Liberal Democracies under Pressure

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Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script" (SCRIPTS) Kicks off with a Public Opening Ceremony and an Opening Conference from February 6 - 8

No 020/2020 from Jan 29, 2020

A public opening ceremony will take place at Freie Universität on February 6, 2020, at 6 p.m. to launch the interdisciplinary Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script" (SCRIPTS). The speakers include the award-winning writer Édouard Louis, the journalist, writer, and literary critic Jens Bisky, and political scientist Kalypso Nicolaïdis from the University of Oxford. The ceremony will be followed by a two-day conference addressing the main topic of the Cluster of Excellence, i.e., challenges for the liberal social order as a global model. The event will also include a non-public discussion entitled "Reluctant Protagonists’ Germany, the EU and the Crisis of the International Liberal Order" held in cooperation with the German Federal Foreign Office on February 7. It will take place in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office. Media representatives are cordially invited to attend the conference and the discussion event on February 7 and 8. Please note that a confirmed registration is required for both.

Program Overview


Opening Ceremony

February 6, 2020, 6 p.m.
Audimax, Henry Ford Building, Freie Universität Berlin

Welcome Address

Günter M. Ziegler, President, Freie Universität Berlin
Jutta Allmendinger, President, WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Tanja A. Börzel, Director, SCRIPTS, Freie Universität Berlin

Collective Keynote

A World without Liberalism?
Three Voices & Reflections from Arts, Journalism, and Science

  • Jens Bisky, Journalist, Writer, and Literary Critic
  • Édouard Louis, Writer
  • Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford


Michael Zürn, Director, SCRIPTS, Freie Universität Berlin and WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Only for invited guests and for accredited media representatives:

Opening Conference: Debating SCRIPTS

February 7 and 8, 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and 9:15 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Seminaris Campus Hotel

Workshops, panel discussions, and other formats with researchers from the four Research Units (Border, Orders, (Re-)Allocation, Temporality) in the SCRIPTS Cluster of Excellence as well as external guest speakers. The conference participants conduct research in disciplines such as political science, sociology, philosophy, history, and area studies. They deal with many regions of the world.

Roundtable: Reluctant Protagonists’ Germany, the EU and the Crisis of the International Liberal Order

February 7, 7:00 p.m.
German Federal Foreign Office, Weltsaal


  • Prof. Michael Barnett, PhD, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
  • Prof. Umma Salma Bava, PhD, Jawajarlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Tanja A. Börzel, Freie Universität Berlin, Director, SCRIPTS
  • Rüdiger König, German Federal Foreign Office, Director-General for Humanitarian Assistance, Crisis Prevention Stabilisation and Post-Conflict Reconstruction
  • Moderator: Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe, Journalist

Please note: The conference language for all events is English.

About the SCRIPTS Cluster of Excellence

The Cluster of Excellence "Contestations of the Liberal Script" (SCRIPTS) at Freie Universität Berlin examines the current challenges to liberal social systems. The participating researchers investigate not only why liberal institutions are currently under so much pressure, but also whether and why alternative models to the "liberal script" appear increasingly attractive worldwide. To approach these issues from both interdisciplinary and historical perspectives and in various regions of the world, the SCRIPTS researchers cooperate with their counterparts from universities and research institutions in Japan, the United States, Turkey, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and São Paulo, to name a few. Besides Freie Universität Berlin, the partners in Berlin are Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, the German Institute for Economic Research, the Hertie School, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), the Center for East European and International Studies (ZOIS), and the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient.

The German Federal Foreign Office is another important partner in Berlin. The Cluster can build on successful structures of cooperation that have existed for years between the Federal Foreign Office and Freie Universität Berlin. In addition, the Humboldt Forum in the reconstructed Berlin Palace, will play a role. The first exhibition in the Humboldt Laboratory is to be based on perspectives on the challenges to the liberal order that will be developed in the research projects of the SCRIPTS Cluster. Right from the start, the SCRIPTS researchers view the Cluster not only as part of a global research network, but also as a hub for the public debate about current crises in liberal democracy.

The SCRIPTS Cluster is being funded as part of the German Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments, at first over a time span of seven years. The directors are Tanja A. Börzel (Freie Universität Berlin) and Michael Zürn (Freie Universität Berlin and WZB Berlin Social Science Center).


  • Excellence Strategy
  • Political and social sciences

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