), legal cases, university declarations, as well as mass media coverage of recent events and proposed legislation. The course will begin with a classroom-based deliberation about free speech and the inclusive campus. You will then proceed to reading seminars and teamwork researching recent controversies concerning free expression at universities. You will write an essay proposing a collaborative solution to the case that you researched.

Instructor(s): Ekaterina Lukianova     Terms Offered: Winter

PARR 24223. Parrhesia: Fearless Speech from Socrates to Greta von Thunberg. 100 Units.

The course will examine the long history of parrhesia, the Greek term for free and fearless speech, from ancient Athens to its current renaissance through the rediscovery by Michel Foucault. Focusing on the relation of truth and discourse, the course will consider not only the extraction of truth as a form of subjection to disciplinary power but also acts of telling truth to power as a practice of self- formation and exercise of freedom. Parrhesia implies a relation between the human self and the act of truth-telling that is suffused with interesting political, philosophical, and ethical possibilities, which students will be encouraged to explore. The course will begin by reviewing Foucault's final lectures on parrhesia and "the courage of truth." It will then examine some of the ancient Greek and Christian texts that Foucault analyzed. It will go on to consider early modern instances of parrhesia (e.g. Galileo and Descartes) and will conclude by surveying relatively recent versions (e.g. Greta von Thunberg and James Comey, JD'85), including contemporary feminist and queer practices of parrhesia. Lectures and discussions in English. No prerequisites.

Instructor(s): Christopher Wild     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): GRMN 24223, RLVC 34223, RLST 24223, CMLT 34223, GRMN 34223, CMLT 24223



Leila Brammer
GB 107


Associate Director

Deputy Director
Ryan Solomon