Formerly to be held in Okinawa, this conference will be held online from Shizuoka, Japan where some Japan residents will be gathering (invite only).


In response to the spread of COVID-19, political leaders around the world have adopted draconian measures to lock down economies and enforce ‘social distancing’. These measures were taken on the advice of ‘experts’ who based their prescriptions on constantly revised predictive computer models, which are themselves based on incomplete data on the spread and deadliness of the disease. But models by their nature tend to discount opportunity costs and unintended consequences from their calculations.

Time will tell how sage the drastic measures will turn out to have been. Are experts, imperfect as they are, our only hope? Or is over-specialism a danger to governance in line with the apothegm “the expert knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing?” In times of crisis, do frailties in the democratic process allow these unelected figures too much influence over fundamental political and civil rights? Even if they address a threat judiciously, is there a danger that leaders will exploit naive experts for political purposes, as journalist H.L. Mencken warned when he stated that “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of

Hestia 2021 is not a conference about COVID-19 per se, but the current situation offers a timely opportunity to examine the role of experts and specialists in society,
and to contemplate the effectiveness of the institutions that they populate, and which affect our societies and the lives of citizens deeply. We invite applicants to address the role of expertise as it applies to any pertinent contemporary issues. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

The role of heterodox thought in liberal democraciesFreedom of expression in the media/onlineCensorship and society
Fake newsMedia ecologyPolarization and culture
Pandemic responseMedia and politicsThe new media

HESTIA conferences feature three types of presentations:

• ANALYTICAL presentations are 20 minutes in length, and consist of a brief introduction to a key concept, or the work of a particular scholar or writer, followed by an explanation of how the concept (etc.) can be used to frame contemporary issues in new and interesting ways. Analytical presentations are particularly accessible to new researchers, or those from outside academia.
• RESEARCH presentations are 50 minutes. This allows ample time to showcase the ongoing research activities of one or more participants, and to engage with the audience.
• DISCURSIVE presentations feature two or more presenters sharing differing views on a common subject. A mediator guides the interaction and invites participation from audience members. Discursive presentations are a more interactive take on the conventional panel.

Applicants are invited to submit one or more abstracts of no more than 300 words, tailored carefully to meet the requirements of the presentation type. Please also include a bio of no more than 100 words. For more details on preparing a submission, please visit the ‘submission guidelines’ page of our website at


Conference presenters will be invited to contribute to one of our three publications.

Conference fees (includes three lunches and conference reception)
PRESENTER: $450 (tentative price. Student and other discounts will be available).
ATTENDEE: Fees to be announced at a later date.

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