The John L. Nau III History and Principles of Democracy Lab

The Nau Lab is the permanent laboratory of the Democracy Initiative, a place where core conceptual and historical questions about democracy will be researched and debate. We work to connect the various rotating labs and other projects through conversations about research, teaching and the practice of public scholarship and community engagement. We offer a yearly transdisciplinary graduate course focused on Democracy, and opened to students from all fields. And we organize a range of programming related to the History and Principles of Democracy.

Touchstones of Democracy Series 

Join us for conversations about key events, thinkers, places and texts that help us understand the history and principles of democracy. For more infomation, please visit the Touchstones of Democracy Series page

Nau Lab Conversations

In Spring 2022, the Nau Lab is offering the following events: 

"American Conservatism and Democracy" in partnership with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), featuring Yuval Levin, Jennifer Burns, Matthew Continetti, Gerard Alexander, Patrick N. Allitt, Ross Douthat, and Mary Kate Carey on Thursday, February 3, 2022, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET.  Watch the video here.

"Democracy and Dance" in partnership with the Charlottesville Ballet, featuring a conversation with Keith Lee and Christina Johnson as part of the Charlottesville Ballet's "Connections" production on Saturday, May 7, The Paramount Theater, Charlottesville.  Tickets avaliable soon. 

Democracy Convenings

Starting in the 2021-22 year, the Nau Lab will organize regular convenings that will bring together leading thinkers to discuss key questions about the history, philosophy and practice of democracy. Collaborating with UVA faculty from a wide range of disciplines as co-conveners for different events, we will invite small groups of 10-12 participants to share new research as well as debate age-old questions. The convenings will explore many different topics, including examining the work of key democratic theorists, exploring key moments in the history of democracy, and discussing methodological questions surrounding the study of democratic practice and movements.

These workshops will involve pre-circulated readings to be shared by all participants, including classic texts that will be studied and discussed, as well as both published and in progress work by participants. Faculty teaching undergraduate and graduate courses related to the topics of the convenings will have the opportunity to invite small numbers of students to read these materials and participate fully in the events. In addition to the small workshops, each of these will also include a larger public event aimed at students and community members during which the central questions of the convenings will be discussed in a conversation featuring some of the guests.

After each gathering, we will produce written, audio and video materials – including presentation of key findings and discussions, interviews with invitees, and links to resources around the topic – that will invite as broad a public as possible into these discussions. Over time, these convenings will help to build a network of participants both on campus and beyond, which will potentially seed other future projects, including other convenings as well as lab proposals.

We welcome suggestions for these convenings from UVA faculty and students.

Graduate Seminar

The Nau Lab offers a year long graduate seminar (DEM 7500/7501) for students in any graduate program and field of study at the University of Virginia. Find additional information, including application instructions, here.