A Message from the Executive Director

Over the past year, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs has newly associated eighteen members of the Harvard faculty. They are:

  • Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, Assistant Professor of African American Religions, Harvard Divinity School;
  • Anya Bernstein, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and of Social Studies;
  • R. Nicholas Burns, The Sultan of Oman Professor of the Practice of International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School;
  • Dara Cohen, Assistant Professor in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School;
  • Jean Comaroff, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology;
  • John Comaroff, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology;
  • Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Assistant Professor of Education;
  • Andrew Gordon, Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History;
  • David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School;
  • Paul Kosmin, Assistant Professor of the Classics;
  • Akshay Mangla, Assistant Professor of Business Administration;
  • Gwyneth McClendon, Assistant Professor of Government;
  • Dina Pomeranz, Assistant Professor of Business Administration;
  • Meg Rithmire, Assistant Professor of Business Administration;
  • Jason Ur, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology;
  • Natasha Warikoo, Assistant Professor of Education;
  • Kirsten Weld, Assistant Professor of History; and
  • Eric Werker, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Marvin Bower Fellow.

Truly notable (beyond the intellectual distinction of each of these exceptional scholars) is that more than half of our new Faculty Associates are women, and more than half hail from Harvard’s professional schools (and therefore not from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences). Their research interests range from “the changing geopolitical imaginaries of mobile religious communities across Eurasia” (Bernstein) to “the direct capture of CO2 from ambient air” (Keith) to “the role of urban governments and land control in China’s economic reforms” (Rithmire). That is to say, this is not your grandparents’ Center for International Affairs.

Credit for the growing eclecticism of the Center’s research community goes principally, of course, to our recent past faculty director, Beth Simmons. Upon taking the reins of the Center in the fall of 2006, Beth expanded the horizons of this institution in many ways, adopting a voice of leadership at once inclusive, intellectually demanding, and wholly remarkable for its strong advocacy of our mission. While other institutions responded by becoming more conservative in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, this Center became more flexible, more engaged, and more generous, actually expanding its grants for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty because, after all, in the context of retrenchment, where would their research opportunities come from otherwise? It was as though we passed our very own Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, doing our best to stimulate intellectual growth, sometimes by sheer willpower.

This year we expect neither easing nor retrenchment.

Summer 2013 saw twenty undergraduates and some sixty-five graduate students, all beneficiaries of Weatherhead Center grants, in Africa, throughout the Americas, and in Asia, Australia, and Europe. As spring applicants for field-research grants, the enormity of their intellectual ambition daunts us. As summer correspondents from their far-flung sites, their enthusiasm (and rapid maturation) delights us. As somewhat wearied but certainly wiser “civilians” once again in the fall, they make it very clear to us why we work so hard, collectively, to facilitate their scholarly explorations.

September 2013 witnesses the initiation of three dozen seminars. New among them will be the Center’s sponsorship of the Friday Morning Seminar in Culture, Psychiatry and Global Mental Health, nearly forty years old but newly under our wing, led by Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good and Byron Good; the very welcome revival of the Joint Seminar on South Asian Politics chaired by Ashutosh Varshney and Patrick Heller (Brown), Akshay Mangla and Prerna Singh (Harvard), and Vipin Narang (MIT); and continued growth of Conversations Across Borders: A Transnational Studies Initiative Workshop, led by Peggy Levitt and Jocelyn Viterna, which has attracted the attention of a wide array of scholars throughout the region and beyond.

Conferences nourish the Center’s intellectual purpose. This academic year will bring, in October, “The Global E.P. Thompson: Reflections on the Making of the English Working Class after Fifty Years,” chaired by Andy Gordon with the cooperation of the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History that Sven Beckert and Charles Maier convene; “Local States of Play: Land and Local Capitalism in China,” a November book workshop by Meg Rithmire; a December gathering of Jeff Frieden and Ken Shepsle’s Research Group on Political Institutions and Economic Policy; an April book workshop by Filiz Garip on “Chasing Dreams: The Diverse Motivations Behind Mexico-U.S. Migration;” and an ambitious gathering headed by Bill Clark, also in April on “Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development: A Global Systems Perspective.”

Professor Beckert’s and Maier’s Weatherhead Initiative Research Cluster on Global History is now operating at full force. With the intention of “creating a network of institutions all over the world that will bring global historians worldwide into a sustained conversation,” new partner institutions are the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam and the Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar. A small group of postdoctoral researchers are gathered at Harvard as WIGH scholars this year while Professors Maier and Beckert have organized a for-credit seminar in global history, a one-day workshop in the fall with papers by recent PhD students on the “global 1930s,” and are planning larger conferences on unifying themes in global history for 2014.

The Center is delighted to greet three visiting faculty members in residence this year. The Canada Program’s 2013–2014 William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies is George Elliott Clarke, a poet, scholar, and playwright with a faculty appointment with the Department of English at the University of Toronto, who examines the cultural geography of the black Canadian communities of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Jacob Remes is the Canada Program’s Mackenzie King Visiting Research Fellow. Most recently teaching at the Empire State College of the State University of New York, Remes specializes in the working-class and labor history of North America. Finally, our Program on Transatlantic Relations is distinguished by the presence of Michelle Cini, professor of European politics at the University of Bristol and a specialist on the internal politics of the European Commission, who is a resident in the spring as our Pierre Keller Visiting Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The Weatherhead Center is proud to be deepening its commitment to the University by administering the finances of Harvard Scholars at Risk, a program that well reflects Harvard’s long-standing commitment to supporting scholars and public intellectuals brought to the University because of their well-founded fear of persecution.

Freedom of intellectual inquiry and expression is, of course, essential to our purpose. The Center is founded on the basis of this goal, expressly structured to facilitate it, and animated by a desire to move the frontiers of knowledge through the asking of questions large and small in the realms of international, transnational, global, and comparative research. This interdisciplinary and intergenerational community, in this privileged place, will never take for granted the freedoms we have and the scholarship we promote.

On August 24, 2013, the Center’s founding director, Robert Bowie, celebrated his 104th birthday. We mourned his passing on November 2, 2013. As it turns out, on July 1, 1957, when, at the invitation of Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean McGeorge Bundy, Professor Bowie accepted his appointment to Harvard, he had not yet lived half of his life.

Back then, Professor Bowie was determined to lead an institution that was catalyzing and enterprising. He cited in the Program for the Center for International Affairs, “…the pressing need for widened knowledge and understanding: for more awareness of the nature and complexity of foreign affairs; for more informed and imaginative thinking.” Later, writing in 1972 at the culmination of his fifteen years as Center director, he reflected, “…the problems of international order are even more complex, the pace of change more rapid, and the scope of change much broader than we had earlier realized. The capacity to cope must still rest on fundamental knowledge and analysis which governments are not equipped to provide. For that need, I see no alternative to mobilizing the intellectual resources of the universities.”

In this 55th year in the life of the Center, we continue to uphold Professor Bowie’s vision and his trust—and now his memory.

And so we warmly welcome you to this new year.

Steven B. Bloomfield
Executive Director