Category: Faculty

The Politics of Engagement

Stuart Thorson proposes scientific exchange as a practical way to avoid “demonization.”

Stuart Thorson proposes scientific exchange as a practical way to avoid “demonization.”

Last spring, several experts on Asian countries came together at IU to talk about “Engaging Enemies.”   The issue on the table was how to keep countries out of conflict now and in the future, and the test cases were North Korea, Iran, and Burma.

The word of the day was engagement.  Mel Gurtov laid the foundation of the discussion. Paraphrasing his definition:

Engagement is

  • reaching out
  • establishing cooperation and reciprocity
  • exercising persistence, patience, and ingenuity
  • maintaining credibility flexibility, and a tough skin
  • reducing tensions
  • resetting relationships
  • finding common ground
  • inculcating habit of dialog and mutual respect
  • achieving incremental agreements
  • creating honorable path to peaceable relations

Engagement is not

  • selling out national interests
  • tolerating genocide or other heinous crimes
  • exercising coercive diplomacy
  • postponing the inevitable
  • performing an act of charity

The positive aspects of engagement so apparently outweigh the negatives that it is hard to imagine that countries have not pursued it.  Miroslav Nincic explained some of the reasons why.  Most have to do with resistance of citizens to reaching out to an enemy.  US politics honors a “tough line” and “retributive justice.”  Efforts to engage are seen as “appeasement.” The popular perception is that “conciliatory gestures encourage bad behavior by rewarding offenders.”  Strategic matters related to unequal power relations and political instability can also disarm positive engagement.

The experts generally agreed that “sticks” have not worked.  Sanctions and coercive policies have not made North Korea or Iran back down from their determination to develop nuclear arms.  In place of sticks, Nincic proposes “catalytic carrots.”  Efforts to engage adversaries might be more successful if the objective were not to see a regime overthrown, but to see it alter its “more objectionable policies.”

Walter Clemens echoed this perspective.  He focuses on the hubris of both the U.S. and North Korea.  The politics of “tit-for-tat” and “an eye for an eye” have dominated.  “Arrogance and disdain” have nullified any hope of positive engagement.   He would like to see an abandonment of hubris for GRIT—“graduated reciprocity in tension-reduction”—which involves each side making a “limited series of unilateral concessions.”  But who will make the first step?  Will the initial gesture be trusted or gestures at any stage be betrayed?  Domestic hostility to concessions and bureaucratic inertia may make any GRIT momentum hard to sustain.

As difficult a problem as this may seem, there was some agreement on a solution.  Interactions should be driven less by the abstract—policies and principles—and more by the concrete.  “Getting to Know You” was the theme proposed by Andrei Lankov.  He proposes academic exchanges as a starting point and offered the example of two Russian individuals who came to the U.S. to study and then returned to the USSR to become spies or propagandists.  The suspicion that a country would use exchanges for nefarious purposes was thus affirmed until the beginning of perestroika—when both these individuals contributed to the collapse of the Soviet regime.  Exposure to a different world will promote change in the long run by building up internal pressures for reform and by preparing leaders to deal with a different future.

Stuart Thorson offered an example of successful exchange with North Korea in the area of scientific research.  Science abhors politics (even if it is involved politically), and the ever more global environment requires the relatively transparent movement of data over digital networks among scientific collaborators around the world.  His personal example was the successful collaboration and exchange between Syracuse University and the North Korea State Academy of Sciences.

Other experts echoed this focus on the concrete—people to people rather than policy to policy.  The U.S. needs to assert policies and principles less and to learn more about its enemies.  Humanitarian assistance, such as food aid, should be given for humanitarian, not political, reasons, Karin Lee asserted.  In Iran, the “Obama administration’s sanctions-only policy is both failing to achieve its objective on the nuclear front and adding to the regime’s repression,” said Trita Parsi.  Kun a. Namkung proposed that the U.S. needs to know more about Korean history—to understand that it might make more sense to see a West and East Korea than to see and North and South Korea, for example.  And while the U.S. may see changes in Myanmar as very positive, an understanding of the internal culture would prevent us from being surprised by setbacks there, observed Nicholas Farrelly.

The workshop was sponsored by the East Asia Foundation with assistance from several IU units, including the ANU-IU Pan Asia Institute, and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs.  The proceedings have just been published in Global Asia: A Journal of the East Asia Foundation (Summer 2013).

 Mel Gurtov,  professor emeritus of political science, Portland State University;   editor in chief, Asian Perspective.
Miroslav Nincic, professor of political science, University of California-Davis.
Walter Clemens, professor of political science, Boston University.
Andrei Lankov, professor of history, Kookmin University, Seoul; adjunct research fellow, Australian National University.
Stuart Thorson, professor of political science and international relations, Syracuse University.
Karin Lee,  executive director of the National Committee on North Korea.
Kim A. Namkung, scholar and consultant on Asian affairs.
Trita Parsi, president, National Iranian American Council.
Nicholas Farrelly, research fellow of international, political and strategic studies, Australian National University.
Kate Gould, lead lobbyist for Middle East policy, Friends Committee on National Legislation.
Mark Valencia, maritime policy analyst and consultant on Asia issues.
Keith Luse, former East Asia foreign policy advisor to Senator Richard Lugar.
Gil Latz, associate vice president of IU International Affairs.
There is much we still need to learn about Korean culture, said Kun A. Namkung.

There is much we still need to learn about Korean culture, said Kun A. Namkung.

Gil Latz said that universities won’t be able to bring North Korea into their productive research until they escape the stereotypes associated with Communism.

Gil Latz said that universities won’t be able to bring North Korea into their productive research until they escape the stereotypes associated with Communism.

Andrei Lankov proposed social exchanges as an effective way for enemies to get to know each other.

Andrei Lankov proposed social exchanges as an effective way for enemies to get to know each other.

Keith Luse recognized the importance of domestic buy-in. “Congress has to be a partner” in any effort to engage.

Keith Luse recognized the importance of domestic buy-in. “Congress has to be a partner” in any effort to engage.

Popularity and Culture

Lynn Hooker, associate professor of Central Eurasian Studies, describes the variety and reach of Romani music.

Lynn Hooker, associate professor of Central Eurasian Studies, describes the variety and reach of Romani music.

            Sometimes it seems that social scientists and environmentalists have taken ownership of the world, or at least the study of the world.  Despite the fact that global competency is meant to touch all academic disciplines, discussions usually begin and end with anthropologists, political scientists and the like.  We often forget that in the arts—music, drama, literature, painting—the crossing of cultural boundaries is commonplace and has been for a very long time.  Thus it was good to see that the 2013 Global Mini-Conference, a public portion of the Institute for Curriculum and Campus Internationalization (ICCI—the directors don’t like it referred to as Icky), included amidst sessions on safe water, sexual violence, coffee production, climate change, human trafficking, and the like, a couple of sessions that spoke to the function of art in a global context.

            One of those sessions investigated issues of artistic tradition and popular culture.  Lynn Hooker, of IU’s Central Eurasian Studies department, introduced Romani history and culture, with its diaspora extending back more than a millennium.  The musical world of the Roma was determined by the ‘Gypsy’ epithet imposed on them by the cultures they passed through.  Ever persecuted, they were perceived to be capable only of “lower” art forms.  However compelling, accomplished, original—the music of the Roma, at least as it was generated from within its own culture, was not awarded status as serious art.  Romani music was permitted a place in high culture only when “purified” by composers who themselves were not Romani: Liszt, Bartók, Brahms;  the list of composers influenced by Romani music is very long indeed.

            Instead, Romani music blended with local folk music and became a feature of popular venues, weddings, public houses, holiday celebrations.  As an essential part of popular art, it carries meaning and value to larger numbers of people than “high art” can, and has become equally indispensable.  Its popularity offers a livelihood to Romani musicians, many of whom have established worldwide reputations, such as Hungarian restaurant musician Sándor Lakatos, Macedonian singer Esma Redzepova (Queen of the Gypsies), or the hiphop group

            Jennifer Goodlander, of the Department of Theatre and Drama, then introduced the popular tradition of wayang kulit, shadow puppets, whose performances can last days and must go on even when no one is watching.  The tradition of shadow puppets is as ancient and revered as the Hindu epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, whose roots are older than the Bible.  The puppeteer has almost the rank of a priest.  The puppets themselves have special status.  Though seen only in shadow on a translucent screen, they are lovingly and brightly painted.  There is even a ceremony of marriage between puppeteer and puppets.

            Goodlander has studied with a puppeteer in Bali. She demonstrated how this tradition revivifies itself with each new generation by bringing in local color and details relevant to the audience of the day.  After introducing and animating the ancient character of one particular clown, she flashed onto the screen an image of Homer Simpson.  The aptness of the analogy was undeniable.

            Romani music provides connections to Romani past, but was culturally pigeonholed by external ethnic hostility.  Despite that prejudice, it absorbed local folk traditions wherever it went and earned a significant role in popular culture all over Europe.  Shadow puppetry, another art of the people, provides a revered link to ancient culture via an avenue that is constantly repaved with elements of the popular familiar present. 

This shadow puppet, slightly smaller than normal, was made for the tourist trade.  The elaborate pattern of holes carved into the leather (which show on the shadow screen) and the detailed coloring (which doesn’t) are typical.

This shadow puppet, slightly smaller than normal, was made for the tourist trade. The elaborate pattern of holes carved into the leather (which show on the shadow screen) and the detailed coloring (which doesn’t) are typical.


The stories are ancient and the characters in them well known to their audience.  The shadows lend mystery and magic to the legends they tell.

The stories are ancient and the characters in them well known to their audience. The shadows lend mystery and magic to the legends they tell.



Jennifwer Goodlander, assistant professor of theatre and drama, demonstrates the art of wayang kulit and Homer Simpson.

Jennifwer Goodlander, assistant professor of theatre and drama, demonstrates the art of wayang kulit and Homer Simpson.


Beyond the Blind Eye

Journalist Lesley Yarranton describes the difficulties in raising awareness of human trafficking.


            Imagine coming home after work and discovering a body in your backyard.  Some years ago, many who lived in the landing path of Heathrow Airport had that or a similar experience.  Autopsies concluded that all had fallen from a great height, probably from wheel wells as flights lowered their landing gears; victims probably died of cold before they fell. Many were traced to airports in Africa, and investigations there suggested that the individuals had help getting to the wheel wells to stow away, help that may or may not have been voluntary. When the press reported that human trafficking was the most likely explanation behind the deaths, readers in Britain began to recognize the enormity of this issue.

            Lesley Yarranton, a British freelance journalist who has investigated human trafficking since the 1980s, related this series of events during a panel discussion of “Human Trafficking and Media.”  She traced the frustration journalists had in convincing readers of the seriousness of the situation.  “The term itself did not help in generating public attention,” Yarranton explained.  “Human and trafficking are blind words in journalism.” The terms don’t have the impact needed.  Traffic is an annoyance, not a profound, violent offence to another person.  In Britain at least, shocking photos and lurid reports over many years, have convinced the public first, that human trafficking is not confined to other, poorer countries, and second that the issue is not a source of titillation but of shame.

            Yana Hashamova, Associate Professor and Director of the Slavic Center at Ohio State, spoke about her research into attitudes towards trafficking and audience reactions to films that address that issue. She first reported on research she had conducted regarding attitudes towards trafficking in Bulgaria and in the U.S.  Some of her findings:

—  Trafficking in Bulgarians is perceived as something which is not right, unfair. However, when trafficking involves foreigners in Bulgaria, attitudes change.  “It is their own fault” is the predominant answer. And, when it comes to sexual exploitation, public opinion is more likely to “blame” those who engaged in prostitution.

—  American students hold a more general (abstract) view of the “positive aspects” of trafficking while Bulgarians connect the “positive side” to concrete economic opportunities (to avoid poverty in one’s own country). The reasons for trafficking are also perceived differently: Americans believe that the whole society is responsible for it, while Bulgarians ascribe it to “business with people.”   American men exhibit lower interpersonal empathy and higher rape myth acceptance; they show more hostile attitudes towards rape victims.

             Hashamova then turned to the portrayal of trafficking in cinema.  She noted a voyeuristic tendency that exploited the sexual side of trafficking.  Only with more recent films, like Lilya 4 Ever, where all is seen through the woman’s eyes as she is subjected to harrowing and humiliating treatment, does the horrific over the voyeuristic aspect of trafficking come clear.  Americans found many of these movies dissatisfying; they wanted happy endings and acceptable solutions to the problem.  She is pessimistic about the impact cinema can have on the problem because cinematic elements so easily block the “shocking trauma” that trafficking represents.

            The third member of the panel was an undercover detective working in a large urban area on problems of sex trafficking.  He made it very clear that the problem has no easy solutions.  Even cases that he saw as clear cut could be compromised before they could be prosecuted.  Victims were often reluctant to speak or ran away before matters could come to trial.  Getting clear evidence that behavior was forced was difficult.  Prosecutors sometimes did not know the specifics of the trafficking laws on the books or in other instances wanted an airtight case before moving forward.  The detective was pessimistic that the legal system could solve the problem.  He offered up an unsentimental and (to the large audience present) uncomfortable view of the world of the traffickers–which might include parents who sold their daughter into prostitution or domestic servitude to pay off a gambling debt. 

            Although his close experience over many years made him sympathetic to the victims, he engaged in an extensive discussion with a member of the audience over the legalization of prostitution.  “Legalization,” the detective said, “would only make it harder to prosecute trafficking.”  He spoke of the unhelpful side of journalist sensationalism, for example when the press reported for the last Dallas Superbowl that there would be tens of thousands of women trafficked in, when in fact, the police identified 28 cases.  For the Indianapolis Superbowl, eight cases were identified.   Trafficking is more associated with what happens every day than what happens once a year.  And pending cases can be destroyed when journalists release too much information early on.

            Journalists in Britain have had some success at raising public awareness of trafficking as an offence to humanity.  Filmmakers          have made found ways to involve audiences in victims’ suffering and degradation, though such films are hard to watch.  The undercover would like to see (but doesn’t expect to see) more prosecutions, especially of pimps and those in control.  All agree that public awareness of the reality of the issue is the most practical near-term objective, and all agree that media plays an important but ambiguous role in raising awareness.  Exactly how media has succeeded so far, how much its presence impedes and assists, and exactly what the media should do to “solve” the problem are still unanswered questions.

            The panel was organized by Stepanka Korytova, as part of a faculty study group on “The Many Faces of Human Trafficking,” of the International Studies Program and of the College of Arts and Sciences Themester Fall 2012: Good Behavior, Bad Behavior: Molecules to Morality.

Guitar Virtuosos at Lunchtime Concert

Rodrigo Almeida and Daniel Duarte perform a waltz of Ernesto Nazareth

            “Yesterday was hot; today is cold.  That’s bad for the guitars,” said Rodrigo Almeida, as he and Daniel Duarte struggled with keeping their instruments in tune.  If there were tuning problems, no one in the audience could tell as the guitar duo performed  a brief concert of pieces from the Baroque (Soler) to the contemporary (IU grad Jon Godfrey), from a delicate transcription (by Duarte) of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” to the rhythms and dances of Brazil in music by Nazareth, Pixinguinha, and Pereira.  The concert continues a decade-old tradition of intimate, Friday lunchtime concerts sponsored by the Office of International Services, now in the Willkie Formal Lounge.

            Almeida and Duarte established their Villa Guitar Duo in 2004.  They have won competitions in Europe, the U.S., and Latin America and completed their first US tour in 2009.  They have done many of their own transcriptions, and hearing their version of Debussy on guitar makes one wonder if perhaps the French composer had been composing for the wrong instrument.  Their most recent CD renders Scarlatti, Bach, Albeniz, Villa-Lobos, and Boccherini with the same conviction, and offers challenging examples of Spanish and Latin American music written for guitar.  Both currently reside in Bloomington and are associate instructors for the Jacobs School, working under Ernesto Bitetti.

Displacement and Recovery


When Štěpanka Korytová had to leave her home in Czechoslovakia for political reasons, she had no expectation that she would ever be able to return.  The displacement of forced exile is something she knew at first hand, and it became the theme of her scholarly life.


Czech immigration beyond the Mississippi, 1850-1900

Czech immigration beyond the Mississippi, 1850-1900

Contact with a distant cousin from Nebraska prompted Korytová’s first book, which traces Czech immigration to the farmlands west of the Mississippi.  In the early Czech settlers to the U.S., she found a familiar ethos of displacement—“loneliness, isolation, homesickness, and pride in being Czech.”  As these settlers became more successful in their farms and businesses, their ties to the U.S. became stronger, but still “they cherished their language and preserved it through cultural activities.”

In recent years, Korytová has turned her attention to the displacement caused by human trafficking.  As a visiting scholar-in-residence at the IU Center for the Study of Global Change, she started a multi-disciplinary faculty study group, The Many Faces of Trafficking.  The function of the group has been to get beyond the sensational tabloid material of forced migration for work or sex, to the long-term effects and emotional damage that forced separation from family and country produces.

Korytova at AWSS Reception in Washington, DC

Korytová (left) received the Zirin Prize in Washington, DC, from the Association of Women in Slavic Studies, for her scholarship and current research.

For her “innovative scholarship and current research agenda that promises to make an important intervention on Slavic Women’s studies,” Korytová was awarded the Zirin Prize by the Association of Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS).  The AWSS particularly acknowledged Korytová’s complex view of the impact of immigration both on the immigrants and on those with whom they came in contact, and hoped that the award would encourage and support her study of sex trafficking in Central and Eastern Europe.

Utery, Western Bohemia

When Korytová left her homeland, she never expected to return. But the political scene has changed and she can again see views like this one, from her home in the village of Utery, Western Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic.

Charity, Trust, and Cultural Traditions


Abbie Jung speaks from Vienam about her experience with NGOs in Souteast Asia. Listening are Bloomington (upper left) and panelists and an overflow audience in the IUPUI Global Crossroads classroom (lower right).


          The Red Cross Society of China is one of that country’s oldest and largest charities; yet in a recent survey in China, 82% responded that they would not contribute to it.  In Communist or former Communist countries of Southeast Asia, the government looks suspiciously on nonprofit philanthropic organizations, suspecting that their very existence is a tacit criticism of the government’s failure to provide an important service, and so regulates nonprofits heavily.  As a consequence, some nonprofits prefer to register as for-profit companies, and face the tax implications instead.

             This year, the Center on Philanthropy celebrates a quarter century on the IUPUI campus.  The store of knowledge and expertise it has accumulated in that time has drawn international attention.  The center’s reports on the impact of new laws and regulations on philanthropic giving are watched closely and reported widely in the press.  But the laws of philanthropy are not quite the same as the laws of physics.  Habits of giving and expectation of the results of giving operate differently in China than they do in the U.S.

             The China Philanthropy Leadership Initiative, a group of IUPUI students interested in Chinese philanthropy, gave those differences center stage in a symposium at the Global Crossroads classroom of the IUPUI Office of International Affairs.  The event included participants from campus and from the Indianapolis community; the truly “wired” venue allowed Bloomington to participate and brought in a speaker currently working in Vietnam.   

             Leslie Lenkowsky, SPEA and Center on Philanthropy professor and one of a handful of top international philanthropy experts in the nation, opened the session with a challenge to the notion that the laws of philanthropy vary around the world.  He outlined five problems that all nonprofits must address—from the need to define their mission and expectations, to the difficulty of measuring outcomes and determining impact, to the lack of incentives to perform effectively. 

             Melynne Klaus, director of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, outlined the work of that organization to make a positive impact on the arts scene in Central Indiana.  They have worked to simplify the application process (and reduce the grant application time that organizations must devote) by standardizing the application form with similar organizations in the city, and to establish rules of transparency and clarity of mission.  They ask organizations that apply for funding to establish their own measurable goals as part of the application process, and then the organization is evaluated for how well it meets its own goals.  Anthony Lorenz, CFO for WFYI, the nation’s 19th largest public broadcasting corporation,  provided a financial context for establishing transparency.  It tracks community needs through patterns of annual giving.

             Abbie Jung, based in Hong Kong and San Franciso, happened to be in Vietnam when she spoke to the group about her experiences with nonprofits in China and Southeast Asia.  Philanthropy is a long-standing tradition in Asia and giving is generous.  She noted differences from Western trends. Private giving is still more common than strategic support of civil entities and NGO’s.  Family interests and education are the traditional objects.   Patterns of  government regulation and enforcement are still evolving. 

            The IUPUI symposium was the signature event of semester-long program exploring philanthropy and its global implications.  The initiative was completely student driven and was developed both to expand cultural understanding of the workings and issues of philanthropic organizations and to train young professionals through resources that go beyond the campus.

When is Law Not the Law?

Sida Liu spoke of the legal climate in rural China


In China, the further you get from cities—from the centers of money and power–the less lawyers control the law.  In a symposium on “legal services for vulnerable populations in India and China,” Sida Liu spoke about one western province of China that had a total of two lawyers.  To cover their territory, they would travel on horseback six hours across the desert.  “They would get so lonely on these trips that they would sing to themselves for comfort.”  They might be paid in produce by their clients.  China has a substantial number of lawyers, but they are concentrated in the big cities where salaries are exponentially higher than in the provinces.

 Legal services in outlying areas are mostly in the hands of legal workers or barefoot lawyers.  Lawyers may be have paid by the government; legal workers must negotiate payment with clients.  Barefoot lawyers have no legal training; they are self-taught and don’t charge fees.  With so much law outside the profession, most grievances are solved outside the courts.  Mediation and negotiation are invoked more than regulation.  Clients therefore can be at the mercy of local custom and tradition. 

 The distribution of lawyers is better in India, but the total number is still so small and the population so large, that “vulnerable populations” are still dominated by customary law and the local climate of opinion.  Laws related to marriage and divorce in India have improved in the last thirty years, but local opinion and the legal climate is still under control of men.    

 In China too, the version of customary law that gets codified is the version by men. Among those who suffer the most from a situation are women caught in bad marriages.  A wife who has the courage to seek a divorce has no customary rights.  To get the divorce, they must give up property, home, and children.  And if they try to get a divorce, they face obstruction, harassment, and physical abuse from husbands; threats can last for years after the divorce.  Susan Williams spoke of a similar situation in Africa.   “Women have greater access to justice, but this access to justice doesn’t translate into delivery of justice.” 

 The symposium sponsored by the Maurer School of Law Center for Law, Society, and Culture included experts from outside and inside the law school:  Sida Liu, assistant professor of sociology and law at the University of Wisconsin, spoke on China’s legal situation.  Sylvia Vatuk, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Illinois Chicago addressed the legal situation for Indian women.  From the Maurer School were Ke Li, doctoral candidate in sociology, and Christiana Ochoa, Carole Silver, and Susan Williams, professors of law.

 The symposium was long on problems and short on solutions.  Most of the solutions proposed—such as pre-nuptial agreements—seem to impose an outside culture on traditionally patriarchal societies.  Still, the divorce rate is going up in China, it was pointed out.  Chinese women are making the effort internally to mobilize new ideas of the marriage contract.   The symposium did make a start at addressing one of the most fundamental problems that the law makes for vulnerable populations.  Two members of the panel explained that Chinese law students never hear about basic legal workers or barefoot lawyers, so they never know about the legal processes experienced by vast numbers of Chinese.  U.S. law schools have been criticized as well for not addressing the way law works for the poor.   From the reaction of the audience at the Maurer School event, most were hearing these detail about China and India for the first time.  That, at least, is a first step.  

Sylvia Vatuk described the legal world faced by Indian women


Honoring the World’s Best Ideas

Michael Sohlman, executive director emeritus of the Nobel Foundation

Alfred Nobel once said that if he had 300 ideas in a year, and one of them turned out to be a good one, he would be satisfied.  A chemist and engineer, holder of more than 300 patents, Nobel’s best known invention was a way to tame unpredictable nitroglycerin by combining it with chalk and other inert ingredients; the result he named dynamite after the Greek word for power.  He had less successful inventions, such as the bicycle that the rider moved with pedals that pumped rather than spun. 

Michael Sohlman retired as executive director of the Nobel Foundation in May 2011 after nineteen years in that position. He spoke last week in Bloomington about Nobel and the intellectual origin of the prizes.  Nobel was known to be a shrewd businessman, but he also had lifelong engagement with philosophy and political theory.  He kept up a correspondence of 20 to 30 letters a day to friends, philosophers, and intellectuals all over Europe.  He wrote a prose tragedy with such a dismal view of the world that made his friends attempt to destroy all copies when it was published at the end of his life.  Sohlman believes it was the philosopher in Nobel, not the inventor or businessman, that prompted him to create an award that would come to define the way to honor creative endeavor around the world. 

Although in rare cases institutions were honored, the award went overwhelmingly to individuals, individuals with the creative energy to define a new idea and to convince others of its “benefit to mankind” (to quote Nobel’s will).  Ideas do not honor national borders.  Nobel spoke six languages, and the Nobel Prize was possibly the first such honor to have an international reach, much to the chagrin of some of his countrymen, who wished it had been set up to promote Swedish achievements only. 

Although Nobel’s will stipulated the bodies that would choose each year’s awards, he left no instructions on how the effort was to be coordinated.  The Nobel Foundation, established in 1900 for this purpose, has been singularly successful in assuring the secrecy of deliberation and the respect for Nobel’s defining principles in making the awards.  Asked if the Foundation regretted any of the prizes it had given, Sohlman was quick to point out that historical context must be understood before such judgments are made.  He offered a single example.  In 1949, Antonio Egas Moniz received half of the physiology/medicine prize in recognition of his promotion of lobotomy for certain psychoses.  “At the time,” Sohlman commented, “there were few treatments that seemed as humane. We of course understand such things a great deal better now.” As a man who saw that one good idea in 300 made the intellectual effort worthwhile, Nobel would have been pleased with the Foundation’s track record. 

Questions and answers at the Herman B Wells House


Saskia Sassen’s Compulsion: Territory, Authority, and Rights


Saskia Sassen (right), professor of sociology and co-chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University in conversation with Hilary Kahn, Director of the IU Center for the Study of Global Change, and David Zaret, vice president for international affairs.

By 2010, rich governments, firms, and individuals bought or rented 70 million hectares of land in mostly poor countries.  That is 1.7 billion acres or more than a billion and a half football fields.  When Saskia Sassen ponders that figure, and many other current trends, she thinks of territory.  She claims to be a geek about that word; it, along with authority and rights, has become her obsession.  When faced with trends of this scale, we need to rethink what that word means and what territory is becoming. Territory has for centuries been closely aligned with the idea of sovereign states.  Indeed, land ownership is one thing we have come to expect to be documented rigorously and protected to the full extent of the law.  When a company buys a million acres in a poor country, there is no immediate thought that the land is no longer part of the national sovereignty—the nation’s laws still apply to it, don’t they?  Yet, with such a powerful economic presence, the company can win exceptions to regulations and laws.  Localities will bend their rights and authority to keep the economic well-being that seems  promised by such a massive presence. 

Sassen’s goal is not to deny the truths of world economics and politics as we have come to understand them, but to assert that those truths are not sufficient; she wants to provoke us to be less comfortable with our large well-established definitions as globalization expands our ways of working in the world.  Sassen is known world-wide for her work on defining the impact of globalization.  IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret explained in his introduction, “She persuasively argues against convention and overly simple accounts that juxtapose global and national as mutually exclusive categories for social forces that are thought to be engaged in a zero-sum game. Instead, she shows that many important global changes operate within the institutional structure of nation-states, but also restructure those states.”  Judging by the many pockets of animated conversation after her presentation, Sassen has succeeded in her provocation.

Sassen is the first in a series of visiting scholars who are part of the IU Framing the Global Initiative, a five-year project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The Center for the Study of Global Change and the IU Press are working jointly to bring top scholars together, virtually and actually, to begin to define new global concepts and analytical frameworks. Their work will take formal shape in a series of books by participating scholars to be published by the IU Press. 

Saskia Sassen grapling with concepts of territory, authority, and rights.

Seeing America through Foreign Eyes after 9/11

          The tenth anniversary of the worst foreign attacks on U. S. soil have prompted a period of intense reflection.  Workshops, performances, memorial services, reminiscences—all have tried to articulate what the events of 9/11 meant and how the country and its peoples have changed as a result.  Indeed, the IUB College of Arts and Sciences has set issues of war and peace as a theme for events during the entire fall semester.  As part of that extended program, international experts from Indiana University gathered in the Georgian Room at the IMU on Monday, September 12. The first half of the three-hour session, moderated by Maria Bucur (history) , was dedicated to political ramifications of the 9/11 events, the second, moderated by Bob Ivie (Communication and Culture), to their cultural implications. There were few confident answers and no sense that we are ready to put these issues behind us.

           The political experts provided few answers.  Rather they struggled with finding the right questions.

Patrick O'Meara (Political Science; African Studies)

Patrick O’Meara spoke of the “terrorists” and “freedom fighters” (the same individuals depending on one’s point of view) that brought significant and largely successful change to South Africa, and noted the differences between those efforts and 9/11.    His question:  Are we in a new dimension, a different form, of terrorism, one with no possible meeting point? 

Nick Cullather (History)

Nick Cullather asked, Why do we care what others think of the U.S.?  He traced the history of America’s interest in the world’s opinion, which began optimistically with Woodrow Wilson embracing it as moral conscience to guide foreign policy, and quickly declined as experts came to see it as a fickle master, and then sank even further as government officials saw it as a force to be surreptitiously manipulated. 

Micol Seigel (African American and African Diaspora Studies; American Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Micol Seigel brought her expertise of Latin America to the table and counted up the dead in Mexican drug wars–numbers more than ten times those who died in the 9/11 attacks, and many killed in unspeakably horrible ways.  Her question:  Why are some deaths more visible than others?

Padraid Kenney (History; Russian and East European Institute)

Padraic Kenney’s question came from an encounter in Budapest in 2003.  He was there when the U.S. declared war on Iraq, and he expected his Hungarian university colleagues to protest America’s aggression, but they didn’t.  His question:  Why was there sympathy in Central Europe for the U.S. attacking Iraq? Kenney’s answer:  At the time (and possibly no longer), there was still a sense that there is such a thing as moral foreign policy, and Central Europe understood well the corrosive power of dictatorship.

The cultural experts spoke more personally, remembering their immediate reactions in September 2001, but they too provided no resolution, and their presentations became a litany of unrealized hopes and dreams.

Gardner Bovingdon (Central Eurasian Studies)

Gardiner Bovington’s area of expertise is the nation of Uyghurs in Western China.  His colleagues there hoped they would find sympathy and support in the multi-ethnic U.S. for a China whose constitution guarantees equal rights to all its ethnic groups. Since 9/11, U.S. foreign policy, sensitive to the importance of trade, has not responded to that hope.  Bovington saw the possibility of two positive U.S. responses to the events of 9/11:  (1) that Americans would show a greater desire to understand others, and (2) that the U.S. might gain a better perspective on its behavior in the world.  Neither has been achieved.

Jeff Isaac (Political Science)

Jeff Isaac did not cancel his class on Civility in American Democracy on 9/11/2001, but rather prepared a lecture that he was asked to deliver again later on.  But, he said, “The things I was hoping for did not come to pass.”  Instead, he sees a war on terrorism that accomplished none of the things that we needed to address.  “Is there the possibility that things can be better now?”  Now he offers no answer and does not speak in public about the issues of war and peace in the Middle East.

Kevin Jaques (Religious Studies; Islamic Studies)

Kevin Jaques also taught his class that day.  He had expected in teaching the history of Islam that only in the last two weeks would he speak about living persons, but the class was full on the first meeting of the second week of term, and students were asking for answers, “Why would Islam support doing something like this?”  That the question was posed wrong—that Islam is so broad and varied that no one can speak for Islam as a whole—became the theme of the rest of the semester.  And Jaques worries that what America has done and not done since 9/11 has achieved only its’ own inability to have an impact in the Muslim world. 

Hilary Kahn (Center for the Study of Global Change; Latin American and Caribbean Studies)

Hilary Kahn is an expert in aspects of Guatemalan culture, and has spent much time in Jamaica.  She spoke of the intractable ambivalence Latin America feels towards the U.S.  The U.S. is blamed for all the evils visited upon Latin America—everything from short skirts, to drugs, to AIDS.  But at the same time, Latin America held out hope that the U.S. would be a force for local good.  However, since 9/11, their perception is that the U.S. has abandoned the needs of its own hemisphere.

Nazif Shahrani (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures; Anthropology)

As an Afghan and a Muslim, Nazif Sharani, declares he himself sees the U.S. through “foreign” eyes.  What he sees since 9/11 is that the U.S. has written the wrong stories.  At one time, the U.S. had built enormous trust in the Middle East; that trust has gradually winnowed away.  The “dastardly acts” of 9/11 were meant to signal the loss, to bring into the foreground the political grievances that the Middle East had towards the U.S.  But the U.S. wrote a different story, a clash of civilizations.  “They hate us because of our freedom.”  The U.S. story didn’t resolve into a search for peace, but in a declaration of the need for better security.  Military victory was the end of that story, not cultural engagement.

Denis Sinor Remembered

To a gathering in the Indiana Memorial Union,  sixteen speakers brought  their stories of Denis Sinor, IU’s distinguished scholar of Hungary and of Central Eurasia who died in January 2011 at the age of 94.  They illustrated the reach of this scholar, administrator, teacher, benefactor, husband, father, and friend.  Among the speakers were IU President Emeritus John Ryan, University Chancellor Kenneth Gros Louis, Andreas Bácsi-Nágy, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Hungary to the U.S., and Sinor’s daughter, Sophie Sinor Berman.  Here is a sampling of the memories of this rich and accomplished life.



Nicola Di Cosmo

Nicola Di Cosmo, Henry Luce foundation Professor of East Asian Studies, Institute for Advanced Study.

When you promised Sinor a paper, you didn’t want to disappoint.  You didn’t want Sinor to ask where it was.  That is one reason why there have been so many papers in the field.


Christopher Beckwith

Christopher Beckwith, professor, Central Eurasian Studies

 I brought Sinor a copy of my book in which I try to dispel the notion that Central Eurasia began as a nation of barbarians.  Sinor, he liked the idea of barbarians.


Irene Montjoye

Irene Montjoye

 I came with my husband Denis to the U.S. in 1961 for our first year in Bloomington.  After a long ocean journey filled with storms, we faced immigration in New York City.  Denis had brought the manuscript of his history of central Eurasia with him in a big box; we were getting it ready for the publisher.  The immigration official thumbed through it and said, after a while, “Well, Sir, this ain’t gonna be a best seller in America.”



Father Don Davison

Father Don Davison, C.Pp.S.

 In my business, you learn quickly that if you accept one dinner invitation, you must accept them all, so I gave regrets to all such invitations.  One day after church, Denis invited me to his house for dinner and I immediately accepted.  I asked myself later why I accepted and realized that it wasn’t an invitation but a summons.

Barbara Kellner-Heinkele

Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, Secretary-General, Permanent International Altaistic Conference

I like to think that now he is on a motorbike ride to the splendid horizons on which he kept his eye.