Universalism 2014

The Norwegian Constitution 200 years

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The Norwegian Constitution 200 years

At the time of its creation in 1814, the Norwegian Constitution was amongst the most modern in the world. In line with the ideals of the Enlightenment, it included the principle of separation of powers, and ideas that might be seen as the outset of universal human rights. Jews and Jesuits, however, were not welcome in the kingdom, and women had to wait another hundred years before they got the right to vote. Universal rights, then, were the rights of the white, Western man.

Two hundred years later, the world has at least two genders, five continents, several thousand languages and five major world religions. Has this affected our understanding of what constitutes the universal human being? Does the term universality embrace the many differences and antagonisms in a better way today than it did in 1814? Have we reached an understanding of the term that is independent of gender, geography, race and class? Is that even possible? The fundamental idea of the Norwegian Constitution is that all human beings are equal and have equal right to be heard. How do these ideas hold up in the world today?

The House of Literature commemorates the bicentennial of the Norwegian Constitution with a series of lectures where pronounced international personalities with distinct points of view and perspectives on the world discuss the idea of universality. During the autumn of 2014 the house will be visited by philosopher and literary theorist Gayatri Spivak from India, the Slovenian sociologist and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek, author Binyavanga Wainaina from Kenya, Professor of language and literature Wang Hui from China, anthropologist and expert of Islamic law Ziba Mir-Hosseini from Iran as well as the American philosopher Tara Smith. The lecture series commences on September 25th with an introductory lecture on the historical background of the Norwegian Constitution by Professor of law Dag Michalsen, and is concluded on December 12th with a closing panel discussion based on the autumn’s lectures.

Litteraturhuset Wergeland English

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