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The Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies occasionally hosts special events including conferences, workshops, and symposia that focus on the center's thematic. Details of these events can be found below.

Understanding how and why democracies emerge requires attention to how and why they submerge. In this second installment of the multiyear and cross-university Democratic Change Research Initiative, this conference gathers leading scholars of authoritarianism and democratization at WCED to present and discuss their ongoing research on why democracy and autocracy either emerge and endure or falter and fail.

Thursday, September 27, 7pm
Inaugural Lecture as the Ronald and Eileen Weiser Professor of Emerging Democracies
Dan Slater, WCED Director and Professor of Political Science

Friday, September 28 - Saturday, September 29
Democracies Emerging and Submerging Conference


Saturday, September 29, 11am
How Democracies Live and Die
Panelists: Steven Levitsky, Thomas Carothers, Didi Kuo

The Contemporary Interpretation of Historical Legacies in East Central Europe

May 20-21, 2016
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw

This conference examines how contemporary societies interpret historical legacies in post-communist Europe. Historical references and understandings permeate contemporary political and cultural debates: from Jedwabne to the IV Republic, from Galicja to the variegated and contested individual identities in Ukraine, societal actors repeatedly interpret, construct, and use instrumentally historical legacies to achieve contemporary ends. Participants will examine several facets of historical legacies and their modern interpretations. The conference will bring together anthropologists, historians, political scientists, and sociologists to reconsider and reinterpret the “weight of history” and the relevance of historical memories and legacies in the contemporary region.



Organized by U-M's Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies and Copernicus Program in Polish Studies, in collaboration with POLIN Museum and the Robert B. Zajonc Institute for Social Studies.

Sovereignty under Threat?

May 8-9, 2015
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The goal of this conference was to rethink the threats to, and underpinnings of, national sovereignty, and to further explore several issues:

  • conceptualizing sovereignty: history, nations, and identities;
  • how national, regional, and ethnic groups seek and establish sovereignty;
  • how domestic institutions underpin or threaten sovereignty;
  • how (and if) domestic corruption and rent-seeking undermine sovereignty; and
  • how regional organizations and local powers (and would-be powers) affect sovereignty.


Religion, Identity, and Politics

May 10-11, 2013
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This conference sought to re-examine and to rethink the mutual constitution of religion and politics, and to stimulate a lively discussion of several issues:

  • how religion differs from ethnic, linguistic, or national identities
  • how doctrine matters: in the growth of some religions, in its impact on public policy and political institutions, and in its trans-national impact
  • how states regulate religion, and the difference between favoring some religions and privileging others
  • how organized religion affects electoral cleavages, state institutions, and redistributive policies (and vice versa), and
  • the rise of “fundamentalisms”—when, where, and why do they arise?


How Autocracies Work: Beyond the Electoral Paradigm

April 15-16, 2011
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The goal of the conference is to weigh the current emphasis on elections and electoral institutions in autocracies against other facets of autocratic rule: repression, economic dependence, informal institutions, etc.

The burgeoning field of authoritarian regime studies has increasingly focused on the peculiarities and importance of elections, electoral institutions, and electoral participation—yet there have been few efforts to see how these interact with, substitute for, or contravene the repressive capacity of the authoritarian state and the networks of economic dependence it creates (through employment, housing, or redistribution.) How do the repressive pillars of autocratic rule interact with each other, how do they affect the durability and robustness of authoritarian rule, and how do they function across autocracies?


The Nines: Brinks, Cusps, and Perceptions of Possibility—from 1789-2009

December 3-5, 2009
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The 20th anniversary of 1989 stimulates reflections on the momentous events from Germany to China that promised change in the world. But the end of other decades—1979 in Iran and Afghanistan, the financial crisis in 1929, and in exemplary ways, 1789 in France—inspire similar commemorative reconsiderations. These and other “nines” include moments of transition and change, possibility and crisis. While the promise of democracy might frame our reflections on 1989, it is not enough to help us appreciate how other radical transformations were conceived or experienced, and indeed, what the iconic “1989” also embodied beyond democracy’s extension. We need to better understand how world-historic events shape the imagination, and how visions of the world and its perceived trajectories can shape the course of events.

In Fall 2009, the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, together with other partnering units at the University of Michigan, presented programs addressing the relationship between world-historic events and alternative visions of the world embedded in these times. This series explored 1989 alongside historical transformations of the many other iconic “nines” of the modern era and the alternative futures they inspired.