International Summer School Critical Theory 2021. Foundations of Solidarity

Summer School

This years International Critical Theory Summer School took place online from July 5th –  9th.

Despite a widespread diagnosis that solidarity is in crisis, appeals to solidarity are ubiquitous today. We encounter them on the level of personal and professional relations but also with regard to institutions and systems of social security and welfare. They gain a dramatic character when human lives are in danger, e.g. when refugees have to cross the Mediterranean in floating death traps or when climate change is devastating the livelihood of whole populations. In all these cases, appeals to solidarity are invoking a ‘we’: We, the family or friends; we, the co-workers or professionals of our branch; we, the members of a national community or a social collective; we, leftists or members of a political movement; we, human beings; …

How can the materialist foundations of actual solidarity be rethought without falling back into tacit assumptions of social homogeneity? Class, gender, race, nation, and even humanity have all lost their status as matters of course. Given the effects of sexism and racism, theories of solidarity have to take into account the complex contradictions of capitalist societies which divide subaltern and exploited groups on the domestic level as well as globally. Appeals to solidarity hence run into an uncertainty concerning the foundations of solidarity. Is solidarity the result of a shared form of life or of collective practices? Does it stem from similar experiences or a common situation? Is it marked by adversity or a common enemy? Or is it the effect of a shared devotion to a common cause?

The summer school involved plenary lectures and discussions, reading sessions, smaller group discussions and panel debates. Only the latter was open to the broader public. We explored classical approaches such as Émile Durkheim’s analysis of the modern division of labour, Karl Marx’s claim the proletariat is a universal class that will found society on new relations of solidarity, and Iris Marion Young’s concept of seriality. Besides such classics, we discussed with leading contemporary theorists of solidarity (several of which will be present as instructors) whether or not current approaches of solidarity open up new perspectives for universalism.


Hauke Brunkhorst (Europa-Universität Flensburg)
Asad Haider (New School for Social Research)
Serene Khader (City University of New York)
Frederick Neuhouser (Barnard College, Columbia University)


Robin Celikates (Freie Universität Berlin)
Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Regina Kreide (Universität Gießen)
Lea-Riccarda Prix (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Christian Schmidt (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Further Participants in the public Roundtable:

Stefan Gosepath (Freie Universität Berlin)
Sabine Hark (Technische Universität Berlin)
Stephan Lessenich (Universität München)

Organizers: Robin Celikates, Rahel Jaeggi, Susann Schmeißer,
Christian Schmidt (Center for Humanities and Social Change,
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), in cooperation with the
Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and the New School for
Social Research (Alice Crary).


Will the Summer School take place regardless of the pandemic and possible travel restrictions?

The summer school will take place. However, at this point, it is unclear what the situation will be regarding travel restrictions and other measures in Berlin this July. Since we want to make sure our international participants can take part in the Summer School, we will conduct it in a hybrid format, which allows for online participation. If you are an international participant, we kindly ask you to apply first, and then we can look for individual solutions if necessary.

The Call for Participation is targeted at PhD students and Junior Scholars. Can I apply as a MA-Student or as a Post-doc?

Yes, as an MA student or as a more senior post-doc you may apply as well. But please note that we prioritise applications from PhD students and early post-docs in the selection process.

May I submit my application in German?

No, please submit your precis and your C.V. in English.

May I submit a chapter of my book or my dissertation?

No. Please send us a precis of max. 1 page, describing you take on core issues in the debate on solidarity and a CV (each document 1 page max.). The precis should show which particular background knowledge and systematic positions the applicants would contribute to our joint discussions. Please make sure the title of your precis summarizes its content.

When will I be informed if my application was successful?

We process the applications as quickly as possible and will get back to you in April.

How do you select the participants? What are the criteria?

Besides looking for the most interesting and fitting approaches to the summer school’s central questions, we try to achieve a certain geographical and topical balance, and we give precedence to applications from PhD students and early post-docs over more junior and senior ones. Amongst applications ranked equally, we prefer those scholars which have not attended the Critical Theory Summer School the year before, since it seems fair to give the chance to participate to as many individuals as possible.

Please not that even though we try to make the selection process as transparent as possible, it may happen that the mentioned criteria apply to you but you are not admitted to the Summer School. This is due to the fact that we usually receive a lot more applications than we can accept.

What does it cost to participate in the Summer School?

There is a fee of 300€ for the Summer School. For participants who will not be able to take part in person due to travel restrictions, no fee will be charged. Participants have to fund their own travel, accommodation and food. There will be funds available for international students without access to institutional reimbursement; those who qualify can apply for travel and accommodation subsidies. Students from Berlin universities do not have to pay the fee.

What if I cannot afford the fee?

You do not need to contact us about the fee before your application. Please be sure to check funding options offered by your institution, or other organisations such as the DAAD ( If you are unable to acquire funding, please let us know after your application has been successful. The fee should not be the reason not to participate in the Summer School.

Do you offer additional funding for travel costs or accomodation?

Unfortunately, we cannot assist you with additional funding. Please check funding options offered by your institution, or other organisations such as the DAAD (

Is it possible to get an official certificate of participation? I need one in order to get funding for the Summer School from my university.

Yes, of course. Please send us an email: 

Do I need a Visa to enter Germany? How do I get a Visa?

You can find out here if you need a Visa and what the requirements are. Please find out as soon as possible and let us know right away if you need an official invitation in order to get your Visa.

Can you assist me with the Visa application?

If you need an official invitation in order to get a Visa, please contact us.

Do you offer accomodation for participants? Can you help me find accomodation in Berlin?

No, unfortunately we do not have the capacity to offer assistance with that. Please try and consult the usual online search engines to find accommodation.

When will the reading for the Summer School be made available?

The literature will be made available by end of May.

Does the program extend to the evenings?

There will be one public evening panel. On the other days, the program is limited to mornings and afternoons, finishing not later than 7 p.m.

Are there any social events planned?

Although social events are an important part of the Summer School, we are not sure to what extent these will be possible. Depending on restrictions in Berlin for restaurants and public gatherings, we may reserve tables at a (outside) restaurant on some evenings, giving you the option to have dinner with other participants and instructors (at your own expense).

Can I participate in only a few sessions, or for half the week?

In order to enable fruitful discussions, we kindly request participants to attend all sessions.

Are any of the sessions public?

Yes, there will be one public evening panel. More information on that will follow.

Will there be recordings of the sessions?


Where can I find information on the past Summer Schools?

You can find CfPs, programmes, and summaries of the final discussions of each Summer School in our archive.

International Summer School Critical Theory 2021. Foundations of Solidarity