Erika Kiss

Photo by Sabine Vielmo


UCHV-Filmforum, Princeton University


Erika is the Director of the UCHV Film Forum at Princeton University where she teaches critical film curation, environmental film studies, as well as architectonic and film rhetoric. She studied history, literature, and linguistics in Hungary, and comparative literature at Harvard University. She was a member of the Department of Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. She was a co-founder, the first CEO and Academic Dean of Germany's first private English-language liberal arts college, known today as Bard College Berlin. In Princeton, she started the UCHV Film Forum and an extracurricular Research Film Studio dedicated to collective filmmaking based on student and faculty research. With a group of Princeton faculty, she launched the Local Spirit Initiative to act upon the increasing importance and opportunities of sensory learning and research through film and digital media. Her most recent project is a digital chrestomathy of cinematic iconography. Her aim as a researcher is to uncover art—especially the relatively new art of cinema—as a site of critical thinking in order to reform the trivium of liberal education for the age of electronic communication.

Erika joined THE NEW INSTITUTE in the summer of 2022.

  • What gives you hope?
    Hope is the energy recoiled in the stress of adversity that is ready to spring into action as resourcefulness. All our stories, ancient and new, reflect this coincidence of opposites between hopeless adversity and hopeful resourcefulness. Disadvantage drives creativity and the growth of the mind. The disadvantaged therefore has the cutting edge. The privileged, on the other hand, is complacent and dull—neither hopeless, nor hopeful. Therefore, the very real adversities that people inflict on other people, the climate, and nature—I hope—will inspire new solutions, inventions, and discoveries. The resourcefulness of the disadvantaged, especially that of the migrant child gives me hope.

  • How does change happen?
    How can change not happen? All our civilizational ambitions are about arresting the flow of change by building homes, fences, churches, scientific systems, political institutions, etc. Totalitarianism is a political system that aims at freezing change; democracy is a system that aims to ensure the seamless change of power as if surfing on the waves of change. New engineering technologies do not aim at a rigid stability of a mechanical kind but at the adaptability to change, a quality of flexible resilience, found in biological nature as if surfing the waves. Our human institutions, with their rigid bureaucracy, could learn from bio-mimetic technology how to surf the incessant waves for demand, for creative changes and adjustments.

  • What is human?

    According to Michael Oakeshott, we are not born human and only become human by learning how to be free. Which means that the so-called human condition is our capacity for liberal learning.


"Adam Smith" and "Friedrich Nietzsche", in: Dietmar Till and Adam Potkay (eds.), Rhetoric from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries (forthcoming)

“Beyond Native and Alien: Nietzsche, Literally”, in: Philosophy & Rhetoric, 2018

“Between Mimesis and Technē: Cinema as a Site for Critical Thinking”, in: The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 2017

“The Rules of the Game: Stochastic Rationality in Oakeshott’s Rule of Law Theory”, in: David Dyzenhaus and Thomas M. Poole (eds.), Law, Liberty and State, 2015

“Conserving the University as a Place for Liberal Learning” in: Terry Nardin (ed.), Michael Oakeshott’s Cold War Liberalism, 2015

“The Triptych of Liberal Education”, in: Philosophy of Education, 2006

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