Academia in Dialogue: Athens

On the 21st and 22nd of November, 2019, the Academia in Dialogue series continued with an event on Radical Political Engagement in Southeast Europe. Panteion University hosted the gathering, organized together by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Athens and Dialogue Southeast Europe offices.

This sixth event in the series, running since spring 2018, brought together around twenty academics, researchers, regional scholars and representatives of the civil society. During the two days workshop, consisting of two panel discussions, two public debates and a luncheon discussion, they assessed the positive and negative effects of radical political engagement, and how the positive momentum may be used to break the status quo in the uncertain times the region of Southeast Europe is going through.

Although it is evident that the challenging political landscape of Southeast Europe calls for action, the question remains open, whether a painful stability is to be preferred over radicalization or if, rather, radical political moves create necessary conditions for progress.

Driven by the notion that, in times of crisis, even common sense solutions seem radical, the Prespa Agreement between Greece and North Macedonia was brought up as an example of how reactionary ideology can be tackled successfully. Another intriguing example which was intensely debated was the engagement of the young activist Gretha Thunberg, and the question if her work is a form of radical response, or whether, in asking for support of governments, it belongs to mainstream activism.

One of the presentations took a closer look at the LGBTQI+ pride movement and how in fact it can be used as a platform for decisive radical political action in combatting stereotypes, fascism and far-right policies.

Another crucial topic was how to approach and involve youth, how to discuss with them political changes and the importance of political mobilization, and how to make  academic discussions more accessible.

Participants maintained that academic engagement across the region is necessary to fight right and left-wing political radicalisation, but also to develop institutions. Radical political engagement calls for enhanced connections among academia, civil society, and the political spectrum in order to harness multiple sources of progressive energy and to engage, as the discussion concluded, radically in the face of radicalism.

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