Talking To Strangers

A conversation with Danielle Allen about social trust, citizenship, and institution building


Fields of Knowledge
  • Comm. Development
  • Design
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Politics / Economics
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Penn Planners Network, Diverse Design

Opens to public







4017 Walnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

  • Citizenship

Slought, the Penn Planners Network and Diverse Design are pleased to announce Talking to Strangers, a public conversation and brown bag lunch with Danielle Allen on Thursday, Apr 23, 2015 from 12:00 - 1:30pm, facilitated by Laura Wolf-Powers of The Graduate Center at CUNY and Aaron Levy of Slought.

Danielle Allen is the author of Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v. Board of Education (2004) and has written broadly about the history of political thought and about democratic theory and practice. A central concern for Allen is how a revised conception of citizenship can invigorate new possibilities for civic life, and how, fundamentally, we can learn to talk to others across the gulfs created by race- and class-based violence in both the past and the present.

This discussion will address the practical challenges of building trust among individuals and groups separated by these gulfs, and particularly about how the notion of "talking to strangers" applies to the practice of community development.

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Danielle Allen is a political theorist and the incoming Director of Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, and Professor in the Government Department of Harvard University. Previously Allen was the UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Allen was a MacArthur Fellow from 2002-2006, the recipient of grants from the Spencer Foundation and Ford Foundation, a Fellow of the Franke Institute for the Humanities and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the recipient of the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Chicago, where she previously served as professor of classics and political science and dean of the Division of Humanities at the University of Chicago.

Allen is the author of four books including Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown v. Board of Education (2004) and most recently Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014). (Read more)

Laura Wolf-Powers is a Research Fellow in the Center for Human Environments at CUNY Graduate Center. Her work focuses on economic development, urban political economy, and the role of community-based organizations in urban political governance. Previously Wolf-Powers was on the faculty of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania and the Pratt Institute. (Read more)

Aaron Levy is the Executive Director and co-founder of Slought and a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of English and the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. His activities at Slought include Mixplace Studio, an urban education model that responds to the crisis in community participation and political representation by circulating different ways of thinking and making. (Read more)

"Institutions are ossified versions of particular patterns of human interaction, and they inevitably extend the reach and force of the cultural norms around which they are shaped. A shift in how people interact will inevitably also transform their institutions, just as when the snail changes direction, its shell turns too.

I ask all citizens to see themselves as founders of institutions, to whatever degree they interact regularly within institutions (churches, schools, universities, businesses, and bureaucracies) that have reach enough to affect the shape of life in their surrounding communities. If a citizen sees the institutions of which he or she is already a part as a medium in which to exemplify the citizenship of trust-building, institutional reform will already be underway."

-- Danielle Allen, Talking to Strangers (2004), p. 172/XXI

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