Summer 2020 Newsletter
There is no denying that the world has changed dramatically since our last newsletter in spring 2019. COVID-19 upended how we do international work. Our students, who were learning abroad, were abruptly brought home. Courses moved to remote delivery. Internships either vanished or went online. Faculty research abroad was disrupted or reconfigured. Visiting faculty returned early to their home countries. Conferences and lectures moved to Zoom. On May 15, we held a virtual graduation for departing global studies majors, again via Zoom.
Ten days later our community witnessed the appalling murder of George Floyd. His killing sparked protests in Minnesota and around the world, underscoring the connection between the global and the local that we have always emphasized in IGS. Many of our students participated in demonstrations calling for racial justice and for imagining a new mechanism for public safety and social wellbeing.
At the virtual graduation, I told our students that, when I think of them, the first word that comes to mind is “fierce.” They are persistent, adaptable, and willing to move beyond their own comfort zones. Above all, they are fierce about calling out injustice and looking for ways to make change in the world. They continue to exhibit these qualities as they have pushed hard to generate change in the month since spring semester ended.
In this they are supported by a remarkable faculty and staff. The articles in this newsletter illustrate the commitment to social justice as well as adaptability. Barbara Frey, as director of the Human Rights Program, has led the Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico. This cross-national collaboration has involved graduate and undergraduate students in creating a database of disappearances in Mexico. The goal is to document and analyze patterns of disappearances to provoke change in policy and to find remedy for the families of the disappeared.
Michael Goldman is exploring the impact of the IT revolution on both society and environment in Bangalore, India. His research focuses on the ways in which development in this sector has exacerbated inequalities, particularly through its impact on the environment. The creation of a global city has resulted in two very different urban realities in Bangalore.
The next article features outreach to secondary and post-secondary educators, organized by IGS outreach coordinator, Deborah Jane. Minnesota struggles with an achievement gap that is one of the worst in the nation, and Deborah invited educators to ask whether we could learn from cases outside of the US. Finland has had remarkable success in decreasing its achievement gap, and the University of Minnesota, particularly CLA, has deep ties to Finland. Deborah organized a workshop to examine lessons from Finland. Though original plans to travel to Finland were disrupted by coronavirus, the workshops continued remotely.
Finally, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, led by Prof. Alejandro Baer, has developed a project entitled Bridges of Memory. With the help of CHGS outreach coordinator, Joe Eggers, the center has supported research that engages diverse communities in exploring the ways in which communities that have suffered loss and trauma survive, memorialize, and educate. The importance of such work in our current climate cannot be overstated.
I will close by sharing with you the words of our colleague in IGS, Prof. Vinay Gidwani, who delivered remarks at the May 15 virtual graduation. While speaking about the pandemic, his words carry even greater weight after the events of the last month.
“[T]here is a wide and deep injustice to this moment. But while we can’t choose what life throws at us by way of injustices and indignities, we can endeavor and persevere and strive—for our well-being, for the well-being of family and friends, for the well-being of distant strangers, and of the biodiverse organisms that cohabit our human-dominated world. This crisis has exposed our society’s fault lines. But it has also given us the opportunity to ask what in our present world ought to be conserved and what should be scrutinized, transformed, or simply demolished.”
What do you do when a loved one mysteriously disappears and your government won’t investigate? What do you do when this happens over 61,000 times? This happened in Mexico, and Barbara Frey of IGS has developed a collaborative research program to raise visibility of this issue.
For a developing country, an IT revolution holds the promise of economic prosperity—but at a cost. For the past decade, Professor Michael Goldman has examined the revolution and its effects in Bangalore, India. He asks, “What is a sustainable city, and how do we strive for it?”
Deborah Jane, IGS outreach coordinator, is dedicated to closing the US educational achievement gap. She designed a study tour of Finland for US teachers to learn how Finland achieved one of the smallest gaps worldwide.
“I like the idea of exploring the history and the absence of those histories and memories of the place where you are,” says director of the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, Professor Alejandro Baer. He explores memory, restorative justice, and the human ability to overcome conflict through public remembrance.