Freedom from Fear – A Transatlantic Dialogue on the Human Right to a Life Without Fear

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed four goals for “people everywhere in the world”: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. 

These Four Freedoms became part of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt equated “Freedom from Fear” mainly with overcoming war and violence. Today, the global consequences of the pandemic, climate change and of rapid digital evolution and the resulting social change have triggered various fears all over the world.

As social seismographs, the protagonists of the bi-weekly “Freedom from Fear” video series Sasha Waltz, Peter Sellars, Rosa Barba, Martha Nussbaum, just to name a few, will reflect on the significance of the right to live without fear in search of answers: How can literature, dance, music, philosophy and politics address social fears?


Ep. 1 - Felicitas Hoppe

Georg Büchner Prize winner Felicitas Hoppe attaches greater importance to freedom from fear than to freedom of expression and religion, since "freedom from fear or from anxiety or threat [is] actually the basic prerequisite of the other three freedoms that Roosevelt propagates, that is, if I cannot guarantee this, then I will have neither freedom of expression nor will I be able to practice my religion, and my basic existential needs will not be secured either."

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Ep. 2 - Sam Durant

U.S. multimedia artist Sam Durant, whose work often addresses social, political, and cultural issues by recalling historical events or movements, states, "We need to overcome the fear that keeps us from imagining how we can change negative conditions like persecution, prejudice, racism."

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Ep. 3 - Sasha Waltz

In this new episode of "Freedom from Fear", Sasha Waltz answers Sam Durant's question if dance can help to break free from fear.

When she's working on a new piece, Sasha Waltz tries to perceive what is currently happening in society and explores these states with her dance ensemble. It needs to be something that touches her deeply, a mood that can become the driving force for a new choreography.

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Ep. 4 - Peter Sellars

This episode features theater and opera director Peter Sellars. He argues that “the more you are really working with your fear, the more you can help someone else to work through their fear. And that’s what we do as artists.”

Watch the internationally-acclaimed director and professor at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance reflect on Sasha Waltz’s question about a spiritual exercise to cope with fear.

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Ep. 5 - Rosa Barba

Visual artist and filmmaker Rosa Barba (Villa Aurora Fellow 2006) senses a new role of fear in modern life. While working on films and art projects often helps her to cope with her own fears, she suggests the “strategy of thinking of the things you believe in and just hold close to them to overcome the fear.” Watch the new installment of our ongoing series Freedom from Fear, featuring inspiring footage from Barba’s multilayered films and installations that often investigate environments and weave stories of places and people into narratives.

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Ep. 6 - Safiya Noble

“Fear is a powerful emotion that drives a lot of engagement on the internet,” Safiya Noble states in the new episode of “Freedom from Fear.” With 400 hours of media being uploaded to YouTube every minute or 350,000,000 photos posted on Facebook per day, it is almost impossible for human content moderators to keep hatred and fear off these and other platforms. But what can we do to curb fear and discrimination on the internet?

Safiya Noble is a Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in the Departments of Information Studies and African American Studies.

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Ep. 7 - Mohamed Amjahid

When he was still a child and his mother was beaten by neo-nazis in a suburb of Frankfurt, Germany, Mohamed Amjahid knew: “It’s quite a big privilege to live without fear.” In the new episode of “Freedom from Fear,” the Thomas Mann Fellow, author and journalist talks about how language can help us to overcome fear.

For Amjahid, language can make discriminatory structures within a society more recognizable, but ultimately we need to “listen to people that haven't really been in the spotlight before.”
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Ep. 8 - Martha Nussbaum

Fear has always been considered a terrible threat to democracy and particularly susceptible to demagogic manipulation: In this episode of “Freedom from Fear,” internationally acclaimed philosopher and Holberg Prize laureate Martha Nussbaum takes us on a tour the force of the history of fear in philosophical and political thought. For Nussbaum, no fear is irrational, but we should ask ourselves: What do we really have reason to fear?

Martha Nussbaum is the current Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at University of Chicago.

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Ep. 9 - Rainer Forst

Over the last months, our ongoing series "Freedom from Fear" looked at the issue of fear from a variety of different angles. In today’s episode, philosopher Rainer Forst ponders how fear can also be a productive force within a society that can help to bring about positive change: “Without fear, without the realization of what is going on and what is happening to us, we will not gain a proper relationship to these dangers.” 

Rainer Forst is a professor for political theory and philosophy at Goethe Universität Frankfurt and Thomas Mann Fellow 2021.

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Ep. 10 - James Conlon

"Music can be a deeply life-affirming passion for anybody." – Conductor James Conlon visited the Thomas Mann House in Pacific Palisades to reflect on the relationship between fear and music in society. Don’t miss James Conlon talk about fear, Thomas Mann’s role in the Los Angeles exile community and his "Recovered Voices" initiative in the new episode of our ongoing series "Freedom from Fear." In a tyrannical society, that you can lose your place in that society because of what you perform.

Conlon is currently the music director of Los Angeles Opera and principal conductor of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra.

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Ep. 11 - Feo Aladag

Overcoming fear has always been a recurring topic in Feo Aladag’s movies: "Iam fascinated by stories of people or societies who, despite their legitimate fears or dependencies, say ‘where’s the bridge out of that?’.”

Feo Aladag is a director, screenwriter, and actor whose films When We Leave, Inbetween Worlds, and Alone - A Family Story have received numerous national and international awards.
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Ep. 12 - Andrew Sean Greer

Pulitzer Prize winner and author Andrew Sean Greer addresses "Freedom from Fear" based on his own writing and research, but also on his personal experiences as an openly gay man in the 1980s. He also grapples with the current political climate in the U.S. and asks how freedom from fear is possible in highly individualistic societies.

Andrew Sean Greer is a California-based author of novels and short stories. Greer was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel Less.


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Ep. 13 - Sergej Newski

“I don't portray fear, but I deal with that discomfort, a certain confinement within a situation, that is perhaps overcome with the help of music,” Sergej Newski states in the new episode of 'Freedom from Fear.' But also outside of his often humanistic compositions, he thinks that, to deal with fear, now more than ever, international collaborations - not only between institutions in the field of music but also between people - have to be continued or even intensified.

Sergej Newski is a russian-born composer, living in Germany.


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Ep. 14 - Armin Müller Stahl

He is one of the few German world stars: Character actor Armin Mueller-Stahl, born in December 1930 in Tilsit, East Prussia (now Russia). His filmography and list of awards is long and he has worked with some of the most accomplished directors. Stahl is also known for his pantings: expressive images of people and landscapes, which he interprets in a virtuoso way. This is where the skilled eye of the meticulous observer, who approaches his environment with curiosity and sympathy, becomes apparent.


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