Undergraduate Symposium 2014

The 2014 Undergraduate Symposium “Political Correctness” presented a wide range of controversial topics that concern today’s America in an age in which PC has become part of not just every day vocabulary, but also of critical thinking, politics, and social interaction. The symposium was aimed at fostering an understanding of the complexities political correctness entails and which implications it has on American politics, culture, and literature.

Below you can find the participants' abstracts for their presentations.



  • Are we already naked? The Balancing Act between Delinquency and Responsibility in the Digital Space

Are we naked among wolves in the digital sphere? Prompted by the revelations of Edward Snowden about the practices of the NSA emerged a growing discussion about state-practices of surveillance for the sake of security of the society. The aim of the project group was to define and analyze the current debate and put the different discourses into a larger socio-political context. Following our definition of political correctness as a tool to create awareness of socially and politically relevant topics, but also to foster political agendas, we aimed to differentiate between the main narratives that define the debate. Therefore, we identified a narrative that aims for security of society, as opposed to one that intends to protect the freedom of the individual. The analysis here showed that each narrative follows a specific political agenda and is considered as politically correct.
Yet, the discussion about freedom and security in the digital sphere should not be considered as a simple trade-off, but concentrate on how the state in a democratic society can serve as a protection of both values, freedom of the individual and security of society. We thus asked whether a post-pc narrative is possible, and how this narrative can work in the digital sphere.

  • Redefining Warfare – One Politically Correct Missile at a Time

Unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, machine assassins. Legal, ethical, wise, as opposed to illegal, unjust and terrorist weapons. Seeking to end terrorism, avoiding casualties, and yet fostering terrorism. Withholding information in the interest of national security or as a tool to silence public dissent. These are just some of the opposing narratives in the context of political correctness on drone warfare. The goal of our project was to provide a politically correct narrative and a counter narrative on the issue of drones. We have based our research on a jointly developed, unified definition of political correctness, around which we have structured our main arguments into 4 overarching themes: language in PC; improvement of status quo; withholding information; silencing public dissent. After developing arguments for both narratives, it became clear that drones were a controversial, complex and emotional issue in PC. For example, the term “drone” itself can evoke an emotional response in society, since it has gained a negative connotation. Therefore, the PC term used is “unmanned aerial vehicle.” Also, the PC narrative for drones is that they are legal, ethical and wise, whereas the counter PC narrative argues that they are illegal, unjust and are by some seen as “terrorist weapons.” Furthermore, the PC narrative suggests that drones are meant to spare soldier’s lives and curb terrorism, whereas the counter PC narrative proves that drone strikes are inefficient and further foster resentment towards the US in strike areas. More substantial arguments allowed our group to clearly establish the politically correct narrative and the counter narrative.