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Book at Lunchtime: The Political Life of an Epidemic – Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 8:23pm in

TORCH Book at Lunchtime webinar on The Political Life of an Epidemic – Cholera, Crisis and Citizenship in Zimbabwe written by Professor Simukai Chigudu. About the book:
Zimbabwe's catastrophic cholera outbreak of 2008–9 saw an unprecedented number of people affected, with 100,000 cases and nearly 5,000 deaths. Cholera, however, was much more than a public health crisis: it represented the nadir of the country's deepening political and economic crisis of 2008. This study focuses on the political life of the cholera epidemic, tracing the historical origins of the outbreak, examining the social pattern of its unfolding and impact, analysing the institutional and communal responses to the disease, and marking the effects of its aftermath.
Across different social and institutional settings, competing interpretations and experiences of the cholera epidemic created charged social and political debates. In his examination of these debates which surrounded the breakdown of Zimbabwe's public health infrastructure and failing bureaucratic order, the scope and limitations of disaster relief, and the country's profound levels of livelihood poverty and social inequality, Simukai Chigudu reveals how this epidemic of a preventable disease had profound implications for political institutions and citizenship in Zimbabwe.
Panel includes:
Professor Simukai Chigudu is an Associate Professor of African Politics at Oxford and a Fellow of St Antony's College. Prior to academia, he was a medical doctor in the National Health Service where he worked for three years. He is principally interested in the social politics of inequality in Africa, which he examines using disease, public health, violence, and social suffering as organising frameworks. He has conducted research in Zimbabwe, Uganda, The Gambia, Tanzania and South Africa.
Professor Sloan Mahone is an Associate Professor of the History of Medicine at Oxford University. She specialises in the history of psychiatry and neurology in Africa as well as the history of medicine and psychiatry globally. Her current research projects, funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and Oxford's James Martin School, involve the implementation of oral history programmes on epilepsy in Africa and in resource poor settings globally. She is a member of Oxford's Epilepsy Research Group. Professor Mahone has also worked extensively in historical research and community development in Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo), South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zanzibar.

Doctor Jon Schubert is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at Brunel University. He is a political and economic anthropologist working on state institutions, infrastructures, and transnational trade in Angola and Mozambique. He is the author of Working the System: A Political Ethnography of the New Angola and has previously held postdoctoral research positions at the universities of Leipzig and Geneva.

Live Event: The World After CoVid

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 12:28am in

TORCH Goes Digital! presents a series of weekly live events Big Tent - Live Events! Humanities and Policy Week Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. The World After COVID: In conversation with Professor Peter Frankopan (Stavros Niarchos Foundation Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research) and Professor Ngaire Woods (Dean of Blavatnik School of Government).

Professor Peter Frankopan

Peter Frankopan is Professor of Global History, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, and Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College.

Peter works on the history of the Mediterranean, Russia, the Middle East, Persia, Central and Southern Asia, and on relations between Christianity and Islam. He is particularly interested in exchanges and connections between regions and peoples. Peter specialises in the history of the Byzantine Empire in the 11th Century, and in the history of Asia Minor, Russia and the Balkans. Peter works on medieval Greek literature and rhetoric, and on diplomatic and cultrual exchange between Constantinople and the islamic world, western Europe and the principalities of southern Russia.

Professor Ngaire Woods

Professor Ngaire Woods is the founding Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government and Professor of Global Economic Governance at Oxford University. Her research focuses on how to enhance the governance of organizations, the challenges of globalization, global development, and the role of international institutions and global economic governance. She founded the Global Economic Governance Programme at Oxford University, and co-founded (with Robert O. Keohane) the Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellowship programme. She led the creation of the Blavatnik School of Government.

Ngaire Woods serves as a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s International Advisory Panel, and on the Boards of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the Stephen A. Schwarzman Education Foundation. She is an Independent Non-Executive Director at Rio Tinto (effective September 2020). She sits on the advisory boards of the Centre for Global Development, the African Leadership Institute, the School of Management and Public Policy at Tsinghua University, and the Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy at Cape Town University. She is Chair of the Harvard University Visiting Committee on International Engagement and sits on the Harvard Kennedy School Visiting Committee. She is a member of the UK Government National Leadership Centre's Expert Advisory Panel, and of the Department for International Trade’s Trade and Economy Panel. She is an honorary governor of the Ditchley Foundation.

Previously, she served as a Non-Executive Director on the Arup Global Group Board and on the Board of the Center for International Governance Innovation. From 2016-2018, she was Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Values, Technology and Governance.She has also served as a member of the IMF European Regional Advisory Group, and as an Advisor to the IMF Board, to the Government of Oman’s Vision 2040, to the African Development Bank, to the UNDP’s Human Development Report, and to the Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Ngaire Woods has published extensively on international institutions, the global economy, globalization, and governance, including the following books: The Politics of Global Regulation (with Walter Mattli, Oxford University Press, 2009), Networks of Influence? Developing Countries in a Networked Global Order (with Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, Oxford University Press, 2009), The Globalizers: the IMF, the World Bank and their Borrowers (Cornell University Press, 2006), Exporting Good Governance: Temptations and Challenges in Canada’s Aid Program (with Jennifer Welsh, Laurier University Press, 2007), and Making Self-Regulation Effective in Developing Countries (with Dana Brown, Oxford University Press, 2007). She has previously published The Political Economy of Globalization (Macmillan, 2000), Inequality, Globalization and World Politics (with Andrew Hurrell: Oxford University Press, 1999), Explaining International Relations since 1945 (Oxford University Press, 1986). She has published numerous articles on international institutions, globalization, and governance. She has also presented numerous documentaries for BBC Radio 4 and BBC TV2.

She was educated at Auckland University (BA in economics, LLB Hons in law). She studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a New Zealand Rhodes Scholar, completing an MPhil (with Distinction) and then DPhil (in 1992) in International Relations. She won a Junior Research Fellowship at New College, Oxford (1990-1992) and subsequently taught at Harvard University (Government Department) before taking up her Fellowship at University College, Oxford and academic roles at Oxford University.

Ngaire Woods was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2018 New Year's Honours for services to Higher Education and Public Policy. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Six Reasons Why Shinzo Abe Could Make Another Comeback

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/09/2020 - 10:27pm in

Japan handles political transitions with enviable speed and lack of drama.

On August 28th, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shocked the country by announcing his resignation on health grounds. Less than three weeks later, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was appointed prime minister, having comfortably bested two other candidates in an internal party election.

According to Sophia University Professor Koji Nakano, what we are getting is the Abe government without Abe. Certainly, Suga’s cabinet closely resembles the one that preceded it, with the key figure of Finance Minister Taro Aso, who held the office all through the Abe years, retaining his position.

The unassuming Suga is in some ways an unusual choice as leader. He was a cabinet minister for just one year, back in 2007, and has no faction of his own to support him. However, his experience as Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2012 to 2020 – effectively, being Abe’s right-hand man and point of liaison with the bureaucracy – made him the ideal continuity candidate. And continuity is what Japan needs as it recovers from the economic damage of the corona crisis.


Abe resigned because of a recurrence of the illness that ended his first spell in office, which lasted a mere twelve months in 2007. He returned in late 2012, with much improved health and much improved policies. If his medical issues were to clear up, as they did before, could he return for a third term?

There are at least six reasons why that could happen.

First, Abe may be the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history, but he is six years younger than Suga and fifteen years younger than Taro Aso, as well as being nine years younger than US President Donald Trump and twelve years younger than Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden. Time is still on his side.

The second reason is the unprecedented surge in popularity for the outgoing Abe cabinet. In the summer, support for Abe sagged as the coronavirus crisis dragged on. Strangely to European or American eyes, the public seemed highly critical of the  government’s anti-virus strategy, even though the total fatality count of 1,470 barely exceeds the number of deaths caused by people choking on mochi (sticky rice cake) each year.

However, when faced with the reality of a premature end to the Abe era, public opinion executed a rapid U-turn. In early September, the outgoing Abe cabinet saw an unprecedented leap in support – from 35% to 62%, according to a JNN poll – in a single month. In line with that positive take on Abe’s overall achievements, the public switched to a strong preference for “Mr. Continuity” Suga over rival candidate Shigeru Ishiba, who had positioned himself as the “anti-Abenomics” candidate.

Third, Suga has little grounding in foreign / security policy, and there is nobody else in the cabinet that could reproduce Abe’s hyper-active personal diplomacy. Leaving such crucial matters in the hands of the foreign ministry would almost certainly achieve nothing.  In the event that  Donald Trump wins re-election in November, Japan would miss Abe’s “Trump-whispering” skills which helped Japan to avert the harsh treatment meted out to South Korea.

Fourth, Abe, though not a natural extrovert, stamped his presence on the world’s consciousness, thereby helping to raise Japan’s profile. It is hard to imagine Suga speaking at Davos, ringing the bell to open trading at the New York Stock Exchange or appearing as Super-Mario at an Olympic Ceremony.


Fifth, a general election must be held by next autumn, and Japan’s perpetually fissiparous opposition parties look as if they might for once get their act together. If they cease to obsess about microscopic scandals and come up with an attractive policy offering– such as a cut in the consumption tax – they might make inroads into the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s hefty majority.

Suga already dropped one huge clanger when he talked of the need to raise the consumption tax, at a time when the damage done by the previous hike is still fresh. He swiftly rowed back on that lousy idea, but the episode was a reminder that Suga is, by experience and personality, more of a backroom operator than a savvy frontman. If he performs poorly in the forthcoming election, his days will be numbered.

Finally, Abe has unfinished business, notably in relation to the long-overdue reform of Japan’s U.S.-imposed constitution, enacted in 1947 and never subsequently amended.

Polls show that the public is strongly in favour of the issue being debated, which it would have to be before passing both houses of parliament and then being approved by a referendum. Such a public debate would be a novel and very constructive exercise in democratic decision-making. Who, other than Abe, could lead it?

A third term as prime minister would be unprecedented in the post-war period, but Abe is used to breaking records. Not for nothing is Tobias Harris’ well-researched and fair-minded new biography of him entitled “The Iconoclast.” And if we go back to the volatile early years of Japan’s parliamentary system in the Meiji era, we find that prime ministerial comebacks were common and both Hirobumi Ito and Taro Katsu served three times.

In Japan’s post-war system, it is not necessary to be prime minister to have significant political influence. A re-energized Abe could take another cabinet position, as Taro Aso has done, become a special envoy or simply exercise power from behind the scenes, as several “shadow shoguns” have in the past.

Abe has exited with the highest public approval of his entire term in office and has been succeeded by his most loyal lieutenant. Politically he is still very much intact. If circumstances allow, there is no reason why he should not take up the reins again.

The Virus Shock: Cut Taxes Now to Save Abenomics!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/03/2020 - 2:36pm in


articles, Politics

Published in Japan Forward 11/3/2020

The global coronavirus crisis has the potential to change politics everywhere. Governments that botch their responses are likely to lose favour rapidly. Underestimating the threat is a much greater risk than overestimating it, so it is right to cancel major events, shut down schools and encourage teleworking where possible. Human connectivity is how the virus spreads, so we must reduce it.

The problem is that nobody can be sure how long such measures will be necessary. They are highly deflationary and the longer they remain in place the worse the damage to economic activity. Airlines and hotels are already in a parlous condition. Small companies existing on wafer-thin margins could easily be tipped over the edge. It is not hard to imagine the medical crisis becoming an economic crisis and then morphing into a financial crisis.

The situation is particularly urgent in Japan since the economy was already weakening in the last quarter due to the effect of typhoons and the hike in the consumption tax. Japan is also vulnerable to the collapse of the “inbound” boom as travel restrictions and health concerns reduce tourist numbers to a trickle. Meanwhile, the strong yen and dramatic fall in the oil price will exert downward pressure on consumer prices and strengthen the deflationary mindset that Abenomics aimed to change.

There is a strong case for policy-makers to move pre-emptively and bolster economic conditions before a downward spiral develops. The optimum course would be if the G7 and other major countries operated in a co-ordinated way to boost final demand, but this is not the 1980s and differing national agendas will likely make that impossible. Japan needs to move alone.

Over the past seven years, Prime Minister Abe’s economic programme has relied heavily on monetary policy, together with some reforms such as increasing the number of immigrant workers and changing working practices (hataraki kaikaku). But in Japan and Europe and increasingly elsewhere, monetary policy has reached the point of exhaustion. Central banks have bought vast amount of bonds, but the main effect has been the evaporation of interest rates. At this stage, doing more of the same will solve nothing.


To put it another way, the rock bottom, in some cases negative level of bond yields mean that bond markets are imploring governments to issue more bonds – in other words, to borrow more money.

That may sound counter-intuitive given the Japanese government’s mountain of debt. But that debt is just one side of the balance sheet. The other is the Japanese private sector’s even bigger mountain of assets, comprising household savings and the growing hoard of corporate savings. Japan remains the world’s largest creditor nation and the largest holder of US government bonds.

So far the second arrow of Abe’s original ‘three arrows’ – fiscal policy – has barely been used. On the contrary, the two hikes in the consumption tax together doubled the rate to 10%. Before the last-tax hike in October, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance declared that they would go ahead with it “unless there was a major crisis such as the Lehman shock” of 2008. Well, there was no way to know at the time, but just such a crisis was about to erupt in Wuhan, China.

So what should be done? A strong signal would be to cut the consumption tax by 5% until a satisfactory level of growth – for example, over 1.5% for two years in a row – has been achieved. Would the money be spent? Some of it, for sure. These days, a large proportion of shopping is done on the internet, so there is no need to for nervous people to visit shopping centres or department stores. More adventurous people might like to do their hanami in top-class ryokan or onsen which will surely be offering discounts.

Another possibility would be generous fertility incentives, such are in use in France. What could be a better use of money than investing in the Japanese of the future? It would be particularly apt as couples will be spending more time together at home than usual.


Bold measures of this nature would improve confidence and also be a powerful assertion of leadership, showing that the government is thinking strategically, not being swept along by daily events.

In a matter of months the virus has appeared in all continents, and entire cities have been locked down, from Taegu in South Korea to most of Italy. The virus may disappear in the warmth of spring, or we may face a long battle as it mutates into more resistant forms. The best approach in such circumstances is hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

But this “precautionary principle” applies to economic policy as well as virus control.

The time to act is now.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/08/2019 - 1:21pm in



This is one of my favorite essays ever. I first read it when it was published in Harper’s Magazine, November 30, 1999 2002. I’m sharing the whole thing below because everyone should read it; if I get a copyright cease-and-desist, I’ll remove it. –NP




By Shelby Steele

Harper’s Magazine, November 30, 1999

One day back in the late fifties, when I was ten or eleven years old, there was a moment when I experienced myself as an individual–as a separate consciousness–for the first time. I was walking home from the YMCA, which meant that I was passing out of the white Chicago suburb where the Y was located and crossing Halsted Street back into Phoenix, the tiny black suburb where I grew up. It was a languid summer afternoon, thick with the industrial-scented humidity of south Chicago that I can still smell and feel on my skin, though I sit today only blocks from the cool Pacific and more than forty years removed.

Into Phoenix no more than a block and I was struck by a thought that seemed beyond me. I have tried for years to remember it, but all my effort only pushes it further away. I do remember that it came to me with the completeness of an aphorism, as if the subconscious had already done the labor of crafting it into a fine phrase. What scared me a little at the time was its implication of a separate self with independent thoughts–a distinct self that might distill experience into all sorts of ideas for which I would then be responsible. That feeling of responsibility was my first real experience of myself as an individual–as someone who would have to navigate a separate and unpredictable consciousness through a world I already knew to be often unfair and always tense.

Of course I already knew that I was black, or “Negro,” as we said back then. No secret there. The world had made this fact quite clear by imposing on my life all the elaborate circumscriptions of Chicago-style segregation. Although my mother was white, the logic of segregation meant that I was born in the hospital’s black maternity ward. I grew up in a black neighborhood and walked to a segregated black school as white children in the same district walked to a white school. Kindness in whites always came as a mild surprise and was accepted with a gratitude that I later understood to be a bit humiliating. And there were many racist rejections for which I was only partly consoled by the knowledge that racism is impersonal.

Back then I thought of being black as a fate, as a condition I shared with people as various as Duke Ellington and the odd-job man who plowed the neighborhood gardens with a mule and signed his name with an X. And it is worth noting here that never in my life have I met a true Uncle Tom, a black who identifies with white racism as a truth. The Negro world of that era believed that whites used our race against our individuality and, thus, our humanity. There was no embrace of a Negro identity, because that would have weakened the argument for our humanity. “Negroness” or “blackness” would have collaborated with the racist lie that we were different and, thus, would have been true Uncle Tomism. To the contrary, there was an embrace of the individual and assimilation.

My little experience of myself as an individual confirmed the message of the civil-rights movement itself, in which a favorite picket sign read, simply, “I am a man.” The idea of the individual resonated with Negro freedom–a freedom not for the group but for the individuals who made up the group. And assimilation was not a self-hating mimicry of things white but a mastery by Negro individuals of the modern and cosmopolitan world, a mastery that showed us to be natural members of that world. So my experience of myself as an individual made me one with the group.

Not long ago C-SPAN carried a Harvard debate on affirmative action between conservative reformer Ward Connerly and liberal law professor Christopher Edley. During the Q and A a black undergraduate rose from a snickering clump of black students to challenge Mr. Connerly, who had argued that the time for racial preferences was past. Once standing, this young man smiled unctuously, as if victory were so assured that he must already offer consolation. But his own pose seemed to distract him, and soon he was sinking into incoherence. There was impatience in the room, but it was suppressed. Black students play a role in campus debates like this and they are indulged.

The campus forum of racial confrontation is a ritual that has changed since the sixties in only one way. Whereas blacks and whites confronted one another back then, now black liberals and black conservatives do the confronting while whites look on–relieved, I’m sure–from the bleachers. I used to feel empathy for students like this young man, because they reminded me of myself at that age. Now I see them as figures of pathos. More than thirty years have passed since I did that sort of challenging, and even then it was a waste of time. Today it is perseveration to the point of tragedy.

Here is a brief litany of obvious truths that have been resisted in the public discourse of black America over the last thirty years: a group is no stronger than its individuals; when individuals transform themselves they transform the group; the freer the individual, the stronger the group; social responsibility begins in individual responsibility. Add to this an indisputable fact that has also been unmentionable: that American greatness has a lot to do with a culturally ingrained individualism, with the respect and freedom historically granted individuals to pursue their happiness–this despite many egregious lapses and an outright commitment to the oppression of black individuals for centuries. And there is one last obvious but unassimilated fact: ethnic groups that have asked a lot from their individuals have done exceptionally well in America even while enduring discrimination.

Now consider what this Harvard student is called upon by his racial identity to argue in the year 2002. All that is creative and imaginative in him must be rallied to argue the essential weakness of his own people. Only their weakness justifies the racial preferences they receive decades after any trace of anti-black racism in college admissions. The young man must not show faith in the power of his people to overcome against any odds; he must show faith in their inability to overcome without help. As Mr. Connerly points to far less racism and far more freedom and opportunity for blacks, the young man must find a way, against all the mounting facts, to argue that black Americans simply cannot compete without preferences. If his own forebears seized freedom in a long and arduous struggle for civil rights, he must argue that his own generation is unable to compete on paper-and-pencil standardized tests.

It doesn’t help that he locates the cause of black weakness in things like “structural racism” and “uneven playing fields,” because there has been so little correlation between the remedies for such problems and actual black improvement. Blacks from families that make $100,1300 a year or more perform worse on the SAT than whites from families that make $10,000 a year or less. After decades of racial preferences blacks remain the lowest performing student group in American higher education. And once they are out of college and in professions, their own children also underperform in relation to their white and Asian peers. Thus, this young man must also nurture the idea of a black psychological woundedness that is baroque in its capacity to stifle black aspiration. And all his faith, his proud belief, must be in the truth of this woundedness and the injustice that caused it, because this is his only avenue to racial pride. He is a figure of pathos because his faith in racial victimization is his only release from racial shame.

Right after the sixties’ civil-rights victories came what I believe to be the greatest miscalculation in black American history. Others had oppressed us, but this was to be the first “fall” to come by our own hand. We allowed ourselves to see a greater power in America’s liability for our oppression than we saw in ourselves. Thus, we were faithless with ourselves just when we had given ourselves reason to have such faith. We couldn’t have made a worse mistake. We have not been the same since.

To go after America’s liability we had to locate real transformative power outside ourselves. Worse, we had to see our fate as contingent on America’s paying off that liability. We have been a contingent people ever since, arguing our weakness and white racism in order to ignite the engine of white liability. And this has mired us in a protest-group identity that mistrusts individualism because free individuals might jeopardize the group’s effort to activate this liability.

Today I would be encouraged to squeeze my little childhood experience of individuality into a narrow group framework that would not endanger the group’s bid for white intervention. I would be urged to embrace a pattern of reform that represses our best hope for advancement–our individuals–simply to keep whites “on the hook.”

Mr. Connerly was outnumbered and outgunned at that Harvard debate. The consensus finally was that preferences would be necessary for a while longer. Whites would remain “on the hook.” The black student prevailed, but it was a victory against himself. In all that his identity required him to believe, there was no place for him.

In 1961, when I was fifteen years old, my imagination was taken over for some months by the movie Paris Blues, starring Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward. For me this film was first of all an articulation of adult sophistication and deserved to be studied on these grounds alone. The music was by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, and the film was set in the jazz world of early-sixties Paris–a city that represented, in the folklore of American Negroes, a nirvana of complete racial freedom. To establish this freedom at the outset, Paul Newman (Ram) makes a pass at Diahann Carroll (Connie) as ffher race means no more to him than the color of her coat. Of course the protocols of segregation return soon enough, and the four stars are paired off by race. But I could not hold this against a film that gave me a chance to watch the beautiful, if prim, Diahann Carroll against a backdrop of Montmartre and the Seine, Paris a little dim for being next to her.

Sidney Poitier’s character (Eddie) has by far the most interesting internal conflict. He has come to Paris–like almost the entire postwar generation of black American artists, musicians, and intellectuals–to develop his talents and live as an individual free of American racism. Eddie finds this in Paris as a jazz musician in Ram’s band, and when he and Connie begin their romance, he is an unapologetic advocate of expatriation for blacks. Paris is freedom; America, interminable humiliation. “I’ll never forget the first time I walked down the Champs-Elysees…. I knew I was here to stay.”

But there is a ghost on his trail. And Connie, the new and true love of his life, embodies that ghost. A teacher on vacation in Paris, she brings him news of the civil-rights movement building momentum back home, and, as their love deepens, she makes it clear that their future together will require his coming home and playing some part in the struggle of his people. She brings him precisely what he has escaped: the priority of group identity over individual freedom. The best acting in the film is Eddie’s impassioned rejection of this priority. He hates America with good reason, and it is impossible to see him as simply selfish. He has already found in Paris the freedom blacks are fighting for back home. And he has found this freedom precisely by thinking of himself as an individual who is free to choose. For him individualism is freedom. And even if blacks won the civil-rights struggle, true freedom would still require individuals to choose for themselves. So by what ethic should he leave the freedom of Paris for the indignities of America?

Clearly no ethic would be enough. But love, on the other hand, is the tie that binds. And when the object of that love is Connie, Eddie begins to see a point in responsibility to the group. But at the very end Eddie does not get on the train out of Paris with Connie. He promises to follow her home as soon as he can arrange his affairs, and it looks like he will be good to his word. But the movie ends on his promise rather than on his action. It is a long time now since 1961, so we can know that Eddie will never have the same degree of individual freedom if he goes back home. If whites don’t use his race against him, they will use it for him. And there are always the pressures of his own group identity. As an individual he will have a hard swim. Thinking of the lovely Connie, some days I root for him to leave. Other days, even thinking of her, I root for him to stay.

The greatest problem in coming from an oppressed group is the power the oppressor has over your group. The second greatest problem is the power your group has over you. Group identity in oppressed groups is always very strategic, always a calculation of advantage. The humble black identity of the Booker T. Washington era–“a little education spoiled many a good plow hand”–allowed blacks to function as tradesmen, laborers, and farmers during the rise of Jim Crow, when hundreds of blacks were being lynched yearly. Likewise, the black militancy of the late sixties strategically aimed for advantage in an America suddenly contrite over its long indulgence in racism.

One’s group identity is always a mask–a mask replete with a politics. When a teenager in East Los Angeles says he is Hispanic, he is thinking of himself within a group strategy pitched at larger America. His identity is related far more to America than to Mexico or Guatemala, where he would not often think of himself as Hispanic. In fact, “Hispanic” is much more a political concept than a cultural one, and its first purpose is to win power within the fray of American identity politics. So this teenager must wear the mask that serves his group’s ambitions in these politics.

With the civil-rights victories, black identity became more carefully calculated around the pursuit of power, because black power was finally possible in America. So, as the repressions of racism receded, the repressions of group identity grew more intense for blacks. Even in Paris, Connie uses the censoring voice of the group: “Things are much better than they were five years ago … not because Negroes come to Paris but because Negroes stay home.” Here the collective identity is the true identity, and individual autonomy a mere affectation.

If Paris Blues ends without Eddie’s actual return to America, we can witness such a return in the life of a real-life counterpart to Eddie, the black American writer James Baldwin. In the late forties, Baldwin went to Paris, like his friend and mentor Richard Wright, to escape America’s smothering racism and to find himself as a writer and as an individual. He succeeded dramatically and quickly on both counts. His first novel, the minor masterpiece Go Tell It on the Mountain, appeared in 1953 and was quickly followed by another novel and two important essay collections.

It was clearly the remove of Europe that gave Baldwin the room to find his first important theme: self-acceptance. In a Swiss mountain village in winter, against an “absolutely alabaster landscape” and listening to Bessie Smith records, he accepts that he is black, gay, talented, despised by his father, and haunted by a difficult childhood. From this self-acceptance emerges an individual voice and one of the most unmistakable styles in American writing.

Then, in 1957, Baldwin did something that changed him–and his writing–forever. He came home to America. He gave up the psychological remove of Europe and allowed himself to become once again fully accountable as a black American. And soon, in blatant contradiction of his own powerful arguments against protest writing, he became a protest writer. There is little doubt that this new accountability weakened him greatly as an artist. Nothing he wrote after the early sixties had the human complexity, depth, or literary mastery of what he wrote in those remote European locales where children gawked at him for his color.

The South African writer Nadine Gordimer saw the black writer in her own country as conflicted between “a deep, intense, private view” on the one hand and the call to be a spokesman for his people on the other. This classic conflict–common to writers from oppressed groups around the world–is really a conflict of authority. In Europe, Baldwin enjoyed exclusive authority over his own identity. When he came back to America, he did what in Western culture is anathema to the artist: he submitted his artistic vision–his “private view”–to the authority of his group. From The Fire Next Time to the end of his writing life, he allowed protest to be the framing authority of his work.

What Baldwin did was perhaps understandable, because his group was in a pitched battle for its freedom. The group had enormous moral authority, and he had a splendid rhetorical gift the group needed. Baldwin was transformed in the sixties into an embodiment of black protest, an archetypal David–frail, effeminate, brilliant–against a brutish and stupid American racism. He became a celebrity writer on the American scene, a charismatic presence with huge, penetrating eyes that were fierce and vulnerable at the same time. People who had never read him had strong opinions about him. His fame was out of proportion to his work, and if all this had been limited to Baldwin himself, it might be called the Baldwin phenomenon. But, in fact, his ascendancy established a pattern that would broadly define, and in many ways corrupt, an entire generation of black intellectuals, writers, and academics. And so it must be called the Baldwin model.

The goal of the Baldwin model is to link one’s intellectual reputation to the moral authority–the moral glamour–of an oppressed group’s liberation struggle. In this way one ceases to be a mere individual with a mere point of view and becomes, in effect, the embodiment of a moral imperative. This is rarely done consciously, as a Faustian bargain in which the intellectual knowingly sells his individual soul to the group. Rather the group identity is already a protest-focused identity, and the intellectual simply goes along with it. Adherence to the Baldwin model is usually more a sin of thoughtlessness and convenience than of conscious avarice, though it is always an appropriation of moral power, a stealing of thunder.

The protest intellectual positions himself in the pathway of the larger society’s march toward racial redemption. By allowing his work to be framed by the protest identity, he articulates the larger society’s moral liability. He seems, therefore, to hold the key to how society must redeem itself. Baldwin was called in to advise Bobby Kennedy on the Negro situation. It is doubtful that the Baldwin of Go Tell It on the Mountain would have gotten such a call. But the Baldwin of The Fire Next Time probably expected it. Ralph Ellison, a contemporary of Baldwin’s who rejected the black protest identity but whose work showed a far deeper understanding of black culture than Baldwin’s, never had this sort of access to high places. By insisting on his individual autonomy as an artist, Ellison was neither inflated with the moral authority of his group’s freedom struggle nor positioned in the pathway of America’s redemption.

Today the protest identity is a career advantage for an entire generation of black intellectuals, particularly academics who have been virtually forced to position themselves in the path of their university’s obsession with “diversity.” Inflation from the moral authority of protest, added to the racialpreference policies in so many American institutions, provides an irresistible incentive for black America’s best minds to continue defining themselves by protest. Professors who resist the Baldwin model risk the Ellisonian fate of invisibility.

What happened in America to make the Baldwin model possible?

The broad answer is this: America moved from its long dark age of racism into an age of white guilt. I saw this shift play out in my own family.

I grew up watching my parents live out an almost perpetual protest against racial injustice. When I was five or six we drove out of our segregated neighborhood every Sunday morning to carry out the grimly disciplined business of integrating a lily-white church in the next town. Our family was a little off-color island of quiet protest amidst rows of pinched white faces. And when that battle was lost there was a long and successful struggle to create Chicago’s first fully integrated church. And from there it was on to the segregated local school system, where my parents organized a boycott against the elementary school that later incurred the first desegregation lawsuit in the North.

Amidst all this protest, I could see only the price people were paying. I saw my mother’s health start to weaken. I saw the white minister who encouraged us to integrate his church lose his job. There was a time when I was sent away to stay with family friends until things “cooled down.” Black protest had no legitimacy in broader America in the 1950s. It was subversive, something to be repressed, and people who indulged in it were made to pay.

And then there came the sunny day in the very late sixties when I leaned into the window of my parents’ old powder-blue Rambler and, inches from my mother’s face, said wasn’t it amazing that I was making $13,500 a year. They had come to visit me on my first job out of college, and had just gotten into the car for their return trip. I saw my mistake even as the words tumbled out. My son’s pride had blinded me to my parents’ feelings. This was four or five thousand dollars more than either of them had ever made in a single year. I had learned the year before that my favorite professor–a full professor with two books to his credit–had fought hard for a raise to $10,000 a year. Thirteen five implied a different social class, a different life than we had known as a family.

“Congratulations,” they said. “That’s very nice.”

The subtext of this role reversal was President Johnson’s Great Society, and beneath that an even more profound shift in the moral plates of society. The year was 1969, and I was already employed in my fourth Great Society program–three Upward Bound programs and now a junior college-level program called Experiment in Higher Education, in East St. Louis, Illinois. America was suddenly spending vast millions to end poverty “in our time,” and, as it was for James Baldwin on his return from Paris, the timing was perfect for me.

I was chosen for my first Upward Bound job because I was the leader of the campus civil-rights group. This engagement with black protest suddenly constituted a kind of aptitude, in my employers, minds, for teaching disadvantaged kids. It inflated me into a person who was gifted with young people. The protesting that had gotten me nowhere when I started college was serving me as well as an advanced degree by the time I was a senior.

Two great, immutable forces have driven America’s attitudes, customs, and public policies around race. The first has been white racism, and the second has been white guilt. The civil-rights movement was the dividing line between the two. Certainly there was some guilt before this movement, and no doubt some racism remains after it. But the great achievement of the civil-rights movement was that its relentless moral witness finally defeated the legitimacy of racism as propriety–a principle of social organization, manners, and customs that defines decency itself. An idea controls culture when it achieves the invisibility of propriety. And it must be remembered that racism was a propriety, a form of decency. When, as a boy, I was prohibited from entering the fine Christian home of the occasional white playmate, it was to save the household an indecency. Today, thanks to the civil-rights movement, white guilt is propriety–an utterly invisible code that defines decency in our culture with thousands of little protocols we no longer even think about. We have been living in an age of white guilt for four decades now.

What is white guilt? It is not a personal sense of remorse over past wrongs. White guilt is literally a vacuum of moral authority in matters of race, equality, and opportunity that comes from the association of mere white skin with America’s historical racism. It is the stigmatization of whites and, more importantly, American institutions with the sin of racism. Under this stigma white individuals and American institutions must perpetually prove a negative–that they are not racist–to gain enough authority to function in matters of race, equality, and opportunity. If they fail to prove the negative, they will be seen as racists. Political correctness, diversity policies, and multiculturalism are forms of deference that give whites and institutions a way to prove the negative and win reprieve from the racist stigma.

Institutions especially must be proactive in all this. They must engineer a demonstrable racial innocence to garner enough authority for simple legitimacy in the American democracy. No university today, private or public, could admit students by academic merit alone if that meant no black or brown faces on campus. Such a university would be seen as racist and shunned accordingly. White guilt has made social engineering for black and brown representation a condition of legitimacy.

People often deny white guilt by pointing to its irrationality–“I never owned a slave,” “My family got here eighty years after slavery was over.” But of course almost nothing having to do with race is rational. That whites are now stigmatized by their race is not poetic justice; it is simply another echo of racism’s power to contaminate by mere association.

The other common denial of white guilt has to do with motive: “I don’t support affirmative action because I’m guilty; I support it because I want to do what’s fair.” But the first test of sincere support is a demand that the policy be studied for effectiveness. Affirmative action went almost completely unexamined for thirty years and has only recently been briefly studied in a highly politicized manner now that it is under threat. The fact is that affirmative action has been a very effective racial policy in garnering moral authority and legitimacy for institutions, and it is now institutions–not individual whites or blacks–that are fighting to keep it alive.

The real difference between my parents and myself was that they protested in an age of white racism and I protested in an age of white guilt. They were punished; I was rewarded. By my time, moral authority around race had become a great and consuming labor for America. Everything from social programs to the law, from the color of TV sitcom characters to the content of school curricula, from college admissions to profiling for terrorists–every aspect of our culture–now must show itself redeemed of the old national sin. Today you cannot credibly run for president without an iconography of white guilt: the backdrop of black children, the Spanish-language phrases, the word “compassion” to separate conservatism from its associations with racism.

So then here you are, a black American living amidst all this. Every institution you engage–the government, universities, corporations, public and private schools, philanthropies, churches–faces you out of a deficit of moral authority. Your race is needed everywhere. How could you avoid the aggressions, and even the bigotries, of white guilt? What institution could you walk into without having your color tallied up as a credit to the institution? For that matter, what political party or ideological direction could you pursue without your race being plundered by that party or ideology for moral authority?

Because blacks live amidst such hunger for the moral authority of their race, we embraced protest as a permanent identity in order to capture the fruits of white guilt on an ongoing basis. Again, this was our first fall by our own hand. Still, it is hard to imagine any group of individuals coming out of four centuries of oppression and not angling their identity toward whatever advantage seemed available. White guilt held out the promise of a preferential life in recompense for past injustice, and the protest identity seemed the best way to keep that promise alive.

An obvious problem here is that we blacks fell into a group identity that has absolutely no other purpose than to collect the fruits of white guilt. And so the themes of protest–a sense of grievance and victimization–evolved into a sensibility, an attitude toward the larger world that enabled us always and easily to feel the grievance whether it was there or not. Protest became the mask of identity, because it defined us in a way that kept whites “on the hook.” Today the angry rap singer and Jesse Jackson and the black-studies professor are all joined by an unexamined devotion to white guilt.

To be black in my father’s generation, when racism was rampant, was to be a man who was very often victimized by racism. To be black in the age of white guilt is to be a victim who is very rarely victimized by racism. Today in black life there is what might be called “identity grievance”–a certainty of racial grievance that is entirely disconnected from actual grievance. And the fervor of this symbiosis with white guilt has all but killed off the idea of the individual as a source of group strength in black life. All is group and unity, even as those minority groups that ask much of their individuals thrive in America despite any discrimination they encounter.

I always thought that James Baldwin on some level knew that he had lost himself to protest. His work grew narrower and narrower when age and experience should have broadened it. And, significantly, he spent the better part of his last decades in France, where he died in 1987. Did he again need France in those years to be himself, to be out from under the impossible demands of a symbiotically defined black identity, to breathe on his own?

There is another final and terrible enemy of the black individual. I first saw it in that Great Society program in which my salary was so sweetened by white guilt. The program itself quickly slid into banana republic–style corruption, and I was happy to get away to graduate-student poverty. But on the way out certain things became clear. The program was not so much a program as it was an idea of the social “good,” around which there was an intoxicating enthusiasm. It was my first experience with the utter thrill of untested good intentions. On the way out I realized that thrill had been the point. That feeling is what we sent back to Washington, where it was received as an end in itself.

Now I know that white guilt is a moral imperative that can be satisfied by good intentions alone. In my own lifetime, racial reform in America changed from a struggle for freedom to a struggle for “the good.” A new metaphysics of the social good replaced the principles of freedom. Suddenly “diversity,” “inclusion,” “tolerance,” “pluralism,” and “multiculturalism” were all conjure words that aligned you with a social good so compelling that you couldn’t leave it to mere freedom. In certain circumstances freedom could be the outright enemy of “the good.” If you want a “diverse” student body at your university, for example, the individualistic principles of freedom might be a barrier. So usually “the good” has to be imposed from above out of a kind of moral imperialism by a well-meaning white elite.

In the sixties, black identity also shifted its focus from freedom to “the good” to better collect the fruits of white guilt. Thus it was a symbiosis of both white and black need that pushed racial reform into a totalitarian model where schemes of “the good” are imposed by coercion at the expense of freedom. The Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera says that every totalitarianism is “also the dream of paradise.” And when people seem to stand in its way, the rulers “build a little gulag on the side of Eden.” In this good-driven age of white guilt, with all its paradises of diversity, a figurative gulag has replaced freedom’s tradition of a respected and loyal opposition. Conservatives are automatically relegated to this gulag because of their preference for freedom over ideas of “the good.”

But there is another “little gulag” for the black individual. He lives in a society that needs his race for the good it wants to do more than it needs his individual self. His race makes him popular with white institutions and unifies him with blacks. But he is unsupported everywhere as an individual. Nothing in his society asks for or even allows his flowering as a full, free, and responsible person. As is always the case when “the good” becomes ascendant over freedom, and coercion itself becomes a good thing, the individual finds himself in a gulag.

Something happened at Harvard last fall that provides a rare window into all of this. Harvard’s president, Lawrence H. Summers, rebuked the famous black-studies professor Cornel West for essentially being a lightweight on a campus of heavyweights. These were not his words, but there is little doubt that this was his meaning. West himself has said that he felt “devalued” and “disrespected” in the now famous meeting between the two.

The facts are all on Summers’s side. West’s achievements are simply not commensurate with his position as a University Professor, the very highest rank a member of an already esteemed faculty can ascend to–a rank normally reserved for Nobel-level accomplishment. West had spent the previous year on leave making a rap CD and chairing Al Sharpton’s presidential exploration committee. Privately–that is, behind the mask of the protest identity–few serious black academics saw West much differently than Summers did. Even publicly, where the mask is mandatory, he was never more than “officially” defended.

But Harvard itself had created the monster. Harvard did not promote Cornel West to a University Professorship because his academic work was seminal. Cornel West brought to campus the special charisma of the black protest identity–not, of course, in its unadorned street incarnation but dressed up in a three-piece suit and muted by an impenetrable academese that in the end said almost nothing and scared no one. This was not someone akin to the young Eldridge Cleaver, who had a real fire and could really write but who also might be rather difficult in and around Harvard Square. With Cornel you could sit the black protest identity down to dinner amidst the fine china and pretty girls from tony suburbs and everyone would be so thrilled.

Here, in the University Professorship, white guilt and black protest perfectly consummated their bargain. It was never Cornel West–the individual–that Harvard wanted; it was the defanged protest identity that he carried, which redounded to the university as racial innocence itself. How could anyone charge this university with racism when it promoted Cornel West to its upper reaches? His marginal accomplishments only made the gesture more grand. West was not at Harvard to do important work; he was there precisely to be promoted over his head. In the bold irrationality of the promotion was the daring display of racial innocence.

What Lawrence Summers did not understand, when he became Harvard’s new president, was that West was an important part of the institution’s iconography of racial innocence. Or maybe he did understand and wanted to challenge this way of doing things. In any case, he did the unthinkable: He saw West as an individual. Thus, he did not confuse the charisma of the protest identity with real achievement.

His rebuke of West caused an explosion, because it broke faith with the symbiotic enmeshment of white guilt and black protest. West has now left Harvard for Princeton, where this enmeshment prevails unthreatened by ham-fisted administrators who might inadvertently see their black moral-authority hires as individuals. Summers himself–as if fresh from re-education camp–has apologized to West and professed his support for affirmative action. The age of white guilt, with its myriad corruptions and its almost racist blindness to minority individuality, may someday go down like the age of racism went down–but only if people take the risk of standing up to it rather than congratulating themselves for doing things that have involved no real risk since 1965.

I know Cornel West to be a good man, whose grace and good manners even with people he disagrees with have been instructive to me. As contemporaries, we have both had to find our way in this age of white guilt. As educated blacks, we have both had to wrestle against the relentless moral neediness of American institutions, though I’m sure he wouldn’t see it that way. I saw the way race inflated people like us back in those Great Society programs I mentioned, and it was my good luck to enter them when the corruptions were so blatant that it was mere self-preservation to walk away.

One of my assignments in that last program was to help design some of the country’s very first black-studies programs, and by 1970 I already knew that they would always lack the most fundamental raison d’etre of any academic discipline: a research methodology of their own. This meant that black studies could never be more than an assemblage of courses cobbled together from “real” departments, and that it could never have more than a political mandate–a perfect formula for academic disrespect. But, as I say, it was luck to learn this early, before white guilt became infinitely more subtle and seductive.

In the age of racism there were more powerful black intellectuals, because nobody wanted them for their race. Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, and many others were fully developed, self-made individuals, no matter their various political and ideological bents. Race was not a “talent” that falsely inflated them or won them high position. Today no black intellectual in America, including this writer, is safe from this sort of inflation. The white world is simply too hungry for the moral authority our skins carry. And this is true on both the political left and right. Why did so many black churches have to be the backdrop for Clinton speeches, and why should Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell have to hear Bush crow about their high place among his advisers?

James Baldwin once wrote: “What Europe still gives an American is the sanction, if one can accept it, to become oneself.” If America now gives this sanction to most citizens, its institutions still fiercely deny it to blacks. And this society will never sanction blacks in this way until it drops all the mechanisms by which it tries to appease white guilt. Guilt can be a very civilizing force, but only when it is simply carried as a kind of knowledge. Efforts to appease or dispel it will only engage the society in new patterns of dehumanization against the same people who inspired guilt in the first place. This will always be true.

Restraint should be the watchword in racial matters. We should help people who need help. There are, in fact, no races that need help; only individuals, citizens. Over time maybe nothing in the society, not even white guilt, will reach out and play on my race, bind me to it for opportunity. I won’t ever find in America what Baldwin found in Europe, but someday maybe others will.

Shelby Steele is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His last book was A Dream Deferred (HarperCollins)


Knowledge Exchange Showcase - Refugee Heritage: the Archaeology of the Calais 'Jungle'

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/07/2019 - 9:02pm in

Sarah Mallet School of Archaeology and Louise Fowler Museum of London Archaeology give a talk for the Knowledge Exchange Showcase on their research on the Calais migrant camp known as the Jungle. Sarah Mallet, School of Archaeology

Dr Sarah Mallet is a post-doctoral researcher at jointly appointed at the Pitt Rivers Museum and School of Archaeology in Oxford. Her current role consists in researching the visual and material culture of the Calais ‘Jungle’, and she is one of the co-curators of the major temporary exhibition ‘Lande: The Calais ‘Jungle’ and beyond’ on display at the Pitt Rivers Museum until November 2019. The project has developed new approaches to contemporary collecting in impermanent spaces and uses the principles of archaeological methodology to understand and record the lives of undocumented people in the present. With a multi-disciplinary background, including medieval history and scientific archaeology, her current research on this project has focused on borders and migrations, as well as the history of camps in Northern France in relation to contemporary events. She is the co-author with Dan Hicks of the book ‘Lande: The Calais ‘Jungle’ and beyond’ published by Bristol University Press in May 2019.

Will Japan benefit from the New Cold War?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 16/06/2019 - 9:24am in

Published in  the Nikkei Asian Review  12/6/2019

“The Cold War is over and Japan won” – that was the verdict of revisionist Japan scholar Chalmers Johnson in 1991. Something of an exaggeration, to be sure, but it remains the case that Japan prospered mightily in the decades between the Korean War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the subsequent two decades, not so much. As far as Japan was concerned, “the end of history”, as celebrated by political scientist Francis Fukuyama in his 1992 book of the same name, ushered in an era of economic malaise, political confusion and diminution of international stature.

Then, in the last seven years, at a time of mounting regional tensions, Japan has recovered some of its old mojo. Economic conditions have improved markedly; Japan’s cultural and commercial footprint has grown thanks to tourism and success stories such as Uniqlo. Japanese politics has been stable under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, described by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as the senior figure in the region, with “a real wisdom about him.”

Correlation is not causation. Japan’s Godzilla-sized bubble and bust cycle was largely self-inflicted and recovery from the devastation of war was something that was bound to happen one way or the other. Yet there can be little doubt that the start of the Cold War had an enormous impact on US-Japan relations.

The idea, widely held by influential Americans in the early post-war years, that Japan (and Germany) should be returned to a pastoral, pre-industrial state no longer made sense. Instead, access to the enormous US consumer market helped Japan to develop into a bulwark of capitalist prosperity on the Soviet Union’s eastern flank.

Today’s world is very different, but the increasingly fractious relations between the US and China have triggered a spate of Cold War comparisons. Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, FBI director Christopher Wray described the China threat as “not just a whole-of-government threat but a whole-of-society threat at their end” which will require “a whole-of-society response by us.”

According to hedge fund titan Ray Dalio, “this will be a long ideological war.” Meanwhile, China’s ambassador to the EU talks of the US blacklisting of Huawei in terms of “a digital iron curtain,” and President Xi Jinping calls for China to embark on “a new long march.”

Xi and Mao memorabilia Xi and Mao memorabilia

Beyond Trump

All the above suggests that the confrontation between China and the US will long outlast the bandwidth-hogging presence of President Donald Trump. No doubt there will be phases of détente and compromise, but the fundamental incompatibility of national interests will ensure that the strategic rivalry persists. China cannot achieve regional hegemony while the US has a powerful military and commercial presence in East Asia.

Just as in the original Cold War, there will be alliances and non-aligned countries. Geographical distance from China will likely be a crucial factor. For European countries, the commercial opportunities of the Chinese market will far outweigh any sense of threat. For China’s Asian neighbours, the risks are more evenly balanced. Many would prefer to hedge their bets, but ultimately may have to confront binary choices on payment systems, internet regulation, communications infrastructure, and sources of finance

For Japan, by contrast, the choice is no choice at all. Ever since the dispute over ownership of the Senkaku Islands flared up in 2012 – with riots, arson attacks and consumer boycotts orchestrated by the Chinese authorities – Japan’s pro-China business lobby has been on the back foot. Hedging has meant pouring direct investment into alternative destinations, such as Vietnam and Myanmar, and repatriating production to new facilities in Japan, as companies such as Casio, Honda and Unicharm are doing.

More broadly, China’s shift from Deng Xiaoping’s “peaceful rise” strategy to aggressive power projection has validated the US-Japan security relationship for decades to come. Interoperability with US forces has already advanced significantly, and security co-operation with other Asian nations, such as India and Vietnam, will be on the menu soon. Revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution is merely a question of time.

Malabar joint naval exercises - India, Japan, US Malabar joint naval exercises – India, Japan, US

The Return of Cocom?

Such is the degree of Chinese integration into the world economy that a total roll-back back of trade and investment flows is a near-impossibility. Instead, what we are likely to see is a cordoning-off of sensitive areas, particularly high tech, and the development of competing, incompatible standards on either side of the new digital curtain.

American and Japanese companies that have supplied leading edge products to Chinese users– in fields like robotics, semiconductor manufacturing equipment and highly specialized processing devices – may find themselves subject to the equivalent of Cold War 1’s Cocom (Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls).

If Team China is set on achieving autarky in key industrial sectors – as the “Made in China 2025” program indicates – then Team US / Japan may decide to do the same. In times of war, both hot and cold, strategic goals override free market ideology. Japan of course is no stranger to government-led industrial policy initiatives, but neither is the US, with the Apollo space program being the classic example.

Could a future US President – or Japanese prime minister – ignite a sense of national purpose by setting a high-tech goal equivalent to President Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to put a man on the moon?

Has Japan got the Intelligence?

If globalization was deflationary, could de-globalization – repatriating production, targeting self-sufficiency in key areas, sponsoring public-private initiatives – prove to be inflationary? Admittedly that is not how it looks at the moment, as the prospect of tit-for-tat tariffs has sapped confidence and driven global bond yields down to vanishing point.

That may not last, though.  Conflict is almost always inflationary. Indeed, it is the Second World War that is usually credited with ending deflationary conditions in the United States and elsewhere. For the United States, confrontation with China is likely to mean more government spending on big projects, a reversal of the “peace dividend” and import substitution leading to higher input prices. For Japan it could well mean a decisive end to deflation.

The emergence of a powerful, expansionary China represents a multi-level existential threat to Japanese autonomy. The response needs to be multi-level too. Japan will need to do whatever it takes to keep the US engaged in Asia. Beyond that, Japan needs to continue and strengthen the pro-active diplomacy that has marked the Abe years, constructing exchanges, partnerships and alliances with the many sympathetic countries in the region.

The last Cold War was marked by espionage, subversion, intense propaganda and proxy wars. The new one is unlikely to be different. Indeed, North Korea could be considered as playing the part of Cuba in a long-drawn out missile crisis. Japan will need to have the intelligence resources to compete on the same terms.

In terms of soft power projection, it needs a smart public relations strategy that focusses the world’s attention on contemporary realities, not – as China and its sympathizers would prefer – on the events of 80 years ago.

A timely storm wrecks the Mongol fleet A timely storm wrecks the Mongol fleet

Cold War.2 will have costs for everyone, Japan included. But strategically it could be a twenty first century version of the “wind of the gods” that saved Japan from Kublai Khan’s Mongol fleet in the thirteenth century. At the same time, it could bring an end to the long period of zero interest rates and change the psychological climate too, as necessity becomes the midwife to a more outward-looking, assertive Japan.

Veteran Poetics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/06/2019 - 7:35pm in

Book at Lunchtime: Veteran Poetics: British Literature in the Age of Mass Warfare, 1790–2015 In this first full-length study of the war veteran in literature, Kate McLoughlin draws new critical attention to a figure central to national life. Offering fresh readings of canonical and non-canonical works, she shows how authors from William Wordsworth to J. K. Rowling have deployed veterans to explore questions that are simultaneously personal, political, and philosophical: What does a community owe to those who serve it? What can be recovered from the past? Do people stay the same over time? Are there right times of life at which to do certain things? Is there value in experience? How can wisdom be shared? Veteran Poetics features veterans who travel in time, cause havoc with their reappearances, solve murders, refuse to stop talking about the wars they have been in, and refuse to say a word about them. Through this last trait, they also prompt consideration of possible critical responses to silence.

Women and Power: Changing the Stories We Tell Ourselves – keynote by Melissa Benn, Writer and Campaigner

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/03/2019 - 2:35am in

'Women and Power: Changing the Stories We Tell Ourselves’ is the keynote by the writer and campaigner Melissa Benn at the Women and Power conference which took place on the 6th and 7th March 2019. Women and Power: Redressing the Balance was a 2-day conference, jointly convened by the National Trust and the University of Oxford, which took place on the 6th and 7th March 2019 at St Hugh’s College in Oxford. The conference brought together professionals from across the academic and heritage sectors to reflect on programming around the 2018 centenary of the Representation of the People Act which granted some women the right to vote and to look to the future of researching and programming women’s histories.

The conference featured papers from a range of heritage, cultural and academic institutions who marked the centenary anniversary. Many of the programmes, exhibitions and events that responded to the centenary not only explored the stories of 100 years ago but openly questioned the representation of women’s lives in the histories inherited by curators and researchers, and experienced in public life, today.

‘Women and Power: Changing the Stories We Tell Ourselves’ is the keynote by the writer and campaigner Melissa Benn.


Prof Senia Paseta, Associate Professor of Modern History and Women in Humanities Programme Co-Director, University of Oxford (Introduction)
Melissa Benn, Writer and Campaigner

For more information about the Women and Power conference and the National Trust Partnership at the University of Oxford please visit:

How not to Ruin Everything: Futures Thinking Launch

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/03/2019 - 11:56pm in

Launch event for Futures Thinking, a new research group looking into future problems and opportunities created by advances in technology and artificial intelligence. In literature, in popular media, in scientific research, and in public consciousness, discourse about the future, machine learning, and the human elements of digital technologies proliferates more now than ever before. Thanks to developments in artificial intelligence (AI), we are able to speculate about how our fundamentally social species might interact with performatively human-like machines of our own making. Television shows like Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, and novels like The Circle or Never Let Me Go speculate about dystopian futures that reflect political realities not unlike those that are currently unfolding in the Global North.

Ethics in AI are much debated in science fiction. However, the scholars in the fields of AI and those in literature, history, and gender studies seldom interact to discuss the realities and probabilities of the future of a technologically advanced mankind. Crucially important to our network is the recognition of how narrative informs and shapes the future. Bringing scholars of historical and literary narratives into conversation with ethicists and developers of digital AI technologies is of paramount importance to futures thinking.

Discussion on AI and global governance is thriving at Oxford, while speculative fiction is an important emerging field in literary studies. This network brings these fields into conversation. We extend from exploring speculative fiction research, questions about the robustness of machine learning, the future trade-offs between privacy and security, to thinking about how we might use historical feminist consciousness-raising methods to engage in interdisciplinary collaboration.

We are keen for interested parties to join our group so if you work on or are interested in any aspect of futures thinking, be it in science or the humanities, in any of the University’s divisions, please contact us and come along to our events!

We are a network founded on principles of access and inclusion, and strive to host events that consider the lifestyle ethics and carer-responsibilities of our members and attendees, as well as their access needs, pronouns, and other inclusion needs. Please do contact us for further information on our manifesto.
Chelsea Haith, Futures Thinking Founder, DPhil in Contemporary Literature

Prof Robert Iliffe, Professor of History of Science

Dr Gretta Corporaal, Sociologist of Work and Organisations in the OII

Dr Alexandra Paddock, Editorial Lead on LitHits, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of English

Prof Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, LitHits Founder, Professor of English and Theatre Studies

Alice Billington, Futures Thinking Co-Convenor, DPhil in Modern History