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Monday, November 20, 2017

Robert Legvold's Policy Recommendations for U.S.-Russia Relations on the First Anniversary of Trump's Election

Robert Legvold (Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus)  wrote a piece offering policy recommendations for US-Russia relations on the occasion of the first anniversary of Trump's election: 

"If the most modest measure of success would have been halting the sharp deterioration of relations and taking even minor steps to improve matters, then the Trump administration’s Russia policy is an awkward failure—awkward, because, to take the president and his secretary of state at their word, they believe that turning the relationship around is of vital importance. Yes, steps have been taken that might have yielded—and might yet yield—progress, such as the strategic stability talks underway at the deputy foreign minister level, the agreement on a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria and observation of the Syrian de-confliction agreement, and the successful implementation of New START. But this limited inventory must be set against a Congress enraged and dead set on punishing Russia with new sanctions, congressional efforts to force the administration to abandon the INF Treaty, the deepening fury over Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election, the long-term damage to each side’s diplomatic missions and the paralysis that prevents the president from even thinking of reaching out to Russia in search of common ground."
You can read the policy recommendations here.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Mark Mazower Appointed Founding Director of Columbia's New Institute for Ideas and Imagination

In an email to the Columbia community, dated 17 November 2017, President Lee Bolinger C. Bollinger announced the creation of the Institute for Ideas and Imagination, to be housed at Reid Hall, Paris.


Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am writing to announce a new and important initiative that will reside at Reid Hall, home of our Paris Global Center, and will be called the Institute for Ideas and Imagination.  The Institute, which I will describe in a moment, is the outcome of several years of reflection and discussion, with special contributions from the Paris Center’s Faculty Steering Committee, Paul LeClerc, the Director of the Center; and Professor Mark Mazower, the Ira D. Wallach Professor of World Order Studies in the Department of History.  This is a University-wide initiative, and I am very pleased to say that Professor Mazower has agreed to be the founding Director of the Institute.  

In the academic world, our ideas about what knowledge is important and how best to pursue that knowledge are constantly shifting.  A self-critical and reflective posture is, generally speaking, a defining feature of the scholarly temperament, and that is no less true when it comes to thinking about the entire intellectual structure of the University.  Yet there are times when it seems especially important to be able to step back even more from our usual ways of operating and to think afresh.  For a variety of reasons, this seems like such a time, and this is the essence of what the Institute for Ideas and Imagination is intended to provide.  No institution prospers by succumbing to the inertia of the inherited present.  To our endless benefit and pride, Columbia has always been a place not only of new discoveries but also of entire fields of inquiry reshaped and created.  The purposes of the Institute, therefore, match Columbia’s unique intellectual character and history.   

The Institute will shortly recruit its first cohort of 14 fellows, half of them to be Columbia faculty members and the remainder scholars, writers, and creative artists from outside of the United States.  The fellows will begin a one-year residency at Reid Hall in the fall of 2018.  The fellowships are open to all Columbia faculty; further details regarding the application process are available here.
In assembling this community of fellows, we will seek to identify early-career scholars and individuals from beyond traditional academic pursuits inclined to challenge prevailing intellectual habits.  The goal of combining Columbia faculty with intellectuals, artists, and writers who operate outside of American academia—in both a geographic and a disciplinary sense—is to foster conversations that introduce new perspectives to the University and, ultimately, across higher education.  The Institute’s defining commitments will be to intellectual innovation and inter-cultural dialogue, for these are the values essential to producing new thinking about academia’s central task, which is to contribute to the deep and long-lasting reflection that frames how our contemporary world understands the challenges we face.   
The Institute will also host workshops and conferences at Reid Hall and will develop parallel events with our network of Columbia Global Centers and with other partners across Europe and around the world.  A number of programmatic activities will ensure that the learning derived from the Institute is integrated into the life of the University and into its pedagogy.  For example, selected non-Columbia fellows will have the opportunity to spend a second year here on our campuses in New York, and during that time will contribute to undergraduate education in a variety of ways including teaching in the Global Core.

Professor Mazower will be joined in leading the Institute by Professor Susan Boynton, who will serve as the first residential faculty director.  I want to express my thanks on behalf of the University to them and the many others who have contributed so significantly to developing this project over the course of several years, including The Andrew M. Mellon Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for their generous support.

Lee C. Bollinge


Friday, November 17, 2017

Student Spotlight: Miriam Schulz, Ph.D. Candidate in Yiddish Studies

Miriam Schulz, Ph.D. Candidate in Yiddish Studies and winner of the 2017 Hosenfeld/Szpilman Prize, is featured in the Student Spotlight on the website of Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 
Two excerpts from the interview:


What drew you to your field? 

I cannot think of a time when I have not been grappling with the modern Jewish experience and the myriad expressions of Jewish identities, both in their post-traditional and post-Holocaust guises. And it is primarily thanks to my mum and other cherished mentors along the way that I fell in love with the beauty and oft-forgotten richness of Yiddish—the vernacular of Ashkenazi Jewry—and its cultural articulations. This nucleus of modern Jewish culture has provided me with a whole new perspective, personally and as a scholar, and keeps allowing me to approach topics from a micro-historical standpoint for its very own sake and in order to better understand the bigger picture.

How would you explain your current research to someone outside of your field? 

I am trying to make the Yiddish voice heard in discourses where it has been marginalized, specifically in Holocaust studies and the study of the Soviet Union. In my dissertation, I attempt to provide the first comprehensive picture of how Soviet Jews reckoned with the Holocaust and the “Great Patriotic War” as interrelated phenomena in Yiddish. I hope this study will enrich our understanding of Soviet Jewry as a heterogeneous group with quite different modes of coming to terms with the most recent catastrophic past.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Alexander Cooley: "How Today's Despots and Kleptocrats Hide Their Stolen Wealth," on the Monkey Cage

Harriman Director Alexander Cooley, with co-author Jason Sharman, published "How Today's Despots and Kleptocrats Hide Their Stolen Wealth" on the Washington Post's Monkey Cage (Nov. 14, 2017):

On Oct. 27, the vice president and heir apparent to the tiny oil-rich West African state of Equatorial Guinea was convicted in a Paris court of money laundering and embezzlement. At stake is Vice President Teodorin Obaing’s $200 million Paris mansion, a 220-foot yacht and a fleet of luxury cars, which according to the French authorities represent the proceeds of corruption from his country’s oil wealth. A week later, a massive data-dump from the offshore firm Appleby, the “Paradise Papers,” exposed the financial dealings of thousands of firms and individuals in small island tax havens from the Caribbean to the South Pacific.
Together, the Obiang case and the Paradise Papers seem to give us a new version of two standard stories. In the first, a strongman from an endemically corrupt Third World state steals from his already impoverished citizens to fund conspicuous consumption, while in the second, secretive tax havens hide the dubious funds of the rich and (in)famous. Developing countries like Equatorial Guinea are stigmatized by their poor performance in international rankings such as Transparency International’s Corruptions Perceptions Index, while the tax havens are increasingly taking flak from richer countries and international organizations. The international watchdogs and scholarly writings on the subject tend to suggest that corruption is a national, bordered phenomenon best assessed and countered on a state-by-state basis. [...]
Monday, November 13, 2017

Jared McBride, "Ukraine's Invented a 'Jewish-Ukrainian Nationalist' to Whitewash Its Nazi-era Past"

Former Visiting Assistant Professor (2015) Jared McBride discusses Ukraine's reinvention of the narratives surrounding WWII-era Ukrainian nationalists in an opinion piece on Haaretz. "This nationalist revisionism seeks to show that the main wartime nationalist organizations, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), were ultimately multi-ethnic, "multi-cultural," and democratic," he writes.