Political Theory Project

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Janus Forum Lecture Series

The Janus Forum Lecture Series, which brings together two prominent speakers with different viewpoints, is the PTP's signature public event.

Janus, the Roman god with two faces

Janus Forum

Drawing from its namesake, the Roman god with two faces, the Janus Forum Lecture Series provides two established researchers with alternative perspectives the opportunity to present their research in direct dialogue with one another.

A Different Perspective

While classroom experiences often provide students with a relatively singular narrative trajectory, the Janus Forum is designed to provide an opportunity to engage contrasting perspectives simultaneously.

When choosing speakers and topics, we create pairings of two intellectual leaders who see the world in substantially different ways. We create a space in which students can consider these divergent viewpoints and perhaps develop new viewpoints of their own. 

Janus events emphasize the importance of student interaction with the speakers. Hence, at Janus events equal time is always given to presentations by the speakers and a Q&A with the audience. 

But the hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing. It leads some of the best of the critics to unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose listeners. Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,—criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, — this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society.

W. E. B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk (Chicago, 1903)

The Lecture Series

The Janus Forum Lecture Series has been a mainstay of the PTP’s programming for several years and many events have proven extremely popular on Brown’s campus. Some examples of our past events include:

  • "Thinking Strategically: Should America Support Israel?" with Noam Chomsky (MIT) and ambassador Dennis Ross (The Washington Institute)
  • "WEALTH: Why are some countries so rich and others so poor?" with Jeff Sachs (Columbia University) and Daron Acemoglu (MIT)
  • "Hip Hop: Should Artists be Accountable for their Words?" with Michael Eric Dyson (Georgetown University) and Boyce Watkins (Texas Southern University)
  • "Global Climate Change: The End of the World as We Know it?" with Bjorn Lomborg (Copenhagen Consensus Center) Robert Mendelsohn (Yale) and Michael Shellenberger (Environmental Progress) 

Most recently, we welcomed New York Times Op-Ed columnist and Graduate Center of the City University of New York Distinguished Professor of Economics Paul Krugman, along with Harvard University Department of Psychology Johnstone Family Professor Steve Pinker to consider, "Is Humanity Progressing?" 

Is Humanity Progressing?

 

Economist Paul Krugman and psychologist Steven Pinker debate whether humanity is headed for progress or a setback

Past Janus Events

Video Archive

More videos from past lectures are available on our Youtube playlist.