McCormack Speaks

March 27, 2019
by saadiaahmad001
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UMass Boston First Africa Day a Major Success, Draws Over 100 Attendees

by Hannah Brown, PhD Candidate in Global Governance and Human Security

The Africa Scholars Forum at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston launched its first Africa day with the theme Pan Africa Rising on February 27th, 2019.

The event featured Keynote speakers, discussion panels, graduate students’ flash talks, African Marketplace, luncheon and a gala night reception with Afrobeat DJ and African food from Suya Joint, Cesaria, and Ashur restaurants. The opening address by Dr. Edozie and Keynote addresses by Professor Robinson and Zadi Zokou explored African liberation, decolonization, and connecting African immigrants and African Americans respectively. Panel discussions were on African perspectives on democracy, security and global governance and Beyond neoliberalism: the prospects for a Pan African economics.

Africa Day was a premier event that hopes to establish an interdisciplinary university-wide African studies presence in the University of Massachusetts, Boston (UMass Boston). The event aligns with the goals of the Africa Scholars Forum, which include developing an undergraduate minor and graduate certificate in African studies. The forum also seeks to engage students at UMass Boston with Africa programming missions and create undergraduate student research initiatives on African study. Moreover, it will establish a platform for deepened Africa research study for graduate students and promote existing and new faculty and student exchanges with African studies programs and universities in Africa, especially for study abroad programs and community research.

November 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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Topol Grant Research Team Publishes First Article on Scaling Up Grassroots Nonviolent Movements

The Topol Peace Data Initiative seeks to explore the ways in which grassroots peace initiatives and nonviolent movements for social change can be scaled up and applied at an international scale. Members of the research team recently published its first article with Sage Journals, entitled: “Scaling Social Movements Through Social Media: The Case of Black Lives Matter.”

According to the abstract, the article explores the potential role of social media in helping movements expand and strengthen their impact, utilizing a case study of the Black Lives Matter movement to present the possibilities of social media to build connections, mobilize participants and resources, build coalitions, and amplify alternative narratives.

The article was co-authored by Marcia Mundt, a public policy doctoral student, along with Dr. Karen Ross, assistant professor of conflict resolution, and Charla Burnett, a global governance and human security doctoral student.

The publication is available as an open access article here.

October 24, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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New Book by Associate Dean Kiki Edozie examines Global African Diaspora Through Multidisciplinary Lenses

 

Professor Rita Kiki Edozie, Associate Dean of the McCormack Graduate School, recently published her latest book on global African diaspora. It is an anthology that presents a new study of African diaspora through diverse, interdisciplinary perspectives. Professor Edozie sat down with McCormack Speaks to share more about her book.

 

SA: Where did you get the idea for this book?

RE: Given my own identity as an African immigrant to the US, I’ve had a longstanding personal and intellectual interest in the public policy of diversity of people of African descent in the US from the perspective of transnational and migration studies, immigration studies, and cross-cultural studies. When President Obama was elected, his Kenyan ancestry – among his other multiple identities, including spending time in Indonesia – intrigued many. Needless to say, however, the President’s identity especially triggered a debate about identity and the rootedness and dynamism of African heritage in the US, the Americas, and around the world. As such, the title of the book, New Frontiers in the Global African Diaspora, was inspired by these interests to trace, identify, analyze, and document the array of diverse experiences and political circumstances of African heritage peoples around the world.

 

SA: What gap in the literature does your book address?

RE: African Diaspora Studies has become an emergent but stable sub-discipline of both African American Studies on the one hand, and African Studies on the other. Some refer to the study as the great bridge between the two. It has become the intellectual study that informs the intersections, nexuses, interactions, and exchanges of the politics, economics, cultural and social studies of African descendant peoples. The study has become a global ethnic and area study which has now expanded the study of African Americans from an ethnic-national focus, as well as expanded the study of Africa from a comparative- area/regional basis that now integrates both as a global, diasporic study. In advancing this trend in African Diaspora Studies, our book – note that my co-editors are Michigan State University professors, Dr. Glenn Chambers and Dr. Tama Hamilton Wray –fills a gap in the Study of the African Diaspora. We are distinctive, I believe, in articulating the contours of the global trend and shift while also pedestaling and repositioning the continent of Africa in relation to this global expansion.

SA: What types of projects and dialogues do you hope this book will inspire?

RE: I’ll cite the book’s blurb written by Canadian Professor of English Ato Quayson, who also has Ghanaian heritage and has written extensively on the topic of new African Diasporas (see his own book  titled, Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism). Quayson says of our book, “….New Frontiers…pairs a candid enigma – what is the African Diaspora? – with a set of essays that tackles the question from a variety of perspectives.”

As well, Jean Rahier, Professor of African Diaspora Studies at Florida International University whose own co-edited Volume on African Diaspora Studies, Global Circuits of Blackness: Interrogating the African Diaspora, inspired our book with his afterword. While commending our work for its recognition of the “transnationality” of the African Diaspora and for our positioning Africa’s coeval location and relationships with peoples of the African Diaspora globally, Rahier pushes our study to incorporate European and/or Australian based scholarship on the African Diaspora which would have appropriately pushed the limit of our expansionist African Diaspora theme appropriately further. Finally, in addition to what we significantly refer to as “global pivots,” “repositioning Africa,” “exploring uncharted African diasporas in Latin America and the Caribbean” – all significant talking points that I know will create debates and discussions – we uniquely raise a disciplinary question about how African Diasporas are represented in our section on “Humanities African Diasporas.” In doing so, our contributing authors present chapters on the filmic representations of the Garifuna, Nigerian cinema (Nollywood in Brazil), Ethiopian filmmakers in the US, African film festivals in Canada, Afro-Danish artists in New Orleans, and Afro-Peruvian artists among other creative representations of African Diaspority.

SA: How have your affiliations with the McCormack Graduate School and UMass Boston assisted with the publication of this book?

RE: While the genesis of the book project began with my recently previous role as Professor of International Relations and Director of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University, the completion of the manuscript occurred with my current appointment as Professor of Global Governance, Human Security, and International Relations and Associate Dean here at the McCormack Graduate School. From the vantage point of this book where now I’ve left what one former city council member in Detroit called, “The African city of Detroit,” I find myself in Cosmopolitan Boston where African and African American diversity is just as intriguing.

Now in Greater Boston, with my colleagues from the Trotter Institute of Black Culture, the Asian American Studies Institute, the Gaston Latin American Studies Institute, and the Native American Institute, I continue the study of the Public Policy of African Diaspority in an American region. With our project, “The Changing Faces of Massachusetts,” I am especially intrigued by the large communities of Black Bostonians, Cabo Verdes, Haitians, Nigerians, Somali, and other communities of African descent who have for so long contributed to the socio-cultural formation of the region here. Our study will deepen the research that I began in the current book, and perhaps provide the opportunity to present more empirical and policy evidence of the dynamism and complex relations of these communities and their impact on American life.

September 28, 2018
by mccormackgradschool
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Saadia Ahmad, ’17 graduate of Master’s in Conflict Resolution, participated in the inaugural Muslim Jewish Interfaith Coalition Forum in Morocco

Saadia Ahmad, a 2017 graduate of the Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution, recently participated in the inaugural forum of the Muslim Jewish Interfaith Coalition (MJIC) in late August. The conference brought together 60 young adults who identify as Muslim or Jewish from over 30 countries to Essaouira, Morocco for a week of building relationships, learning about one another’s religions, forging new professional networks and possibilities for collaboration, and exploring the Moroccan city’s rich history as a place of peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Jews.

Saadia is also a Fellow with the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development, through which she worked with Darren Kew, Center Director and Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution, on a 5-year USAID project on creating faith-based mediation systems to mitigate violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

She can be reached at saadia.ahmad001@umb.edu.

 

McCormack Speaks: What were some of the highlights of the program?

SA: The structure of the schedule, guest speakers, discussion groups, and visits to religious sites were immensely helpful in gaining content knowledge about the history and theology of Islam and Judaism and experiencing the culture, people, and hospitality of Morocco. That being said, what I often most benefit from and appreciate in these programs are the informal interactions and relationships that blossom in between all of the programming. It was during these moments of conversation, both serious and lighthearted, where I was able to learn more about the spiritual and political interests and questions around Muslim-Jewish matters that I came in with.

 

McCormack Speaks: Why was this interfaith program of interest for you to attend?

SA: I’ve been involved as a participant and as a facilitator with many interfaith programs over the last seven years that bring people together to talk, explore similarities and differences between traditions, build relationships and understanding across (and often within!) religious groups, and develop partnerships for working together in the long-term. This was my first interfaith program that focused specifically on relationships between Muslims and Jews. I’ve been looking for this for a while, as many of the programs and organizations I’ve been involved with thus far focus primarily on Muslim-Christian relationships and interfaith dialogue between multiple religious groups.

Depending on the religious groups that are present, there are different topics and questions on the table that are specific to those religious groups and those distinctive relationships. For Muslims and Jews, for example, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is the obvious and stereotypical example of a topic that is of special importance to Muslims and Jews and Muslim-Jewish engagement. Equally important issues are the shared experience of being minority religious groups in the West and, with that, the potential for collaboration and supporting one another through all the challenges that a minority status entails.

Additionally, I’m in a phase of exploring questions around my faith and have shifted in some of the ways I practice and identify with Islam. In conversations with some of my Jewish friends and reading the work of Jewish authors, I’ve come to appreciate how the tradition emphasizes intellectualism, asking questions, and creates space for those who identify as Jewish but who may not practice – something that is also present in my own tradition but is not mainstream in the same way. I was very interested in hearing how Jews as well as other Muslims engage with their faith and issues affecting their religious communities in ways beyond normative practice, ritual, and belief. In other words: what does it mean to be a Jew or a Muslim who identifies deeply with the religion, but not engage in some of the traditions and practices expected of someone who claims a religious identity? This program created the right space thematically, geographically, and logistically to explore all of the above.

 

McCormack Speaks: How did you first decide to pursue work and advanced studies in interfaith dialogue and conflict resolution?

SA: I first became involved with interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding during my undergraduate studies as a Muslim at a Catholic college, where I experienced the benefits of positive interfaith exchanges. Through regularly attending Catholic worship services, taking theology courses, participating in Campus Ministry, and serving on its Pastoral Council, I experienced my own Islamic faith sophisticating in unprecedented ways. I realized the potential for religion to unify and heal rather than to divide and harm and created the college’s first interfaith organization to facilitate such encounters and also to support non-Catholic members of the community.

As only 20% of the Muslim student population at the time, I also encountered hostility and misunderstanding around my religious and racial identities. I witnessed significant misunderstanding of Islam and realized the need for more Muslim public intellectuals and for greater interfaith community building efforts. These experiences – both the positive and the difficult – motivated me to facilitate and encourage positive interfaith interactions in our local and global communities.

 

McCormack Speaks: How have your affiliations with the Conflict Resolution program, the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development, and the McCormack Graduate School assisted with your work?

SA: Our classes, professors, and classmates push us to think critically and compassionately about conflict: to ask questions that others may not think or want to ask, to recognize the humanity of the other side, to suggest that there are alternatives to harmful and destructive ways of dealing with conflict. The field experience I gained through facilitating online with Soliya, mediating small claims cases in the Dorchester District Court, and meeting with Muslim and Christian clergy and leaders in Nigeria, have helped me further develop my skills and combine theoretical knowledge with practical application. The op-ed articles I’ve written over the years – including in The Boston Globe, America Magazine, and The Richmond Times – are also informed by this approach.

There’s a way in which studying and practicing in this field seeps into your bones, and you begin to view everything around you – both professional and personal matters – through the lens of what causes conflict, what may help manage or resolve it, and how you might play a role in that.

June 6, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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The Missing Voice

by Jack Whitacre, PhD Student in Global Governance and Human Security

Over the course of the last year, our PhD cohort in McCormack School’s Global Governance and Human Security program explored different international organizations from around the world. By studying the canon of global governance and international organizational theory, we acquired new tools for understanding factors that shape the world. Part of this journey involved adopting a more critical approach and questioning claims of international organizations, like the Arctic Council (AC), quantitatively. This reflection sheds light on unique findings that display UMass Boston’s encouragement for interdisciplinary work.

After learning how Arctic indigenous groups bear disproportionate environmental burdens in the High North, I started studying the Arctic Council in greater depth. The Arctic Council was designed in large part to uplift indigenous voices, heritage, culture, livelihood amidst a changing Arctic environment. The following organizations are Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council: Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwich’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Council, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, and the Saami COuncil. The education at UMass Boston helped me ask whether the Arctic Council was truly living up to its environmental and human rights ambitions. First, analyzing digital archives revealed that indigenous considerations have significantly decreased in Senior Arctic Observer (SAO) meeting minutes from 1999 to 2017. Second, state and external organizations were twice as likely to spearhead indigenous projects and debates than the indigenous groups themselves. And third, indigenous issues appeared in only 0.0004375% of content in a typical SAO document. For this reason, it can be argued that indigenous people are more subjects than participants in the AC’s SAO.

By studying one of the most democratic and praised international organizations with a critical lens and expanded tool kit, I found gaps and areas for possible improvement. This research increased my capacity for literature reviews, statistical analyses, and writing. The quantitative story of the Arctic Council, indigenous participants, and missing voices is an important, but untold, history of non-state actors. It represents a vulnerability in the Arctic Council’s mission, and a factor that may shape the future of the forum. To borrow a phrase from the Japanese Ministry, my first year in the Global Governance and Human Security program taught me how to envision a world where people “live healthy, productive lives in harmony with nature.” Hopefully, sharing a snapshot from this journey helps make these aspirations a reality.

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