Hahrie Hahn: What Does It Mean to Be In A Society Together?

Hahrie Han

By Haley Cush 

Growing up as the daughter of Korean immigrants, Hahrie Han knows firsthand the delicateness of balancing different cultures and creating a community that is inclusive amidst the seemingly growing social divides in our country.

“We’re all moving through our worlds not really sure what it means for us to be in a society together,” Han said. 

It’s because of this precarity that Han began work at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University as the inaugural director. 

At the Agora Institute, Han and her colleagues work to promote community and conversation across differences in ideology, values, and ideas through the ancient Athenian Agora model. In this model, people gather in a physical space to deliberate and discuss democracy, allowing for a free exchange of ideas. Han believes that there is a lack of these physical gathering places in the world today that are for people of all backgrounds to come together, and she is committed to “working with communities and practitioners all over the world” in the community she has created.

Ultimately, Han hopes the institute helps bring people together around the shared ideal that “we all want to be architects of our own future.” 

Through her work in rural communities, Han has seen firsthand the power of physical gathering spaces such as churches, civic centers, and youth centers. It is through this community building that she and the institute believe we can make our plans for the future a reality that is accessible for all.

In addition to her work with the institute, Han has written four books about civic organization and building democracy and is working on her fifth. Her most recent book, titled Prisons of the People: Power and Organizing in 21st Century America, is set to be released this July. She also expands her expertise as a political scientist as a faculty member at Johns Hopkins, where she’s the faculty director of the P3 Lab, which examines the way civic and political organizations make the participation of ordinary people possible, probable, and powerful. 

In the latest episode of Everywhere Radio, Han talks to host Whitney Kimball Coe about the Agora model, blending cultural backgrounds, the Asian-American experience, and promoting inclusivity. Everywhere Radio is a podcast produced by the Rural Assembly in partnership with the Daily Yonder. Every other Thursday, Whitney Kimball Coe welcomes new guests to talk about practicing leadership through the rural lens in communities around the country.



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