Lecture Series

Villanova Center for Liberal Education presents:
The Robert M. Birmingham Luncheon Series


"A Conversation With..."


"Poetry and/as Faith.  Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 12:00-2:00, SAC 300


Wednesday, March 22, 2017-St. Augustine Center, Room 300

12:00-1:30-Lunch will be provided

Democratization and the State in Portuguese Africa: Cape Verdean Exceptionalism in Comparative-Historical Perspective

This paper explores examines Cape Verde’s successful democratic consolidation in comparative-historical perspective with other Lusophone African states.  Despite inheriting a single-party authoritarian regime at independence, Cape Verde has quietly emerged into one of Africa’s most successful and consolidated democracies (see Baker 2006; Evora 2007), while other Lusophone African states have struggled to democratize.   Using archival records and secondary literature, this paper demonstrates that Cape Verde’s colonial state was the most effective at maintaining territorial hegemony and developing a uniform legal code with inclusive citizenship rights, thereby contributing to higher literacy rates and a broader political franchise than in any other Portuguese African colony.  These developmental advantages persisted after independence, as Cape Verde continued to develop a robust civil society that facilitated its democratic transition and consolidation during the 1990s. This conclusion is consistent with earlier studies highlighting the lasting developmental and political legacies of colonial state development and state-society relations (see Lange 2009, 2004; Acemoglu, Johnson & Robinson 2002, 2001; Mamdani 1996).


Helena Tomko, Humanities Department

"Europe Imagined in the German Catholic Inner Exile, 1933-1945"


Wednesday, February 10,  2016, St. Augustine Center-300


12:00-1:30, Lunch will be provided

This  talk will focus on how Europe figures in the social imaginary of the German Catholic inner exiles during the Third Reich.  The inner exiles were writers, artists, and thinkers who lived under National Socialism between 1933 and 1945 and who attempted, in their writing, art, and in crypto-public spaces, to resist intellectual and moral conformity to the regime.   This project describes how inner exiles turned to the past for imagined surrogates for the religious dynamics that had shaped European culture throughout the ages and the forces that had led to the emergence of the Third Reich.  My focal point is the logic of European identity as articulated by prominent Catholic inner exiles, in particular the cultural critic Theodor Haecker and the novelist Gertrud von le Fort. My project explores how their shared conviction that German Catholics must respond to Nazism by acknowledging the failed legacy of Europe-as-Christendom anticipates postwar crises of European identity, in particular German Catholics' complicated acceptance of their place in a secularizing post-1945 country and continent.



Wednesday, February 24, 2016-St. Augustine Center, Room 300

In this talk I introduce a new term, “anti-blackness supremacy,” in order to supplement existing Catholic discourse about the ethical life of racism.  To a much greater extent than the terms “white privilege” or even “white supremacy,” this term also better positions scholars to address what I identify as the two most pressing problems in anti-racist discourse: first, the inability to diagnose the relation between classism and racism without reducing one into the other; and second, the tendency to treat racism as a monolithic evil that falls upon all people of color equally and in the same way. Both of these errors arise from a pervasive misunderstanding of the slave regime that has set our current racial system in motion.  In truth, slavery primarily represents not a mechanism of profit extraction, but a relation of a unique type of power.  The term “anti-blackness supremacy,” I contend, corrects both of these misperceptions, affirming both the singularity of black oppression and its fundamental connection to enslaving power. 

This term also better positions theologians to recognize the way in which racial evil operates in the Church as a corporate vice. 


Wednesday, April 6, 2016-St. Augustine Center, Room 300

12:00-1:30, Lunch will be provided

What can forgeries tell us about canonical authors and their works? For over 250 years, from ca. 1230-40 to 1498, readers of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy—an influential meditation on human suffering and divine transcendence written while Boethius awaited execution—believed that the author turned from the Consolation’s transcendent vision to reminisce on his school days and to offer mundane and humorous advice to students. This talk resituates the little known Pseudo-Boethian forgery De disciplina scolarium in its proper place in the medieval Boethian corpus in order to reveal both a transformed Boethius and critical blind spots surrounding the reception of forgeries.  


Value of the Center

“The opening of the Center marks a turning point for the University. Now, for the first time in the University’s history, the liberal arts, which form the heart of Villanova’s academic mission, will be presented to our students in such a way as to enable them to see the interconnections between the many disciplines of the arts.”

John A. Doody, Ph.D.
Director of the Center
Robert M. Birmingham Chair in Humanities
Professor, Philosophy

More Information

For more information on the Villanova Center for Liberal Education, please contact Dr. John Doody, Director of the Center, at 610.519.4691.