News & Events

On Freedom: A Conversation with Astra Taylor, Nadja Durbach, and D. Graham Burnett

calendar iconThursday, June 1, 2023


Thursday, June 1, 2023

1:00 pm ET • 12:00 pm CT • 10:00 am PT


Online event via Zoom

60 minutes with Q&A



In conjunction with the Spring 2023 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, Freedom, Astra Taylor, Nadja Durbach, and D. Graham Burnett convene for a discussion of their work and of current movements and arenas in which freedom is contested and redefined.


Taylor’s essay in Freedom, “A Paradise for All,” recasts the peripatetic life of the Anglo-American Quaker and humanitarian Benjamin Lay—whose abolitionist writing and dramatic public protests prefigured contemporary guerrilla communication—as one that championed an understanding of human liberty that is still radical today. Durbach’s essay, “Our Medical Liberties,” charts the long wake of the populist backlash against smallpox vaccine mandates in Britain through the genesis of the National Anti-Vaccination League and the contest over bodily and medical autonomy that reverberates through today’s opposition to Covid-19 vaccine mandates. Attending to freedom on a smaller but no less vital scale, writer, historian, and scholar D. Graham Burnett confronts the “unprecedented technologies, operating at unprecedented scales and with near-total ubiquity, [which] continuously ‘frack’ our faculties of eye and mind, extracting revenue by capturing our most precious and intimate resource: our attention” in his latest editorial collaboration with the collective Friends of Attention.


The Freedom issue takes a tour through stories about liberty told by people around the world as our notions of it have shifted from age to age, featuring one hundred voices—from ancient arguments about free will, political rights, and the treatment of manumitted slaves to contemporary debates about power, access, and opportunity. Hosted on Zoom and moderated by writer Zoë Beery, this event gathers writers and thinkers for an essential conversation on freedom at present and at large.


Register for this event on Zoom, and you will receive a streaming link via email to attend the event online.




Astra Taylor is the author of Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions; Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone; and The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age. She directed the documentaries What Is Democracy?, Examined Life, and Žižek! A cofounder of the Debt Collective, Taylor has written for the New York Times, the London Review of Books, the Guardian, and many other outlets.


Nadja Durbach was born in the United Kingdom. She grew up in Canada and attended the University of British Columbia, earning a BA (Hons.) in 1993. In 2000 she completed her PhD at the Johns Hopkins University and joined the faculty of the University of Utah’s History Department, where she is currently a professor. She is the author of Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853–1907; Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture; and Many Mouths: The Politics of Food in Britain from the Workhouse to the Welfare State


Born in France, based in New York City, D. Graham Burnett trained in the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University and teaches at Princeton. He works at the intersection of historical inquiry and artistic practice, and his writing and collaborations focus on experimental/experiential approaches to textual material, pedagogical modes, and hermeneutic activities traditionally associated with the research humanities. Recent projects include THE THIRD, MEANING at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. He is a member of the Lapham’s Quarterly editorial board.


Zoë Beery is, during the day, a freelance writer based in Brooklyn whose work on social and economic justice has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic, the Baffler and many other publications. At night, she organizes harm reduction/safer spaces programs for electronic music parties, clubs and festivals in the US and Europe, including Nowadays, Horst Arts & Music, Return to the Source, and Sustain-Release.


Lapham’s Quarterly is a magazine of history and ideas founded in 2007 by Lewis H. Lapham. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past, collecting fiction, nonfiction, poems, and essays from over four thousand years of history, all gathered around a single theme. Subscribe to Lapham’s Quarterly today, and you will receive Freedom as the first issue in your yearlong subscription.


This event is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.



Virtual on Zoom