The Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI) has announced the program for its 2022 iteration, to be held at Carriageworks on September 17 and 18. The festival, which aims to dissect and discuss some of the biggest, and often most controversial, issues facing the world, will be headlined by Frances Haugen (US), a whistleblower who leaked tens of thousands of internal documents from Facebook showing how the company prioritised profit over public safety.
A host of other deep thinkers are also set to take the stage. Historian and economics commentator Adam Tooze (UK), will dig into why society still can’t get its act together as the world stares down war, climate change and financial crises.
American historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat will look at how authoritarian leaders seize – and retain – power, while gender non-conforming artist Alok Vaid-Menon (USA) will ask audiences to look beyond gender binaries.
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This year’s Hitch Memorial Keynote (named after author and journalist Christopher Hitchens, FODI’s first-ever speaker) will be given by Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker. He’ll argue in favour of the ideals of enlightenment and why reason is fundamental.
Other talks by international speakers include British historian and academic Joanna Bourke on the enduring intrigue of bestiality, and American tech columnist and host of the New York Times podcast Rabbit Hole Kevin Roose on where the internet stops and real, human people begin.
The Australian contingent, meanwhile, will be digging into some particularly pertinent topics. Noongar woman and author Claire G Coleman will host a keynote address, Words Are Weapons, to unpack Australian colonisation and how ongoing untruthful narratives about Australia endanger both settlers and First Nations people.
In her keynote, Precious White Lives, author Sisonke Msimang digs into pandemic policy-making, and whether the lockdowns, which had a disproportionate impact on Sydney and Melbourne’s multicultural communities, were all in aid of preserving the lives of rich white people.
Senator Jacqui Lambie – certainly no stranger to a dangerous idea – will deliver the festival’s opening keynote, talking about her political career and what’s to come. And journalist Peter Greste (who was imprisoned in Egypt for publishing stories that were “damaging to [Egypt’s] national security”) and academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was recently released after more than two years of imprisonment in Iran on false charges of espionage, will discuss the fading power of the Australian passport. Similarly, New York-based journalist Nick Bryant will join Ben-Ghiat and Tooze to talk about the declining influence of the USA.
Audiences will also hear from Bourke, advocate Saxon Mullins, journalist and author Jess Hill and Msimang on why rape endures, while another panel will look at whether more can be done to pre-emptively prevent child sex offenders from offending.
Aside from panels and keynotes, there’ll be an installation by Wiradjuri artist Brook Andrew depicting a brain whose two halves represent Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. And celebrity tattoo artist Scott Campbell will tattoo audience members for free – but he’ll ink you with whatever he wants, without meeting or getting to know you. Plus, “period preacher” Lucy Peach will celebrate the menstrual cycle in her multimedia work My Greatest Period Ever.
This year’s FODI has been put together by festival director Danielle Harvey, in collaboration with co-curators Simon Longstaff (executive director at The Ethics Centre) and Ann Mossop, director of the Centre for Ideas at UNSW. The festival was founded in 2009 by The Ethics Centre and the Sydney Opera House.
“When we first conceived of FODI, more than a decade ago, it was with a serious intent – to create a world-class ideas festival that would defend that ever-shrinking sweet spot: the middle ground,” said Longstaff in a statement. “This legacy continues today and feels as vital as ever.”
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas runs from September 17–18 at Carriageworks. Tickets are on sale now.