2018-19 Director’s Lectures
Rory Stewart, The Fight Against Blandness: Lessons from Prisons, Afghanistan and Walking
April 15, 2019
Rory Stewart is a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom and is currently Minister of Prisons. In the winter of 2002, after serving in the Foreign Office in Indonesia, he walked across Afghanistan with a mastiff named Babur. The book he wrote of his experience, The Places in Between, is widely considered a masterpiece of travel writing—arguably the best book about walking ever published. Stewart later served as the Coalition Deputy-Governor of two provinces in southern Iraq. In 2005 he founded Turquoise Mountain, a nonprofit devoted to preserving and regenerating historic sites and communities with a rich cultural heritage. He directed the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University from 2008 until 2010, when he left to run for Parliament. Stewart has been working in Prime Minister Theresa May's government throughout the Brexit negotiations. His most recent book, The Marches, chronicles a long walk with his father, a high-ranking intelligence official who served as Director of Technical and Support Services for MI6—a position made famous in the James Bond novels as Q.
David Runciman, The Fate of Democracy: Renewal or Decay?
February 12, 2019
The current crisis of Western democracy has prompted speculation about its possible looming failure, drawing on historical and international comparisons. This lecture argued that these comparisons are often the wrong ones, and that the future of democracy needs to be framed in different terms: the demographic and technological changes of the twenty-first century mean that the twentieth century is a poor guide to our likely fate. Instead, the conventional relationship between political action, institutional continuity and social transformation needs to be reconfigured to make sense of where we are and where we might end up.
J. M. Coetzee, Growing Up with The Children’s Encyclopedia
October 9, 2018
J. M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. His novels include Waiting for the Barbarians, Life & Times of Michael K., Age of Iron, The Master of Petersburg, Boyhood, Disgrace, Youth, Summertime, and The Childhood of Jesus. He is also the author of many works of literary criticism. Coetzee served as a faculty member of the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought from 1998 to 2003 and currently lives in Australia.