From March 27 to 29, 2014, the Weatherhead Center held, in concert with the Herbert C. Kelman Institute for Interactive Conflict Transformation, based in Vienna and Jerusalem, and the Center for Peace Research and Peace Education, based in Vienna, a conference entitled “The Transformation of Intractable Conflicts: Perspectives and Challenges for Interactive Problem Solving.” The gathering was held in honor of Professor Herbert C. Kelman, in recognition of his pioneering work in the field of peacebuilding and his decades-long effort dedicated to peace and dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. Dozens of attendees spoke of the importance of Herb and his legacy to their values and their careers. Nearly everyone present could call him their teacher.
The conference was a fitting tribute. Herb was born in 1927 in Vienna, from where he and his family fled in 1939, to Belgium and then to the United States. Awarded a PhD by Yale University in 1951, he first came to Harvard in 1957 as a lecturer in social psychology, after which he accepted a faculty appointment at the University of Michigan in 1962. He returned to Harvard in 1968 as Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, joining the scholarly community of the Center for International Affairs several years later.
Herb has spent over 38 years (and counting) at the Center, serving here in practically every scholarly role that one can: as a research grantee, mentor to graduate students, confidant to Fellows, participant in governance (as a member of the Center’s Executive Committee from 1976 to 2004), program head (of the Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution from 1993 to 2003—which he founded), and, serially, as a seminar chair. In 1976–1977, Herb led a seminar on official and unofficial diplomacy. In 1977 he was invited to co-chair (with Edward Sheehan and Nadav Safran) the Middle East Seminar. In 1978 he became the sole chair of that seminar and remained in that position until 1996, when Lenore Martin and Sara Roy joined him as co-chairs. That team continues to lead the seminar to this day. Herb has even had a seminar named after him: the Herbert C. Kelman Seminar on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution, founded and chaired by Donna Hicks.
What is more, in 1959–1962, during the time of his first Harvard appointment, Herb and his wife, Rose, lived in the old Ambassador Hotel at 1737 Cambridge Street. The hotel later became Coolidge Hall, which housed the Center for International Affairs from the mid-1970s until 2002. That same address is the current location of WCFIA in the Knafel Building, within the Center for Government and International Studies. Truly, the Center has been an essential home to Herb and Rose, in one way or another, for more than four decades.
Herb’s transformative research has contributed to the solution of real-world problems, the advancement of scholarly knowledge, the championing of sustained dialogue, and the formation of young scholars. These foundations of his own career are the pillars on which the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs also stands.
In 2014–2015 the Center is to disburse nearly one million dollars in research funding and host approximately ten conferences and over thirty seminar series. Faculty Associates, now numbering over 200, are joined by forty students, forty visitors, and twenty-five members of our administrative staff to make up a true community of scholars.
Beyond these pillars and these numbers, we are especially proud of our promotion of a new energy to form partnerships that reach beyond our institutional borders. To quote a recent letter by Charles Maier, co-principal investigator with Sven Beckert of the Weatherhead Initiative in Global History (WIGH), after his return from a “fantastically exhilarating and intense journey, on a personal and intellectual level” to the University of Dakar, one of WIGH’s global partners along with universities in São Paolo, Shanghai, Amsterdam, and New Delhi, to attend a conference and to offer a seminar:
It seems crucial to me that internationalization involve not only the institutional centers than can bring their own wealth to the table—Europe, the Emirates, increasingly East and South Asia—but those potential partners who have few resources other than brains and enthusiasm. Our Weatherhead Initiative in Global History has been forging links with other centers for global history in Latin America, Asia, and Europe….We have been building a program unique in that it involves the global south as full-fledged partner-participants, and not just subjects of study. We have been able to fund Harvard students to study in these regions, and in a limited way to bring their young researchers to Harvard…. This is a program deeply involved in teaching at Harvard, as well as research. In a modest way it is helping to train a new generation of students whose intellectual experiences and networks span the world….The topics that students have been exploring include such issues as the history of famine in East Africa, pharmaceuticals, West African textile production, Japanese colonial production of perfume, UN agreements to assure child maintenance when fathers migrate, even the Franciscan effort to spread the ideals of poverty across their missionary territories of the sixteenth century. We have held conferences on ‘the global 1930s,’on the history of agrarian labor regimes, and this coming year we are organizing a conference on the comparative history of incarceration—for which over 300 applicants answered our call for proposals.
As I write, seemingly unmendable fractures are appearing in many places around the globe. Under sustained tensions—political, ethnic, religious, and economic—simply the names of certain locales become, over time, tragically synonymous with strife and with death: Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine. While the first ways out of crisis are often reflexively humanitarian, the next, sustainable ways to negotiate conflict must be based on deep understandings of the disciplines that promote human understanding—and the understanding of the behavior of human beings.
Success stories exist as well, like free and fair elections after years of political and economic reform in Indonesia, and generalized economic growth in Africa, Latin America, China, and India that is lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.
This research center—indeed, this University—is founded on the optimistic notion that the deep analysis of honestly gathered and carefully assessed data can improve the human condition. We also put to work a belief that the free exercise of the quest for knowledge is, in itself, a worthy human endeavor.
As we offer grants and advice to students in the field knowing that, to some extent, their very being in harm’s way is the best path to knowledge; as we launch new seminars with fresh scholarly constituencies that push the frontiers of knowledge in new and different ways; as we provide funding and administrative support for conferences that assemble scholars from around the world, forging new intellectual partnerships; as we host visiting professors and scholars from places that have little access to resources like ours; and as we provide large grants for truly innovative thinking that can change the way we think about and can solve some of the world’s most intractable problems, the Weatherhead Center is serving a large community of thinkers who sustain an even larger community of doers.
We are appreciative of the opportunity to uphold the ideals of our founders and our supporters in these ways, and so we enthusiastically welcome the challenges and opportunities of our new year.
Steven B. Bloomfield
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