Thinking Itself is Dangerous: Reading Hannah Arendt Now
What can Hannah Arendt’s life and work teach us about our present political moment? Arendt scholar Samantha Rose Hill talks about the renewed interest in Hannah Arendt’s work, and why we should be reading Arendt now to better understand the politics of today.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the rise of illiberalism world-wide, many have turned to the work of Hannah Arendt, a twentieth-century German Jewish political thinker, to understand our contemporary political moment. Since 2016, Arendt’s 1951 The Origins of Totalitarianism has been selling at record numbers. Nearly 600 pages long, Origins distils the various elements of totalitarianism, like the collapse between truth and fiction, the breakdown of the rule of law, the privatization of public goods, the decline of the nation-state, the rise of mass homelessness, rootlessness, loneliness, and the need for solitude.
How can Arendt’s work in Origins and one of her other masterpieces, The Human Condition from 1958, help us understand our contemporary political moment? How have our political conditions changed in the 21st century? How has digital media technology transformed social relations? Is it possible to stop and think about what we are doing today? Hannah Arendt’s work is not a roadmap into the future, but it can help us orient ourselves to the present political crises and, perhaps in the process, teach us to love the world.
When this talk was scheduled, COVID-19 was unknown to all of us. But as a result of the worldwide pandemic, this public event, like so many others, had to be cancelled in order to protect the health of the community. We at the Waterloo Centre for German Studies, however, are not easily deterred, and with the help of Davian Hart from Sherwood Systems, an event production company in Kitchener-Waterloo, we were able to arrange for the Grimm Lecture to go ahead via livestream. Over 400 people popped into the stream, and the lecture had over 200 persistent viewers. Dr. Hill adapted her lecture to address the current situation - how could she not? - and discussed how Arendt's approach to thinking could even deepen our understanding of the present, unsettling situation. The recording of the livestream is available here:
This event is presented in cooperation with the departments of Philosophy and Germanic & Slavic Studies at the University of Waterloo, and the Balsillie School of International Affairs.
Samantha Rose Hill is the assistant director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities, visiting assistant professor of Political Studies at Bard College, and associate faculty at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research in New York City. She is the author of two forthcoming books: Hannah Arendt, a biography, and Hannah Arendt’s Poems. You can find her writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Public Seminar, OpenDemocracy, Theory & Event, Contemporary Political Theory, and The South Atlantic Quarterly. For more information please visit her website: www.samantharosehill.com
- "Hannah Arendt's Moment": UW's own Prof. Kieran Bonner explains why Hannah Arendt matters today - http://www.kultur360.com/hannah-arendts-moment-interview-kieran-bonner/
- "Totalitarianism in the Age of Trump": an article from The Guardian - https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/01/totalitarianism-in-age-donald-trump-lessons-from-hannah-arendt-protests
- "The Trial of Hannah Arendt": Arendt got into trouble when she coined the term "the banality of evil" - https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2014/marchapril/feature/the-trial-hannah-arendt
- "How Hannah Arendt’s classic work on totalitarianism illuminates today’s America" - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/12/17/how-hannah-arendts-classic-work/
- "Why Arendt matters": The director of the Hannah Arendt Center discusses at length Arendt's masterpiece The Origins of Totalitarianism - https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/arendt-matters-revisiting-origins-totalitarianism/
- "Walter Benjamin's last work" by Samantha Rose Hill - from the LA Review of Books https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/walter-benjamins-last-work/
- "On Walter Benjamin’s Legacy: A Correspondence Between Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno" by Susan H. Gillespie and Samantha Rose Hill - from the LA Review of Books https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/on-walter-benjamins-legacy-a-correspondence-between-hannah-arendt-and-theodor-adorno/
- "What does it mean to love the world? Hannah Arendt and Amor Mundi" by Samantha Rose Hill - from OpenDemocracy - https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/what-does-it-mean-to-love-world-hannah-arendt-and-amor-mundi/
- Günter Gauss 1964 German tv interview of Hannah Arendt (with English subtitles) - Hannah Arendt "Zur Person" Full Interview (with English subtitles)
6:30 pm - Doors open
7:00 pm - 7:15 pm – Introductions by WCGS Director James Skidmore
7:15 pm - 8:00 pm – Lecture by Professor Samantha Rose Hill
8:00 pm - 8:30 pm – Q&A
8:30 pm - 9:30 pm – Reception in the lobby (all attendees welcome)
67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2
There is free parking in three lots near CIGI (before 5:00 pm municipal parking is by permit only).
1) Museum Lot - located directly across from CIGI on the corner of Father David Bauer and Erb st W.
2) Waterloo Town Square - there is parking available on the north and south sides of the Waterloo Town Square. Please visit the Uptown Waterloo Parking website for more details: http://ow.ly/Psy130ldPId
3) At the rear of the CIGI building, directly off Father David Bauer Drive. The entrance to the building is located off Erb Street West, and is connected to the parking lot via a walkway on the east side of the building (Parking at CIGI will open at 6:15pm).