Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

4th Annual Global Studies Symposium explores “Places, Peripheries”

Students, faculty and community members gathered in Maxey Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 25 for Whitman’s fourth annual Global Studies Symposium, a lecture event designed to promote discussion about globalization and global issues in the context of the liberal arts.

The symposium is held through the Global Studies Initiative, a Mellon Grant-funded project that for the past several years has encouraged faculty and students to think about topics in global studies and incorporate global themes into their academic work. The Global Studies Initiative provides full-semester seminars and summer workshops for faculty members, in which they read and discuss works by world-renowned thinkers on globalization and other pertinent topics. The primary goal is to strengthen global perspectives in existing courses and to develop new interdisciplinary courses on global topics.

Associate Professor of Politics Bruce Magnusson described the motivation behind starting the program.

“Globalization is changing the way we construct knowledge and the way we understand what’s happening in the world. How does it affect the liberal arts? How does it affect what we do as a college, or the way we organize ourselves into departments and majors?” he said.

Throughout the year the initiative primarily manifests itself in the form of faculty seminars and guest lecturers funded in part by the O’Donnell Endowment for Global Studies. The various parts of the initiative converge at the Global Studies Symposium, an event designed to bring together students, faculty and the general public in a discussion about global issues.

This year’s symposium was entitled “Places/Peripheries: Intersections of the Global and the Local.” Past themes have included “Torture” and “Contagion.” The event followed a similar format to its predecessors: Three guest speakers, renowned for their work on issues related to global studies, were invited to give a 20-minute lecture each based around the theme of the global and local. Each talk was followed by a brief response from a Whitman student.

This year’s invited speakers were Professor Simon Gikandi from Princeton University, Professor Himadeep Muppiddi from Vassar College and  Professor of Anthropology Carolyn Nordstrom from the University of Notre Dame. Their talks covered a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from refugee camps to self-immolation to botnets, but all attempted to illuminate the conflicts that arise in a fast-changing and increasingly globalized world.

“What does globalization mean in a world of mass displacement and rootlessness?” asked Gikandi in his talk entitled “Global Places and Fugitive Spaces: Refugees in the City.”

Muppiddi’s talk, “Who Dances the Region?”, discussed self-immolation protests in the Telangana region of India, while Nordstrom brought up the issue of individual power in a world where smartphones and personal computers are easily compromised.

The lectures and student responses were followed by commentary from Associate Professor of History Lynn Sharp and Associate Professor of French Nicole Simek and a question and answer session with the panel.

This year’s symposium saw increased attendance from last year, nearly filling Maxey Auditorium. Students and faculty alike seemed to find it successful.

“I think that it’s a really important dialogue to have, and fairly unique opportunity. We very rarely get the opportunity to have a public, interdisciplinary discussion about [these] issues,” said senior Hannah Johnson, who responded to Gikandi’s lecture as part of the student panel at the Symposium.

Assistant Professor of Art History Matt Reynolds, the symposium’s moderator, expressed his hope that student interest in the event will continue to grow.

“Globalization is continuing to expand and will continue to have a major impact on the lives of students, so we feel like these issues are pertinent and relevant to the lives of Whitman students. We feel like students can bring something to the conversation,” he said.

Sharp agreed with this notion.

“I hope it will increasingly become a thing that people want to go to, because it’s so exciting . . . It’s a chance that we don’t have very often, to bring people from outside and hear different opinions and have a little bit of a conversation,” she said. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

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