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Thursday, April 24, 2008

War and Its Discontents: Khoury Understands Iraq

War And Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq And The U.S. Empire

At the second plenary session of the conference, Dina Rizk Khoury delivered a passionate and inspiring presentation on Iraq. She detailed her extensive research and oral histories collected in refugee communities among the two million women, men and children who are living in exile. Khoury framed her remarks in the context of thirty years of war. She used Iraqi voices to tell the story of how tribalism and sectarianism were fabricated over the last two decades. Her interviews revealed that lost memories surfaced and were invented as the disintegration of the Baathist movement and the Iraqi State after the Gulf War, associated with bombing and destruction in the 1990’s sewed the seeds of social and economic fragmentation. Following the invasion and occupation, traditional pre-modern social networks used by Saddam to hold onto power emerged. They were enabled and aided by Paul Bremer’s imposition of neo-liberalism associated with massive unemployment. Most importantly, Khoury concluded that on-going occupation was likely to intensify efforts by local warlords and paramilitary forces to secure and expand power. Her conclusion was that the pathway to end the war was in the hands of Iraqis and that immediate removal of foreign military forces was necessary but not sufficient. Khoury stressed the need for consideration of international action and reparations by those who bombed Iraq throughout the 1990’s, invaded, occupied and destroyed after 2003. She called for monitoring of sanctions and economic warfare against Syria and Iran, which threaten to expand the conflict and will be especially burdensome for Iraqi refugees, already living precarious and fragile lives.

David R. Applebaum
HAW Conference Committee


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Atlanta Closing Plenary - Follow-Up

Here are the notes from the Closing Plenary--sorry so late!
These contain some follow-up suggestions that are FANTASTIC, so I hope this adds to the discussion.

Note: There were approximately 30 at the Closing Plenary. We broke into 4 groups at the Closing Plenary on Sunday. Each group discussed for 20 minutes, approximately, their reactions to the conference, ideas for future conferences, and where they thought HAW should next be putting its energies. Here are the lists they came up with. Where there was overlap, I tried to indicate the popularity without redundancy.

Group 1:

Conference suggestions: Great conference! Some suggestions:
--Advertise the list of workshops the first night, to the LARGEST crowd, & invite folks back
--Too many talks at once (this was a frequent comment)
--Raise the fee (in order to be able to do more)
--Subcategories may help (i.e. use sub-fields within History to organize the talks so that people don't miss talks they will most likely be interested in)
--Non-white representation lacking; need for better organizing on this score
--Some feeling that having the conference closer to or in the hotel would have been good

HAW suggestions:
--Textbook reviews (by committee)
--Economists: more are needed
--Media Education Section/Committee--we need one to develop things like YouTube videos, audiorecordings of lectures, making use of web/tech that will make us more accessible
--Teacher training and introduction to the field: make sure that teachers of history get this training in peace studies on the *ground level*, as they are preparing to teach
--Protecting academic freedom/tenure fights
--Regional conferences: we should have some
--Encouraging professors on campuses to hold speak-outs, organize & help organize students in political actions & groups--this has not been done enough by the professoriate

Group 2:
--Mixing of academic & non-academic speakers at the plenaries would have been good (Klein/Fletcher were both non-academic, for instance; perhaps pair an academic with a non-academic each time)
--Collaboration with other groups: having HAW sessions at other professional conferences
--Inviting speaker from the "right" in order to expand the dialogue (acknowledging that some may oppose the war for other reasons, as some conservative think-tankers do)
--Follow-up on conference by talking to others: everyone should be encouraged to take the ideas and tools from the conference back to their institutions and "spread the word," expand/continue the discussion

Group 3:
--Longer-term vision for HAW's anti-war/imperialist education is important; we should develop a long-term plan for expanding this area of our work, into high schools for instance
--Electronic/media development (similar to Group 1's suggestion above): use YouTube, FaceBook, audio, wikipedia, whatever else is out there to
--contextualize the war in Iraq: get out more historical analysis grounded in understanding of the region that makes people realize that 9/11 did NOT come "out of the blue," that there IS a history of US imperialist involvement in the region--counter the journalistic approaches that have been emphasizing the "uniqueness" of the war
--discuss/expand materials (media) available for teaching & outreach/education efforts
--Networking with schools, organizations:
-increase awareness of HAW's existence
-partner to develop material (e.g. a Mark Twain pamphlet, curricula that are *accessible* and *usable* by teachers in HS and other settings--accessibility should be emphasized, instead of raw informational content--more work on actual lesson plans, for instance, and less summarizing of notes, etc.)
--encourage members to become advisors on campus to campus groups, political and other
--develop materials for workshops: e.g. the "1968" session ideas, and the cards and talking-points, and timelines, developed for Ian's and his grad students' session; put these on-line

Group 4:

Organizational Identity:
--Name: Historians vs THE War? Historians against War? revisit for accuracy/PR reasons
--particular critical perspective as historians? or we just happen to be historians who are activists against the war? (this was a suggestion for a discussion, but it was also recognized by everyone that we intend the FIRST, so it turned into a somewhat more rhetorical point: how are we living up to this intention?)

--tapping more into youth, 6-12 teachers
--building bridges between schools/colleges
--larger numbers--people of color--development of membership is necessary; there are many historians who oppose the Iraq war who are not members of HAW: why?
--wikipedia.org entry--expand?

Educational Outreach:
--teach-in kit (develop one that is always available for long-term use)
--YouTube videos, cartoons, mini-documentaries
--Committee should be formed to respond quickly/immediately to new events with editorials that are sent to major newspapers and outlets, press releases, etc.

Group 5:

--Collaboration with HS teachers (this was a general comment by almost all groups)
--lesson plans: see above, Group 3
--larger context materials: see above
--organize workshops/groups with different titles, to help HS teachers (there are sometimes funding/organizational laws for public school teachers that prevent them from getting funding or support to attend a conference that offers a political slant; we could help them out by making the title more neutral-sounding)

--Student activism: help with organizing (a general comment)
--At end of conferences, have a DEMO/RALLY/MARCH Event, to get everyone actually into the streets, and let the city in which we're meeting know that we're here! (Atlanta was unaware, for the most part, that we were holding a conference there!)

Public Activism & Exposure:
--clear goals: develop Talking Points (who we are, what we do, etc.) so that members can represent HAW in public more easily
--Forum: basic points of war, primer info on Iraq war; we should make developing a basic primer a priority, and distribute it with suggestions for holding forums/outreach gatherings on campuses & beyond; teach-in materials, essentially
--Help starting caucuses, discussion groups regionally/locally


--Help with caucuses would be good; archivists are interested in starting a list for becoming a support/subsidiary HAW "branch" of specialists; this type of "branching" could be a useful organizing strategy for sub-fields of History
--Organized materials for teaching curriculum; it's not that there aren't some materials on-line (although there could be more) on the website, but that our collection isn't organized for use; we should do that; use the Rethinking Schools model, for instance
--Develop our membership! International effort welcome, but also within US
--Is our definition of membership artificially confining? (non-"historians," "friends of historians," etc. might be mentioned in our statement a little more prominently--this was brought up by a non-historian who is a very strong supporter of the organization, helper with the conference, etc., but who doesn't feel comfortable (yet) joining the group as a member or claiming to be a member; wording such as "led by historians" or a redefinition of "historian" to make it more all-encompassing ("everyone is a historian... ") might help
--Platform hearings: Democrats--contact them, try to give input from HAW, make sure it comes up when the platform hearings commence


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Second Haw Conference

The Second Haw Conference: "War and its Discontents: Understanding Iraq and the U.S. Empire" took place at Georgia State University, in Atlanta, Georgia from April 11-13, 2008. (For photos and video of the program see www.historiansagainstwar.org/hawconf. The site also contains a complete list of the
program, speakers, and subjects of the talks. The list of sessions includes links to papers by a number of the panelists, who made them available for posting.

The event began Friday night with two excellent presentations, the first by Bill Fletcher Jr. and the second by Naomi Klein. Bill Fletcher is the executive editor of the Black Commentator, co-founder of the Black Radical Congress and the Center for Labor Renewal, and a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies. Naomi
Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Between three and four hundred people attended the program and listened attentively and enthusiastically to the presentations then asked good questions during the question and answer session that followed.

A high-spirited plenary on Saturday morning provided a welcome to the Atlanta area. Talks by Diane Mathiowetz of the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition and John Zientowski of the local Veterans for Peace chapter were augmented with appearances by folk singer Witt Wisebram and poet Alice Lovelace, whose powerful spoken word performance closed the session.

On Saturday there were three panel sessions, each of which had between five and six panels and multiple presenters. The sessions, together with another set of panel sessions on Sunday morning, were notable for the diversity of participants. Forty-six different colleges and universities were represented among the panelists,
who also included a number of non-academic activists. Several graduate students gave talks that were very well received. The sessions were also notable for the extent to which panelists and audience were mutually engaged, with an atmosphere of sharing and cooperation.

Saturday's program ended with a plenary, which began by very moving tributes to Alan
Dawley delivered by HAW steering committee members David Applebaum and Beth McKillen. Following that, Magnus Bernhardsson introducted Zachary Lockman of New York University, who spoke on "The United States in the Middle East: Continuities and Discontinuities," and Dina Rizk Khoury, of George Washington University, who spoke on "The Cost of War in Iraq: Sects, Tribes, and Refugees." Their highly informative and interesting presentations also generated questions and comments.

Sunday there were four morning panels and a concluding plenary that discussed "What Can and Should Historians be Doing to End the War?"

In a word, the conference was great. In a few more words, it was engaging, stimulating, educational, and productive. I, for one, came away from it having learned a lot, feeling more energized, and glad that HAW exists to educate, stimulate, and organize historians and activists.

Margaret Power
Associate Professor
Department of Humanities
Illinois Institute of Technology
3301 S. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60616


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Roundtable: “Teaching about Empire and War in World History Survey Courses”

Notes from another HAW conference panel:

David Applebaum (Rowan University) began the discussion at this roundtable with his explanation of how he teaches the world survey through the lens of 4 empires (Spanish, British, Dutch, United States) with one book for each empire. He is looking for a good book to use on the US empire. He begins European voices and ends with global voices. The 3 books he uses are:
1. Spanish: Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World.
2. British: Robinson Crusoe (Norton critical edition that includes good framing of the novel).
3. Dutch: Pramoedya Ananta Toer, This Earth of Mankind.
He looks for primary sources that show transformation and agency.

Carrie Hoefferle (Wingate University) brought a handout that shows how she conducts a critical analysis of primary sources. She approaches the survey with the idea that was is not inevitable.

Michael Kimaid (Firelands College of Bowling Green State University) emphasized that he teaches agency, and activism. He uses a quote from Thomas Jefferson that history enables us to understand the designs of men to get students to take history out from behind the glass and use it. He wants students to think for themselves, that this becomes empowering. He develops 4 themes in the survey:
1. Acceleration of technological developments.
2. National identities.
3. Articulation of democracy theory.
4. Economic liberalization.
He examines these 4 themes through the lens of empire and war, and trade and sovereignty. He stresses that capitalism demands empire, that it commodifies everything. He students leave pretty freaked out.

Christine Skwiot (Georgia State University) like to use James Gump, The Dust Rose Like Smoke that compares Zulu and Sioux wars. An old way of looking at the world was the US vs. the World, us vs. them. Now the emphasis is on a transnational view of the US, but there is a danger of placing the US at the center. It is important to recognize that the US is only one empire of many, and is not unique. All empires present themselves as exceptional, as civilizing forces. A comparative perspective is important to highlight these aspects. She also examines issues of indigeneity, thinking about the Zulu as Indigenous inhabitants of Africa.

Dennise M. Turner (Georgia State University) brings a perspective of the racial inequality in the French colonial empire into her teaching of the world survey. How do we introduce class, race, and gender into a global context? She uses Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth (use the new edition with the introduction by Homi Bhabha) to examine reciprocal relations between empire and the colonized, and Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism to examine African unity in fighting for independence. Revolution is necessary by workers and peasants. She emphasizes that students can affect changes, can challenge the system. We need to decolonize our own minds and societies. What does this mean? Part of this is connecting Fanon and Césaire to Iraq, and to see how this is a continuation of western imperialism.

Carrie Whitney (Georgia State University) uses empire as a theme to tie world history together. She uses Linday Colley’s Captives to show how the British empire was fragile, not powerful. There is no natural divide between Christians and Muslims, but rather than share similar interests and often work together. Robert Marks’ Origins of the Modern World examines US involvement in the Middle East. This is not ancient, but part of imperial interests linked to oil. Imperial projects are still going strong. Empires have complex and versatile natures, and we need to recognize its many forms.

We then had a wide-ranging discussion of pedagogy and how to engage issues of empire. Michael talked about how technology can be either liberating or an agent of oppression. He also talked about reading maps as a text, as tools of resistance. We think of maps as objective, but they are subjective and reflect values. Often places of resistance (pirates, maroons) take place off maps. David raised questions of how to nurture agency, and what we can do outside the classroom to foster this. Mara Dodge talked about how she introduces students to perspectives that they rarely hear, but that they need to find their own voices and ideas. We also talked about films like Black Robe and La Otra Conquista as media that examines the history of colonization. We made a distinction between education and training, that the importance of education is thinking for ourselves. We need to let the students think, rather than telling them what to think. J.M. Blout’s The Colonizer’s Model of the World looks at a world-wide crisis in feudal society. He sees a great divergence in the late 18th century. We also need to look at the relationship between gender, religion, and patriarchy, and how these are historically and socially constructed concepts. If patriarchy has a beginning, it also has an end. Theodore William Allen’s Invention of the White Race is an important treatment. A summary of it is on the Cultural Logic website at eserver.org/clogic.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Roundtable: “Beyond David Horowitz: Perspectives on Academic Freedom in the 21st Century”

More random notes from conference:

David Beito (University of Alabama): comes from different perspective than most here: from libertarian perspective. If one good thing comes out of this war it is an increased discussion across divides, and we’ll need that to stop another war. Issue of speech codes and Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights: mostly concern of conservatives, chilling academic freedom and discussions. Discomfort, because we need to work with people we don’t like and don’t agree with. Horowitz tries to divide these issues, and we will be more successful if we can link them.

Matthew Bokovoy (University of Nebraska Press): How scholarly publishing has been affected by issues of academic freedom. Problem of system of soft reviews can open up an author and publisher to pressure. A good press will have a broader array of ideological perspectives. Importance of keeping that open and balanced in order to avoid images of ideological distortion. Limited markets and profit motive can limit publication horizons, even tho it may review well. Political pressures from donors, etc. 3 layers designed to keep a clean process: peer review, internal review, and ? Several recent high-profile cases of tenure review cases, and example of Ward Churchill–detractors more easily made case against him because he published at a small publisher (City Lights Press) that perhaps was not careful enough with peer review process.

Deirdre McDonald (University of Texas-Pan American): role of libraries in academic freedom debates. Libraries are the biggest allies in these fights. Issues of control and access come up daily in our work. Major ethical question is protection of privacy: that you can look at material without fear of exposure, that people can look at material privately. Librarians face same internal pressure as rest of university: budget cuts, tenure. But since 9/11 new external concerns: government laws (esp. USA Patriot Act), and changes in faculty attitudes. USA Patriot Act is particularly bad because it violates library ethics of privacy. Due to gag order, we don’t know if this happens or how common it is. Informal surveys say 5-10% of libraries have been searched. Librarians look for ways that they can inform public about this with things like signs that say that the FBI has not been here this week, watch for the removal of this sign. Also issues of outright censorship. Oct 2002 told to remove Gov’t printing office geological survey CD-ROM. This only happens when an issue of misprint, but in this case it was destroyed. In another case of 5 publications was able to keep it. EPA libraries closing (defunded), saying that information will be online–but it is not, and no librarians to help find information. Closures, censorship, and Patriot Act are most important concerns. Another issue is how business models change how librarians are run. Libraries are anti-business, anti-capitalist. Can’t make profit, we give things away. We don’t follow a business model. But if everything has to turn profit, we cannot do that. With business model comes idea of student as consumer. Leads to drop in demand: pay for grade, rather than work harder. Problem of electronic information going through IT who do not have same security concerns, and are willing to give any info to gov’t. So, now can only assure that if you look at a print book and do not check it out your privacy can be secured. With technological changes with social networking sites, students are no longer concerned about giving info away.

Larry Gerber (Auburn University): historian against war, but here as spokesperson for AAUP. How do we protect academic freedom? Main idea of tenure is to protect academic freedom. More than 1 million instructional faculty in US, but only 1/3 are tenured or tenure-track. We need to prevent erosion and to build protection back. Faculty governance is important to maintain freedom. Threats come from 2 places: external (McCarthy, etc.). Importance that faculty should be in control of their affairs because of their expertise on the subject. Faculty can violate the rights of other faculty, but it is better for us to be in control. 2: corporatization of university, often from administrators and board of governors. So, faculty control is key academic freedom.

Discussion: Horowitz presents universities as leftwing, but tend to be deeply conservative parts of establishment. Focus on cultural issues, but little attention to structural concerns. David: pragmatic liberalism. Term limits for administrators, so that faculty keep focus on academic freedom. Most willing to cave in on academic freedom is from administrators who are most distant from education. Related to explosive growth of administrative positions.

Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University, Chair): These are not easy issues. Where do we take these concerns? We have a lot of education to do, because our fellow academics often don’t understand what is going on (as in the libraries). Those of you who don’t belong to AAUP should join. For all of its problems and issues, it is the main organization dedicated to academic freedom. So, go to http://www.aaup.org and join!


Roundtable: “Teaching about U.S. Intervention in a Time of War: Lessons from Latin American History

Here are some random notes from the Roundtable: "Teaching about U.S. Intervention in a Time of War: Lessons from Latin American History" from the Historians Against the War National Conference, "War And Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq And The U.S. Empire."

Margaret Power (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chair): danger of simplistic parallels btwn LA & ME–of transposing from one diverse region to another, but still need to draw connections. Importance of introducing concept of solidarity.

Anore Horton (Guilford College): Framed LA survey as teaching what liberalism is, and how the history & ideology of liberalism helps interpret US intervention in LA–not just military, but also economic links. Student resistance to economic concepts & political theory, but it helps link histories of independence struggles. Liberalism has political and economic aspects. Eg: link individualism and freedom. Trace history of liberalism and resistance to it, leading to neo-liberalism. Resistance at beginning of semester, but transformed by the end. More complex understanding of roles of US.

Ian Lekus (Tufts University): How queer teaching has evolved. History of study abroad in Costa Rica as place to understand role of US in world. Thinking about how experiences shape policies. Interests are not self-evident, but shaped and formed for specific purposes. Need to meet students where they are, not where we want them to be. Link study abroad to broader political critiques, and to show how Latin American becomes, as Greg Grandin says, empire’s workshop.

Enrique Ochoa (California State University, Los Angeles): Playing off of Grandin, the classroom is also a workshop of empire. Mostly Latino students. Nicaraguan father, keen awareness of imperialism. Latin America imperial concept, comes out of Napoleon in 1850s trying to control Mexico. Issues of erasure and homogenization. Pressing boundaries of what Latin America means. Create ideas of rethinking and remembering histories. Make macro & micro connections in classroom. How are connections made? What Juan Gonzales calls harvest of empire. Cultural influences and imports. Classroom as space of colonization, reinforces models. Try to break down and through this. Challenge the spaces in which we operate so as not to reproduce what we critique.

Ginger Williams (Winthrop University): Personal story of driving to work on September 11, 2001 thinking about calling Juan Allende, Salvador Allende’s nephew to say thinking about the anniversary of the coup there. Hard year–felt stifled. As war dragged on, administrative statements made talking about torture in class easier. Brought in torture survivors from Latin America to class who experienced same things that were happening in Abu Ghraib in news. Opened up spaces to talk about these issues. Makes talking about these issues easier, and we know we were doing these things in LA long before it became news in ME. Becomes involved in service learning as great way to expose students to these issues, esp. since lost license to take study abroad trips to Cuba.

Following these initial presentations a lively discussion followed on issues of pedagogy and empowerment. You really had to be there.