Skip to main content
Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Building Democracies in Times of Populism and Polarization – The 2024 Adams Symposium Keynote

April 19 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Symposium AgendaKeep Reading for important traffic and parking information


How can we overcome the distrust of democratic institutions if we promote populist or technocratic assumptions that threaten the democratic commitment to inclusion? How do proposals for citizen assemblies or citizen participation reinforce populist or technocratic aims that will further weaken democratic institutions?

The seventh annual symposium in honor of distinguished UNC philosopher Maynard Adams (1919–2003) will address these questions and examine current challenges to democratic societies.

Philosopher Cristina Lafont of Northwestern University will deliver the keynote address for this year’s symposium. Her influential writings on political philosophy include Democracy without Shortcuts and other works that examine how democratic societies can move beyond the anti-democratic dangers of radical populism and elitist technocracies.

Professor Lafont’s remarks will frame a conversation on the following day in which faculty colleagues, public humanists, and others will discuss ways to sustain civic life and democracy in contemporary political cultures.

Panel One: Reflections and Dialogues in Response to Professor Lafont’s Views of Participatory Democracy in Polarized Political Culture

  • Max Owre, Moderator
  • Meredith Sheeks, Maynard Adams Fellow for the Public Humanities and PhD Candidate in Philosophy
  • Marc Hetherington, Raymond Dawson Distinguished Bicentennial Professor of Political Science
  • Diane Robertson, the past political action chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and Member, Board of Directors, Democracy North Carolina

Panel Two: Reflections and Dialogues in Response to Professor Lafont’s Views of Participatory Democracy in Polarized Political Cultures

  • Joanna Sierks Flynn, Moderator, Associate Director for State Outreach and Strategic Partnerships, Carolina Public Humanities
  • Simone Gubler, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Natasha Miller, Second Career Educator, STEM Early College NC A&T, Guilford County Schools
  • James Leloudis, Professor of History, Peter T. Grauer Associate Dean for Honors Carolina

The Adams Symposium is free and open to the public. Both days will take place at the Kenan Conference Center (click for map, scroll down for parking information) at the Kenan-Flagler Business School on UNC’s Campus.

About Our Speaker

Dr. Cristina Lafont, is the Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. Her current research focuses on normative questions in political philosophy concerning democracy and citizen participation, global governance, human rights, religion and politics. She is the author of Democracy without Shortcuts (Oxford University Press, 2020), Global Governance and Human Rights (Spinoza Lecture Series, van Gorcum, 2012), The Linguistic Turn in Hermeneutic Philosophy (MIT Press, 1999), Heidegger, Language, and World-disclosure (Cambridge University Press, 2000), and co-editor of Critical Theory in Critical Times: Transforming the Global Political and Economic Order (Columbia University Press, 2017) and The Habermas Handbook (Columbia University Press, 2017). She has also published numerous articles in contemporary moral and political philosophy. In 2011 she was named to the Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam, and in 2012/13 she was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. She is the director of the Program in Critical Theory and co-director of the Research Group on Global Capitalism and Law funded by a “Big Ideas” grant of the Buffett Institute at Northwestern University. She is the recipient (with Alex Guerrero) of the 2022 Dr. Martin R. Lebowitz and Eve Lewellis Lebowitz Prize for Philosophical Achievement and Contribution. For more about Dr. Lafont’s work, click here.

Parking Information

Due to construction, Kenan Center Dr will be closed. There will be two places to park for the Adams Symposium:

  1. The Business School Parking Deck (recommended), which is accessible via Skipper Bowles Dr. After parking, take the elevator to the 6th floor to access the pedestrian bridge. Once you cross the bridge, the Kenan Center will be on your left. Please see THIS MAP for directions on how to access the Business School Parking Deck.
  2. The Kenan Visitor Center Lot, which is the closest lot to the entrance of the Kenan Conference Center. This lot will be accessible via Mason Farm Rd. Look for the orange sandwich board on Mason Farm Rd indicating where to turn for Adams Symposium Parking. Please see THIS MAP for directions on how to access the Kenan Visitor Center Lot. Please note that this lot may be full before the Symposium starts, so we recommend parking in the Business School Parking Deck on Skipper Bowles Dr.

Saturday Traffic Alert

The annual Tar Heel 10 Miler road race will be taking place on Saturday morning. Please avoid South Rd, Franklin St. Ridge Rd, and Stadium Dr that morning. Please see THIS WEBSITE for road closures on Saturday morning.

The Kenan Center will still be accessible from 15-501.

The Adams Symposium is free and open to the public. There is no need to register if you plan to attend in person.

Virtual Keynote Registration

Virtual Panel Registration


Many thanks to our sponsors:


April 19
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Event Category:


Kenan Conference Center, Kenan-Flagler Business School
Kenan Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27599 United States
+ Google Map
View Venue Website