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Michigan State University

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PTCD Job Talk - Ella Street

Tuesday, December 3, 2019 4:00 pm

Location: JMC Library

Please join Ella Street at she presents "The Risk and Promise of Democratic Judgement: Constituting Civic Identity in the Athenian Courts" 

The Athenian popular courts are generally viewed as an institution in which ordinary citizens attempted (and often failed) to reach true or just decisions, or as a vital site of popular rule. In this talk, I advance a third way of understanding the courts, and I do so through theorizing judgment as identity-constitution. Through a careful study of what I take to be a quintessential moment of democratic judgment—the trial of Demosthenes in the wake of Athens’ humiliating submission to Macedon—I suggest that to reflect and to pass collective judgment on what is just, tolerable, advantageous or noble is also to reflect upon and assert an understanding of “who we [the demos] are.”Foregrounding identity-constitution in our understanding of judgment allows us to better understand the risks and promise of democratic judgment.

 

Ella Street is a Ph.D. Candidate in political theory in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Her principal research and teaching interests lie in democratic theory and the history of political thought. Her first book project develops a theory of judgment as a situated political practice through a comparative study of the courts and theater of Athens. She has also published work on the intersections of democratic thought and the historical experience of empire (“Tocqueville’s Savages.” The Tocqueville Review/Le Revue Tocqueville,2019)Before coming to Toronto, she received a B.A. in Political Science at the Colorado College and an M.A. in Government at Georgetown University. The Athenian popular courts are generally viewed as an institution in which ordinary citizens attempted (and often failed) to reach true or just decisions, or as a vital site of popular rule. In this talk, I advance a third way of understanding the courts, and I do so through theorizing judgment as identity-constitution. Through a careful study of what I take to be a quintessential moment of democratic judgment—the trial of Demosthenes in the wake of Athens’ humiliating submission to Macedon—I suggest that to reflect and to pass collective judgment on what is just, tolerable, advantageous or noble is also to reflect upon and assert an understanding of “who we [the demos] are.”Foregrounding identity-constitution in our understanding of judgment allows us to better understand the risks and promise of democratic judgment.