Nexus Conference 2020 -

Saturday 14 November

A New Age of Anxiety

You don’t need to be a psychologist to know that anxiety is the dominant human emotion, nor do you need to be a historian to realize that there has never been an era in which people lived without fear. Nevertheless, in 1947 the poet W.H. Auden perfectly summed up the twentieth-century zeitgeist when he published his major prose poem entitled The Age of Anxiety – for that is what the twentieth century was! After the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, this anxiety retreated into the background. But now, in the 21st century, in the midst of economic, ecological, social and political crises, anxiety is back! And it leads not just to depressions, burnouts and suicides, but also to resentment, xenophobia, hatred and despair. On top of all this, a pandemic has gripped the world leading to such sickness and chaos that it seems almost apocalyptic.

On Saturday 14 November 2020, a diverse group of internationally renowned thinkers gathered around the Nexus Institute’s round table. They discussed the causes of all these crises and the anxiety they give rise to, and how we can ensure together that we can leave behind this age of anxiety as fast as possible.

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Published in

Journal Nexus

Nexus 86

Ons tijdperk van angst

Ons tijdperk van angst

Dutch publication with o.a. Wole Soyinka, Olga Tokarczuk, Thomas Chatterton Williams and Dita Kraus


Wole Soyinka

Nigeria, 1934

Wole Soyinka

Nobel Prize-winning author
Foto Jean-Marie Guehenno

France, 1949

Jean-Marie Guéhenno

diplomat and former UN Under-Secretary-General
Omar Saif Ghobash

United Arab Emirates, 1971

Omar Saif Ghobash

diplomat and author of Letters to a Young Muslim

United Kingdom, 1949

Theodore Dalrymple

psychiatrist and cultural critic
Edward Skidelsky

United Kingdom, 1973

Edward Skidelsky

philosopher and author of Ernst Cassirer: The Last Philosopher of Culture

United States, 1981

Thomas Chatterton Williams

cultural critic and author Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race

Czech Republic, 1929

Dita Kraus

Auschwitz survivor

United Kingdom, 1964

Ian Bostridge

world-renowned tenor

United States, 1950

Gregory J. Polan

Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation
Olga Tokarczuk

Poland, 1962

Olga Tokarczuk

Nobel Laureate in Literature

United Kingdom, 1971

Laura Spinney

author of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it Changed the World

United Kingdom, 1950

Richard Frackowiak

top expert neuroscience
Ivo van Hove

Belgium, 1958

Ivo van Hove

General Director of International Theatre Amsterdam


11:00 AM Welcome Rob Riemen

Keynote lecture Wole Soyinka


Apocalypse Now? Causes of Anxiety in Our Age
Roundtable conversation with Wole Soyinka, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Kate Brown, Omar Saif Ghobash, Theodore Dalrymple, Laura Spinney, Edward Skidelsky, Thomas Chatterton Williams
moderated by Rob Riemen


Amor Mundi. How to End the Age of Anxiety?
Roundtable conversation with Dita Kraus, Ian Bostridge, Gregory J. Polan, Olga Tokarczuk, Richard Frackowiak, Ivo van Hove moderated by Rob Riemen

4:00 PM End