Past Seminar Series
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Thursday, January 12, 12 - 1:30pm
Military Power and the Brittleness of States in Arab Transition
Dr. Yezid Sayigh
Senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut
Social contracts that were eroding in many Arab states in the two decades up to 2010 have collapsed in most countries affected by the Arab Spring. In these countries, state failure, widening social gaps reflected in political alienation and ideological polarization, and the framing of socio-political challenges by global and regional powers within a framework of "counter-terrorism" are deconstructing the model of the modern state that was built over the past century. As it retreats, violence has become the main medium of politics and a central instrument in building institutions and organizing political power. Consequently, efforts by ruling elites or local power brokers and their international counterparts to rebuild and reintegrate state agencies of coercion (armed forces and security sectors) are either doomed to fail or help drive the emergence of new forms of state structuring and state-society relations.
Wednesday, January 18, 12 - 1:30pm
Bottom-Up Urbanism in China: Urban Villages and City Development
Associate Professor of Urban Design at the University of Pennsylvania
China has witnessed the world’s largest urbanization drive, adding 400 million people to cities in only 35 years. Most of the new urban areas were built as car-oriented and mono-use “superblocks”, without human scale — planning mistakes the national government presently aims to correct through urban design guideline reform. But surprisingly, an alternative type of urbanization emerged from within China’s cities: urban villages, former agricultural villages that have become “urban” because of an influx of a large migrant population. These informal settlements exhibit pedestrian-oriented and mixed-use urban conditions that the formal city, restrained by dated zoning regulations that advantages vehicular transportation and mono-use, could not achieve. This presentation argues for the value of urban villages as places, and suggests that there are lessons in the urban villages for the formation of China’s new urban design guidelines.
Wednesday, January 25, 12 - 1:30pm
All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power
PWH Visiting Fellow and Director of Brookings’ Project on International Order and Strategy
Wednesday, February 1, 12 - 1:30pm
Leaving the Poor Behind? The Paradox of Urban Transformation in Africa’s Largest City
Postdoctoral Fellow, Perry World House
Focusing on Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and Africa’s largest city, this presentation analyzes the everyday challenges facing the city’s poor as they struggle to get by and exercise agency amidst a changing urban landscape of violent extortion, risk, and radical uncertainty. The analysis extends to the elite-driven ‘world-class’ megacity ambition and plan in Lagos (since 1999), which has resulted in the violent displacement of millions of ‘informal’ workers, adding another layer of vulnerability to their precarious existence.
Wednesday, February 15, 12 - 1:30pm
The Demographic Logic of War, Peace, and Politics in Multi-ethnic States
Postdoctoral Fellow, Perry World House
How do global and sub-national demographic shifts – changes in the size, distribution, composition, and growth rates of populations – shape efforts to prevent, manage, and resolve violent conflicts? To begin answering this broad question, this presentation focuses on how the demographic balance of power between competing ethnic groups affects the long-term viability of negotiated agreements in conflicts over national self-determination. Championed by the international community in Bosnia, Iraq, and most recently, Ukraine, power-sharing and autonomy-based solutions have become the preferred institutional framework for building peace and democracy in ethnically divided societies. Unfortunately, however, nearly half of these agreements collapse into renewed violence. Drawing on findings from a cross-national analysis of 103 violent national self-determination movements and evidence from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this research demonstrates that the demographic balance of power shapes how adversaries view the future of sharing political power and dividing control over territory within the boundaries of a single multi-ethnic state, which in turn can explain why peace endures after the cessation of hostilities in some conflicts but not in others. More broadly, this project cuts to the heart of policy debates about the promise and perils of political power sharing, the question of territorial partition as a solution to ethnonational strife, and the role of the international community in ending deadly conflicts.
Tuesday, February 21, 12 - 1:30pm
The US, India, and Global Politics: A Conversation with Arun Singh
Former Ambassador of India to the United States
Distinguished International Fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of India
Wednesday, February 22, 12 - 1:30pm
Enabling Effective Governance:Connecting the local to the global
Eugenie L. Birch, Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research
Mark Alan Hughes, Professor of Practice at PennDesign and Faculty Director of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy
Bill Burke White, Richard Perry Professor and Director of Perry World House
Wednesday, March 15, 12 - 1:30pm
US Interest in Middle East Oil: A Century of Expert Fabulism
Visiting Scholar, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy
Faculty Fellow, School of Energy Economics, Policy & Commerce, University of Tulsa
The assumption that the United States has a national interest in Middle East oil has gone largely unquestioned by historians and political scientists. I assert that their assumption is wrong. The notion that US oil supply is or was ever so threatened as to require military protection is a confection, which I call “oil scarcity ideology.” Experts derived the ideology from a meaningless syllogism of secular apocalysm and economic fabulism. The apocalypse was impending peak oil. The economic fabulism was that other countries could and would try to interrupt US oil supply. The USSR, for example, was believed to be planning an invasion of the Middle East to offset its dwindling domestic production, and Middle East oil-producing countries were believed to possess an “oil weapon” with which they could punish the US by withholding supply. The conclusion of the syllogism was that the US must exert military force to protect Middle East supply. This sounded threatening, but since oil always proved abundant and was always obviously so based on market information, the syllogism was meaningless. There is nothing exceptional in the development of foreign policy by experts, but there was something exceptional in oil scarcity ideology as a basis for policy. The ideology resisted modification when its assumptions were proved wrong, which was always. Despite falsification, there was no learning. Rather, the scarcity ideology policymaking dynamic operated with increasing success. The result was serial escalations in the aggressiveness of US policy towards the Persian Gulf; the US commitment to share of Ottoman oil as spoils of World War I; the 1953 coup against Iran; the Carter Doctrine of 1980; support for Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88; and the 1991 Gulf War. Peak oil anxiety was high in 2003, but was less important as a rationale for the Second Gulf War and occupation of Iraq. By then, decades of US policy based on scarcity ideology had helped destabilize the region, a condition that provided more compelling rationales for intervention.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 12 - 1:30pm
Bitter Peace: How America’s Victory in the Cold War Led to Political Division, Failing Wars, and the Rise of Donald Trump
Associate Professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College
Visiting Fellow in Residence, Perry World House
America today is a troubled land: fractious, discordant, mistrustful. Economic inequality is approaching record levels. Recent American wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq deteriorated into costly and unpopular quagmires. Confidence in many national institutions like the presidency, Congress, and the media, is at historic lows. To understand these divisions, people have pointed to globalization, post-industrial decay, and anxiety about fast-changing demographics. But a critical explanation was the unanticipated consequences of the end of the Cold War. The peaceful resolution of superpower competition was one of the greatest triumphs in American history. Just as the champagne corks cracked open in the West, however, Soviet official Georgi Arbatov told an American audience: “We are going to do a terrible thing to you. We are going to deprive you of an enemy.”
Without an external adversary to unite Americans, U.S. politics became polarized, income inequality heightened, and racial division widened. Washington succumbed to hubris, and was lured into wild adventures, including the invasion of Iraq. Meanwhile, enemies and rivals seized the opportunities provided by American hegemony to improve their position. Ultimately, these dynamics laid the path to the Trump presidency. From the American Revolution onward, Americans have often required a powerful enemy to create social and political cohesion. Perhaps most surprisingly, the American left needs an enemy. We tend to think that foreign threats and wartime demands strengthen the political right, by triggering political repression and channeling resources into the military. But the presence of adversaries has historically aided progressive social change, including income equality, civil rights, and U.S. backing for international institutions. Can Americans survive an age of peace—without tearing themselves apart?
Wednesday, April 5, 12 - 1:30pm
The Road From the Paris Climate Agreement
George Mason University & World Resources Institute
2013-2016, Senior Climate Change Adviser, U.S. Department of State
In December 2015 over 190 countries met in Paris for the 21st meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where they succeeded in creating a new international climate agreement. Many have heralded the outcome as a groundbreaking achievement for international diplomacy and global climate action. Others have argued that the climate commitments that parties brought to the table in Paris are ultimately too weak to achieve the agreements’ lofty aspirations. To better understand the significance of the new Paris Agreement we will review the recent history of the UN climate negotiations, how this outcome evolved from earlier failed attempts in this process, and be sure what its impact could be. A more pressing question however may be what new future for global climate cooperation is now required of us after Paris, especially in light of the last federal election in the United States. To close the current gap between the Paris pledges for emission reductions, and what is needed to achieve our long-term goals for climate stabilization, we will need to continue to strengthen the profile of climate change as equal to other global priorities, and find new opportunities for enhanced climate action that all parties can embrace despite their differing domestic circumstances.
Tuesday, April 11, 12 - 1:30pm
Is There a Nobel Prize in Economcis?
Savings Banks Foundations and Swedbank Chair in Macroeconomics at Stockholm University
Co-sponsored with the Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania
Wednesday, April 12, 12 - 1:30pm
The Built Environment: State Presence at Border Crossings in the Modern World
Andrew Mitchell University Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Co-sponsored with the Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics
Wednesday, April 19, 12 - 1:30pm
Jockin Arputham, President, Slum/Shack Dwellers International; Perry World House Visiting Fellow
Ahmet İçduygu, Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; Director, Migration Research Center, Koç University, Istanbul
Arafat Jamal, Head, Inter-Agency Coordination Service, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Perry World House Visiting Fellow
Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General; Deputy Executive Director, UN-Habitat; Perry World House Visiting Fellow
Ian Klaus, Former Senior Adviser for Global Cities, U.S. Department of State; Deputy Negotiator, U.S. Delegation to Habitat III; Perry World House Visiting Fellow
Rose Molokoane, Deputy Director, Slum/Shack Dwellers International; National Coordinator, South Africa Alliance and the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP)
Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration (2012-2017); Perry World House Visiting Fellow
Roundtable dialogue on Global Shifts: Urbanization, Migration, and Demography--An Examination of Marginalization and Inequality. The visiting fellows will discuss the challenges, opportunities, and intersections of their work in advance of the Global Shifts annual conference.
Tuesday, May 2, 2 - 3:30pm
The New Face of Global Cooperation on Climate Change
Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego
Director, the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation