The 'Crisis of Liberalism': Reflections from Latvia, the Place Where History Never Ended

Open Lecture by Dr. Dace Dzenovska, followed by a Q&A session

“Following independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, economic and political liberalization projects were rolled out across Latvia and Eastern Europe. While economic liberalism was welcomed, political liberalism was contested. Many in Latvia did not want to give up their collective sense of self and insisted on the importance of the nation alongside individual liberties and respect for diversity. From the perspective of liberal Europe, this often led to the conclusion that Latvia’s residents exhibited too much socialist mentality or nationalist sentiment and thus required lessons in political liberalism in order to become fully European.

In this talk, I critically examine efforts to extend lessons in political liberalism to Latvia’s residents on the basis of an ethnography of tolerance promotion in Latvia in the 2000s. I argue that, rather than viewing Eastern Europe as falling behind, it should be viewed as the laboratory for forging post-Cold War political liberalism in Europe. Moreover, it provides insight with regard to the current crisis of political liberalism from a moment in time when it was still confident and from the perspective of a place and people that were thought to have never been liberal.”  

Dace Dzenovska  is Associate Professor in the Anthropology of Migration, Center on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford.

 She is the author of the forthcoming book: 'School of Europeanness. Tolerance and Other Lessons in Political Liberalism in Latvia' published by Cornell University Press.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

The event is arranged by  Marlene Paulin Kristensen, PhD Fellow and Marie Sandberg , Associate Professor, The Saxo-Institute in cooperation with CEMES Student Forum and AMIS.