Study Group Details (Archive, Academic Year 2009-10)
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Foundational Readings: (Should be read as background to any session)
Spring Semester 2010
Feb. 5 Enchanted by a Chimera: Has 'Human Rights' Discourse
Colonized the "Free Burma" Movement?
With Elliott Prasse-Freeman
Note Special Time and Venue: 2:30-4:00pm, Bolton Classroom,
The tentative argument, subject to challenge by study group
participants, is that the discourse of 'Human Rights' has actually
colonized Burma's political opposition, overwriting the socio-cultural
and political experiences and idioms that emerge from Burmese society
with the pseudo-'universal' normative claims and demands of 'Human Rights'
The phenomenon has had the unfortunate effect of creating an external
dependency, preventing the political opposition from connecting with the
political realities inside the country.
Based on Prasse-Freeman's eight years experience on Burma (including
living in Yangon in 2004/2005 and recently returning from a month of field
work in Yangon and on the Thai/Burma border), the discussion will cover
Burma politics, but will move to broader discussions of the politics
and power-effects of human rights discourse.
Feb. 19 Social Movements and Human Dignity: Why
Do People Seek Social Change?
With James Jasper. James Jasper's research and theory on social movements has
emphasized two dimensions, their emotions and their strategic choices. What
these tend to share is a respect for their subject matter and a concern for
March 22 Shifting Patterns of Dissent
and Repression in a Changing China
With Jeffrey Wasserstrom. This talk will look at
continuities and changes since the late 1970s in the things that
have led Chinese citizens to write manifestos criticizing the
government or take to the streets, and at the ways state responses
to these activities have changed.
The starting point will be the Democracy Wall Movement, which led to Wei
Jingsheng being sentenced to 15 years in prison for his famous "Fifth
Modernization" poster, and the ending point will be Liu Xiaobo's
sentencing to 11 years in prison for subversion last Christmas (due to
his role in the "Charter '08" movement), with stops at the Tiananmen
movement of 1989 and other pivotal events in between. In surveying this
terrain, while some worrisome similarities between past and present will
be noted, attention will be paid to significant shifts over time in
causes and modes of popular action, and the way activists are treated.
Emphasis will also be put on the need to think beyond the
"dissident/loyalist" binary that shapes much media coverage of China,
for there is a spectrum of political positions stakes out in the PRC
these days, with room between those who directly challenge and those who
accept all aspects of the system for critical intellectuals and
single-issue activists trying to work within the status quo yet gain
redress for particular grievances.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom is a Professor of Chinese History at the University
of California, Irvine, the Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies, and a
co-founder of the "China Beat" blog/electronic magazine. He is the
author of four books, including China in the 21st Century: What
Everyone Needs to Know (forthcoming from Oxford University Press in
April), and the editor or co-editor of several others, including Human
Rights and Revolutions (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000 and 2007 editions).
He writes regularly for both academic and general interest publications,
from the Nation and New Left Review to Time
and Newsweek, was a
consultant for a prize-winning documentary film on 1989 ("The Gate of
Heavenly Peace"), and was a recent guest on NPR's "Morning Edition"
(where he was interviewed about the meaning of the Dalai Lama's meeting
with President Obama).
March 26, 3-4:30pm Our Bondage, Our Freedom: The
Long History of Slavery and Abolition.
Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Director, Human Rights and Social
Movements Program, will present a talk entitled, "Our Bondage,
Our Freedom: The Long History of Slavery and Abolition."
April 16, 3-4:30pm A Blight on the Nation: Slavery in
Ron Soodalter, co-author (with Kevin Bales) of The Slave
Next Door, will present a talk entitled, "A Blight on the Nation:
Slavery in Today's America."
Historically, we Americans see ourselves as the world’s foremost messengers and practitioners of personal freedom. We believe ours is a nation where, for the first time in man’s history, slavery no longer has a place. And yet, there has never been a single day without slavery on this continent, from its European discovery right up to the present moment. However, where the ante-bellum slaves were a sign of status, today’s forms of slavery are hidden, insidious, and often nearly impossible to detect.
According to a U.S. State Department study, some 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States from at least 35 countries and enslaved each year. Some victims are smuggled into the U.S. across the Mexican and Canadian borders; others arrive at our major airports daily, carrying either real or forged papers. The old slave ship of the 1800s has been replaced by the 747. Victims come here from Africa, Asia, India, Latin America, and the former Soviet Republic. Overwhelmingly, they come on the promise of a better life, with the opportunity to work and prosper in America. Many come in the hope of earning enough money to support or send for their families. They fork over their life savings, and go into debt to people who make promises they have no intention of keeping, and instead of opportunity, when they arrive they find bondage. They can be found – or more accurately, not found – in all 50 states, working as farmhands, domestics, sweatshop and factory laborers, gardeners, restaurant and construction workers, sex slaves and prostitutes. These people do not represent a class of poorly paid employees, working at jobs they might not like. They were bought and sold specifically to work, they are unable to leave, and are forced to live under the constant threat and reality of violence. By any definition, they are slaves. Nor are native-born Americans immune from slavers; some sources, including the federal government, estimate in the hundreds of thousands the number of U.S. citizens – primarily children – stolen or enticed from the streets of their own cities and towns annually. Today, we call it human trafficking, but make no mistake: It is the slave trade.
In this presentation, we will familiarize the listener with the various types of slavery rampant in America; we will also point up some of the ways in which we as citizens can make ourselves more aware of the problem, and become more involved in its ultimate eradication.
Ron Soodalter is a writer, a passionate educator, and a respected historian. He holds a B.A. in American History from Boston University, an M.A. in Education from New York University, and an M.A. in American Folk Culture from the State University of New York. A lifelong student of American history, he has taught extensively, and has worked as curator of a history museum. Ron was retained as a consultant by the New York State Historical Association, and was named to the Board of Directors of the 10-state Mountain-Plains Museum Conference. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Institute. Soodalter recently saw the publication of his book, Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader (Atria), the non-fiction account of the only man in U.S. history to be executed for the crime of slave trading. He is also the co-author, with Free the Slaves president Kevin Bales, of The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (UC Press, 2009), and teaches classes and seminars to various age groups on the historic and modern-day slave trade. He has written articles for such magazines as Smithsonian, New York Archives, and Civil War Times, and is a featured columnist for America’s Civil War.
An Excerpt from Chapter 3, “Slaves
in the Pastures of Plenty,” in The
Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today, Kevin Bales
and Ron Soodalter (UC Press, 2009).
Fall Semester 2009
Sept. 18 Margin or Mainstream: Is Human Rights a
A discussion of how social movements have shaped human rights discourse
with Timothy Patrick McCarthy and Elliott Prasse-Freeman.
View Notes from
Sept. 25 On Gender and Justice: Can Feminism Go Global?
A discussion of the global implications of feminism with Kim
Gandy, Fall Institute of Politics Fellow and former president, National
Organization for Women.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Remarks to the UN 4th World Conference on Women,
Beijing, China, September 5, 1995:
Benazir Bhutto, Remarks to the UN 4th World Conference on Women, Beijing,
China, September 4, 1995:
Selection on the status of women (in relation to need for CEDAW treaty):
Millennium Project: Population
Millennium Project: Status of Women
Oct. 16 The Politics of Identity: Are Gay Rights
and Civil Rights Human Rights?
A discussion of the problem of coalition building in rights-based social
movements with Rev. Irene Monroe, activist, theologian,
and Huffington Post blogger.
"White Privilege Harms Struggle":
"Gay is Not the New Black":
"Race, Religion, and Proposition 8": http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2008/11/12/Race,_Religion,_and_Proposition_8/
"Proposition 8 is Not about Black Homophobia":
"This Era of Black Women and HIV/AIDS":
“Barack Obama: Our First Gay President?”
Timothy Patrick McCarthy, “Stonewall's Children: Life, Loss, and Love after
Liberation,” The 2009 Nicholas Papadopoulos Lecture, Harvard
Kennedy School; April 24, 2009.
View Notes from
Oct. 30 On Difference and Domination: Can Islamists
Have Human Rights?
A discussion of human rights in the Middle East with Sayres
Rudy, visiting professor, Hampshire College, and Malalai
Joya, Afghan Parliamentarian.
Nov. 13 Opiate of the Masses or Tool of
Liberation: What’s God Got to Do With It?
A discussion of the Accra Confession with Jonathan Page, Epps Fellow
and assistant chaplain, The Memorial Church, and Susan Abraham,
assistant professor, Harvard Divinity School.
Dec. 2 Suspending Indigenous Rights: Paternalism and Coercion
in Australia's 'Intervention' in Aboriginal Communities.
A special brown-bag lunch talk by Sarah Maddison, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean,
Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of South Wales.
Please Note Venue Change: This event has been moved.
New Location: Malkin Penthouse (Top Floor, Littauer Center).
Co-sponsored by The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Sarah Maddison, Ph.D., is an Australian author and Senior Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science at University of New South Wales. She is also acting Deputy Director of the Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Research Unit under the direction of Professor Patrick Dodson and Chair of the Board of The Australia Institute, an independent progressive think tank. She has published widely in the areas of young women and feminist activism, social movements, non-government organisations and democracy. Dr. Maddison’s research is primarily in the field of Australian social movements, including current research on the Indigenous rights movement and the women’s movement. Her books include Activist Wisdom (2006, with Sean Scalmer), Silencing Dissent (2007, co-edited with Clive Hamilton), and Collective Identity and Australian Feminist Activism (2008). She has also co-authored, with Emma Partridge, the gender and sexuality audit reports for the Democratic Audit of Australia (2007). Her most recent book, Black Politics, which explores the complexity of Aboriginal political culture, was published by Allen and Unwin early in 2009 and was recently awarded the Henry Mayer Trust Prize for the best book on Australian politics. Dr. Maddison received a 2009 Churchill Fellowship to study models of Indigenous representation in the United States and Canada in 2010.
Dec. 4 Disposable or Indispensable: Why Does Slavery
A discussion of modern-day slavery and human trafficking with Ben
Skinner and Siddharth Kara, Carr Center Fellows.