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Area Studies — International Moments

Category: Area Studies

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.

Cultures Ancient and Modern, Connections Old and New

SE Asia Debriefing

               Four countries, 13 days, 9 campuses, multiple meetings with government officials, hundreds of IU alumni.   “It was work,” David Zaret said at a briefing on the trip in the Grand Foyer of the IU Auditorium.  Zaret, vice president for international affairs, and President Michael McRobbie led an IU delegation to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia in May.

             “We went to Southeast Asia for the same reason we have visited other regions of the world—to advance strategic priorities of the IU international plan,” Zaret explained.  “We would like to have more agreements with top quality universities across the world, agreements that provide opportunities for faculty and students to go back and forth.  We want to expand opportunities for undergraduates to engage in study abroad experiences. Finally, we were looking for ways to help our Indiana alumni reconnect to the university.”

             When they returned, they had recognized an “odd discrepancy,” Zaret said.  “Among American universities, we have some of the oldest ties to universities in Southeast Asia.  We have 10,000 IU alums in the four countries we visited, possibly more than any other US institution. Yet, though we have many active programs in area studies, Southeast Asia is perhaps the one region of the world where we do very little.  The president and I agree that it really ought to be an institutional priority to develop a thriving program in Southeast Asian Studies.” 

The campuses visited:
National Institute for Development Assistance, Bangkok
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
National University Singapore
Yale-National University of Singapore
Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta
Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta
University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur
Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam

All the alumni receptions attracted a rambunctious crowd. I was overwhelmed by number and enthusiasm and affection they feel for Indiana University.--David Zaret

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.

The Origin of Stories

Novelist Vikram Chandra chatting with Vivek Jain of the IU physics department before his lecture at the University Club


     Where do novels come from?  Salman Rushdie imagined a great sea of stories, always intermingling, always adaptable.  Vikram Chandra, author of three major novels, offered a much grittier vision of the origin of stories as he spoke about the genesis of his sprawling novel, Sacred Games.  “Curiosity drives the making of a book,” Chandra explained.  “My curiosity began as I considered the nature and structure of corruption.  The story grew out of the anger and fear that accompanied the increase in crime in Mumbai in the early 1990s—and the discovery that organized crime came awfully close to home, and the recognition of how soon we become used to it.

             “In my desire to understand the nature and structure of corruption, I talked to everyone I could in order to find out what was going on in my city.  This included the bad guys, who, it turns out, were easier to find than those fighting crime, who by necessity keep a low profile.  We like to think the underworld is a place very far away from our lives.  It’s not.

             “The detective novel is the one new narrative form of the modern era,” explains Chandra, professor of creative writing at Berkeley.  “The detective is the incarnation of celestial order.  In detective stories, there is always a solution, and there is magic.  On TV, forensic equipment reveals secrets like the waving of hands to cast spells. 

             “I had intended to write a simple 250-word detective story, but I found I couldn’t write about crime without writing about politics and the partnership of crime and the state which allows it to exist.  I couldn’t write about politics without considering religion and media, and all this had to be set in the context not only of the struggle of states in South Asia, but also the domestic scene behind all the players, criminals and otherwise. The story took on the shape of a mandala—a circle of seemingly unrelated elements that lead inevitably back to the beginning, the symmetry of the world.”

             Chandra splits his time between California and Mumbai.    The award winning Sacred Games was published in 2007 it follows his earlier works, Red Earth and Pouring Rain (1995), and Love and Longing in Bombay (1997).  His talk and reading, “Sacred Games: Reading Gangsters, Writing Cops,” was the 2012 Hrisikesh and Sailabala Bhattachara Memorial Lecture, and was sponsored by the Dhar India Studies Program, the Asian American Studies Program, and the Creative Writing Program.

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.

Elite, Mass, Universal—What Is Education Doing to Us?


Anthropologist Susan Blum spent 30 years studying China, 10 years researching education, and is now trying to merge the two with an ambitious goal.  “Schooling helps create children.  All education is political.  At the same time, all education is cultural involving values, meaning, structure, and family.“  Blum wants to explain how this creation works; she is currently conducting research on the effect of higher education in six different societies.  China, with its staggeringly ambitious goals for education, is a challenging case in point and the subject of her lecture, specifically the “massification” of Chinese higher education. 

Educational theorists will understand that the horrible word massifcation has a specific meaning in higher education.  Martin Trow used it to refer to the twilight zone between two social goals–the higher education of the elite alone and universal higher education—exactly where China stands today.  Blum has the statistics:  In 1978, at the end of the Cultural Revolution, China had 400 colleges and 3% of youth attended them.  Today, there are 3,500 colleges with 23% of the college-aged population in attendance, a ramping up of tertiary education similar to, but even greater than, the effect in the U.S. of the GI Bill after World War II.

Blum traced the history of higher education in China from the meritocracy of Imperial China and the corrupt exam system it produced for entry into the higher ranks of the civil service; to the Cultural Revolution, begun at Peking University in 1966 with a specific goal of eradicating educational inequality; to the end of that revolution and the restoration of the exam system; to the current day when vast forests of students spend much of their childhood and youth with the single goal of getting the highest possible score on the Gaokao, the national exam that decides students’ access to the best universities. 

As Blum recounted the effect of this national exam, the situation began to sound more local than foreign.  Teaching to the test produces an empty curriculum relying on disembodied facts and a community of stressed-out students. Achieving the demanding educational goals no longer assures a job and with that comes disillusionment and increases in subtle forms of social inequality.  While the U.S. is further along the “massification” road than China, the impact of social and economic conditions on education began to have a familiar ring. 

Blum announced at the start that she was in the early stages of this research.  She did not finally offer an answer to the question of how these changes in the world of education changed the people themselves.  How will the contradictory educational goals of status vs. return on investment play out?  Can the national exam make society more equitable, or does it always lead to scandal and fraud?  Are we moving towards an international form of leadership with where class is more important than citizenship?  Questions abound both locally and globally, but answers are elusive.

Susan D. Blum is professor and chair of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.  Her most recent book is My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture (2009).  Her presentation was sponsored by the IU Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business. 

Reconciliation in West Africa

Nobel Laureate Lehmah Gbowee and Marion Broome, dean of nursing. The School of Nursing is working with the University or Liberia to rebuild the university’s nursing and public health programs, whose facilities and programs were devastated by decades of civil war.

“In most of our communities today, people are still looking over the heads of women and looking beyond for experts to come and reconcile their communities,” Lehmah Gbowee said recently to a packed room at the IUPUI McKinney School of Law.  “Women have the capacity.  They understand the context and issues.  They know the stakeholders, and they know in part some of the solutions to their problems.”   

Gbowee, joint recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in ending civil war in Liberia, related some of the ways women worked for peace in West Africa–from establishing benchmarks to assure that the process did not stall, to making sure that leaders knew when promises were not being kept.  When peacekeepers come from the outside, the peace process “is one size fits all,” Gbowee explained.  They have their formulas and their books, and although relying on local knowledge is highly publicized, it is rarely done.  “One of the ways to hide things from the African people is to bury them in books,” Gbowee said.  And some stories of how peace is accomplished don’t get told, especially the stories of the successes of the women who are part of the affected communities.

Besides the practical and pragmatic advice that only someone on the front lines of the process can give—like making sure that soldiers who give up their guns receive promised payments—women are in tune with a vital component of the reconciliation process, exemplified in the story of the woman who while feeding a wounded soldier, heard the soldier’s admission that he had killed her daughter.  “Was I supposed to stop feeding him?” the woman asked.  Peace can only come, Gbowee suggests, when the answer to that question is “No.”

Gbowee’s presentation can be viewed in its entirety here.  The event had sixteen sponsors representing every part and every constituency of the IUPUI campus.

Reaching Out: The O’Meara International Lecture Series

Patrick O'Meara: As part of the inauguration of the new lecture series, President McRobbie awarded the President's Medal for Excellence.

         “It was an exciting ride,” said Patrick O’Meara of his global peregrinations with IU President Michael McRobbie, in a brief chronicle of his two decades as dean and vice president charged with overseeing IU’s international affairs.  “The long plane trips were like an academy in the air as we batted ideas around across the world.”

               The occasion was the inauguration of a new series of international lectures named in O’Meara’s honor.  Timothy Roemer, former member of Congress from Indiana, and U.S. ambassador to India from 2009-11, spoke about the connections between the U.S. and India.  In a period of economic uncertainty, a time when instincts are to pull in the reins and view new initiatives with suspicion, Roemer reminded us of a better way.  He began with an image of a book published two decades ago.  It spoke of the United States and India as “Estranged Democracies.”  “It is unfortunate,” Roemer said.  When we recognize how much common ground and how many common interests there are between the nations, we begin to understand how powerful a benefit a mutual reaching out would be.  He offered as a case in point a photo of himself in the driver’s seat of a rickshaw, which was circulated by the press throughout Indian and which spoke worlds to Indian citizens.  Another, Roemer pointed out, was the work of individuals like Patrick O’Meara, who are not content to wait until world issues come to them;  and like Michael McRobbie and O’Meara’s successor as vice president for international affairs, David Zaret, who this fall spent more than a week in intensive meetings on campuses all over India, looking for ways for IU to connect.  Roemer’s final example consisted of three words, “We the people.”  India is a young democracy, the U.S. an old one, but both have constitutions that begin with these words.

Democracies should not be estranged. That was the message from Ambassador Timothy Roemer.

Who Represents Who to Whom?

African Studies began its anniversary celebration with an African photojournalism exhibit

            The African Studies Program turns 50 this year.  Courses in African studies began at IU in 1948.  A five-year Ford Foundation grant in 1961 gave Liberia scholar Gus Liebenow the support to coordinate and consolidate IU’s African offerings.  The program received its first federal funding in 1965 and has earned continuous federal support since that time.  That support has made IU a national and international resource for teaching African languages and culture. 

            Anniversary celebrations began with the opening of a gallery exhibition at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center of photographs taken by two of Africa’s most important photojournalists, Djibril Sy, from Senegal, and Jacob Otieno from East Africa.  They have photographed most of Africa’s major political crises since the 1980s.  Brutal images from coups and crackdowns kept their fellow Africans aware of the truth of what was happening around them.  “You are warriors,” Samuel Obeng, current director of African Studies, said.  “You are educators.  Not even a gun can turn you away from your task.”  War and violence weren’t the only subjects of these photojournalists’ lessons.  The exhibit included images of celebration when President Obama came to Africa, of healing ceremonies, and of things outsiders might not notice—like the series of photographs of salt harvesters.

            Life lived violently on the one hand.  Life lived locally on the other.  The exhibition shows us what Africans consider important to show each other.  The anniversary celebration continues with lectures, reminiscences by past and present directors of the program, concerts of Ghanaian drumming and Afro Hoosier popular music. You can read more here.

IU’s connection with Africa thrives with major new projects begun or on the cusp—developing a national flagship center at IU for the teaching of Swahili, rebuilding Liberian resources for training nurses, for example, or digitizing important national land records that presently exist only in handwritten ledgers. 

Jacob Otieno, photojournalist from Kenya

Djibril Sy, photojournalist from Senegal

Surabaya to CNN: Alumnus Eli Flournoy Remembers IU

Seated in the Indiana Memorial Union Gallery, Eli Flournoy talked about IU and his international career.

Eli Flournoy was on the ground for CNN during major crises in Angola, in the Middle East, and in India, Pakistan, and Hong Kong.  As part of CNN’s international news “desk” in Atlanta, he has directed coverage of the Bosnian war, the Kosovo War, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Princess Diana’s death, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He was part of teams that received major awards for coverage of the Southeast Asia tsunami, the 2006 conflict between Israel and Lebanon, Hurricane Katrina, and the 1999 Indonesian elections. 

He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and African studies from IU in 1991.

 Asked if his experience at IU had turned him into an internationalist, he replied instantly, “That happened long before I came to IU.  My parents took my sister and me for a year-long stay in Surabaya when I was nine.”  After that experience in Indonesia’s second-largest city, the family entertained international visitors frequently at their home in Athens, Ohio. The international perspective was inescapable.  “I came to IU with a specific goal.  I would major in political science with an emphasis on international issues, go on to graduate work, and then take the Foreign Service exam with the goal of working in an embassy overseas.” 

 While IU may not have created the internationalist, it did have an impact on the direction of Flournoy’s career.  “IU is outstanding in the opportunities it makes available to its undergraduates.  I was president of the Residence Halls Association, and in that job I was allowed to take on mature and real responsibilities for such things as the management of a million dollar budget and responding to significant personnel issues.”  Flournoy had developed a strong interest in Africa.  ” With its undergraduate certificate in African Studies, IU was one of the few places that gave undergraduates major opportunities to study Africa.”

Flournoy found that not only could he study Africa, but even as an undergraduate, he could get involved in teaching about Africa.  Patrick O’Meara was director of African studies at the time.  “Dr. O’Meara gave me, an undergraduate, a chance to do a teaching assistantship.”  He became teaching assistant to Charles Bird in a course in African Studies with a special emphasis on South Africa.  “I learned a lot from Professor Bird.  He was always determined to experience not just to study.  He made his own wine and beer. He would have African drumming sessions at his house.” 

The shift in his career came in a summer internship after his junior year.  With a grant from IU, he worked at the CNN Atlanta headquarters that summer while investigating why news organizations didn’t get more information out of Africa.  During the fall semester of his senior year, CNN contacted him with an offer of another internship for the spring.  With the help of Dr. O’Meara, who agreed to oversee a major independent study project, Flournoy spent the spring at CNN.  He joined the team that produced CNN World Report, a  CNN venture to encourage international coverage by broadcasting and sharing news briefs, uncut and unedited, prepared by other news organizations around the world.  He was there during the Gulf War, and for the equivalent of a senior thesis, he investigated the media propaganda of the war, comparing the media strategies of Saddam Hussein and George Bush. 

The CNN internships jump-started a career that celebrated its 20th anniversary last August.  Flournoy comes back to IU periodically.  His visit this time was part of the “Making War, Making Peace” Themester of the College of Arts and Sciences.  He was much in demand as an expert visitor to telecomm courses.  In a presentation sponsored by the Union Board, he fielded passionate questions from students about the role of the media in today’s world.

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.

Hearing Africa’s Children

Twesigye Jackson Kaguri at the school for AIDS orphans.

Twesigye Jackson Kaguri at the school for AIDS orphans.

          “Can you hear me now?”  The answer for the 250 AIDS orphans who attend the Nyaka School in the village of Nyakagyezi, Uganda, would be a certain “No.”  Nestled in the mountains near the borders with Congo and Rwanda, the Nyaka School is a nine-hour drive from the capital, Kampala.  Interns and visitors quickly give up their electronic connectivity to the world when they make that trip to become a part of one successful effort to change the future for a generation crippled by AIDS.  Public school is not free to anyone in Uganda; to children who have lost their parents to AIDS—Uganda has two million of them—finding the goat or chicken to sell might help with the tuition if the income didn’t need to be used for basic survival. 

           Twesigye Jackson Kaguri (IU alumnus)  told the story of building a school in his hometown where these children could get an education at no cost.  Construction began in 2001, and the school opened in 2003.  The founders immediately saw that a school alone was not enough.  The children needed to be fed.  They needed places to sleep, and Kaguri did not want to fall back on the traditional orphanage model.  The project trained “grandmothers” to  provide safe and healthy homes for children, whether relatives or not.  It set up farming on its 17 acres of land and taught the children the basics of growing food while growing the food that provides two meals a day for them (with some left over to sell to provide funds to help support the project).  It developed dance and music programs that the children take out to other schools to raise AIDS awareness.  Addressing one piece of the complex problem at a time, Nyaka School graduated its first class in 2008.  All graduates passed the state exams, and many continue in secondary school on $500/year scholarships made available by the project.   Read more about the Nyaka AIDS foundation  and the history of the project.

          Kaguri’s presentation was part of a public “mini-conference” on global issues, offered in conjunction with the Institute for Curriculum and Campus Internationalization at IUB this week.  Attendees come to the conference with a commitment to international education and a recognition of the enormity of global issues; they don’t need to be told of the problems in this world.  What they really come to learn is what they can do about them, specifically what they can do in the classroom to increase awareness of global issues and to begin to find ways to help.

IU students design a summer camp in Bluefields, Jamaica.

IU students design a summer camp in Bluefields, Jamaica.

  Hilary Kahn continued the solution-oriented conversation with a description of a summer service-learning project in Jamaica, the “Real JA,” far from the tourist centers of the island.  IU students in the summer course stay in the homes of residents of Bluefields in Southwestern Jamaica.  They attend community meetings and work with residents and each other to design a summer camp for the community’s children.  “The course prods students off the veranda,” Kahn explains.  “It is not armchair study abroad, but rather a chance for students to really engage in the community to share and shift authority and identity.  They listen to all the different voices in the community and gain the sympathy and empathy necessary for more effective connections.”

Portable Pashto

Pashto Text and Apps

            Learn to read the Pashto alphabet of Afghanistan as you play hangman on your  cell phone?  That will soon be possible with a new smart phone app developed by the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR).   This app joins another for the iPad that trains users in recognizing and forming Pashto script.  Among those who just might be using their down time to practice their Pashto with their cell phone are U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.  CeLCAR has trained military personnel headed there.  “Our military trainees can’t become fluent in the limited amount of time available for training the U.S.,” explains Christopher Atwood, interim director of CeLCAR.  “They get a good beginning here.  These portable devices let them continue to learn after they are posted, and it can help in real situations they face; they can read signs and avoid miscommunications wherever they are.”

            The new software got nationwide attention recently when the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Wired Campus” section took notice.  The apps are free and do not require an internet link.  The functions are challenging and seductive. Writing the script correctly is valued by the Pashtun as correct pronunciation is by the French.  One part of the app shows a video of the correct way to form a letter of the Pashto alphabet, challenges the user to imitate the process, and then grades the result.  Passing grades don’t come easily, but incremental improvement is noticed by the app, and increasing one’s grade can become obsessive. 

            “Some of those we have trained have become fluent during their time in Afghanistan,” Atwood said.  “But we think it is important that those who are still struggling have the incentive to try to communicate even when they can’t get everything right—and to realize how much that is appreciated.  Any effort you put into learning a language will have a cultural benefit.”

            The Pashto apps were not designed exclusively for military use.  They supplement the CeLCAR textbooks for Pashto, and can help any language learner.  Similar apps are under construction in Dari, another important language of Afghanistan.

For downloadable alphabet charts, language pamphlets and other materials from CeLCAR, go to the CeLCAR website.

Simulating European Diplomacy

EU-Midwest 2011

Negotiation and advocacy at the Midwest Model European Union

Grace under fire, thinking on your feet, seeking common ground.  These old-fashioned skills have never been needed more in the world, but they are often lost as technological and strategic demands claim center stage.  These are not skills that can be mastered in a single course  nor honed by coursework alone.  These are skills that make a difference at the Midwest Model European Union (EU-Midwest).  

Well into its second decade under IUPUI sponsorship, EU-Midwest simulates a high-level international forum, where teams from about two dozen colleges and universities come to Indianapolis to take on roles of prime ministers, ambassadors, and other public officials.   Each college team represents a single EU country in two days of simulations of the European Council, the European Commission, and other ministerial councils.  The goal is “decisive action” on foreign policy and on internal issues, like membership, the euro, and security. 

At the 2011 session in April, IU Bloomington fielded two teams, one representing Finland and one Germany.  Together they earned the most points from the judges and won the competition.  The IU students prepared for the event through a course on “Political Simulations: Model European Union.” Taught by Marti Grau, the course included extended conversations on current events and intense study of European politics.  Students mastered the complexity of the language of European diplomacy, “pretty obscure even to European citizens themselves,” says Grau. But just as important, they learned how diplomatic discussions can be made to work.  Grau explains, “I think all of them were aware of the fact that whoever speaks most at the meetings is not necessarily who ultimately wins the simulation, but the winners are usually the ones who manage to build consensus among delegates.”

More about  Midwest Model European Union.

Awards to the IUB teams:

Best Delegation.  IUB Germany team. (Connor Caudill, team lead, center)

Best Delegate, economics and finance.  Alex Grohovsky, Germany team. (left)

Best Delegate, environment Julianna Rice, Finland team. (left center)

Best Delegate, agriculture.  Megan Binder, Germany team (right center)

Best Delegate, foreign affairs.  Philippe Caraghiaur, Germany team. (right)


Dhar India Studies

Sisir Dhar lost his parents when he was quite young.  Raised by uncles, he earned his medical degree in India and made his way to the U.S. Eventually, he settled in Terre Haute and established a successful practice in nephrology.  He became friends with Prodip Dutta, a professor of geology at Indiana State.  Dutta had become interested in a young program under development at IU Bloomington in India Studies, and through Dutta, Dhar too began to follow the activities of this fledgling program dedicated to the study of his homeland.  That interest increased when Dr. Dhar’s daughter came to IUB to study. 


Gathering at the program’s house on 8th St. for the renaming of Bloomington’s India Studies Program.

Gathering at the program’s house on 8th St. for the renaming of Bloomington’s India Studies Program.


 What attracted Dhar most to the program was its emphasis on the study of modern India.  Director of India Studies in Bloomington, Sumit Ganguly, explains that institutions like the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania had spent half a century developing South Asia programs that focus on the history of the subcontinent.  The Bloomington program found its niche in the more contemporary affairs of India specifically. 

 To encourage that specialty and to assure the long term viability of contemporary India studies, Dr. Dhar has established a substantial endowment for the India Studies program, and to honor the parents that he lost when he was young, the Bloomington program was recently rededicated as the Mahusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program. 


The Dhar India Studies Program honors the parents of retired Terre Haute physician, Sisir Dhar.  Dhar poses here with his wife and granddaughter.

The Dhar India Studies Program honors the parents of retired Terre Haute physician, Sisir Dhar. Dhar poses here with his wife and granddaughter.