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Spaces of hope: Theorizing hope in an imperfect yet open democratic system

Antonin Lacelle-Webster, University of British Columbia

Tue 27 April 2021

11:00am - 12:00pm

Virtual seminar

Seminar recording is available on our YouTube channel.


Hope is a complex phenomenon. While it is a common fixture of political life, its meaning remains elusive, and many reject it as simply naïve or disconnected from “reality.” Despite its political salience, democratic theory has yet to engage with hope as a political concept. In this paper, I propose to explore its relation to democracy and democratic innovations through a focus on hope’s spatial and political features. I argue that the spaces that democracy holds open for individuals to act, think, and come together can not only mitigate the anxiety generated by the uncertainty of politics but also nurture hope. More precisely, deliberative spaces provide a setting that substantiates a collective understanding of hope distinct from its individual manifestations. As such, I ground the political problem of hope not in the nature of the hoped-for ends, but in the critical and imaginative process it requires from a collectivity. Drawing from Hannah Arendt’s faculty to make and keep promises, I contend that deliberative minipublics represent one example of a space in which such collective hopes can emerge. I use the French Citizens’ Convention on Climate to illustrate my argument and conclude by briefly discussing the subsequent challenge of sustaining this form of hope.

About the speaker

Antonin is a PhD candidate in political theory at the University of British Columbia. He is broadly interested in issues related to democratic theory, democratic innovations, the politics of hope and despair, and the political thought of Hannah Arendt.

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