Henry Arnhold Dresden Summer School 2021

Culture. Power. Democracy.

Cultural institutions as places of education on democracy


Dresden, September 13 - September 26, 2021

Within a democratic society, cultural institutions are places for the formation of self-understanding. By showing, collecting, preserving and staging objects, they map society, including all its associated conflicts, social and moral resources, histories, and futures. But what is the cultural institution's contribution to democracy?

Democracy is a model where the majority rules - but it is also a model of fundamental human rights, as well as the promise of participation and of equal opportunities. Democracy enables diversity. At the same time, it must avoid discrimination to the greatest extent possible. The forms, places and media of democratic action and democratic participation are changing. Are the fiery public discourses and emotions on social media, as well as the civic movements that are forming both online and in real life, signs of a vibrant democracy or rather indications of its decline and the dwindling trust in democratic institutions? Is societal cohesion at risk? What function do cultural institutions have in this field?

How can they encourage participation, create freedom of action, bridge gaps in society, overcome disunity, enable experiences of self-efficacy, and strengthen civic engagement? Is that part of their responsibilities? In the present conflicts, and the cultural and political upheavals, how can they demonstrate stances and take positions?  What are the formats that cultural institutions can use to strengthen democracy? These are just a few of the questions that the exchange with the participating institutions will focus on.