• gold design element

    Democracy–Freedom–Truth: Critical Conversations from Diverse Global Perspectives

    Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the limits of civil liberties have been tested in communities around the world. Liberal democracies and authoritarian states alike have curtailed individual and collective freedoms to preserve the common good. At the same time, we have seen rising contestations of “truth,” including questioning of the scientific bases for the COVID-19 public health restrictions on free movement and association. These contestations of truth have been fueled by social media and new technologies, including AI.

Generative Themes Initiative 'Democracy–Freedom–Truth'

What do these three terms mean, both individually and in combination, within diverse cultural and geopolitical contexts? When we consider these concepts as a tryptic, we believe they raise profound questions for the future of the social world.

The International Institute aims to engage students, faculty, staff and the public beyond UCLA in critical conversations about these issues in the next two years through a series of events and activities, which will be advertised here. We hope you will be inspired to participate in these conversations or initiate some of your own. If you have an idea for an event related to this theme, please contact Marjorie Faulstich Orellana(orellana@international.ucla.edu) or David Kim(dkim@international.ucla.edu).

We offer these questions as possible starting points for discussion:

  1. What insights does your field, program or international context offer into this tryptic of concepts? How does your field consider the role of “truth” in the service of democracy and freedom? How are democracy and freedom implicated in the quest for truth?
  2. What restrictions might (should?) be placed on freedom in the pursuit of democracy or in the preservation of truth? Whose freedoms, and whose truths, are at stake?
  3. What role do/should educational institutions play in preserving, enhancing, critiquing, challenging and/or expanding ideas about freedom and truth in democracy? How about news and other forms of media?
  4. What are the meanings of these terms – or similar ones - in diverse cultural and linguistic contexts? How are they understood in diverse cultural, geopolitical, racial/ethnic and religious contexts?
  5. How can nations, states, institutions and local communities balance individual freedom with collective responsibility?
  6. What kinds of truths can we agree on, while allowing freedom for diverse approaches to understanding the world, and determining “truth”?
  7. To what extent did the pandemic expose longstanding inequities in liberal democracies, as well as the unfreedom of ethnic and religious minorities, women, the LGBTQ+ communities, and migrants? What have we learned about the value of truth from these painful experiences?
  8. What do these analyses suggest for the sustainment, expansion, or enhancement of democratic practices? Is democracy is at risk or under attack? Could there exist greater potential for true democracy now than ever before?
  9. What lessons from ancient and premodern philosophies, indigenous epistemologies, or non-Western and anticolonial political theories can help us take a critical look at illiberal democracies and false conceptions of truth?

What are we asking from you? What can we offer?

Supplemental funding of $500 is available for an event or an activity, which you plan to organize in relation to the Generative Theme. This supplemental funding can be used for any of the following purposes:

  • a. Taking events off campus or involving the community beyond UCLA
  • b. Adding a pedagogical component (e.g. connecting to the IDPs)
  • c. Involving undergraduates in planning and implementation (e.g. working with student organizations)
  • d. Offering a workshop for graduate students
  • e. Adding a lunch or dinner conversation around the theme or about a common reading
  • f. Creating something for broader dissemination (e.g. podcast, Youtube video, Op Eds, or a special issue or a journal)
  • g. Adding an action/activism component

How can you apply for funding?

To apply for the supplemental funding, please write a brief (1 page) explanation of the event/activity you are planning, how it relates to the theme, and how you would like to use the funding for enhancing the work. Please add a detailed budget for the supplemental activity for your event. Priority will go to events and activities that involve two or more Institute units (Research Centers and IDPs) as co-sponsors.

Please email the explanation and the budget to AVP Marjorie Orellana(orellana@international.ucla.edu) and AVP David Kim(dkim@international.ucla.edu). Applications are evaluated by the International Institute leadership.