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Why does authoritarianism persist? How does it become rooted in the social, political, and legal fabrics of a state as well as in the imagination, emotions, and memories of civil society—and how can we disrupt it and turn the tide? From the use (and possible abuse) of executive orders by the current U.S. administration to the Assad regime’s devastatingly effective disinformation campaigns in Syria, we are witnessing a worrying rise in authoritarianism both at home and abroad. 

Join us for our annual Robert H. Kirschner, MD, Human Rights Memorial Lecture. This deeply relevant conversation will center on the work of scholars Lisa Wedeen (Authoritarian Apprehensions: Ideology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria) and Tom Ginsburg (How to Save a Constitutional Democracy), whose writings and research seek to understand the challenges posed by authoritarian regimes around the world.

Tom Ginsburg (Leo Spitz Professor of International Law and Professor of Political Science, UChicago Law School)
Lisa Wedeen (Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and the College; Co-Director, Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory)

Moderated by:
Kathleen Cavanaugh (Senior Lecturer in the College; Executive Director, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights)

An opportunity for Q&A will follow the discussion.

Presented by the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights and co-sponsored by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory, the Division of Social Sciences, and the College at the University of Chicago.

If you would like to request any reasonable accommodations that will facilitate your full participation in this virtual event, please email

The annual Robert H. Kirschner, MD, Human Rights Memorial Lecture honors the life and work of Dr. Kirschner (1940-2002), clinical associate in the Department of Pathology and Pediatrics and a founding Faculty Board member of the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago. Dr. Kirschner was an internationally recognized authority on forensic pathology, human rights violations, police brutality, torture, and child abuse, and an outspoken opponent of the death penalty.