The series “55 Voices for Democracy” is inspired by the 55 BBC radio addresses Thomas Mann delivered from his home in California to thousands of listeners in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and the occupied Netherlands and Czechoslovakia between October 1940 and November 1945. In his monthly addresses, Mann spoke out strongly against fascism, becoming the most significant German defender of democracy in exile. Building on that legacy, the series brings together internationally-esteemed intellectuals, scientists, and artists to present ideas for the renewal of democracy in our own troubled times. Participants include political scientists Francis Fukuyama and Jan-Werner Müller, philosopher Seyla Benhabib, writers Orhan Pamuk and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, sociologist Ananya Roy, the German studies scholar Jan Philipp Reemtsma, historians Martha S. Jones and Timothy Snyder, and many more.

The series is presented by the Thomas Mann House in cooperation with Deutschlandfunk, the Los Angeles Review of Books and Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Recent Talks:

Karen Tongson

Cultural critic and queer studies scholar Karen Tongson talks about how an attacked democracy encourages us to look anew at the wholeness within it: “It is in our capacity to make manifest the chains of affiliation and resistance required to keep the remaining vestiges of this representative democracy intact until we dream something better into being.”

Karen Tongson is Professor of English, Gender & Sexuality Studies, and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Born in Manila she immigrated to the U.S in 1983. She lives in Los Angeles.

– Read the article by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
– Read the article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (German).

Rainer Forst

Philosopher Rainer Forst states in Frankfurt's Paulskirche that the neglect of democracy is our own failure. His appeal: "Nobody will and can prevent it if we don't do it ourselves - with clear concepts and judgments and the courage to reason."

Rainer Forst is professor of political theory and philosophy at the Goethe University Frankfurt. He is the co-founder and spokesman of the research group (cluster of excellence) "Normative Orders" and the DFG research collective "Justitia Amplificata." His research deals with questions of justice, democracy and tolerance as well as critical theory and practical reason.

- Read the article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German).

Jutta Allmendinger

Sociologist Jutta Allmendiger claims in Frankfurt's Paulskirche: "To take responsibility for democracy also means to do everything to put women in a better position." "Let us care for our democracy," Allmendinger urges. This includes advocating for the participation of everyone in our society. For women, she states, this is still not sufficiently realized.

Jutta Allmendinger studied sociology and social psychology at the University of Mannheim and sociology, economics and statistics at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. She earned her Ph.D. in social studies at Harvard University. In 2007 she became President of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. She received the Federal Cross first class of the Federal Republic of Germany.


Heike Paul | American Studies Scholar, Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nuremberg
Heike Paul

Equal rights in the democratic process should be self-evident in liberal societies, claims scholar Heike Paul. She opposes the pseudo-feminism of the new political right.

Heike Paul is Chair of American Studies at the Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nuremberg. Her research in cultural studies focuses especially on forms and functions of the sentimental and on dimensions of tacit knowledge. She is a 2020 Thomas Mann House Fellow and winner of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize.

– Read the article by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
– Read the article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (German).


Jan Philipp Reemtsma | Literary Scholar, University of Hamburg
Jan Philipp Reemtsma

In the struggle for democracy, a rhetoric of pathos is wrong, argues publicist Jan Philipp Reemtsma. "The only way we know of fighting inequality and discrimination or at least minimizing their occurrence and their consequences is to work within the framework of democracy."

Jan Philipp Reemtsma is Professor for Modern German Literature at the University of Hamburg. His traveling exhibitions on the crimes of the Wehrmacht have had a lasting impact on the process of accounting for the past in Germany.

– Read the article by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
– Read the article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (German).
– Listen to the episode "55 Voices" on Deutschlandfunk (German).

Ananya Roy | Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Geography, University of California Los Angeles
Ananya Roy

Ananya Roy warns: "The problem of the 21st century is still the problem of the color line." The sociologist calls for a "radical democracy," which should start from social movements and a revalorization of subaltern and subordinated knowledges.

Ananya Roy is Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare and Geography and the inaugural Director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Her research and scholarship have a determined focus on poverty and inequality and seeks to build power for marginalized communities.

– Read the article by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
– Read the article by Süddeutsche Zeitung (German).
– Listen to the episode "55 Voices" on Deutschlandfunk (German).

Timothy Snyder | Historian, Yale University
Timothy Snyder

Historian Timothy Snyder asks why democracy today has lost its future. He calls for a "politics of responsibility" to be regained and finds hope in social platforms and the revival of the welfare state.

Timothy Snyder is Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. His recent books include "Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning" and "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century." Snyder's work has appeared in forty languages and has received a number of prizes.

– Read or listen to the episode "55 Voices: Fukuyama, Snyder" on Deutschlandfunk (German).

Francis Fukuyama | Political Scientist, Stanford University
Francis Fukuyama

In the face of a global crisis of democracy, Francis Fukuyama emphasizes the current relevance of Thomas Mann's radio speeches. "It is important to realize that there is hope at the end of this process, that people do not want to live under tyrannical regimes. They do want to have the freedom to think, and write, and act."

Francis Fukuyama is the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

– Read the article by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
– Read the article by Süddeutsche Zeitung (German).
– Read or listen to the episode "55 Voices: Fukuyama, Snyder" on Deutschlandfunk (German).

Media partners for the series are Deutschlandfunk, Los Angeles Review of Books and Süddeutsche Zeitung.


Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House e. V. is supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.