Challenging Society Sessions

UvA academics challenge international experts to put a social issue into perspective and jointly adopt a bird’s-eye view to look beyond the limits of their own field.

What's it about?

Speakers include Helen Nissenbaum (philosopher and information scientist), Ronald Skeldon (geographer), Barbara Sahakian (neuroscientist and neuroethicist), Jacques Rupnik (historian and politicologist) and Sheila Jasanoff (Science & Technology, Harvard). Topical issues such as Privacy, Global Migration and Human Enhancement will be covered.

The series 'Challenging Society Sessions' consists of a total of six evenings with special international guests that are being challenged by UvA scholars and is inspired by the theme of the UvA anniversary celebrations: ‘Inspiring Generations’. The kick-off for the series was an evening in Tuschinski with Robbert Dijkgraaf, followed by successful evenings with Prof. Helen Nissenbaum about Privacy & Data, Prof. Skeldon on Global Migration, and Prof. Sahakian on Human Enhancement.

17 April- Challenging Society Session on Challenging Europe: new power relations and populism

Acclaimed expert in European relations and geo-politics, Prof. Jacques Rupnik (SciencesPo), and UvA Challenger Prof. Luiza Bialasiewicz will give a critical reflection on the current power relations in the European Union and what the future will hold. Questions such as 'populism against realism', 'north-south/west-east relations' will be raised. And if it is possible to influence European policy making with empirical data. Join the discussion at the Aula, 17 April 19:30-21:15. Sign up below.

Recurring theme of Challenging Society Sessions

History has shown that we are not always acutely aware of the consequences of innovations and scientific discoveries. All the same, the impact of science on society is creating a field of tension: our world is increasingly shaped by technological inventions and new scientific insights. These inventions and insights then lead to new policies and new legislation, or even form the breeding ground for new values and standards.
We are increasingly figuring out what we and the universe are made of. But what are the consequences of this knowledge? What kind of world do these inventions create? What kind of society do we want to live in? Can't progress be stopped? Should we be more aware of the consequences of our desire for more, taller or faster? How can this be tackled?


  • 12 October- Privacy & Data with Prof. Helen Nissenbaum & UvA Challenger Prof. Marieke de Goede
  • 14 November- Global Migration with Prof. Ronald Skeldon & UvA Challenger Prof. Hein de Haas
  • 22 February, 2018- Human Enhancement with Prof. Barbara Sahakian (Cambridge University) and UvA Challenger to be announced soon
  • 17 April, 2018- Challenging Europe with Jacques Rupnik (SciencesPo) & UvA Challenger Prof. Luiza Bialasiewicz
  • 22 May, 2018- Remaking Nature with Prof. Sheila Jasanoff & UvA Challenger Rector Prof. Karen Maex

The discussions will be led by Tracy Metz, and the interaction with the public is prepared by a panel of students. Surrounding the Challenging Society Session evenings, there will be discussion meetings, working groups and other content-related activities which examine the theme in greater depth.

UvA Challenger

Each theme will be introduced by a keynote speaker after which a UvA scientist will challenge the perspective of the keynote with his/her own expertise. The moderator will confront them both with critical questions to discuss the issues surrounding the theme in-depth.

Want to stay informed?

From October, almost every month, there will be a ‘Challenging Society Session’ on one of the themes. Would you like to be kept informed about this series or the other Lustrum activities? Or be one of the first to apply for a session on one of the themes? If so, sign up via the button below.

Gepubliceerd door  Universiteit van Amsterdam

12 maart 2018