Wintersession 2021

Theme: Freedom, Collective Aspirations, and Shared Futures

Wintersession 2021 will feature expert lectures on timely, pertinent topics that have excited sharply differing opinions as part of public discourse in the United States and beyond. As we leave the year 2020 behind us, a year that has brought historic challenges to humanity around the globe, our goal is to think flexibly and expansively about the momentous issues we face in a time of rapid change. This time, we will have 6 sessions from 26-28 January, and a student-led open discussion will conclude the program on Friday, 29 January 2021. The schedule is as follows:

Day 1. Tuesday 26 January 2021

Session 1: 9.30am

The politics of memorials and monuments in the United States

Please review this article before the event:

Dr. Liza Oliver

Assistant Professor, Wellesley College

In the last few years, there have been growing controversies in the US and other parts of the world over the removal or replacement of memorials and monuments dedicated to historical figures or events. This talk discusses the historical, social and political dynamics of public memorialization, and considers how campuses and communities can collectively resolve disputes arising from memorials.

Session 2: 1pm

Implications of the Trump administration’s foreign policy on global affairs

Ambassador Jorge Heine

Boston University

The withdrawal of the United States from multiple international treaties and multilateral organizations has been one of the most defining features of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy. This has several implications for the United States’ position on the global stage, and has reshaped the balance of power between nations, especially in light of the growing influence of China and Russia. This talk outlines the major foreign policy shifts during President Trump’s administration, the changing global landscape in light of the diminishing leadership of the US, and implications for the United States’ domestic politics.


Day 2. Wednesday 27 January 2021

Session 1: 9.30am

Lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic on the future of the public health system in the United States

This session is included in the January Project at Wellesley College

Dr. David Blumenthal In Conversation with President Johnson

President, Commonwealth Foundation

This talk discusses the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health system in the United States. It will particularly address the question of whether or not the US should adopt a national health service, such as the United Kingdom or Canada’s. Would this reform or other similar alternatives make the US system more robust and able to mount a more efficient response to another pandemic in the future and improve equality of access to health care, or would national health care create new challenges without fixing current problems?

Session 2: 1pm

“Regrettable and tragic.” Civil society and the cost of fighting dictatorship in Zimbabwe

Pastor Evan Mawarire

Founder, This Flag Movement

Dr.Chipo Dendere (Discussant)

Assistant Professor, Wellesley College

When Zimbabwe’s army toppled veteran dictator Robert Mugabe from power in November 2017, Zimbabweans expressed collective joy and expectation for the dawn of a new era of socio-political and economic prosperity. But to their dismay, the country’s woes have deepened, with Mugabe’s successors establishing a more tyrannical and corrupt regime that commits violent attacks against opposition and civil society activists on an ongoing basis. This includes the army’s violent attack on unarmed civilians in January 2019 that claimed 12 lives, and which President Emmerson Mnangagwa dismissed as “regrettable and tragic.” This talk reflects on the political and economic developments that have followed the November 2017 coup, and the costs of fighting the ZANU PF regime and other dictatorial regimes in Africa for civil society activists, and prospects for the promotion of human rights in countries with dictatorial regimes.


Day 3. Thursday 28 January 2021.


The evolution of social media in the politics of public discourse in the United States

Professor Diana Owen

Georgetown University

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have radically changed the media landscape, and the manner in which information is disseminated. They have adopted a particularly important role in politics in the United States and other countries and featured prominently in the United States’ 2016 and 2020 elections. Some governments have routinely imposed nation-wide shutdowns to clamp down on social media usage. This talk looks at the evolution of social media and discusses the ways in which it has reshaped modern politics and public discourse in the United States and beyond.

Session 2: 1pm

‘Cancel culture’, academic freedom and intellectual discourse on campus: Insights from Political Science

Dr. Pippa Norris

Harvard University

Campuses across the United States have witnessed the escalation of what commentators describe as a ‘cancel culture’ or silencing of viewpoints that are viewed as contradicting generally accepted ideals. In most cases, this has resulted in social polarization and tensions between students and/or faculty who disagree on various issues. The practice of ‘cancelling’ has also been argued to have adverse effects on academic freedom and open, vigorous and civil debate. In this talk, Dr. Norris presents her research on the theoretical and empirical dimensions of the ‘cancel culture’ phenomenon as it is manifested in the field of political science, and its implications for academic freedom and intellectual engagement on campus.

Friday, 29 January 2021


Student-led discussion conducted by the Adam Smith Fellows


Conclusions, end of Wintersession 2021