Tag Archives: politics

Border Walls and the Politics of Becoming Non-Human

“Border Walls and the Politics of Becoming Non-Human”

Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of the Zolberg Institute for Migration and Mobility at the New School.

Friday, April 21st
2:30 – 4:00 pm
Science Center Room 199
Swarthmore College (directions)

Abstract: “In this talk I am concerned by the ways in which border walls and zones come not simply to *defend* (i.e. certain territories), but to *define* — that is, to shape or alter categories of natural and human kinds. I will suggest that borders walls, and all the surrounding and auxiliary technologies they harness, work by shifting how we understand different kinds of beings, ultimately rendering certain kinds killable.”

Ticktin on border walls

Sponsored by the Departments of Sociology and  anthropology, Political Science, The Environmental Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies Programs, The Global Affairs Program at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, and the Center for Humanities at Temple University

Militant Buddhism, Nationalism, Ethnic Identity, and Politics in Sri Lanka

A Talk on Militant Buddhism, Nationalism, Ethnic Identity, and Politics in Sri Lanka

“The Politics and the Anti-politics of the Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka”

Tudor_SilvaA Talk by Tudor Silva
Senior Professor of Sociology
University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

4:30 Thursday October 30 2014
Bond Memorial Hall
Swarthmore College

Professor Silva’s talk will focus on a group of Colombo-based militant Buddhist monks the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), evolved in the aftermath of the military victory of the Government of Sri Lanka over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009. In the backdrop of the resulting Sinhala Buddhist nationalist triumph and the tendency of the ruling elite to by and large ignore minority concerns and demands, the BBS articulates a populist Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarian position vis-à-vis ethnic and religious minorities in the country, including certain Muslim and Christian groups who the BBS claims are all out to destabilize the “Sinhala-Buddhist nation.” The demographic clustering of ethnic minorities in urban Sri Lanka and their apparent economic domination and visible presence in trade and commerce as well as in the religious and cultural landscape have enabled BBS to target them in their various propaganda campaigns. The movement presents itself as free of and opposed to party politics in is effort to represent Sinhala-Buddhist interests but seeks to expose whatever it identifies as harmful to the cultural integrity and wellbeing the majority community. Employing a range of propaganda techniques including public rallies, mass media, face book and rumor, BBS has managed to influence a section of the Sinhala public, including youth, business lobbies and public sector employees, shaping their opinions, perceptions and sentiments. The mistrust so generated has been instrumental in some recent outbreaks of ethnic riots in small towns in the Western coastal belt in Sri Lanka.           While the BBS shares a lot with earlier Sinhala Buddhist campaigns, the direct involvement of militant Buddhist monks as cultural border guards publicly inclined to take the law into their own hands represents a new development in post-war Sri Lanka. The presentation will explore the implications of BBS for social harmony, multicultural heritage, ethnic reconciliation and political developments in the country.

Kalinga Tudor Silva is a Senior Professor of Sociology at University of Peradeniya. He has regularly served as a member of the Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (ISLE) Program teaching faculty in Sri Lanka for over twenty-five years. Professor Silva has published more than a dozen books and over fifty articles and book chapters. His research interests include ethnicity, caste, economic development, and social aspects of health. His latest book Decolonization, Development and Disease: A Social History of Malaria in Sri Lanka was published by Orient Blackswan in March 2014.

Troubled Political Transitions: A Perspective from Egypt

Ann Mosely Lesch ’66, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, American University in Cairo, will present the 2014 Islamic Studies Annual Lecture, “Troubled Political Transitions: A Perspective from Egypt”.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

4:30 pm,

Science Center Room 199

Swarthmore College

Three years ago, Egyptians rose up to remove Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt authoritarian regime. Since then, they have been on an emotional roller-coaster, from the excitement of participating in three elections, to rising anger during the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidency, and then taking back to the streets to remove that president.

Today, they face uncertainty as to whether presidential elections will strengthen democracy or entrench the security state. Given Egypt’s centrality in the Middle East, it is important to examine and assess its troubled transition.



Sponsored by the Islamic Studies Program, Arabic Section of Modern Languages & Literatures, Department of Political Science, and the Department of Sociology & Anthropology.

Egypt’s Constitutional Quagmires: Pursuing Reform in Precarious Times

From our friends in the Arabic Section and Islamic Studies:

“Egypt’s Constitutional Quagmires: Pursuing Reform in Precarious Times.”

Tamer Nagy Mahmoud

Monday, March 31 at 4:30PM

Science Center 101

Swarthmore College


In this talk Tamer Nagy Mahmoud will discuss Egypt’s present crisis from the perspective of constitutional law. Tamer spent much of the last few years advising on the drafting of the Egyptian constitution. His talk will give insight into important legal, social, cultural, and religious debates in Egyptian society that were deliberated in the process of writing the constitution.

Tamer Nagy Mahmoud is an attorney at the international law firm of White & Case LLP in Washington, DC, focused on international disputes, competition law, and investment funds. For the past two years, he was on secondment in Egypt with the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), where he was advising civil society on constitutional and legislative reforms during the democratic transi tion.

Mr. Mahmoud is also a founding member of Sheraa – The Independent Association for Legal Support in Egypt – and a member of the Egyptian-American Rule of Law Association, a group of Egyptian-American attorneys in the United States providing counsel in the rule of law field to the legal community in Egypt. His previous experiences in legal reform include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the American University of Washington.

Sponsored by the Arabic Section (Modern Languages) and Islamic Studies


Practicing Impolite Conversations: Talking About Race, Religion, Politics, and Everything Else

The final, culminating event of the Critical Examinations of “Community” series will be a lecture and public discussion led by the remarkable anthropologist John L. Jackson, Richard Perry Professor of Communication, Africana Studies and Anthropology; University of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday March 26, 2014 at 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Science Center 101

Swarthmore College (map)

JacksonA cultural anthropologist and documentary filmmaker, John L. Jackson, Jr. has published widely on race and class in the contemporary U.S. His recent books include: Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity and Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness.

Dr. Jackson is an excellent speaker and a skilled leader and moderator of open discussions. His visit is certain to impart ideas and inspiration for our own explorations and struggles to improve campus life for all at Swarthmore College.

We hope you will help spread the word and join us for this exciting event!


This program has been made possible with funding and administrative support from the Aydelotte Foundation for the Advancement of the Liberal Arts (formerly Institute for the Liberal Arts).

Wendy Chmielewski awarded honorable mention for historical research on women in politics

Dr. Wendy ChmielewskiDr. Wendy Chmielewski, a member of the Peace and Conflict Studies steering committee has been awarded a 2013 honorable mention award for the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics from Iowa State University for her ongoing project, Her Hat Was in the Ring:  U.S. Women Elected to Political Office Before 1920.

From all of us in the Peace and Conflict Studies program, congratulations Wendy!

Wendy Chmielewski awarded fellowship at Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History

chimielewski_wendy_110We are happy to announce that Dr. Wendy Chmielewski, Curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection and a member of the Peace and Conflict Studies steering committee, has been awarded a fellowship from the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History to conduct further research in support of the project: “Her Hat Was in the Ring:  U.S. Women Elected to Political Office Before 1920“.  Visit the project’s website.


  The project website states:

This web site identifies women candidates for elective office in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving biographical information for each woman, information about her campaign, party affiliation, photographs, and lists of selected resources. We estimate that women ran in well over 3,500 campaigns by 1920. Currently, our database contains biographical records for 2,579 women, who ran in 3,633campaigns.

Again, congratulations!

Michael Walzer on Politics, Justice, and Jewish Thought

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Q & A session at 4:15 pm, Kohlberg Scheuer Room

Lecture at 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Science Center 101

Michael WalzerMichael Walzer, emeritus professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey is one of the most renowned living political philosophers.

Walzer’s pioneering work on justice, communitarianism, just war theory, and Jewish political thought has illuminated a variety of intellectual landscapes for decades. Walzer has also been a co-editor of the democratic socialist journal “Dissent” for nearly half a century.

He is the author of dozens of books including “Spheres of Justice,” “Just and Unjust Wars,” “Exodus and Revolution,” and most recently “In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible.”

Michael Walzer will offer a Q & A session at 4:15 pm in Kohlberg Scheuer Room. The Q & A will center on questions offered by students who have been reading his work in their classes, but all interested members of the Swarthmore community are welcome to attend.

Sponsored by the Religion Department, Department of Political Science, Peace and Conflict Studies, Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.

Identity Formation in Nonviolent Struggle

book cover

Professor Smithey has contributed a chapter on “Identity Formation in Nonviolent Struggle” to a new book edited by Maciej BartkowskiRecovering Nonviolent History: Civil Resistance in Liberation Struggles. (Lynne Rienner Publishers)

Smithey’s chapter serves as a theoretical primer on the social movement literature on collective identities and the under-explored connections with strategic action.  Other chapters cover a range of global, and often forgotten, cases of nonviolent liberation struggles where national identities have played important roles.

As other chapters in this volume illustrate, nonviolent resistance has often played an important role in nationalist movements for independence. These cases offer important opportunities to study the power potentials of strategic nonviolent action, and the prominence of nationalism in them compels us to ask how identity and tactical choice influence one another. This chapter draws on the sociological study of social movements to theorize ways of thinking about relationships between the nonviolent tactics that many nationalist movements have employed in conflict and their collective national identities. The relationships are probably much closer and more important than either sociologists or scholars of nonviolent resistance have realized. Identities can be publicly displayed for strategic ends. Tactical repertoires, including nonviolent ones, reflect collective identities or resisters’ cultural predispositions. Conversely, choosing certain tactics can influence the construction of collective identities as people adapt their national identity to incorporate new tactical rationales and justifications.

Here is the book description:

This unique book brings to light the little-known, but powerful roles that civil resistance has played in national liberation struggles throughout history. Ranging from the American Revolution to Kosovo in the 1990s, from Egypt under colonial rule to present-day West Papua and Palestine, the authors of Recovering Nonviolent History consider several key questions: What kinds of civilian-based nonviolent strategy and tactics have been used in liberation struggles? What accounts for their successes and failures? Not least, how did nonviolent resistance influence national identities and socioeconomic and political institutions both prior to and after liberation, and why has this history been so often ignored? The story that emerges is a compelling one of the agency of thousands and even millions of ordinary people as they used nonviolent force in the course of struggles against foreign subjugation.

For those interested in exploring the intersection of nationalism and nonviolence further, you might be interested in exploring Manfred Steger’s book, Gandhi’s Dilemma: Nonviolent Principles and Nationalist Power in which Steger examines the tension between Gandhi’s deployment of Indian nationalism and his universal philosophy of nonviolence.