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Are we Witnessing the Death of Democracy?

Sarah Churchwell, Ed Husain, Elif Shafak, Lionel Shriver

Chair: Jonathan Freedland

05/03/2019 8:30 pm
Kings Place, Hall 1

Tolerance, equality, democracy, free speech, a free press, separation of church and state, progress: these and other values of the Enlightenment have guided the West for over 300 years. But with trends such as the rise of populism and nationalism in the West, the ascent of China in the East, and the failure of the Arab Spring, many are asking: what if the Enlightenment was just a blip? What if we are simply reverting to ‘norm’ of human history and, if so, what can we do about it? Our expert panel discusses.

Sarah Churchwell

Sarah Churchwell is Professor of American Literature and Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby and The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Her literary journalism has appeared widely and she comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for television and radio. She has judged many literary prizes, including the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction, the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and she was a co-winner of the 2015 Eccles British Library Writer’s Award.

Ed Husain

Ed Husain is the author of The Islamist, a memoir of his time inside radical Islamism. Having rejected extremism, he now advises governments and political leaders on Islam. He is a senior fellow at Civitas, Institute for the Study of Civil Society in London and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre in Washington DC. He was a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York for five years and co-founded Quilliam, the world’s first counter-extremism think-tank in Britain. He has written for The New York Times, The Telegraph,The Financial Times and appeared on CNN, BBC, and others. He lives in London.

Elif Shafak


Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published 18 books, 11 of which are novels. Her work has been translated into 54 languages. Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and chosen Blackwell’s Book of the Year. Her previous novel, The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne's College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. Shafak is a Fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women's rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice TED Global speaker. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people “who will give you a much needed lift of the heart”. Shafak has judged numerous literary prizes, and chaired the Wellcome Prize and is presently judging the PEN Nabokov Prize www.elifshafak.com

Lionel Shriver


Lionel Shriver’s novels include Sunday Times bestsellers Big Brother and The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047, the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and The Orange Prize-winning international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian and the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications. She lives in London and Brooklyn.

Jonathan Freedland


Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, where he is executive editor, Opinion. He is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series The Long View and has also written seven books.

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