Opening of the 2021 Conference Week: "Towns become the new state entities"

2021-02-24 The conference week opened with poetry, dance and political philosophy. Prof. Dr. Ulrike Guérot presented her utopia of a united Europe with strong, networked cities. The conference week marks the end of the Leuphana semester for the approximately 1500 first-semester students. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, all events take place digitally.

Impressions of the conference week. ©Leuphana/Marvin Sokolis
Political scientist Prof. Dr. Ulrike Guérot (left) pleads for a Europe of cities and regions, for horizontal networks instead of a government from above.

A young man walks through Lüneburg's old town. Shadows dance on the medieval house walls to the sound of the piano. A voice quotes Erich Kästner: "Alone you are very lonely." The black-and-white film is the result of work by Leuphana students with Friedrich von Mansberg, head dramaturge at the Lüneburg Theatre. The five-part performance entitled "Songs for a New City" accompanied the opening of the first digital conference week with artistic impressions of the Covid 19 pandemic. Under the heading "Power to the Cities?", students can discuss the future of cities and democracy online with renowned guests from politics, academia and business until Friday, 26 February. 

The keynote speaker at the opening was political scientist Dr Ulrike Guérot. In her lecture, the professor at the Department of European Politics and Democracy Research at Donau University Krems postulated the end of the territorial state. Referring to the title of the student performance, she requested the song "Mon Européenne" by Damian Saez: "Long before the inventions of nation states, towns have forged the core intentity of their citizens." With a look at history, she presented the importance of the city for innovation, democracy and economy. She pleaded for a Europe of cities and regions, for horizontal networks instead of a government from above. Ulrike Guérot drew a utopia in which cities are fully responsible for themselves and their rural surroundings politically and economically: "The towns in a way become the new state entities as it was in the middle ages."

The political scientist is just one of the well-known guests at the Leuphana Conference Week. This year's guests include Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, the Prime Minister of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, the publicist Michel Friedman and the politician Aminata Touré, Vice-President of the Schleswig-Holstein State Parliament. 

The Leuphana Semester ends with the conference week. In the largely interdisciplinary modules of the Leuphana Semester, students develop the basics of academic study. During the conference week, they then present their results to the university community, as Dr. Steffi Hobuß, Academic Director of Leuphana College explains. In his words to the students, Leuphana President Sascha Spoun referred to the special situation of the digital semester: "The digital term is something very special. A new hurdle was there but you have been successful in methods of digital communication, of digital learning, of independence. So, you are well prepared for what studies mean: to work for you own, but to be part of a bigger community."