This international academic workshop took place from 23 to 25 March 2011 in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Bert De Munck, Prof. Dr. Tim Heysse, Prof. Dr. Peter Thijssen and Prof. Dr. Walter Weyns.
Unfortunately, Craig Calhoun had to cancel his public lecture for health reasons.
The Enlightenment brought us the notion of a universal public sphere and of an impartial, discerning and rational ‘philosophe’ who participates in the public debates held there. But the public sphere is neither uniform nor unchanging. Moreover, the spread of the internet and of social network sites has drastically changed the space for public debate and the role and authority of intellectuals. In cyberspace, anyone can vent his opinion on social issues and influence public opinion (or a small group of the like-minded) through numerous new and informal e-communities. Moreover, television has priviliged the importance of image and appearance over content.
The profile of the intellectual has also changed. He or she took up the role of an avant-garde revolutionary or a respected public figure with great moral authority who were loved by the public (like Sartre). Nowadays, writers or scholars are given the role of public intellectual. They often find it difficult to guard their academic independence and literary freedom. Finally, a new type of ‘embedded’ intellectual is trying to nourish public opinion from the bottom up.
Contributors: Patrick Baert (University of Cambridge), Sarah Beeks (University of Antwerp), Peter Dahlgren (Lund University), Bert De Munck (University of Antwerp), Tim Heysse (K.U.Leuven), Ragnvald Kalleberg (University of Oslo), Harold Mah (Queen’s University), Peter Thijssen (University of Antwerp), Walter Weyns (University of Antwerp).
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