Academic institutions must not compromise their capacity for critical thought, despite heightened calls for national unity and restraint in the wake of Sept.11, a panel of five Cornell professors argued last night at Bache Auditorium.
Entitled ‘Terror and Knowledge,’ the forum gave prominent scholars the opportunity to discuss the role of the University in the aftermath of the attacks and to contemplate appropriate educational responses.
Awareness Coordinated by the Einaudi Center for International Studies in conjunction with International Education Week, the two-hour program was geared toward raising awareness of international studies on campus, as well as initiating a dialogue on the post-Sept 11 function of academia.
Ron Herring, professor of government at the Einaudi Center, moderated the multi-disciplinary panel featuring Prof. Shelley Feldman, rural sociology; Prof. Dominick Lacapra, history, (also the director of the Society for the Humanities); Prof. Theodore Lowi, government, the John L. Senior, Professor of American Institutions; and Prof. James Siegel, anthropology.
Feldman set the tone for the evening by emphasizing the need for faculty and students to question American international policies in the face of the, “implicit prohibitions,” that have been set forth during the recent crisis.
“Surely the voices of the majority are being squashed in ways that don’t allow for consideration of what we need to be doing,” Feldman said. “The academy has a duty to generate these kinds of discussions and force these kinds of discussions.”
Throughout the event, the panelists grappled with questions of patriotism and the evaluation of America’s current strategies domestically and abroad. Herring warned that a failure to re-evaluate our current foreign policy would lead to the further endangerment of Americans. The United States must come to realize how its behavior on the global stage has fostered animosity and humiliation, he noted.
“People have accused me of being unpatriotic,” said Herring. “In fact the opposite is true. If we don’t come to understand why our foreign policies have infuriated people, we will continue to do it and put targets on the foreheads of this generation and the next generation.”
Lowi, however, rejected the role of American foreign policy in fueling terror, and targeted capitalism as the primary agent in provoking hostility against the U.S.
“As the major revolutionary force of the last 300 years, capitalism has undermined traditional community values and social structures of the Islamic world,” he said.
Rather than focusing on religious hostilities that have burned for centuries, Lowi encouraged academia to gain a deeper understanding of capitalist forces.
Capitalism represents a promising area of study in the aftermath of Sept. 11 since it has potential for reform, Lowi noted.
Echoing Feldman’s fears of academic prohibition, Lacapra railed against the “state of emergency” mentality that has descended over America since the attacks. Lacapra openly acknowledged the threat of martial law, citing the recent decision to use military
tribunals rather than civilian courts to try non-U.S. citizens accused of terrorism. In addition, he criticized the paranoia that has recently
emerged concerning Arab-Americans.
“The new solidarity is accompanied by a new suspiciousness,” said Lacapra. “[For example,] your reclusive neighbor may be making anthrax powder in his basement.”
In order to continue the dialogue on the ramifications of Sept.11, the Einaudi Center has also established a web site designed to present visitors with varying international perspectives on the tragedy, and the current conflict in Afghanistan. David Lelyveld, executive director of the Einaudi Center and editor of the site, noted that it serves as a central clearinghouse on campus for reliable information on current international affairs.
“We’re not trying to cover recovery efforts or the World Trade Center,” he said. “As a center for international studies, we are concentrating on international perspectives here. We are highlighting material that is perhaps off the beaten track, particularly things from other parts of the world.”
The site currently links to articles from sources including the Taiwan’s “Taipei Times” and France’s “Le Monde Diplomatique.” Also featured, is a section containing commentary from Cornell’s faculty.
Visitors can browse a list of Cornell courses being offered next semester relating to terrorism and war, as well as a frequently updated schedule of events and lectures concerning the aftermath of Sept. 11.
The Terrorism and War web site was launched on Oct. 24 after discussions by Einaudi Center administrators seeking to spur international awareness of the faculty and students. Lelyveld stressed that the site development is an ongoing process, as new features are added on a daily basis. While the site currently features a special subsection on Afghanistan, future additions may include
sections on Pakistan, India, Palestine, and Israel.
“The site seemed like a good idea, and it just snowballed into something bigger,” said Lelyveld. “It is not comprehensive by any means, but it brings together some perspectives of interest to those who want to go into greater depth.”
The newest site addition is a forum in which Cornell students who are currently abroad can interact with each other and report on international reactions.
Comments from students in Russia, France, Spain and Italy have recently been posted.
Archived article by Jason Leff