Harvard Graduate Conference Unites Global Thinkers on Political Theory

Anita B. Hofschneider

Yale Professor Bryan Garsten gives the keynote address, “Being Represented,” at the Graduate Conference in Political Theory on Friday afternoon at the Center for Government and International Studies.

The fourth annual Harvard Graduate Conference in Political Theory convened students from across the world last weekend to discuss various academic papers about political theory.

Organized by graduate students from the government department at Harvard, the conference featured 10 papers by graduate students from other schools such as Brown, Duke, Oxford, and Cambridge. Harvard graduate student “discussants” provided critical responses to the pieces presented by the authors.

William Selinger, a third-year Harvard graduate student in attendance, said the conference sought to encourage discussion among graduate students across different universities—a particularly important task given that the field of political theory often lacks forums for discussion and critical support, as the conference’s website states.

“The way political theory works is by conversation and collegial critique,” said Jonathan R. Bruno, an organizer of the event. “For most of us, it’s essential to discuss work in progress with our colleagues across the discipline.”

Yale Professor of Political Science Bryan D. Garsten ’96, who also graduated from GSAS, gave a keynote address in which he presented his paper “Being Represented.” He discussed the idea of “being represented,” a political state of being conceived by French and American post-revolutionary liberals as a true alternative to the classical categories of ‘ruling’ and ‘being ruled.”

“I thought that it [the keynote] was historically very rich and also a very interesting and provocative way of thinking about the claims, problems and experience of political democracy,” said GSAS student Joshua L. Cherniss.

Jonathan R. Bruno, one of the conference’s organizers, estimated about 40 or more people were in attendance on Friday.

Rita Koganzon, another conference organizer, said she thought the strong attendance boded well for future years.

The first Harvard Graduate Conference in Political Theory was held in 2007. The original idea for the event came from Professor of Government Michael E. Rosen, who knew of a graduate philosophical conference at Oxford, according to Cherniss.

The conference is one of very few graduate student conferences in political theory around the United States. Harvard also hosts similar graduate conferences in international history and philosophy.

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