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The Dissident Mind


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, but Foundational Debates in Governance, Economics & Development is recommended.


The course offers a unique look into the nature of totalitarian regimes through the lens of personal accounts and insights of dissidents. We will tackle in depth what motivates individuals to see through the totalitarian regime's deceptive practices, where do dissidents draw the courage to resist corruption and what also makes them fold amidst the pressures and intimidation. We search together whether a unique "dissident personality" can be described or whether a confluence of societal and personal characteristics make up a dissident mind. Finally, we reflect together on how effectively the dissident mind can be delineated from the totalitarian mind. In the spirit of liberal arts education, the course weaves together psychology, philosophy, history, fiction and film.

Course Objectives

Upon completion the course aims to provide the students will learn:

  • Historical context for dissident’s lives in totalitarian systems and the politics ;

  • Intimate accounts of how life feels under totalitarian regimes;

  • The understanding of how authoritarian personality develops and manifests


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of seminar discussion of the assigned readings and films, along with discussion leadership facilitated by the students.

Assessment Method

  • Participation, 15%, Weeks 1-7

  • Discussion Leadership, 15%, Weeks 1-7

  • Papers (2x), 40% (20% each), Weeks 4 and 7

  • Quizzes (2x), 30% (15% each), Weeks 1-7

Reading list

  • Czeslaw Milozs: The Captive Mind. The Penguin Classics. 2001

  • Ma Bo. Blood Red Sunset: A Memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Penguin Books. 1995

  • Viktor Frankl. The Man’s Search for Meaning. Ballantine Books, 2004

Remaining required readings are available online or are on hold. Check the links or information in the weekly overview


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Lucie Zicha,