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The University of Southampton
International Summer School

Enemy of the State. Hannah Arendt and the Dangers of Thinking

In April 1956 a memo was sent to the Director of the FBI complaining about a professor who, the author felt, had influenced his daughter's thinking to such an extent during the previous year at the University of California, Berkeley, that she had chosen to continue her studies in Europe.

"There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous." (Hannah Arendt)
"There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous."

The father was so unhappy about his daughter's choice of action that he criticised the professor, a relatively unknown female academic by the name of Hannah Arendt, as being "dangerous to the best interests of this country". Arendt, he was suggesting, was an enemy of the state.

This short course will explore the life and work of Hannah Arendt who was to become an internationally recognised public intellectual famous for her radical ideas and outspokenness. We will explore Arendt's background and education and consider some of her very influential and frequently highly provocative writings on public affairs. We will also reflect on why, since Donald Trump became President of the United States, sales of Arendt's 1951 book entitled 'The Origins of Totalitarianism' have reached record numbers. "There are no dangerous thoughts", Hannah Arendt once wrote: "Thinking itself is dangerous".

The academic organising this topic is Dr Jonathan Leader, Senior Teaching Fellow in the Academic Centre for International Students.

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