freedom project

About the Freedom Project

The Freedom Project is dedicated to exploring the idea of freedom in all of its manifestations. Too often freedom is seen as existing in inevitable tension with other important social goals, like civility, diversity, and tolerance. The Freedom Project believes that these goals can be mutually supportive and is committed to practice and programming designed to strengthen the virtues of tolerance, humility, and openness to new ideas.

Freedom, especially freedom of speech and thought, must never be compromised, even when freedom of expression risks offense. At the same time, the Freedom Project resists the idea that civility and inclusion are the natural enemies of freedom. In that spirit, the Freedom Project provides focused attention to the topic of freedom similar to the attention already received at the college by other important social movements and elements of study that also seek to improve human life - like the history and practice of democracy, equality, and social justice.

The Freedom Project offers a unique intellectual space for promoting tolerance, pluralism, intellectual diversity, and freedom of expression within the larger Wellesley community and beyond. These values require an appreciation of the spirit of individualism and the struggle against arbitrary power, both in the form of political domination and the stultifying influence of ideological dogmas – cultural, political or religious – and uncritical social conformity. The Project addresses the importance of freedom as a concept through discussions, debates, and scholarship.

The idea of freedom lies at the heart of the human condition. Freedom is a complex concept that defies precise, categorical definition. Yet across time the promise of freedom has offered people in vastly different circumstances the hope and possibility of self-realization, self-expression, and human flourishing. Soviet citizens trapped behind the iron curtain of communism, indigenous peoples under the yoke of colonialism, dissidents facing repression in authoritarian societies across the world, members of the civil rights movement demanding America live up to its ideals, and LGBTQA individuals around the globe seeking only to be themselves have all held up freedom as an ideal worth pursuing.

In this respect, the study of freedom is expansive and includes understanding this important idea in a variety of cultural contexts. The Freedom Project embraces the entire globe and the arc of history in its study and support. What does it mean to be free? How do we define and achieve freedom? Are there universal standards of freedom? Do we achieve freedom through culture or in opposition to it? How is freedom won and lost? Which political, economic, and social practices and policies foster or undermine freedom? These are the central questions that have defined the struggle for freedom throughout the ages.

The answers to these questions are not uniform and, in fact, are themselves often the source of vigorous debate and disagreement. The Freedom Project is grounded in the foundational idea of the liberal arts: that vigorous debate, disagreement, and conflict are the source of intellectual growth and development and are to be embraced rather than avoided.

The Freedom Project was founded in 2012 by Thomas Cushman, Deffenbaugh de Hoyos Carlson Professor in the Wellesley College Sociology Department.

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