Emerging into a post-pandemic world it is easy to draw a parallel to the early years of the Renaissance. That optimism, though, is coupled with a unique and time-sensitive imperative for change as even greater existential crises loom large in our future–in the realms of politics, economics, environment, and beyond. The Renaissance was characterized by huge leaps in art, architecture, economics, and science, but those were coupled developments of international finance, colonialism, and inequalities that later spurred some of history’s most influential revolutions. After this annus horribilis, many are conjuring a renaissance in the name of progress. To others, however, real progress can be achieved only through revolution. In an effort to reveal mechanisms that can shape the way we are reborn from crisis, this Salon raises questions around the definitions of both a renaissance and a revolution, and the means by which it can exist, particularly:
What and who defines a renaissance? What about a revolution? What is the difference between the two? Who is in charge of either? Are they mutually exclusive? Do they both lead to progress? For whom? Can the progress they summon be equitably distributed? What are the roles of culture, science, technology, and finance in a renaissance? And in a revolution? Can we define a renaissance as we are living through it? What power structures are inherent to both means of transformation?
This salon took place on November 18th, 2021
Anand Giridharadas is a writer and the author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, published by Knopf in 2018. His other books are The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas and India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking. He is an editor-at-large for TIME, an on-air political analyst for MSNBC, and a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. He is a former columnist and correspondent for The New York Times, having written, most recently, the biweekly “Letter from America.”
Paul Friedland is a professor of political and cultural history at Cornell University, focusing on France in the Revolutionary period and on the interplay of ideas and culture between France and its Caribbean colonies. His research and writing have been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and by visiting fellowships from the Davis Center for Historical Studies and the Institute for Advanced Study, both at Princeton University.
Robyn C. Spencer is a historian that focuses on Black social protest after World War II, urban and working-class radicalism, and gender. She is an Associate Professor of History at Lehman College, City University of New York, where she teaches survey and seminar courses on African American heritage, civil rights and Black Power and Black women’s history. Her first book, The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland, was published in 2016.
Tania Bruguera is a Cuban-born artist and activist whose work centers on questions of political power and control. She promotes the creation of artworks that are beneficial to society in drawing attention to injustice and violence, highlighting the use of art as a force for resistance. Her work has been displayed at institutions such as MoMA, Tate Modern, and the Guggenheim in New York and is part of the collections of MoMA, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana. In 2021, she joined the Theater, Dance, & Media faculty at Harvard University.
David Wallace-Wells is a journalist and author. He serves as the deputy editor at New York Magazine, where he writes frequently about climate and the near future of science and technology. His 2017 New York Magazine essay “The Uninhabitable Earth” was expanded into a book in 2019 and remains a crucial text on the impending impacts of the climate crisis.
Patrick Wyman is a writer and the host of The Tides of History podcast. He earned his PhD in 2016 from the University of Southern California and in 2021 published his first book, The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years that Shook the World.
Tim Parks is a novelist, translator, author, and professor of literature. He has written eighteen novels, including Europa (1997), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Since the 1990s, Parks has written frequently for both the London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books, as well as published various works of non-fiction, including Medici Money (2005).
Hilary Cottam is a social entrepreneur working with communities and governments around the world to design collaborative, affordable solutions to big social challenges, with an emphasis on human relationships supported by technology. Hilary’s current work focuses on the need for a “fifth social revolution” to enable widespread flourishing in this century as work, society and our economies go through deep structural change.
Walter Mignolo is the William Hane Wannamaker Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University. His research and teaching have been devoted to understanding and unraveling the historical foundation of the modern/colonial world system and imaginary since 1500. Mignolo was awarded the Katherine Singer Kovaks prize for his book The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization (1996) and the Frantz Fanon Prize for The Idea of Latin America (2006).
Dread Scott is a visual artist making revolutionary work to propel history forward. His work has been included in exhibitions at MoMA PS1, the Walker Art Center, and Gallery MOMO in Cape Town, South Africa, and is in the collection of the Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. He is a 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and has also received fellowships from Open Society Foundations and United States Artists, as well as a Creative Capital grant.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is the CEO of New America and the author of eight books including, most recently, Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics (2021). She was previously the director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department and the dean of the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
WRITINGS BY OUR SPEAKERS AND VIDEO CONTRIBUTORS
Bruguera, Tania, and Claire Bishop, Tania Bruguera in Conversation with Claire Bishop New York, NY: Fundación Cisneros (2020)
Bruguera, Tania et al., eds, Tania Bruguera: Talking to Power, Hablándole al Poder San Francisco, CA: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, (2018)
Cottam, Hilary, Revolution 5.0: A Social Manifesto (10.12.2019)
Giridharadas, Anand, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World Alfred A. Knopf (2018)
Mignolo, Walter D., The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Colonization and the Discontinuity of the Classical Tradition Renaissance Quarterly, 45:4, 808–28 (1992)
E-International Relations, Interview - Walter Mignolo/Part 2: Key Concepts, (01.21.2017)
Parks, Tim, Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence, W.W. Norton & Company, (2005)
Slaughter, Anne-Marie and Hilary Cottam, We Need a New Economic Category. The Atlantic, (09.23.2021)
Slaughter, Anne-Marie, Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics, Princeton University Press, (2021)
Spencer, Robyn C., The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Duke University Press, (2016)
Wallace-Wells, David, The Uninhabitable Earth, New York Magazine. (07.09.2017)
———. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming, Tim Duggan Books, (2019)
———. The Case for Climate Reparations, New York Magazine (11.01.2021)
Wyman, Patrick, The Verge: Reformation, Renaissance, and Forty Years That Shook the World, Twelve Books, (2021)
Bell, David A., Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution, Straus and Giroux (2020)
Burke, Edmund, and L. G. Mitchell, Reflections on the Revolution in France Oxford University Press (2009, Originally published 1790)
Bustamante, Michael J., and Jennifer L. Lambe, eds., The Revolution from within: Cuba, 1959-1980, Duke University Press (2019)
James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint l’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, Vintage Books (1989 2nd ed., originally published 1938)
Hamilton, Alexander, Jay, John, and Madison, James, The Federalist Papers (1787–1788)
Boggs, Grace Lee, Kurashige, Scott, and Danny Glover Wallerstein, Immanuel Maurice, The next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, University of California Press (2012)
Paine, Thomas, Declaration of The Rights of Man (1789)
Robespierre, Maximilien, A selection from the speech titled Report on the Principles of Political Morality delivered to the National Convention (1794).
Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses (1913)
Tse-tung, Mao, and Stuart R. Schram, The Great Union of the Popular Masses The China Quarterly, no. 49, pp. 76–87 (1972)
RENAISSANCE – ITALY AND WELL BEYOND
Diop, Cheikh Anta, Towards the African Renaissance: Essays in African Culture and Development, 1946-1960, Karnak House (1996)
Haslett, Tobi, The Man Who Led the Harlem Renaissance—and His Hidden Hungers, The New Yorker (05.14.2018)
Huggins, Nathan Irvin, Harlem Renaissance, Oxford University Press (1971)
Kendi, Ibram X, The Renaissance is Black, TIME (02.03.2021)
Lee, Soyoung, ed., Art of the Korean Renaissance, 1400-1600, Yale University Press (2009)
Norris, Michael, The Papacy during the Renaissance Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (08.2007)
Pierpont, Claudia Roth, The Meaning of Machiavelli, The New Yorker (09.08.2008)
Schjeldahl, Peter, The Medici as Artists Saw Them, The New Yorker (07.05.2021)
Snyder, James, ed., The Renaissance in the North, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (1987)
Uffizi Galleries, The Japanese Renaissance. Nature on Painted Screens from the 15th to the 17th Centuries, Uffizi Galleries, (03.2017)
Wisse, Jacob, The Reformation, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (10.2002)
ELITES AND PHILANTHROPY
B.E.R. Staff, The Merits and Drawbacks of Philanthrocapitalism, Berkeley Economic Review (blog), (03.14.2019)
Bernholz, Lucy, The Annual Industry Forecast: 2021, Philanthropy and Digital Society: Blueprint, Stanford Social Innovation Review, (2020)
Carnegie, Andrew, The Gospel of Wealth, Carnegie Corporation of New York (2017, first published in 1899)
Cave, Damien. Can a Carbon-Emitting Iron Ore Tycoon Save the Planet?, The New York Times, (10.16.2021)
Cramer, Maria. After a Billionaire Designed a Dorm, an Architect Resigned in Protest, New York Times (10.30.2021)
Rhodes, Carl and Bloom, Peter, The Trouble with Charitable Billionaires, Guardian (03.24.2018)
Walsh, Emily, Architect Quits UCSB’s Mostly Windowless Mega-Dorm Project Funded by Warren Buffett’s Right-Hand Man, Charlie Munger, Business Insider, (10.30.2021)
EMERGENCE FROM PLAGUE
Khazan, Olga, You Can Be a Different Person After the Pandemic, The New York Times (04.06.2021)
Cohn, Samuel Klein and O’Brien, Monica, Plague and Its Consequences, Oxford Bibliographies (11.2020)
Rapley, John, Empires, Pandemics and the Economic Future of the West, Aeon (07.13.2021)
Stanford University, Combating Black Plague Was Just as Much About Politics as It Was Science, Stanford News (05.12.2020)
Stokes, Freg J., For Hundreds of Years, Pandemics Have Reshaped the Way We Work, Jacobin Magazine (03.21.2021)
Wright, Lawrence, How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—and Open Minds, The New Yorker (07.13.2020)
ARTISTS AND REVOLUTIONS
Adler, Esther, and Andrew Gardner, “Art Is a Powerful Tool”: Emory Douglas and the Language of Revolution, Magazine, The Museum of Modern Art, (10.05.2021)
Rivera, Diego, and Andre Breton, Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art (1938)
Chiu, Melissa, and Sheng Tian Zheng, Art and China’s Revolution, Yale University Press (2008)
Craven, David, Art and Revolution in Latin America: 1910-1990, Yale University Press (2006)
GiudicessiI, Beth, To Instruct, Entertain and Persuade: Political Art at the Cantor, Stanford University News (blog), (10.19.2020)
Obrist, Hans Ulrich, Hans Ulrich Obrist on Why We Need Artists in Politics More Than Ever, Artsy (09.18.2017)
Swanson, Carl, Is Political Art the Only Art That Matters Now?, Vulture (04.20.2017)