This spring, the mood around the Weatherhead Center vacillates between hopeful optimism and somber concern. Hope is reflected in our graduating students—who, after more than two years of pandemic restrictions on their studies, are ready to take their next steps into a more promising world. At the same time, terrible humanitarian crises—in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and other places—darken our world and reinforce our commitment to the study of international affairs and global challenges. Violence and human displacement require our continued efforts to make the world a better place.
Consistent with the Center’s original efforts to connect research with our complex and ever-changing world, the Weatherhead Center staff is working with Harvard’s Scholars at Risk Program to help scholars from around the world escape persecution and continue their work. The abundance of violent conflicts globally has produced a backlog of scholars who need such support. Our staff colleagues are working to help facilitate safe circumstances for scholars from places in crisis.
In addition, we are in the process of approving several new Weatherhead Research Clusters that will launch this summer. These new clusters will join the existing roster of clusters on Regions in a Multipolar World; Comparative Inequality and Inclusion; and Global Transformations (WIGH).
Our research clusters strengthen the identity of the Center and its intellectual profile while maintaining our focus on funding a wide range of faculty research. They promise future scholarly contributions by promoting multidisciplinary collaboration across Harvard’s schools and departments and beyond. And they generate ties between undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral and visiting scholars, and faculty within the Weatherhead Center. We are proud of the connections these clusters produce, and the pressing global issues they address.
Recent events related to sexual harassment on campus—and in the broader academic world—have reinvigorated our efforts to foster a productive and safe community. After a fruitful community dialogue earlier in the semester, we are establishing an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging standing committee at the Weatherhead Center. This group—comprising faculty, students, and staff—will strategize ways we might acknowledge and address some of the issues our community members face. This is challenging and uncomfortable work and will require self-reflection, accountability, collaboration, and creative thinking. We are committed to this process, because we believe that making the Center a supportive place for everyone provides a better foundation for the innovative research we are known for.
Finally, I want to share my plans for the next academic year: I will take an (overdue) sabbatical leave in 2022–2023 to gather data for my new book on identity politics and conflict, with a particular focus on Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dean Larry Bobo has appointed Erez Manela, Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate and professor of history, to serve as interim director. Erez is the director of Graduate Student Programs at the Center, so he already knows our community well. I’m delighted to head into a period of research knowing that the WCFIA is in good hands, and I look forward to reconnecting with everyone in the fall of 2023!
Weatherhead Center Director
Photo credit: Mark Ostow