Arendt in Aberdeen – scholars to congregate to mark 50th anniversary


THE University of Aberdeen will host an international conference later this month to celebrate one of the world’s most influential political theorists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Hannah Arendt spent two semesters at the University of Aberdeen between 1972 and 1974, and became the first woman to deliver a Gifford Lecture at the University in 1973. It was in Aberdeen that she wrote her final work, The Life of the Mind, which was published shortly after her death in 1975.

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To celebrate Arendt’s connection with Aberdeen, and to recognise the enormous relevance and influence of her work across so many different areas of life and her contribution to so many areas of study, the University of Aberdeen is hosting an international, interdisciplinary conference called Interdisciplinary Arendt: Pluralism, Promise, Problems. The conference will take place from 22 -25 August and include four public lectures by the eminent keynote speakers Professors Ronald Beiner, Juliet Hooker, Sharon Achinstein and Kathryn Sophia Belle.

Scholars from the US and Canada, as well as Ireland, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the UK will be taking part in the conference, discussing Arendt’s influence on topics as wide-ranging as politics, migration, human rights, literature from Dante and Shakespeare to contemporary writing, dance performance, religion, international relations, public speech and identity, the ethics of AI and social media, phenomenology and thinking, and architecture. There will also be a session devoted to some of the problems and contradictions in her work. The conference will take place in the Sir Duncan Rice Library and Linklater Rooms at the University’s Old Aberdeen campus, with the final public lecture to be hosted by Aberdeen City Council at Aberdeen Town House.

Professor Michael Brown said: “2023 marks the 50th anniversary of Arendt’s delivery here of the Gifford Lectures, the first woman to contribute to this venerable series, established in 1888, and so it seems pertinent that we mark the occasion.”

Dr Helen Lynch added: “We are extremely excited to be hosting this conference and look forward to welcoming delegates from around the world to celebrate and discuss this remarkable thinker with us.”

A refugee from Nazi Germany – her character makes an appearance in current Netfliix series Transatlantic – Arendt reflected on the plight of the stateless in the mass migrations following the second world war and gave the world the controversial phrase ‘the banality of evil’ in her book reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1963. Arendt has been instrumental in the understanding of how totalitarianism arises, what political action may be justified or effective in the face of oppression, and what people acting together in a world of unpredictable outcomes really means. Her ideas have informed political resistance movements and innovative governing structures from South America to the Kurdish Autonomous Administration of Rojava. The titles of her books alone indicate the breadth of her interests: On Revolution, The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, On Violence, Eichmann in Jerusalem, The Life of the Mind, to name but a few.

For more information about the conference and the free public lectures, and to book tickets please visit:

This event is made possible with the generous support of University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen City Council and the W.Bednarowski Trust.

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