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Friday, August 18, 2017

Slavic Review Publishes the Work of Two Harriman Faculty Members in the Summer 2017 Issue

Aleksandar Boskovic (Lecturer in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian) and Jessica Merrill (Assistant Professor), both members of the Columbia University Slavic Department, have articles in the current issue of Slavic Review, the leading journal in the field. Boskovic's "Revolution, Production, Representation: Iurii Rozhkov's Photomontages to Maiakovskii's Poem To the Workers of Kursk," is part of a larger study of  photopoetry books within Slavic avant-gardes. In 2015, Boskovic curated an exhibit at the Harriman Institute of Rozhkov's photomontages. Jessica Merrill's article is titled "High Modernism in Theory and Practice: Karel Teige and Tomáš Bat'a." Merrill joined the Columbia Slavic Department in 2016. Her current book project, Folklore Study and the Rise of Modern Literary Theory: Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism, presents a new understanding of the origins of the discipline.
Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tarik Cyril Amar, "It’s Americans Who Have Undermined Democracy in America"

Tarik Cyril Amar (Associate Professor of History) addresses Russia-Gate and Russia-Rage in a piece titled "It's Americans Who Have Undermined Democracy in America" (History News Network, 30 July 2017):
 
While Russian meddling is real, we need to face the fact that Putin’s not ultimately responsible for the rise of Trump.
 
Since democracy in America has given the most powerful office in the world to the least plausible candidate, many Americans have been reeling. The spectacle of President Trump is both sadly funny and terrifying. Even worse, that Trump became President not by some seizure of power but through an election is a national humiliation.
 
Small wonder then that there is soul-searching – except that, often, the soul searched is that of Russia. Russia-Gate is real: Russia’s meddling in the last election – to one extent or the other – is a fact. Yet something is still odd about what we can call Russia-Rage, the wider American response to the Russian intervention.
 
There is some simple self-promotion and ignorance – volunteer Western information warriors circulating blacklists of Russia’s “stooges” in a fit of Gonzo McCarthyism; reputable news organizations babbling about the “Cyrillic” regime and its “minarets” on Red Square. There also is some self-righteousness: many observers still have no issue with American meddling, including in recent Russian elections. Others assure us that the Kremlin’s mixing of business, politics, and subterfuge is “not what we do” – as little, presumably, as wars started under false pretexts, torture, or detention in legal black holes. Psychologically, a United States so powerful yet so innocent is a fascinating fantasy. But such biases are just ordinary “patriotic” reflexes common to many countries.
 
 
Sunday, August 6, 2017

TLS Reviews Dictators without Borders by Cooley and Heathershaw

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira reviews Dictators without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia  (Yale University Press, 2017) by Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw in the 4 August 2017 issue of TLS. 
 
From the review: 
 
As vilified geopolitical regions go, Central Asia ranks alongside much of Africa or the war-torn Balkans of the 1990s. And yet its landlocked post-Soviet states are scarcely covered by the Western media beyond occasional nods to power struggles over natural resources or the stirrings of radical Islam. Difficult to access during the communist era, Central Asian states saw none of the post-Cold War liberalization that Eastern Europe did and quickly fell under the sway of thuggish and distrustful elites, often the same ones as in the Soviet period. The overwhelming perception is of a region remote and isolated from global trends. In this incisive book, Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw debunk assumptions about an "unknown and obscure" heartland, arguing that Central Asia is in fact highly, if selectively, globalized. This "offshore" dimension is crucial to understanding the internal politics of Central Asian autocracies. It is also a disturbing vantage point from which to explore the functioning of the Western societies they are inextricably linked to.
 
Central Asian elites may have had little familiarity with the West until a generation ago, but they caught up quickly. From money flows and education to health care and consumption, their global, increasingly anglophone, lives are carried out in London, Paris and New York as much as in Astana or Tashkent. Through the building of international networks of financial expertise, legal protection, PR campaigns and political complicity, a certain type of Central Asian elite uses the fruits of globalization to increase sway at home (the autocrats in power bludgeon civil societies for any hint of such external support). For these new "dictators" and their coteries, the field of action is global, whether it involves laundering stolen money, burnishing cosmopolitan credentials through art acquisition, bogus charity and "corporate social responsibility", or kidnapping and killing exiled opponents. [...] Yet the most fascinating details relate to the wider manners in which "authoritarian actions and networks are systematically embedded in Western institutions, legal spaces and professional practices". Lawyers, estate agents, PR consultants and former politicians are enthusiastic service providers and handmaidens of "status" and respectability for Central Asian elites. Tony Blair's Kazak dealings are inevitably mentioned, but arguably more glaring is Prince Andrew's roving quest for UK business opportunities in Kyrgyzstan and beyond. Meanwhile, faced with funding shortages, think tanks and universities entertain increasingly compromised relations with their new Central Asian donors. The authors go beyond the usual carping about liberal states failing to promote democracy in Central Asia and argue instead that the West is a major contributor to these authoritarian outcomes.
 
This ambitious and eye-opening book shows what political science at its best - based on realworld knowledge, free of jargon and focused on substantive concerns rather than disciplinary marginalia - can contribute to pressing contemporary debates. But two barely addressed dimensions should elicit further interest from anyone working in this area. The first has to do with the authors' parenthetical acknowledgement that the influence-peddling described is not specific to Central Asian regimes but rather the general modus operandi of authoritarian states around the world. Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Qatar and Gaddafi-era Libya, to name but a few, have also sought to exert their influence in Western capitals. It is now necessary to go beyond individual or regional exposés, important as they are, and understand the systemic nature of this phenomenon. [...]
 
 
Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tanya Domi Quoted in "Balkan Insight" about Yazidi Massacre Survivors

Tanya Domi (Adjunct, SIPA) is quoted extensively in an article published in Balkan Insight (3 August 2017), titled "Yazidi Massacre Survivors Learn Lessons from Srebrenica."
 
Three years after the Islamic State mass killings of Yazidis in Iraq, survivors want to emulate the bereaved women of Srebrenica and have the massacres recognised as genocide and the killers put on trial.
 
“The Yazidi community is actively engaged in making their case for justice with the international community,” said Tanya Domi, adjunct professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, who has been closely following the Srebrenica process for more than two decades. They are currently “learning from the Srebrenica community’s wisdom and experience as it has carried out an endless campaign for accountability since the genocide”, Domi added.
 
You can read the entire piece here.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

5 Questions on Russia with International Diplomacy Professor Stephen Sestanovich

Georgette Jasen, Columbia Communications and Public Affairs, asks Stephen Sestanovich five questions about Russia and Trump's foreign policy in Columbia News.
 
In his 2014 book, Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to ObamaStephen Sestanovich argued that since World War II U.S. policy makers have alternated between overdoing it and “underdoing” it. Now Sestanovich is looking at foreign policy in the Trump era, especially dealings with Russia. Before he joined Columbia in 2001 as the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor for the Practice of International Diplomacy at the School of International and Public Affairs, he was ambassador-at-large and special advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State on the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, and vice president for Russian and Eurasian affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
 
Sestanovich published an article about Trump’s foreign policy in the May issue of the Atlantic.