The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an open letter from dozens of prominent academics—including Nancy Fraser, Seyla Benhabib, and Judith Butler—to the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, after the Center hosted a talk earlier this month by Marc Jongen, a member of the far-right German political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The letter describes Jongen as the "party philosopher" of the AfD and criticizes the center for "lending its institutional legitimacy and communicative power to Jongen’s statements." Read an excerpt of the letter below, or the full text here.
We believe that Jongen’s participation in the conference, regardless of the organizers’ intentions, enabled him to leverage Hannah Arendt’s legacy to legitimize and normalize the AfD’s far-right ideology. The leadership of the Hannah Arendt Center and of Bard College has so far disregarded pressing questions of personal and institutional responsibility arising from this legitimation and normalization. This disregard is particularly troubling given that Hannah Arendt was a German-Jewish refugee who fled National Socialism and wrote powerfully about the plight of the stateless and the special dangers posed by race-based ideologies.
Jongen, known as the AfD’s "party philosopher," rose to prominence only after joining the party in 2013. The AfD subscribes to a nationalist far-right agenda and is closely allied with the violent street movement "Pegida" ("Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" ) that attacks refugees, immigrants, and Muslims. Jongen is devoted to providing intellectual legitimacy to the AfD’s extreme rhetoric and actions. His philosophical jargon seeks to justify the incitement and violence carried out by Pegida, including the physical blockade of refugee buses, as the expression of a laudable "thymos," or rage, that has been suppressed by liberalism and multiculturalism. During his talk at the Hannah Arendt Center, Jongen repeated the racist and xenophobic statements that make the AfD such a dangerous phenomenon in contemporary German politics.
Image of Marc Jongen via Chronicle of Higher Education.