CDC History
goes back to the early 1990's when several diverse initiatives got under way, culminating in the creation of the Center. Established as a research and public service institution in August of 2002, the Center for Democratic Culture set out to conduct public forums on the issues central to our community, promote civic culture education in Nevada, facilitate research on the historical experience of American democracy, and organize international exchanges and a visiting scholars' program. CDC associates spearheaded collaborative studies on democratic institution building which drew attention to the vital link between emotional intelligence and the quality of life. CDC activists have also staged special events that marked the passing of the Cold War and the world-wide progress of democracy. The following are the intellectual and organizational milestones in the Center's history.

American Pragmatism is the philosophy that has inspired the CDC project. Pragmatist theory and practice have shifted the debate about democracy from its institutional-legal framework to its cultural and emotional underpinnings. Free speech, multi-party politics, constitutional checks and balances are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a viable democracy. Democracy is also a quality of experience, a set of attitudes, beliefs, and body practices that provide the fertile ground on which democratic institutions can flourish. By the same token, a market economy thrives in societies which cultivate certain moral sentiments and work ethics. As the great American philosopher John Dewey put it, "Democracy must begin at home, and its home is a neighborly community." To flesh out this idea, a group of scholars affiliated with the center and presently serving on its board gathered during the 1990's at various professional meetings to discuss American pragmatism, its relationship to the continental tradition, and its relevance for our time. These discussions added to the growing literature on pragmatism and resulted in the publication of special journal issues on pragmatism.

First Nevada Conference on Soviet Culture was another milestone in the Center's history. This international research project was sponsored by the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, MacArthur Foundation, Nevada Humanities Committee, Russian Academy of Sciences, and National Public Opinion Center in Moscow. In November of 1992, the University of Nevada hosted its first international conference on the democratization process in the former Soviet Union. The participants examined the causes that impeded the formation of democracy in postcommunist societies, using pragmatist ideas as their guide. As the conference report indicates, they also offered Southern Nevada audiences a series of lectures on the prospects for democracy in Eastern Europe. The results of this collaborative effort have been published in a book titled Russian Culture at the Crossroads. Paradoxes of Postcommunist Consciousness.

Second Nevada Conference on Russian Culture was convened in November of 1997. It brought to town renowned experts on Russian art who have offered an insight into the key role that the artistic intelligentsia has played in Russian history and the current democratic reforms. Scholars who took part in the second international conference on Russian culture addressed Southern Nevada teachers and community members on the situation in post-communist Russia. Volume two of the book series on Russian culture is being edited under the title Russian Culture at the Crossroads. Art and Society.

UNLV Committee on Russian and East-Central European Studies was formed in the late 1990's. The committee further articulated the emerging agenda that combined research in the pragmatist key, international collaborative projects, and service to the community. The committee laid the conceptual and organizational foundation for the CDC in its proposal that lead to the creation of the Center. Its notable initiatives included the Russian art festival and an exhibition of the Cold War era art.

Third Nevada Conference on Russia Culture and International Festival of Russian Art and Culture took place at UNLV in November of 2000, but it had been three years in the making, with the festival board formed in the Summer of 1998 and the public announcement released to the public later that year. The Russian art festival included an art show "American and Russian Nonconformist Art," a series of concerts by Russian performing artists, poetry readings by leading Russian poets, a movie screening featuring a documentary on the "Images of America in Russian Cinema," and several panel discussions on the role of art in society. The festival resulted in an extensive media coverage, produced an array of visual materials and festival pictures, and gave our community a chance to reflect on the passing of the Cold War and the problems of building democracy in the post-communist era.

Center for Democratic Culture was established by the UNLV Board of Regents in 2002 during its August 15-16 meeting. The CDC Board met for the first time on September 15, 2002. During the meeting, board members identified the most promising projects to be taken up by the Center and set up an agenda for the upcoming year. The Center teamed up with several other university organizations that mounted a joint project, titled "CIVITAS: The Alliance for Public Culture & Democracy. The Alliance seeks to enhance the role of culture and public discourse in the life of local community.

Judging the Judges was the inaugural panel in the Justice & Democracy Forum series that took place Dec. 10, 2002. The panel on "Judging the Judges: Should We Elect or Appoint Nevada Judges?" generated an unexpected amount of publicity, drawing attention to the judicial election reforms and the difficulties such a reform drive faces in the sate of Nevada. The CDC board plans to place its judging the judges forum transcripts on the CDC web board.

Tort Reform was the topic of the second forum in the Justice & Democracy Forum series that addressed a contentious issue of product liability and malpractice insurance. The forum took place on Friday, April 25, 2003, under the title "The Law and Politics of Tort Reform: Local and National Developments." Governor Kenny Guinn, Senator Harry Reid, Senator John Ensign, and several other prominent members of the Nevada community sent letters of welcome to forum participants. The tort reform panel transcripts are to be published on the CDC web board.

Seminar on Doing Business in Eurasia offered local companies a chance to meet with trade representatives from several countries in the former Soviet Union and hear about the changing business climate and investment opportunities in the region. Click on the link to learn about the Seminar on Doing Business in Eurasia.

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