Member News, Democracy

Online Democracy Curriculum from CHCI GHI Highlights Cultural Trauma's Lasting Impact

Online Democracy Curriculum shows Cultural Trauma has lasting impact on Societies

Free online democracy curriculum available to students, researchers, NGOs and policy makers

A global project on the Crises of Democracy, led by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute at Trinity College Dublin, has launched an online open access curriculum on the relationship between democracy and the trauma experienced by societies. With this timely contribution, the consortium provides a necessary tool to deepen knowledge and understanding of the current crises, enhancing people’s awareness and capacity to make informed choices and take action in the public sphere.

In 2018, partners from Ireland, India, Brazil, Croatia and the US were awarded funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Consortium of Humanities and Centres Institutes (CHCI) to begin work on the Global Humanities Institute (GHI) Crises of Democracy project. Over an 18-month period, the project considered as its core premise what was prompting a move towards populist and authoritarian approaches to government in today’s world.

Its unique focus on the long-lasting impact of cultural trauma unveiled how major events, experiences and influences in a country’s past, such as war, famine, emigration, and recession to name a few, are contributing factors in the contemporary crises of democracy.

In July 2019, the Crises of Democracy GHI organised a 9-day summer institute in Dubrovnik attended by a group of 40 researchers in various career stages, representing over 30 disciplines and travelling from 5 continents. They met in Croatia to examine threats to democracy through the prism of cultural trauma and participated in lectures, panels, practical skills workshops, film screenings, and early career researcher presentations. (watch summary video here.)

The consortium of global partners are now launching one of the key creations from this project – a free online curriculum - an open access and multimodal tool for understanding many of the difficulties we have witnessed worldwide in the rise of nationalism, ethnic conflicts, xenophobia and much, much more. ‘The Living Curriculum’ is an opportunity for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), policy makers and students all over the world to benefit from the learnings and rich research coming from this project.

The curriculum was trialed in the University of São Paulo where the final meeting of the consortium was held in December 2019. Professor Laura Izarra, lead of the course ‘Transatlantic Crises of Democracies: Cultural Approaches’, described the curriculum as “an innovative tool and a key to internationalization in Higher Education.”

As one student reported, “Through the lectures and podcasts online, the students are able to have access to the works of scholars from different parts of the globe, which enriches the face-to-face component of the classes.”

The online syllabus will prove particularly useful for course coordinators and lecturers who are trying to bring readily available online material to their students while universities close as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub commented on behalf of the consortium partners: “This new living curriculum provides rich materials which scholars, professionals and non-specialists can access from their own homes. It raises many important questions which get to the root of what’s going wrong in our democracies today and will provide an important resource for many people around the world who are currently confined to their homes due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.”

She continued, “We’re hoping that this work can contribute to a new approach by humanitarian organisations and governments all over the world that considers the cultural trauma societies carry forward, and how politics and civil spheres are impacted generation on generation.”

The GHI members and new global partners are now working together on a major collaborative and experimental project aiming to explore, redefine, and promote participatory and deliberative democracy.

The Trinity Long Room Hub is also collaborating with Columbia University in a follow on project which will see a series of online symposia over the coming months discussing ‘Democracy in an Age of Pandemics.’ More details on this initiative will be available through the Trinity Long Room Hub website:

The Crises of Democracy Global Humanities Institute is a partnership between five institutions:

Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin

The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University

University of São Paulo

Jawaharlal Nehru University

University of Zagreb