Events | Student Council on "Democracy and Vulnerability" – with Sophie-Charlotte Opitz

Online | January 24, 2024

Online interview | 4:00 p.m. (PT)

Join the Wende Museum, the Thomas Mann House, and dublab radio for the first 2024 episode of our monthly interview series on “Democracy & Vulnerability!"

The Student Council consists of a team of highly engaged, talented, and diverse high school, undergraduate, and graduate students who invite prominent guest speakers to discuss topics relating to art, culture, politics, and society. In conversation with academics, journalists, politicians, and artists, the students will explore the various threats to democratic institutions and principles worldwide, as well as strategies to potentially overcome these threats. The series focuses on the new annual topic of the Thomas Mann House, “Democracy & Vulnerability:" Democratic processes are dynamic, inclusive, and human-centered but at times also messy, arbitrary, and even contrary to democracy itself. How should a democracy deal with its own vulnerabilities? What are the responsibilities of a democracy toward the most vulnerable in its populace? How do democracies need to evolve to deal successfully with increasing global levels of ecological, geo-political, and economic precarity? How much vulnerability can a democracy endure?

The first guest for the 2024 council will be Thomas Mann Fellow, Media Studies Scholar & Curator Sophie-Charlotte Opitz, whose work focuses on the relationship of protest movements, image strategies and artificial intelligence.

January Speaker

© Niklas Wulff

Sophie-Charlotte Opitz is a media and memory studies scholar and curator. She studied philosophy and art education at Goethe University Frankfurt and subsequently completed her doctorate. In 2019 she began her curatorial practice as a fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart and afterwards worked internationally as a curator and director in museums in Germany, Switzerland, and England. In addition to her monograph „Bilderregungen. Die Produktionsmechanismen zeitgenössischer Kriegsfotografie“, she regularly publishes in academic journals, exhibition catalogues, and photography books, especially on aspects of collective memory cultures and global image politics. She is a 2023 Thomas Mann Fellow. In her project, she is researching new forms of protest which strengthen political visibility during critical times.



Meet the 2024 Student Council

Sara Abrahamsson is a fourth-year student at UCLA studying Art History and French. As a culmination of her artistic and academic interest in political graphics, Sara is currently writing her senior thesis paper on the internationalist poster art of post-revolutionary Cuba. Upon graduating, she plans to continue working in museums before pursuing graduate studies in Art History or Art Conservation.

Amy Cabrales is a First-Generation fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA, studying Sociology and the Russian Language. She is a Mexican-American, Los Angeles native born in Lynwood, California. Her career interests include cross-cultural education via museum work or language instruction and immigrant resettlement, while her academic interests include immigrant integration and self-identity across immigrant generations. She is anticipating returning to Almaty, Kazakhstan for the 2024-25 academic year to inform these interests and advance her Russian proficiency.

Elsa Coony is a fourth-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles double majoring in Global Studies and German. She has previously worked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as both a docent and translator and is excited to join this year's council. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in international development.

Biruke Dix is currently a 2nd year student at UCLA studying Applied Mathematics. He joined the Wende Student Council in 2024 and is deeply invested in the ever-changing properties of art as well as social habits. He hopes that he can create language and conversation that promotes the spread of cultural shifts and social justice.

Matthew Jones is a third-year PhD student in Claremont Graduate University’s Cultural Studies and Museum Studies program. His research currently explores how sites connected to authoritarian regimes function as pilgrimage destinations and what strategies states and institutions employ to reduce extremist attachment at these sites. He is thrilled to continue his training with the Wende Museum through this collaboration with the Thomas Mann House.

Emma Larson is a master's student at Columbia University's Harriman Institute of Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies. There, she focuses on the gender, social, and political history of Central Asia. Before starting at Columbia, Emma taught English in Kazakhstan with the Fulbright Program. She graduated from Williams College with degrees in History and Russian in 2021.

Zora Nelson is a current undergraduate student at New York University,  where she is studying Harp Performance and Media, Culture, and Communication.  As an east coaster born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she discovered the Wende Museum in the summer of 2022 and is honored to be a part of the council. With a passion for writing, Zora sees a future in storytelling to promote social justice.

Lexi Tooley is a current sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Art History, minoring in Chinese Language and Culture. She is originally from Los Angeles, California, and attended the Archer School for Girls. Lexi has been working with the Wende Museum for the past 2 years. She looks forward to continuing the search for truth and examining the vulnerability of democracy through this program!

The event series is a collaboration with the Wende Museum Culver City, dublab and the Thomas Mann House Los Angeles.


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