Leading social theorist to give Ioan Davies Memorial Lecture


John Keane, one of Britain’s leading political thinkers, will present York’s annual Ioan Davies Memorial Lecture on Thursday, Oct. 2, at 4pm, in the Senate Chamber, N940, Ross Bldg.

Keane’s lecture will inaugurate the Ioan Davies Memorial Scholarship, to be awarded annually at York to a graduate student in the Communication & Culture Program. The talk is entitled “Whatever Happened to Democracy? Reflections on a Dying Ideal,” a subject befitting the late York professor of sociology and social and political thought, Ioan Davies. Davies was a dedicated teacher and eloquent writer, who inspired students through his work with thinkers and artists from countries experiencing cultural conflict and change.

Right: John Keane

An internationally acclaimed scholar and media commentator, Keane is founder and director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London, England. He says a rising tide of anti-democratic behaviour and new fears of violence and war are battering democracy’s global “triumph” of a decade ago.

Speaking at York from a futuristic perspective, Keane will be examining the long-term impact of factors he has identified as contributing to the current global decline in democracy. Among these are reduced voter turnout, waning enthusiasm for politicians and cynicism regarding the political process.

Professor of politics at the University of Westminster, Keane is known for re-introducing the Enlightenment notion of “civil society” into contemporary social theory. He has emphasized the role of civil society groups in maintaining cultures of democracy under reactionary governments, and their importance in a globalized world and in the creation of new forms of governance.

Keane is author of numerous books, including the prize-winning Tom Paine: A Political Life (1995), and his most recent work, Global Civil Society? (2003). His work has been translated into many languages and he is a regular contributor to The Times Literary Supplement.

The Ioan Davies Memorial Lecture series brings prominent international thinkers to York University each year to present their views on culture, democracy and society in changing global contexts. The lecture series and annual graduate scholarship in Communication and Culture are named for the late Ioan Davies.

Left: Ioan Davies

Davies, who died in 2000, came to York in 1972 after having held posts at Queens University and the universities of Guyana, Essex and Cambridge. He authored four books, 30 book chapters and refereed articles, and numerous contributions to such intellectual journals as Border/Lines, Canadian Forum, New Left Review and The Times Literary Supplement.


In a memorial written about him after his death, Davies was called “a public intellectual as well as a scholar…central to the founding collective of Border/Lines magazine and remained involved until his death. He was a passionate advocate of interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship, exemplifying it in his own work from the beginning. [He was] a man of the future – a spirit forever young, generative, hopeful, caring, creative, active – with projects abounding”

The Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) is a leading postgraduate and research centre at the University of Westminster. Well known for its interdisciplinary work, CSD is led by a team of internationally recognized scholars whose teaching and research concentrates on the interplay of states, cultures and civil societies. With over 60 students and research associates from a variety of countries (including Brazil, China, Germany, Iran, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom), CSD provides a stimulating and supportive study environment in the heart of London.