Category Archives: International

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A New Era? The Outlook for U.S.-Cuba Academic Relations

A new era in U.S.-Cuba relations was ushered in on December 17th when the presidents of both countries announced they were prepared to end nearly six decades of estrangement. I had nearly lost hope that in my lifetime there would be a rapprochement between my adopted nation and the island where I was born and which I left 55 years ago with my parents.

I have made the study of my homeland my academic career, so I could not be more thrilled about the prospect of a normalization of relations. I als…

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New Rankings Paint a False Picture of Arab Universities

Even people who complain that university rankings do not provide very useful information are still inclined to look at them.

On many levels, rankings appear valid: Princeton (ranked first by U.S. News & World Report, seventh by Times Higher Education) is really good; Rutgers (ranked 70th and 144th, respectively) is just plain good.

Recently, however, two university rankers decided to venture into new territory by ranking universities in the Middle East. U.S. News released its list of Best Arab R…

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Professor Non Grata: Andrew Ross on Collusion and Delusion

Across the board, faculty have been skeptical of their college administrators’ enthusiasm to build campuses in illiberal societies, like China and the Gulf states. What agreements have been made to smooth the way? How much money is changing hands as part of the deal? Who will oversee the curriculum design? And, above all, who can guarantee that basic protections for academic freedom will be honored in countries where dissenters are locked up, physically abused, and deported on a regular basis?

T…

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Why Did UMass Ban Iranian Students From Some Graduate Programs?

After a week of outrage over their decision to ban Iranian students from certain graduate science programs, officials at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst backed down on Wednesday, stating that they had “always believed” the ban conflicted with their institutional values. In the future, the university announced, the admission of Iranians would be handled on a case-by-case basis, rather than simply being prohibited outright.

The reversal represented a triumph for those who had mobilized …

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A Literary Scramble for Africa

Hiring: an annual ritual at the MLA. This year the Yale English department advertised a position in the 20th and 21st centuries. What we were really looking for, though, was something much more specific: Anglophone world literature. Already we had hired a senior Africanist, so Africa was not a high priority for us; we were looking for (and were sure we would be inundated with) work on South Asia and the Caribbean—the admittedly great but hardly eyebrow-raising trinity of Salman Rushdie, Derek …

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‘Charlie Hebdo,’ Houellebecq, and France’s Pungent Satirical Tradition

Accompanying many of the appalling accounts of Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo is a reproduction of the satirical weekly’s cover. It features a caricature of the writer Michel Houellebecq, garbed in a blue wizard’s outfit, face unshaven, jowls sagging and eyes bleary (no doubt from one glass de trop), smoke spiraling from a cigarette wedged between his fingers. No doubt in a slurred voice, France’s best-selling novelist, whose new book Soumission (Submission) went on sale th…

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Eric Posner Has a Narrow Understanding of Human-Rights Clinics

In a recent article in The Chronicle Review (“The Human-Rights Charade”), Eric A. Posner claims that international human-rights-law clinics (IHR clinics) and programs have no pedagogical value and do nothing more than engage in “left-wing” political activism. I write this response particularly for readers who are not aware of the landscape of views on human rights in the legal academy. Posner’s thoughts on IHR clinics and programs are nothing more than an extension of his narrow view a…

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A Tale of Two Green Lines

Efforts by academic groups to impose boycotts and other kinds of punitive measures on Israeli universities have gotten considerable attention lately. However, an opposite phenomenon has escaped notice: the widespread participation by mainstream universities in programs and collaborations with institutions located in occupied territories.

This may surprise those who recall that Israel’s establishment of Ariel University in the West Bank drew earnest condemnation from academics and even foreign …

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Should We Be Optimists or Pessimists on China?

Hong Kong

On September 29, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters shut down Hong Kong’s business hub. (Photo from bluuepanda, via Flickr Creative Commons)

 

For those of us who value intellectual and political freedom, what could be more heartening than the sight of thousands of students and other “umbrella” protesters in Hong Kong defying Communist authorities and asserting democratic ideals? Meanwhile, on the mainland, what could be more dismaying than China’s sentencing of the Uighur economics …

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War, With Popcorn

hotchkiss photo

Israelis look for outgoing rocket fire in Sderot, Israel. (Andrew Burton, Getty Images)

Over the past week, some of the most widely circulated photos from the Middle East have not been of corpses or leveled buildings, but of Israeli civilians gathering to watch the bombardment of Gaza outside of Sderot, a city in the western Negev that has itself repeatedly been targeted by rockets since 2001. The Danish reporter Nikolaj Krak described the scene as “something that most closely resembles the fr…