An Evening with the Holberg Prize

Holberg Laureates Stephen Greenblatt and Manuel Castells will discuss the status and importance of research in the social sciences and the humanities, from the perspective of their respective disciplines.

Some of the most pressing issues of our time include growing inequalities, mass migration and cultural and religious conflicts.  Why is research in the humanities and the social sciences crucial to finding viable solutions to these and other urgent social problems? This is the topic for the discussion between literature professor and Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt and Professor of Sociology Manuel Castells, at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

A Grave New World?

Castells will focus on the social sciences and his research into the implications of the technological revolution that has taken place over the last half-century. He will primarily speak on the processing and communication of information on the basis of digital networking technologies. 

According to Professor Castells, this development is happening at an ever-increasing pace. He warns that moving full speed ahead in this new technological world without considering the social, cultural, ethical, and political implications of the technologies at the basis of our current social organization is an irresponsible attitude that puts humanity at great risk. Today, we are in dire need of knowledge in order to confront the challenges that we are faced with; among other things, we need to deepen the role of the social sciences in the exploration of our technological universe through rigorous research, grounded in observation.

When Political Life Imitates Art

Greenblatt will look to literary and historical works in order to retrieve vital insights into technologies of power, as they have been described and scrutinized by authors in historical times. Greenblatt holds that texts such as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Richard III can be instructive in our attempts to understand social and political conflicts in our own time.

For example, the complex character portrayals in Shakespeare’s plays may help us recognize signs of despotism in contemporary political figures. The ways in which great artists take large, abstract issues, such as “otherness,” and insist on certain irreducible realities, may likewise provide important insights into ethnic and religious struggles taking place today.

The conversation will be moderated by journalist and poet Eliza Griswold.


5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Welcome drinks in the atrium.

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Introduction by Sigmund Grønmo, Chair of the Holberg Board. 

A conversation between the two Holberg Laureates Manuel Castells and Stephen Greenblatt, moderated by Eliza Griswold. 

7:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Reception with refreshments and hors d'oeuvre.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, Mass.
Practical information
By invitation only. Interested parties may contact the Holberg Prize: