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 has published 19 books, 12 of which are novels. She is a bestselling author in many countries around the world and her work has been translated into 55 languages. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and was Blackwell’s Book of the Year. The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among the 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. The Architect’s Apprentice was chosen for the Duchess of Cornwall’s inaugural book club, The Reading Room. 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. She also holds a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bard College. Shafak is a Fellow and a Vice President of the Royal Society of Literature. She was 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 expression, 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”. She has judged numerous literary prizes, including PEN Nabokov prize and she has chaired the Wellcome Prize. Recently Shafak was awarded the Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize for her contribution to 'the renewal of the art of storytelling.' 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 and is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series The Long View as well as the co-host (with the Israeli journalist Yonit Levi) of Unholy, a weekly podcast. He has written twelve books, the latest of which is The Escape Artist: the Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World.

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