This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: WaPo (6-14-09)
Dr. Curtin, winner of a 1983 MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was a leading figure in reviving the neglected field of African history after World War II.
He applied more rigorous and scholarly methods to the study of the slave trade and brought the topic to the attention of a wider academic audience. He and a colleague started the department of African languages and literature at the University of Wisconsin, which the American Historical Association said was the first in the United States.
He published more than a dozen books and "made himself a name as a brilliant historian who broke away from the dominant Eurocentric models of historiography of other continents to create a critical and pioneering body of scholarship on Africa, the Atlantic world, the British empire, and comparative history," Pillarisetti Sudhir said in an AHA blog post....
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (6-5-09)
Thomson Reuters Inc. had sued the university in a Virginia court in September for at least $10-million in damages, claiming that Zotero, a free software tool created by the university, made improper use of the company’s EndNote citation software.
Zotero is a plug-in for the Firefox Web browser that is designed to help scholars store and organize their online research. The program, which could convert EndNote files, had been downloaded over one million times by September.
George Mason University said in November it had not renewed a site license for EndNote, and would not make any changes to its software.
A spokesman for the university confirmed the case had been dismissed but declined to comment further. Officials at Thomson Reuters were not immediately available for comment on the dismissal.
SOURCE: Harvard Crimson (6-3-09)
May left his mark on the University, filling a wide array of roles, including dean of the College, associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and director of the Institute of Politics.
“There are a small number of people at Harvard who really step up through genuine belief in the institution and the people in it, and Ernest May was one of them,” said Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood.
As dean of the College from 1969 to 1971, May shepherded the College through tumultuous times that included a reexamination of undergraduate education and the 1969 occupation of University Hall, in which about 100 members of Students for a Democratic Society trapped May in his office while advocating for changes to the University’s labor policy.
A diplomatic leader, May spoke with the students for over an hour before attempting to leave.
“He performed nobly,” said former Harvard professor James Q. Wilson, the chair of the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities, which dealt with the disciplinary action stemming from the situation. “He didn’t yield to excessive student demands, but he was perfectly willing to talk to them.”
As both a professor and an administrator, May was calm and thoughtful, yet genial in his interactions with others.
“He would rarely say 10 words when he could make his point in eight,” Zelikow said. ...
AHA blog obit
This report was prepared by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) pursuant to the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, and Section 209 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended. It is one of a series of audit, inspection, investigative, and special reports prepared by OIG periodically as part of its responsibility to promote effective management, accountability and positive change in the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
This report is the result of an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the office, post, or function under review. It is based on interviews with employees and officials of relevant agencies and institutions, direct observation, and a review of applicable documents.
The recommendations therein have been developed on the basis of the best knowledge available to the OIG and, as appropriate, have been discussed in draft with those responsible for implementation. It is my hope that these recommendations will result in more effective, efficient, and/or economical operations.
I express my appreciation to all of those who contributed to the preparation of this report.
Harold W. Geisel
Acting Inspector General
• The Ofﬁce of the Historian (HO) is responsible by law for the publication of a thorough, accurate, and reliable account of major U.S. foreign policy de cisions within 30 years of the events recorded. This is the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. While the 30-year deadline has rarely been met, HO’s inﬂuential advisory body, the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC), fears that mismanagement of the human resources made available for the FRUS and the effect of this on morale within HO – also historically poor – threaten further delay, possibly damaging the thoroughness and ac curacy that give the FRUS its unparalleled prestige. OIG ﬁnds these fears to be justiﬁed.
• A large majority of present HO employees alleged to OIG cronyism, fa voritism, and lack of transparency on the part of HO management, and in general the creation of an unhappy workplace as the basis for their disaffec tion. This, they said, was made worse by the manner in which one division chief carried out security and other duties that go beyond his normal area of authority. For its part, management attributed academic atavism, displeasure with security regulations, and ignorance of Civil Service rules to the same employees. Neither side shows much conﬁdence in the other.
• Compilation and publication of the FRUS is a years-long and highly special ized process. Experience is a vital component in it, but with 21 employees having left HO in the past ﬁve years for differing reasons, this experience is being lost. Contrary to the director’s assertion, “newly minted” PhDs cannot perform at the necessary level of quality after only a short time on the job. Lapses in production are therefore inevitable. This likelihood is aggravated by vacancies in the jobs of general editor and one division chief that were imposed by the special review panel.
• There is a built-in tension between HO’s FRUS-related statutory obligations and the resources made available to meet them, just as there is between the timeliness and the quality of the FRUS itself. Even with an increase in staff and in budget, HO is no closer to meeting these obligations than in the past. The foreign affairs world and the players in it continue to grow in number and complexity, outpacing efforts to have FRUS keep up. There is a need for more structured thinking about how FRUS can meet its obligations and expectations within realistic funding levels. This strategic thinking and planning should be conducted jointly with HO’s advisory body, the HAC.
• With each ﬁnding fault with actions of the other, relations between HO and the HAC today are professional but strained. The director’s advisory role in the appointment and reappointment of HAC members is controversial, while the involvement in HO employee complaints by some HAC members made disaffection in HO worse.
• Oversight of HO by the Bureau of Public Affairs (PA) has not been regular or, lately, helpful. OIG believes that HO should remain in PA, but that the bureau should provide a more structured mechanism for closer supervision of HO.
• HO has a large number of contractors – 12 of its 49 positions. This means increased costs: OIG estimates that each contractor costs the U.S. Govern ment about $12,000 more per year than would a direct-hire employee. It also means increased instability in an ofﬁce requiring a high degree of education, training, and experience to carry out its responsibilities.
• HO needs an administrative ofﬁcer as well as additional direct-hire positions for historians. These would help the FRUS by allowing more time to be spent on research and compilation and by providing a more stable workforce.
• HO ofﬁce space is cluttered and badly arranged; cubicles are generally small and inconvenient. The ofﬁce is not sized to house 49 positions. PA should ﬁnd a space planner to review the existing facility, while actively seeking larger, more suitable space for HO. The review took place in Washington, DC, between February 18 and March 27, 2009, as part of a special OIG management review of the Ofﬁce of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Ambassador Robert E. Barbour (team leader), Robert C. Bemis, John J. Eddy, and Anita G. Schroeder conducted the review.
SOURCE: AP (6-11-09)
Clinton was one of a dozen speakers at a service at Duke Chapel to honor Franklin and his wife, Aurelia, who would have celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary Thursday.
The former president elicited laughter from the crowd when he related a story about Franklin handling a woman's racial insensitivity in 1995, the night before the historian was to receive the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
A white woman approached Franklin at a gathering he was holding at a club in Washington, D.C., ordering him to get her coat from the check room. Franklin wrote in his autobiography, "Mirror to America," that he advised the woman to approach a club employee, all of whom wore uniforms.
"Now, we're laughing," Clinton said. "But the man was 80 years old. He was perhaps the most distinguished living American historian. He did write this in a funny way. And he wrote it in a way that you knew he didn't think it was funny. He was a genius at being a passionate rationalist. An angry, happy man. A happy, angry man."...
SOURCE: Harper's (6-11-09)
1. Howard’s life puts him at the center of a number of historic events, usually playing a vital role, particularly in the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, yet his name rarely figures in the short list of leadership figures cited in the media. Has his role been underappreciated?
Beito: Yes, very much so. Standard works in black history rarely mention him. Much of this neglect has to do with the political biases of historians. Quite simply, Howard doesn’t fit their ideal of a civil rights leader. He was not an ascetic Gandhi-like figure, a union activist, or a clergyman, but rather a prosperous businessman who did not hesitate to display his wealth, bet on horses, stage ostentatious New Year’s Eve parties, lead big game hunts to Africa, and speed down the highway in his brand-new Cadillac. In contrast to Martin Luther King Jr., he carried guns and was ready to use them in self-defense “just in case.”
Another reason Howard has been forgotten relates to Howard himself. He never tried to pigeonhole himself as a “civil rights leader.” During the 1960s and 1970s, he increasingly focused on his medical practice and hobbies such as big-game hunting. In 1972, his life’s work culminated in the opening of the Friendship Medical Center on the South Side. It was the largest black privately owned medical facility in Chicago. While Howard supported numerous civil rights causes later in life, he preferred to do it from behind the scenes. Sometimes his ego also got in the way of working with other people.
Despite this, Howard was not a man to boast about his past civil rights accomplishments. He always had his eyes on a future project. In this respect, he was one of the premiere renaissance men in black history....
SOURCE: NBC17 (6-11-09)
Hundreds of people came to Duke's chapel to celebrate the life of John Hope Franklin.
He was widely regarded as the nation's preeminent African-American historian.
Franklin wrote several books on African-American history, including the widely published "From Slavery to Freedom."
"He's still working today even though he's no longer with us," Philip Daniels, who met Franklin, said. "Even though he died, his work's not going in vain."
Even two hours before the service, a crowd was gathered waiting to get inside.
"He brought change," Daniels said as he waited. "Way before we had Martin Luther King or Barack Obama to speak for us, John Franklin was that man."
There were so many people who came to remember the black history scholar, the general seating area filled up less than 30 minutes after the doors opened....
SOURCE: LAT (6-14-09)
The cause was complications of cancer, according to his wife, Laura.
Unassuming but tenacious, Lai was often called the dean of Chinese American studies, a field that did not exist when he taught the first university-level course on Chinese American history in 1969 at San Francisco State.
Although he was never a tenured professor, the bi-literate scholar wrote more than 100 essays and 10 books in English and Chinese, several of which are considered indispensable resources in Chinese American history. His key works include "A History of the Chinese in California, a Syllabus," co-edited with Thomas W. Chinn and Philip P. Choy, and "Outlines: History of the Chinese in America," also written with Choy, who co-taught the 1969 class.
"He was one of the most important historians of Chinese America," said Russell C. Leong, editor of UCLA's Amerasia Journal, who called Lai a historian of the people. "He has done the most to broaden and humanize what it means to be Chinese American, then and now."...
SOURCE: NYT (6-10-09)
The shift in focus began in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when a generation of academics began looking into the roles of people generally missing from history books — women, minorities, immigrants, workers. Social and cultural history, often referred to as bottom-up history, offered fresh subjects. Diplomatic historians, by contrast, generally work from the top down, diving into official archives and concentrating on people in power, an approach often tagged as elitist and old-fashioned.
Over the last three decades the number of history faculty members at four-year institutions has more than doubled to 20,000-plus, said Robert B. Townsend, assistant director for research at the American Historical Association. Yet the growth has been predominantly in the newer specializations, spurring those in diplomatic, military, legal and economic history to complain they are being squeezed out.
How have some departments sliced up the pie? At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, out of the 45 history faculty members listed (many with overlapping interests), one includes diplomatic history as a specialty, one other lists American foreign policy; 13 name either gender, race or ethnicity. Of the 12 American-history professors at Brown University, the single specialist in United States empire also lists political and cultural history as areas of interest. The department’s professor of international studies focuses on victims of genocide.
So students still study, say, World War I and the cold war, but while a traditional class would focus on the actions and statements of presidents and secretaries of state, a newer approach might look at how the imperial powers treated their colonies in the Middle East or how Soviet propaganda that tried to tarnish democracy by pointing to racism in America may have contributed to President Harry S. Truman’s decision to integrate the armed forces.
SOURCE: Roger Moorhouse in the Independent (6-14-09)
Beevor came to prominence with two bestselling tomes, Stalingrad and Berlin, both of which deal with the eastern front of the Second World War. Now, however, he has turned his attention to the western theatre to tackle the D-Day campaign and the Battle for Normandy.
There is a danger inherent in this westward shift. Beevor's earlier books succeeded not only because they were brilliantly written, but also because they brought something genuinely new to the party, expanding the reader's understanding of a largely under-known subject. Stalingrad and Berlin were the first books in English, for instance, to detail the grim tribulations of the ordinary Soviet soldier in the Second World War. There is surely a risk that, in turning to the familiar surroundings of Normandy's beaches and hedgerows, Beevor will lose a part of his appeal, sacrifice his unique selling point. Crucially, can he still meet his own high standards on such familiar terrain?
Happily, D-Day is vintage Beevor. Written with tremendous verve and flair, it segues seamlessly between the various locations of the narrative – Normandy, London, Berlin and Paris – and between the macro of grand strategy and the micro of soldiers' experiences, without ever losing its way or appearing disjointed. All the salient points of the story are elegantly and engagingly retold – from the rugged heroism at Pointe du Hoc, to the grim confrontation at Falaise and the joyous liberation of Paris....
SOURCE: Beverly Gage in the NYT Book Review (6-12-09)
Lears describes his bookas a “synthetic reinterpretation” of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, an effort to dislodge classics like Richard Hofstadter’s “Age of Reform”(1955) and Robert Wiebe’s “Search for Order, 1877-1920”(1967). It’s an ambitious project; both books, despite legions of critics, have shown remarkable staying power. Fortunately, Lears is well qualified for the task. One of the deans of American cultural history (as well as a professor at Rutgers University), Lears has spent decades writing about turn-of-the-20th-century debates over consumerism, modernity, religion and market capitalism. With “Rebirth of a Nation,” he expands his vision to include politics, war and the presidency as well.
The book’s title — a play on D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation” — suggests two of Lears’s greatest revisionist concerns: the lasting influence of Civil War violence and “the rising significance of race.” Beginning in the 1870s, he argues, Americans attempted to stitch their country back together around a “militarist fantasy” of Anglo-Saxon supremacy. Yet rather than bringing the hoped-for personal and national redemption, their efforts produced tragedy. According to Lears, the same cultural logic that justified lynching in the American South and the conquest of American Indians in the West eventually led to war in Cuba, the Philippines and Europe — and, a century later, to our own mess in Iraq.
Lears is hardly the first scholar to address these themes. But he is among the most far-reaching, seeking to redefine an era known for its reformist energies as a time when militarism and racismall too often triumphed over more pacific, democratic ideals. Like any good synthesis, “Rebirth of a Nation”dutifully covers the major trends of the age: the rise of industrial capitalism, the expansion of American empire, the tightening chokehold of Jim Crow. What brings new life to this material is the book’s emphasis on how Americans’ “inner lives” came to shape their outer worlds. Events that appear to be struggles for conquest and plunder turn out, in Lears’s view, to be animated by a personal search for meaning. “The rise of total war between the Civil War and World War I was rooted in longings for release from bourgeois normality into a realm of heroic struggle,” he writes. “This was the desperate anxiety, the yearning for rebirth, that lay behind official ideologies of romantic nationalism, imperial progress and civilizing mission — and that led to the trenches of the Western Front.”...
SOURCE: Tony Judt in the NY Review of Books (7-2-09)
The German setting was altogether fitting. Amos, who was born in Vienna and was the author of an influential biography of Theodor Herzl, never lost his attachment to German culture and history, a subject on which he wrote frequently and with empathetic insight. The Pity of It All, his 2002 study of the Jewish presence in Germany from the Enlightenment to Hitler, displayed a fine sensitivity to the tragedy of Germany's Jews. For good and ill they remained profoundly attached to their cultural homeland, long after they were forced to leave it for Israel or America or elsewhere: more than the Jews of any other European land, they would feel their loss.
But it is for his writings on Zionism and Israel, and his lifelong engagement with the country and its dilemmas, that Amos Elon will be best remembered. In The Israelis: Founders and Sons (1971) he offered a critical history of Zionism, its practitioners, and its heirs; an account that directly confronts the shortcomings of the Zionist project and its outcome. Today such critical accounts are common currency in debates in Israel; in those days they were rare indeed. Amos Elon's commitment to Israel, the country where he lived and worked for most of his life, was never in question. But for just this reason his awkward stance, relentlessly engaging with the country's failings, set him apart. His courageous refusal to endorse the clichés with which Israel's defenders parry every criticism contrasts not only with the defensiveness of contemporary left-wing Israeli commentators but also and especially with the pusillanimous apologetics of Israel's American claque....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (6-15-09)
The new college will offer only the junior and senior years of instruction, will operate in a no-frills manner to keep costs down, and will offer the single major of history. The American College of History and Legal Studies will start offering classes in August 2010 and has been licensed to operate in Salem, N.H. -- just seven miles from the Andover, Mass., campus of the Massachusetts School of Law. While the law school and the history college will be independent of one another in a legal sense, with their own boards, many trustees are expected to serve on both boards, and the two institutions will start with overlapping administrations.
Lawrence R. Velvel, the dean of the law school, said in an interview Friday that he saw a need to promote the study of history in a way that was affordable and might reach new groups of students. "I have been aware that this country is not only ahistorical, but because it doesn't know history and ignores history, it makes the same mistakes over and over again," he said.
Tuition is planned to start at $10,000 a year -- low in comparison to most private colleges.
Velvel said that all courses at the new history college would be taught through discussion classes, with a small core faculty and adjuncts. He said that for every 50 students, there would be one full-time faculty member in history, several adjuncts in history and several other adjuncts (and possibly an additional full-time faculty) focused on teaching writing (with an emphasis on history). He said that no decision has been made on whether to have tenure, but said that if tenure is not offered, there would be some system of contracts to provide full-time faculty members with job security.
The focus in hiring, he said, would be on generalists in history. ...
SOURCE: Thomas Sugrue in the summer issue of Democracy (6-15-09)
This version of history took root in the conservative soil of the 1980s and 1990s and had a clear political purpose: to discredit controversial race-conscious programs, including affirmative action, school desegregation, and minority voting districts, as a betrayal of "the movement." To make that argument required a selective–and narrow–reading of civil rights history. Like most didactic narratives, it rested on simple binaries: integrationism versus separationism, nonviolence versus violence, Martin versus Malcolm. Mainstream historians have largely moved beyond such reductionism, and yet it is difficult to read Richard Kahlenberg’s review of my book Sweet Land of Liberty without feeling sucked into that old boomer psychodrama once again ["Wrong on Race," Issue #12].
Spanning the long period from the 1920s to the 1990s, Sweet Land of Liberty gives voice to the diverse activists who joined the struggle for racial equality, tries to present their views evenhandedly, and does not shy away from controversial issues, including the domestic impact of the cold war, black power, and welfare rights. Yet Kahlenberg prefers to view civil rights in the North through a pinhole, from the vantage point of angry ex-leftists like New York teacher unionist Albert Shanker and a few blocks in Brooklyn. In this view, a handful of black nationalists, spouting anti-Semitic slogans and advocating affirmative action, destroyed liberalism.
To support his argument, Kahlenberg restates the widely discredited backlash thesis, namely that "the Northern civil rights movement took some wrong turns along the way, unnecessarily alienating working-class whites who shared common interests with blacks." Yes, activists sometimes took wrong turns, like the strange alliance between some leading black power activists and the Nixon Administration that I describe in Sweet Land of Liberty. And yes, black radicals sometimes alienated whites, with high political costs, including the rise of a destructive law-and-order politics in the late 1960s.
But Kahlenberg’s assumption that an interracial working-class movement was just around the corner in 1968–or at any other point in the twentieth century, for that matter–is wishful thinking. The persistence of racial inequality in the last 40 years of the twentieth century was not the result of the betrayal of a "subset of whites" who would have been integrationists had it not been for Sonny Carson. It was the result of a long history of public policies, deindustrialization, and systematic disinvestment from black communities, persistent segregation in housing and education, discriminatory practices by employers and unions, and long-standing racial gaps in wealth, health, and income.
A whole generation of urban and political historians has dismantled the backlash thesis. Along with my first book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, studies of Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, Gary, Los Angeles, Newark, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Seattle, among other cities, document the depth of white racism in Northern and western metropolitan areas and the fragility of the New Deal coalition well before the 1960s. Only a minority of Northern whites ever supported civil rights (at King’s peak of popularity in 1964, a majority of Northern whites believed that civil rights activists were pushing too far, too fast). Whites fought black incursion into their neighborhoods, fled to suburbs, and opposed school desegregation long before the Black Panthers shouted "off the pigs" or Stokely Carmichael mounted his soapbox.
The consequence is that even in the era of Barack Obama, Northern metropolitan areas remain highly segregated by race, if less so than at mid-century. Schools have resegregated. The weight of the past bears heavily on the present....
SOURCE: Press Release (6-15-09)
People are taking notice of the path breaking scholarship produced by GAGE fellows. Presses are, too. Cornell University Press has just agreed to a cooperative arrangement with the Miller Center to work closely with the institution to publish and promote future GAGE scholarship. "Every press is looking for authors who can make a contribution to the field and add their voices to public debate," remarked Michael McGandy, acquisitions editor with Cornell University Press. "The Miller Center is a place where scholarship meets with citizenship. We expect that some very important and influential books will be published through our cooperation with the Center and its scholars."
The GAGE program is perhaps best known for its "Dream Mentor" program. Each year, Program Director Brian Balogh works closely with his GAGE associates and the fellows to identify ideal faculty advisors that can best aid fellows in their research pursuits. Mentors are drawn from leading political science, history, and sociology departments around the world, and have included luminaries ranging from University of Pennsylvania historian Tom Sugrue to Yale political scientist David Mayhew. Throughout the fellowship year, these dream mentors converse with their advisees, and at the end of the year, mentors and fellows come together at an annual spring conference held at the Miller Center. The conference provides a forum for both senior scholars and graduate students to engage in discussions about current public policy issues.
The GAGE program's most distinctive mission is to make new scholarship more accessible to the general public and to make political scientists and historians active participants in open debates about public policy. The program provides training sessions with senior scholars who have also published hundreds of op-eds and who appear on radio and television regularly. Reaching outside the confines of the university, GAGE fellows look for creative avenues to make their scholarship available to the public. Former Fellow and Emory University Associate Professor Joe Crespino, for example, published an opinion piece in the New York Times that explored "The Way Republicans Talk About Race." He completed the op-ed during his GAGE fellowship year. The op-ed grew directly out of Crespino's history Ph.D. dissertation at Stanford University, "Strategic Accommodation: Civil Rights Opponents in Mississippi and their Impact on American Racial Politics, 1953-1972," which won the 2003 Dissertation Award from the Jepson School of Leadership at the University of Richmond. His dissertation led to his prize-winning book: In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton University Press, 2007). Other fellows have also published their works in popular media outlets, becoming active participants in the creation of public opinion on key political issues of our time.
The 2009-10 GAGE roster includes Lily Geismer, a History Ph.D. candidate currently working with Professor Matt Lassiter at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation entitled "Don't Blame Us: Grassroots Liberalism in Massachusetts, 1960-1990," recasts the traditional narrative of postwar suburban politics. Historians Matt Lassiter, Kevin Kruse, and Joe Crespino have provided a detailed examination of Republican politicking in the suburban South, but Geismer hopes to focus on a new set of actors that often get left out of the story of Civil Rights era politics. Geismer contends that Massachussetts should be at the center of the "silent majority" narrative, arguing that New England liberals' reliance on voluntary and individual-based solutions to structural problems severely hindered civil rights reforms in the North in the latter half of the twentieth century. Northwestern University History and African American Studies Professor Nancy Maclean will serve as Geismer's dream mentor during her fellowship year.
Eric Lomazoff, a Ph.D. candidate in Government at Harvard University, working with Freed Professor of Government Dan Carpenter, was also selected this year. Lomazoff's dream mentor is Stephen Skowronek, Pelatiah Perit Professor of Political and Social Science at Yale University. Lomazoff will be completing his disseration, "The Life and Death of the 'Hydra-Headed Monster': Antebellum Bank Regulation and American State Development, 1781-1836." In his dissertation, Lomazoff reveals how a better understanding of the history of the U.S. Bank in the antebellum period can help Americans understand their often contentious relationship with federal financial institutions. In our current financial crisis, Lomazoff's work will prove invaluable to policy makers deciding how institutions like the Federal Reserve should weather the most recent economic storm.
Six other fellows will also be funded this year, including Gwendoline Alphonso, a Government and U.S. Politics Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University; Christy Chapin, a History Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia; Brendan Green, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Political Science Ph.D. candidate; Zane Kelly, Political Science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado; Aaron Rapport, Political Science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota; and Vanessa Walker, a History Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Too often historians and political scientists engage in insular historical debates rather than reach out to a broader audience. Historiographical showdowns take the place of open forums that invite meaningful discussion between scholars, public intellectuals, politicians, and informed citizens. As a result, historians and political scientists have been relegated to the margins of public-policy decision making. The GAGE fellows represent a new cohort of academics who seek to address critical issues facing our nation by engaging a larger public in a discussion about patterns in American political development.
If you would like to know more about GAGE's current and past fellows and mentors, please visit their web site at http://millercenter.org/academic/gage.
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole) (6-14-09)
Some comentators have suggested that the reason Western reporters were shocked when Ahmadinejad won was that they are based in opulent North Tehran, whereas the farmers and workers of Iran, the majority, are enthusiastic for Ahmadinejad. That is, we fell victim once again to upper middle class reporting and expectations in a working class country of the global south.
While such dynamics may have existed, this analysis is flawed in the case of Iran because it pays too much attention to class and material factors and not enough to Iranian culture wars. We have already seen, in 1997 and 2001, that Iranian women and youth swung behind an obscure former minister of culture named Mohammad Khatami and his 2nd of Khordad movement, capturing not only the presidency but also, in 2000, parliament.
Khatami received 70 percent of the vote in 1997. He then got 78% of the vote in 2001, despite a crowded field. In 2000, his reform movement captured 65% of the seats in parliament. He is a nice man, but you couldn't exactly categorize him as a union man or a special hit with farmers.
The evidence is that in the past little over a decade, Iran's voters had become especially interested in expanding personal liberties, in expanding women's rights, and in a wider field of legitimate expression for culture (not just high culture but even just things like Iranian rock music). The extreme puritanism of the hardliners grated on people.
The problem for the reformers of the late 1990s and early 2000s was that they did not actually control much, despite holding elected office. Important government policy and regulation was in the hands of the unelected, clerical side of the government. The hard line clerics just shut down reformist newspapers, struck down reformist legislation, and blocked social and economic reform. The Bush administration was determined to hang Khatami out to dry, ensuring that the reformers could never bring home any tangible success in foreign policy or foreign investment. Thus, in the 2004 parliamentary elections, literally thousands of reformers were simply struck off the ballot and not allowed to run. This application of a hard line litmus test in deciding who could run for office produced a hard line parliament, naturally enough.
But in 2000, it was clear that the hard liners only had about 20% of the electorate on their side.
By 2005, the hard liners had rolled back all the reforms and the reform camp was sullen and defeated. They did not come out in large numbers for the reformist candidate, Karoubi, who only got 17 percent of the vote. They nevertheless were able to force a run-off between hard line populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative billionaire. Ahmadinejad won.
But Ahmadinejad's 2005 victory was made possible by the widespread boycott of the vote or just disillusionment in the reformist camp, meaning that fewer youth and women bothered to come out.
So to believe that the 20% hard line support of 2001 has become 63% in 2009, we would have to posit that Iran is less urban, less literate and less interested in cultural issues today than 8 years ago. We would have to posit that the reformist camp once again boycotted the election and stayed home in droves.
No, this is not a north Tehran/ south Tehran issue. Khatami won by big margins despite being favored by north Tehran.
So observers who want to lay a guilt trip on us about falling for Mousavi's smooth upper middle class schtick are simply ignoring the last 12 years of Iranian history. It was about culture wars, not class. It is simply not true that the typical Iranian voter votes conservative and religious when he or she gets the chance. In fact, Mousavi is substantially more conservative than the typical winning politician in 2000. Given the enormous turnout of some 80 percent, and given the growth of Iran's urban sector, the spread of literacy, and the obvious yearning for ways around the puritanism of the hard liners, Mousavi should have won in the ongoing culture war.
And just because Ahmadinejad poses as a champion of the little people does not mean that his policies are actually good for workers or farmers or for working class women (they are not, and many people in that social class know that they are not).
So let that be an end to the guilt trip. The Second of Khordad Movement was a winning coalition for the better part of a decade. Its supporters are 8 years older than the last time they won, but it was a young movement. Did they all do a 180 and defect from Khatami to Ahmadinejad? Unlikely. The Iranian women who voted in droves for Khatami haven't gone anywhere, and they did not very likely much care for Ahmadinejad's stances on women's issues:
'In a BBC News interview, Mahbube Abbasqolizade, a member of the Iranian Women’s Centre NGO, said, “Mr. Ahmadinejad’s policies are that women should return to their homes and that their priority should be the family.”
* Ahmadinejad changed the name of the government organization the “Centre for Women’s Participation” to the “Centre for Women and Family Affairs”.
* Ahmadinejad proposed a new law that would reintroduce a man’s right to divorce his wife without informing her. In addition, men would no longer be required to pay alimony. In response, women’s groups have initiated the Million Signatures campaign against these measures.
* Ahmadinejad’s administration opposes the ratification of the UN protocol called CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. This doctrine is essentially an international women’s Bill of Rights.
* Ahmadinejad implemented the Social Safety program, which monitors women’s clothing, requires the permission from a father or husband for a woman to attend school, and applies quotas limiting the number of women allowed to attend universities.'
Mir Hosain Mousavi was a plausible candidate for the reformists. They were electing people like him with 70 and 80 percent margins just a few years ago. We have not been had by the business families of north Tehran. We've much more likely been had by a hard line constituency of at most 20% of the country, who claim to be the only true heirs of the Iranian revolution, and who control which ballots see the light of day.
SOURCE: http://www.allgov.com (6-9-09)
Marc J. Susser was appointed to the historian job in 2001 by President George W. Bush, and proceeded to take over the task of producing the voluminous “Foreign Relations of the United States” series. Over the next several years, morale began to plummet within the Office of the Historian, and an investigation by the State Department’s inspector general found that 75% of employees interviewed were critical of how the office was being managed. Allegations were reported of favoritism, cronyism, a lack of transparency, and lack of interest in the “Foreign Relations” series.
The IG investigation followed a warning letter last December from the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, which monitors the historian’s office and the foreign relations volumes, to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying, “The Historian’s Office has become an intolerable place to work; the exodus of experienced historians is significant; and the future of the Foreign Relations series is at risk.”
SOURCE: Email to HNN by Hunter College's Dorothy O. Helly (6-5-09)
Dr. McNamara was a pioneer in making visible women’s roles in medieval society, including the role of women in religion, bringing these perspectives into the mainstream of writing about medieval history and inspiring a new generation of medievalists. Scholars who undertake gender studies and medieval history today automatically turn to McNamara’s contributions. The broad sweep of her innovative thinking turned to rethinking the transition from Roman to medieval times. She early began to argue forcefully that Roman culture did not decline and fall in the 5th century (pace Edward Gibbon), but continued to influence subsequent centuries down to the 12th century.
Jo Ann McNamara was also among the first scholars to insist that the paradigms of women’s history could be applied to men’s history. In her first essay on the subject, she coined the word “Herrenfrage” to convey the concept that gender for men was as problematic and socially constructed as it was for women. This article, “The Herrenfrage: The Restructuring of the Gender System, 1050 to 1150," appeared in Medieval Masculinities (1994), edited by Clare A. Lees. Accordingly, McNamara saw the great ecclesiastical reform movement in 11th-and12th-century Europe as an effort to make celibate priests the new “manly men,” a concept of masculinity meant to replace the warrior as hero and still serve as the role model for Christian society. In this context, she wrote of “chastity” as comprising a “third gender.” Embracing chastity also made both women and men more nearly co-equals than were the two sexes whose separate reproductive roles in secular society underpinned their distinct and hierarchically assigned gender roles.
McNamara’s commitment to exploring new questions regarding sex and gender in the midddle ages was a part of a life of concern about the world around her. As a student in the 1960s all the burning issues of civil rights, the Vietnam war, and the women’s movment made her very politically aware. She actively joined antiwar activities and when the National Organization for Women brought a legal suit against the “men only” policy at McSorleys’ Old Ale House in New York City in1970, she joined a sit-in to make the point. She maintained the life of a political activist and sharp critic throughout her life, along with her deepening scholarly questioning all she had been taught about medieval history as a graduate student. Doing so, she was replicating the experiences of other feminist historians for whom the women’s movement opened up new question about their own lives and the lives of women in the past.
Prof. McNamara’s academic research began with a book on Giles Aycelin: Servant of two Masters (1973). Thereafter she turned to path-breaking work on women, gender, and power in both secular and religious contexts. For this work she was honored by two volumes of medieval history. The first, published in 2003, entitled Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages, is co-edited by Maryanne Kowaleski and Mary C. Erler. The volume is dedicated to her and published an essay by her reflecting on the first article she and Suzanne Wemple wrote in 1973, “Women and Power through the Family Revisited.” The second volume of essays dedicated to her is Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe (2008), edited by Lisa M. Bitel and Felice Lifshitz. It is inscribed: “To Jo Ann McNamara magistra doctissima et mater omnium bonarum.” Other essays in this volume examine many of the new interpretations she had brought forward in a series of articles that followed the publication of her book A New Song: Celibate Women in the First Three Christian Centuries (1983).
Asked to contribute an autobiographical essay to Women Medievalists and the Academy (2004-2005), edited by Jane Chance, McNamara wrote about her active participation in the causes about which she felt deeply. She entitled her essay “The Networked Life,” and with a nod to “sympathetic men,” she wrote: “I look back today at the women who befriended me in graduate school, the women who hired me and the innumerable women I knew and those I never knew who have struggled in my lifetime to secure our place in the academy and to advance a scholarship that gives us the means to understand our own experiences. Sisterhood is powerful indeed and it provides a working model for all humanity.”
Born in Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1931, McNamara moved every few years with her family, following her father who held a job as an executive with General Motors. Her early education was in Catholic schools run by nuns. Thereafter, she spent two years as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania as a theatre-arts major and completed her undergraduate education in Columbia University’s School of General Studies as an English major in 1956. To “recoup her finances,” as she put it in her autobiographical essay, she worked in the military for two years in France as an entertainment director. Back at Columbia University graduate school, she worked as a secretary in the Geology Department. She now turned to medieval history, earning her Ph.D. in 1967. By that time she had begun teaching part time at Hunter College, in its evening session, which was coed, the college itself becoming so in 1964 after a long tradition as a woman’s college. She joined its history department full time when she had earned her doctorate, and later, in the 1990s, became as well a mentor to graduate students at the City University Graduate School.
At Hunter, McNamara took part in the founding of the women’s studies program in the mid 1970s. She joined sister historians in the New York area to form a branch of the Coordinating Council on Women in the Historical Profession, established in 1969 as a caucus within the American Historical Association. She also joined the new Institute for Research in History, created to meet the needs of historians with and without an academic affiliation in the fiscal crises of New York City in the mid 1970s. She helped found a research group in Family History and continued to meet with it until her death, as she did with an equally long-lived interdisciplinary Hagiography research group she founded for studying the lives of saints. She played an active role in the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women from its beginning in1973, insisting on including medievalist in its programs and co-chairing the entire conference in 1982.
An active participant in the annual meetings of the American Historical Association, she joined its program committee in 1991 and co-chaired the annual meeting in 1992.
Jo Ann McNamara married Eldon Clingan in 1959, retaining her own name, and was divorced from him in 1973. She is survived by her son Edmund Clingan, who has followed in his mother’s footsteps to become a professor of history at Queensborough Community College, CUNY, in the field of modern German history. Other survivors are her sister Patricia Gail Leopardi of Beesleys Point, New Jersey, and her widowed sister-in-law, Carolyn McNamara of North Tonawanda, New York. Her death is greatly mourned by friends and colleagues in this country and throughout the world.
SOURCE: Niall Ferguson in the Financial Times (6-29-09)
Most commentators were unnerved by this development, coinciding as it did with warnings about the fiscal health of the US. For me, however, it was good news. For it settled a rather public argument between me and the Princeton economist Paul Krugman.
It is a brave or foolhardy man who picks a fight with Mr Krugman, the most recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics. Yet a cat may look at a king, and sometimes a historian can challenge an economist.
A month ago Mr Krugman and I sat on a panel convened in New York to discuss the financial crisis. I made the point that “the running of massive fiscal deficits in excess of 12 per cent of gross domestic product this year, and the issuance therefore of vast quantities of freshly-minted bonds” was likely to push long-term interest rates up, at a time when the Federal Reserve aims at keeping them down. I predicted a “painful tug-of-war between our monetary policy and our fiscal policy, as the markets realise just what a vast quantity of bonds are going to have to be absorbed by the financial system this year”.
De haut en bas came the patronising response: I belonged to a “Dark Age” of economics. It was “really sad” that my knowledge of the dismal science had not even got up to 1937 (the year after Keynes’s General Theory was published), much less its zenith in 2005 (the year Mr Krugman’s macro-economics textbook appeared). Did I not grasp that the key to the crisis was “a vast excess of desired savings over willing investment”? “We have a global savings glut,” explained Mr Krugman, “which is why there is, in fact, no upward pressure on interest rates.”
Now, I do not need lessons about the General Theory . But I think perhaps Mr Krugman would benefit from a refresher course about that work’s historical context. Having reissued his book The Return of Depression Economics, he clearly has an interest in representing the current crisis as a repeat of the 1930s. But it is not. US real GDP is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to fall by 2.8 per cent this year and to stagnate next year. This is a far cry from the early 1930s, when real output collapsed by 30 per cent. So far this is a big recession, comparable in scale with 1973-1975. Nor has globalisation collapsed the way it did in the 1930s.
Credit for averting a second Great Depression should principally go to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, whose knowledge of the early 1930s banking crisis is second to none, and whose double dose of near-zero short-term rates and quantitative easing – a doubling of the Fed’s balance sheet since September – has averted a pandemic of bank failures. No doubt, too, the $787bn stimulus package is also boosting US GDP this quarter.
But the stimulus package only accounts for a part of the massive deficit the US federal government is projected to run this year. Borrowing is forecast to be $1,840bn – equivalent to around half of all federal outlays and 13 per cent of GDP. A deficit this size has not been seen in the US since the second world war. A further $10,000bn will need to be borrowed in the decade ahead, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Even if the White House’s over-optimistic growth forecasts are correct, that will still take the gross federal debt above 100 per cent of GDP by 2017. And this ignores the vast off-balance-sheet liabilities of the Medicare and Social Security systems.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the bond market is quailing. For only on Planet Econ-101 (the standard macroeconomics course drummed into every US undergraduate) could such a tidal wave of debt issuance exert “no upward pressure on interest rates”.
Of course, Mr Krugman knew what I meant. “The only thing that might drive up interest rates,” he acknowledged during our debate, “is that people may grow dubious about the financial solvency of governments.” Might? May? The fact is that people – not least the Chinese government – are already distinctly dubious. They understand that US fiscal policy implies big purchases of government bonds by the Fed this year, since neither foreign nor private domestic purchases will suffice to fund the deficit. This policy is known as printing money and it is what many governments tried in the 1970s, with inflationary consequences you do not need to be a historian to recall.
No doubt there are powerful deflationary headwinds blowing in the other direction today. There is surplus capacity in world manufacturing. But the price of key commodities has surged since February. Monetary expansion in the US, where M2 is growing at an annual rate of 9 per cent, well above its post-1960 average, seems likely to lead to inflation if not this year, then next. In the words of the Chinese central bank’s latest quarterly report: “A policy mistake ... may bring inflation risks to the whole world.”
The policy mistake has already been made – to adopt the fiscal policy of a world war to fight a recession. In the absence of credible commitments to end the chronic US structural deficit, there will be further upward pressure on interest rates, despite the glut of global savings. It was Keynes who noted that “even the most practical man of affairs is usually in the thrall of the ideas of some long-dead economist”. Today the long-dead economist is Keynes, and it is professors of economics, not practical men, who are in thrall to his ideas.
SOURCE: AP (6-3-09)
Duke University said Wednesday that the campus will host an event next week to celebrate the Franklins. Clinton will be one of the featured speakers.
During his presidency, Clinton awarded Franklin the Presidential Medal of Freedom and later appointed Franklin in 1997 to chair a national task force on race. Franklin died in March at the age of 94. His wife died in 1999.
SOURCE: Cabinet (Spring; exact date uncertain) (5-1-09)
Tony, let’s play name that tune. “We have also houses of deceits of the senses, where we represent all manner of feats of juggling, false apparitions, impostures, and illusions…” I have a feeling you’ll recognize this wonderfully strange passage from one of the hallucinogenic masterworks of the early modern period.
I do indeed.
In The New Atlantis, written around 1624, the English prosecutor-cum-epistemologist Francis Bacon dresses up his new theory of knowledge as a sensational travelogue, in which a shipload of Englishmen, having gone astray somewhere in the vast reaches of the southern Pacific, find themselves towed into the harbor of a mysterious island...
And they discover a kind of utopia there, a community built around the continuous pursuit of power over nature. At the center of the life of the island is a huge quasi-religious institution called Salomon’s House where a priestly caste of investigators pursue mastery of natural forces in a suite of dedicated laboratory-like spaces. ...
SOURCE: Carl A. Zimring in a special report written for HNN (6-4-09)
At a time when American labor has new hopes (with the possibility of the Employee Free Choice Act becoming law) and fears (with the threat of more job losses with the bankruptcies in the automobile industry and other economic troubles), historical perspectives on labor and working-class experiences remain as relevant as ever. The end of May brought the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) to downtown Chicago for a conference at Roosevelt University's Auditorium Building. Over four days, the conference (see the website at http://chi-lawcha09.indstate.edu for a full schedule) represented a broad array of topics on working-class and labor-related scholarship and activism, using the organizing theme of Race, Labor, and the City. Panels included working-class community structures, including housing and education, environmental quality and justice, migration and settlement patterns, the changing structure of organized labor in the 21st century, and the myriad ways in which race, class, and gender interact in society.
A special dimension of the conference was the co-sponsorship by the Labor Fund for History and Culture whose members' focus on Laborlore celebrated working-class culture through art forms like song. In both the plenary session and a Friday night performance, LAWCHA president Michael Honey played guitar behind Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singer Bettie Mae Fikes's gospel vocals on a series of labor and freedom songs.
Friday night also brought a performance by folksinger/musicologist Bucky Halker and a series of guests including Janet Bean of Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day, and Jon Langford of the Mekons and Waco Brothers. (Between performances, one of the picketers walking the line at the Congress Hotel -- a hotel one block south of the conference that has been the subject of a labor action for the past six years -- spoke about the hotel's refusal to recognize its workers' right to organize and invited conference participants to picket over the weekend.) Other music presentations discussed the significance of country, folk, jazz, and blues music to working class society. One highlight that bridged performance and presented scholarship was the paper sung by country music scholar Bill Malone that weaved more than eighty years of country and blues songs through changes in the economic history of the United States in a fifteen-minute a cappella recital.
The conference included workshops on activism, oral history, and writing labor history for a broad audience and several papers to opened up new lines of inquiry for working class scholars. During the opening plenary, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Joe W. Trotter Jr., the Newberry Library's James Grossman, and incoming University of North Carolina professor Zaragosa Vargas raised central questions about race, labor, agency, and deunionization. A Saturday luncheon honored the Reverend Addie Wyatt of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union with the LAWCHA Distinguished Service to Labor and Working Class History Award; elsewhere, a panel discussed the significance of Laurie Green's work, Battling the Plantation Mentality, which won the 2008 Taft Award.
Absent from the conference were luminaries who passed away after the initial schedule was posted, including Laborlore founder Archie Green, surrealist poet Franklin Rosemont, and oral history legend Studs Terkel. Participants remembered and celebrated their lives and accomplishments in several panels, and the phrase "don't mourn, organize" was repeated often in their memory. The conference concluded with a dinner and discussion of the theme of Labor in the 21st Century with James Thindwa (Jobs with Justice), Jorge Ramirez (Chicago Federation of Labor) and Tom Balanoff (SEIU Local 1) providing remarks and a Sunday morning bus tour that took advantage of Chicago's rich legacy of working-class history by highlighting sites featured on the Chicago Labor Trail map (www.labortrail.org/) on the city's South Side. Participants left with an impression that labor history in the 21st century is a vibrant and diverse field, boding well for future meetings of LAWCHA, and for further explorations of class and culture past and present.
SOURCE: Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (6-3-09)
In making the announcement, President Obama said, “I am confident that with Jim as its head, the National Endowment for the Humanities will continue on its vital mission of supporting the humanities and giving the American public access to the rich resources of our culture. Jim is a valued and dedicated public servant and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”
Jim Leach served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Iowa for 30 years. He founded and co-chaired the Congressional Humanities Caucus, which is dedicated to advocating on behalf of the humanities in the House of Representatives and to raising the profile of humanities in the United States. The Caucus worked to promote and preserve humanities programs and commissions such as the Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Mr. Leach and his co-founder, Rep. David Price, received the Sidney R. Yates Award for Distinguished Public Service to the Humanities from the National Humanities Alliance in 2005.
During his tenure in Congress, Mr. Leach also served as Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services (1995-2001), a senior member of the House Committee on International Relations and Chairman of the Committee’s Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs (2001-2006).
In addition, Mr. Leach is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Vice Chairman of the Century Foundation’s Board of Trustees and has served on the boards of the Social Sciences Research Council, ProPublica, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Kettering Foundation.
Since leaving Congress in 2007, he has taught at Princeton University and served as the interim director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Former NEH Chairman Bruce Cole left the Endowment to join the American Revolution Center as its President and CEO in January 2009. In February 2009, President Obama appointed Carole M. Watson, Assistant Chairman for Partnership and National Affairs, as the Acting Chairman of the NEH.
SOURCE: Campus Watch (6-4-09)
What Beinin labeled Israeli"war crimes" (i.e. defending its citizenry) and U.S. collusion therewith were central to his discussion, as the show aired soon after Israel's military incursion into Gaza in December 2008.
One might have thought Obama's election would make Beinin optimistic about the prospects for weakening U.S. support for Israel, but his mood was decidedly downbeat. Obama, Beinin predicted, would"act like all America presidents" by"pushing U.S. interests with foreign policy." (What country doesn't pursue its own interests with foreign policy?) But, Beinin allowed, if Obama were to simply issue a"statement" telling Israel"it's committing war crimes,""going against U.N resolutions," and that"the U.S. will no longer sell Israel weapons,""the Israel Lobby and AIPAC would crumble." The crowd of mostly aging hippies murmured in agreement.
Jimmy Carter, the most rabidly anti-Israel U.S. president and author of the widely criticized book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, was the only American leader Beinin praised. Beinin lauded Carter as a"deeply religious man" but, he qualified with a chuckle,"in a good way." Apparently, he only sees the minority of practicing Christians who toe the anti-Israel line as palatable.
In a case of tortured logic, Beinin blamed Israel for making"Hamas and Hezbollah…heroes in the Arab world" with its defensive military actions."It's almost as if Israel was trying to make Hamas appear to represent the Palestinian cause," Beinin continued—apparently forgetting that Gazans elected Hamas by a landslide—and then quipped,"not to get conspiratorial or anything."
Beinin proceeded to do exactly that by echoing many of his peers in the perennially anti-Israel field of Middle East studies with the statement:
The Gaza operation was premeditated. It had nothing to do with rockets, terrorism, or anything the Israeli government claims.
Regarding Hamas's deliberate use of civilians as human shields and civilian buildings as targets, Beinin made the equally preposterous statement:
Of course Hamas hides among civilians. Gaza's a very small, densely populated place. Where else are they going to hide?
Similarly, on the advisability of either Israel or the U.S. negotiating with Iran and Syria, Beinin made the axiomatic statement that,"You have to talk with the people you're trying to negotiate with."
On the prospects for a two-state solution, Beinin claimed that"successive Israeli administrations have done everything to prevent it from happening: The settlements, the wall, the roads." There was no word on the role of Palestinian violence toward Israelis in the failure of the"peace process," which, he allowed, was"effectively dead."
Beinin also avoided focusing on internecine battles among Palestinian factions, either in the Middle East or in the U.S. When an audience member asked him about a highly circulated video produced by Minnesotans Against Terrorism depicting a pro-Palestinian rally at the state capital in St. Paul that descended into a pitched battle between Fatah and Hamas supporters, Beinin was clueless. (The rally featured the first Muslim congressman, Minnesota's Keith Ellison, being shouted down by followers of Hamas, apparently for not being radical enough.) Seemingly unaware that Minnesota is a center for Islamist activity, Beinin was surprised that a story from that state could have any significance and brushed the question off.
Beinin's actions since this interview have amplified his anti-Israel credentials. Although Middle East studies academia has largely avoided Israel Apartheid Week since its inception in 2005, Beinin took part this year, with a talk at the University of California, Berkeley on March 5th. So too did University of Massachusetts Boston political science assistant professor Leila Farsakh, who spoke at York University the same day. Beinin's participation in this propagandistic and offensive week of Israel-bashing further affirms his lack of objectivity on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Although Beinin's audience at the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center likely consists of like-minded viewers, his students are another matter. They should treat most of what he says with the skepticism one reserves when listening to ideologues.
SOURCE: Boston Globe (6-3-09)
Harvard President Drew G. Faust described the academic post as “an important milestone” in an ongoing effort by faculty, students, and alumni to raise the profile of LGBT studies at the university.
The university has received a $1.5 million gift from the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus, a 4,900 member group, to endow the F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality. Matthiessen, who Harvard says stands out as an unusual example of a gay man who lived his sexuality as an “open secret” in the mid-20th century, was an American studies scholar and literary critic at Harvard and chaired the undergraduate program in history and literature.
A growing number of colleges have begun offering academic programs related to sex, sexuality, and sexual orientation, though LGBT studies is a relatively young discipline. The City University of New York began the first gay and lesbian studies program in 1986.
SOURCE: Jerry Haber at The Magnes Zionist (blog) (6-2-09)
Myers's book contains the translation of a chapter that Rawidowicz wrote for, and then suppressed from, his great work on Jewish nationalism, Bavel vi-Yrushalayim (Babylonia and Jerusalem). In that chapter, written c. 1956, Rawidowicz called for the government of the State of Israel to admit responsibility for the flight of the Palestinian refugees, and to let them return to their homes. His arguments were both pragmatic and moral. That they were written in a beautiful and fluent Hebrew by one of the most interesting Zionists of the twentieth century gives the chapter special signficance. Why he suppressed the chapter remains a mystery to this day and is the subject of Myers' scholarly speculations.
Simon Rawidowicz was a leading historian of Jewish philosophy who died, tragically at the age of 60, in 1957. A native of Grayewo, Poland, he inherited his Zionism, Hebraism, and the love of the study of Torah from his father, a religious Jew who had learned in the yeshivas of Mir and Volozhin, yet who was attracted to the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment) and Jewish nationalism. Like other Eastern European Jews of a philosophical bent (e.g., Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Abraham Joshua Heschel) Simon traveled as a young man to Berlin to study philosophy. There he became involved in Hebrew publishing and Hebrew literature. His introduction and edition of Krochmal's Moreh Nevukhei ha-Zman (Guide for the Perplexed of our Time) is still unsurpassed. A scholar recently told me that his edition of one of Moses Mendelssohn's writings was first-rate. Of course, I am familiar with his articles on medieval Jewish philosophy.
Rawidowicz, as a Zionist, Hebraist, and scholar of Jewish philosophy, would have been ideal for the fledgling Hebrew University, and, indeed, for many years he actively sought a position there. But the chair of Jewish philosophy went to Julius Guttmann, a liberal German Jewish professor at the Akademie für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums in Berlin, who knew little Hebrew. Remember that the Hebrew University in its early years, especially the faculty of Jewish Studies that included men like Buber and Scholem, was composed almost entirely of"yekkes", i.e., German Jews. (For years there was no department of German language and literature at Hebrew University – who needed one?) And Rawidowicz, the Ost-Jude from Poland, did not have the academic reputation of Guttmann. Rawidowicz spent some time in England at Leeds University and ended up in America, first at the College of Jewish Studies in Chicago, and then as the first occupant of the Phillip W. Lown Chair of Jewish Philosophy and Hebrew Literature and the first Chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. That makes Rawidowicz the first chairman of a Jewish Studies program at an American university, I suppose.
Rawidowicz's Babylonia and Jerusalem, a huge Hebrew work that has never been translated into English, was a statement of his own philosophy of the Jewish people, and of the relations between the Jewish Diaspora and Zion. Unlike Zionists who preached the"negation of the diaspora," Rawidowicz saw an essential relationship between the two poles of Jewish existence. In that sense his ending up in America, rather than in the State of Israel (a name he disliked intensely, as he famously wrote to Ben-Gurion) was entirely appropriate, but had he come to Hebrew University, his ideas would have become more influential. As it is, his insistence on writing in Hebrew in Waltham, Massachusetts, marginalized him both from the American Jewish scene and the scene in Israel.
David N. Myers, a professor of history at UCLA and the director of its Center for Jewish Studies, has been interested for a long time in Rawidowicz, but instead of writing a full-fledged biography, decided to translate (together with Arnold J. Band) the suppressed chapter as part of a larger book on Rawidowicz. In fact, the chapter is only sixty-five pages of a three hundred page book. To fill out the book, Myers has several introductory chapters and nine appendices that include some of the classic documents to which Rawidowicz refers (i.e., the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, The"Law of Return,", the"Nationality Law," etc. Some may feel that this unnecessarily pads the book; I don't. They provide the broad context that is needed and should be read together with Rawidowicz' chapter.
As for Rawidowicz's arguments themselves, some seem justified by history; others not. But the tone of moral urgency and indignation is as true today as it was then.
"The question of these refugees is not an Arab question; it is a Jewish question, a question that 1948 placed upon the Jewish people…Let not a single Arab refugee from the State of Israel remain in the world. This is an existential imperative for the State of Israel from which it cannot flinch…" (173)
"Defenders of the plight of the refugees, including those among the Gentile nations, claim that if those hundreds of thousands of Arabs had not left Palestine in 1948, the State of Israel would not have arisen at all. And if they be permitted to return to settle in the State of Israel, it will be destroyed. Is this an argument of defense on behalf of the State of Israel? Reflect on it well and you will see that they are making a mockery of the dream of Zionism at its core. These defenders affirm that they never believed in the dream of Zionism. They always knew that it could not be undertaken without destroying the Arabs in the land of Israel. In their view, there was no Zionism to speak of between 1884 and 1948. Its goals were in fact nothing but an illusion." (174)
"I am ignorant in military and security matters, but I do know one thing: practically speaking, five or six hundred thousand Arab refugees from the State of Israel outside of its borders are much more dangerous to the state than five or six hundred thousand additional Arab citizens within its borders…Any aspiration that an Arab"fifth column" may have regarding the State of Israel is nothing compared to the aspiration of those hundreds of thousands of refugees who dream night and day, by virtue of their stateless existence, of the possibility of creating a state right now, of realizing this goal in the immediate future." (174-175)
"Never in their history did Jews force refugees into the world. Let not the State of Israel begin its path by forcing refugees into the world." (176)
"May there not have to be among Jews in coming generations those who will call to justice the generations of the gatekeepers of the state who locked the gate to former residents of the land – and who thereby opened, through this closing, the door to their defamers and persecutors in surrounding countries. It is in your hands, guides of the current generation in the state, to safeguard those who will come after you from the verdict of that future day of retribution. May it not come, but if it does come, what will be the price that the children of ours sons and daughters will pay?"
One of the great joys – and weighty responsibilities – of the historian is to reincarnate the forgotten voices of the past, so that we can listen to them and learn from their neglected counsels. The time still may not be ripe for a Rawidowicz, a Magnes, a Buber, or a Leibowitz to be heard.
But that time is coming soon. As Israel becomes more and more deeply racist (Today I saw a big metal sign outside a company that says proudly that it employs only Jews), as its rightwing legislators compete with each other to propose legislation restricting the rights of its Israel's Arab minority, as its Minister of Justice equates Arab observance of Nakbah day with"wishing the State to fall and to throw its inhabitants into the sea" (here), as it forces the entire country into an unnecessary air raid exercise, thus further sowing panic, as a government radio announcer wonders out loud on the air whether Obama is more"Hussein" than"Barack" --
The time for the likes of a Rawidowicz is coming sooner than you think.