international

Amid Russia-U.S. tensions, educational exchanges continue

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As tensions between the U.S. and Russia have escalated, administrators of international exchange programs largely report business as usual. 

After Protest, Al-Quds President Announces Retirement

The president of Al-Quds University, an Arab university in the West Bank, announced his retirement on Wednesday, three days after hundreds of Hamas supporters held a protest on campus, Haaretz reported. In a statement, Sari Nusseibeh, Al-Quds’ president for 20 years and a leading Palestinian political moderate, cited his age and long tenure in office as his reasons for retiring and said he would stay on as a philosophy professor. 

An earlier Islamist rally on the Al-Quds campus cost the university its partnerships with Brandeis and Syracuse Universities. Brandeis suspended its partnership following a November demonstration in which protestors reportedly used the traditional Nazi salute and honored “martyred” suicide bombers. A report authored by faculty affiliated with Brandeis's International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life has called for the resumption of the partnership

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North Korea Requires Male Students to Get Haircut

North Korea is requiring male university students to get haircuts in the style of the country's ruler, Kim Jong-un, BBC reported. The requirement follows a campaign against long hair.

 

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In Student Politics, a Divestment Measure Fails, Another Vetoed

The movement on the part of student governments to issue resolutions supporting divestment from companies in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heated up this week, with results that are sure to be the source of continuing contention.

The University of Michigan’s Central Student Government on Wednesday rejected a resolution calling for the university to divest from companies that allegedly have supported human rights violations against Palestinians, the Ann Arbor News reported. The 25-9 vote against the resolution came after a weeklong sit-in by the resolution’s advocates.

Meanwhile, the president of the United Student Government Association at Loyola University, in Chicago, vetoed a similar divestment resolution that the association had passed by a 12-10 margin, with nine abstentions, JNS.org reported. The student government president, Pedro Guerrero, cited what he described as the undemocratic way in which the resolution was introduced and the harm it had caused to the university community, among other concerns, in a veto message.

The Loyola student government, which has already taken two votes on the resolution -- the first passed by an even wider margin of 26-0, with two abstentions -- needs a two-thirds majority to override Guerrero's veto. 

 

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Deported vice chancellor wants to return to Papua New Guinea

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A vice chancellor struggles to return to a university where students are rallying behind him.

Globalization of Higher Education: A New Compilation

Inside Higher Ed is today releasing a free compilation of articles -- in print-on-demand format -- about the globalization of higher education. The articles reflect long-term trends in the recruitment of foreign students, study abroad, internationalization of the curriculum, online education and more. The articles aren't today's breaking news, but reflect long-term trends and some of the forward-looking strategies that colleges are adopting. Download the booklet here.

This booklet is part of a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

On Tuesday, April 15 at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman conducted a free webinar to talk about the issues raised in the booklet's articles. To view the webinar, please click here.

 

 

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Russian Institute Fires Professor Who Criticized Annexation of Crimea

A philosophy professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations was fired after writing an op-ed criticizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea as akin to Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria, Reuters reported. The institute, which is affiliated with the foreign ministry, said it had dismissed Andrei Zubov for criticizing Russian foreign policy: "Let the inappropriate and offensive historical analogies and characterizations lay on Zubov's conscience, the leadership of MGIMO view it as impossible for A.B. Zubov to continue working at the institute,” it said in a statement.

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Essay on a literary festival in India and the state of the humanities

Are you frightened by shrinking enrollments in literature courses? Does the crisis in the humanities induce heart palpitations? Do you experience nausea when reading about the decline of reading? To anyone suffering from these symptoms, I recommend a rejuvenating travel to the East: attend the Jaipur Literary Festival.

The festival begun less than 10 years ago as part of a heritage festival in this medium-sized town in Rajasthan, about 170 miles from Delhi. The brainchild of William Darlrymple, a British writer on India, and Namita Gokhale, an Indian writer and publisher, it has become one of the places where one can watch world literature happen.

The road to Jaipur is a nightmare. Cars come at you the wrong way, flashing their lights; trucks decorated with beads and murals demand that you honk at them ("Horn Please!"), as if drivers here need that encouragement. Seemingly unperturbed by the cacophony are the animals wandering blithely across the road: cows, camels, goats, donkeys, elephants, sheep, hogs, and dogs. Literature? Here?

As it happens, only humans attend the festival, loads of them: 1 lakh, as one organizer boasts, using the convenient word for 100,000 that has become part of South Asian English. Jaipur in January has become the favorite watering hole for publishers, agents, and authors. Tourists following the endorsement of their Lonely Planet guides join in. But above all, the festival is for a species that might as well be called The People. I talked to a car mechanic who has used a neighbor's motorcycle to drive in from the countryside; an engineering student who has taken a day off from work; and a rickshaw driver who combines business and pleasure. "Obama — very good; Bush — very bad; is a monkey face," he screams as he honks his way through the crowds.

Some of the people are attracted by celebrity. Last year, Oprah Winfrey came, causing a spike in attendance ("Oprah very nice lady — dark skin like me" the rickshaw driver says). Others seek out Bollywood stars and talk show hosts. The inside crowd is scavenging for invitations to after-parties and private dinners at luxurious retreats in the countryside with an intensity that I have seen trumped only by Cannes. But amidst all the jostling, literature holds its place, and most people have made the journey to be in its elusive presence.

Not all the buzz has been positive. Two years ago the festival went through its most severe crisis when Muslim groups protested the planned attendance of Salman Rushdie, whose novel Satanic Verses is still banned in India. When Rushdie decided instead to Skype-in his talk, a dangerous-looking crowd gathered outside the festival, and there were rumors of planned violence. The organizers decided to pull the plug, but a few speakers recited from the novel anyway, an illegal act that ultimately forced them to flee the country.

Few people mention that crisis this year, although it is not forgotten; here and there one hears thinly veiled concerns about freedom of speech in India ("You mean Rushdie" one speaker says; "I am not afraid to say his name"). But the prevailing atmosphere is one of celebration. People eat from stands offering delicious street food and drink spiced Masala chai served in traditional clay cups. They chat and watch and mill about. At night, the festival turns into a huge music stage, with bands from India to Morocco enlivening the night.

And of course there are the talks, readings, and discussions, which take place in large tents. It's not always easy to hear and see; there are just too many people. But it doesn't matter. The official program feels almost like an afterthought or rather like the occasion that allows the festival to happen. What matters is being here, being part of the celebration of literature. It's a true festival.

Some of the discussions up on stage are predictable anyway. There is the well-meaning hand wringing (in English), about the dominance of global English and complaints (by Americans) about the dominance of American fiction. In the good old theory days, we used to call this "performative contradiction"; now the technical term my students use is "ironic." But in any case, the festival itself tells a different story. There are relatively few Americans and instead plenty of Brits and N.R.I.s, non-resident Indians, in addition to South Asian writers.

What does world literature looks like, Jaipur-style? What hits you first is the exciting richness of India's diverse language traditions from Tamil in the South to Himalayan languages in the north, cutting across religious affiliations. Salma, who writes under that name about growing up in a Muslim community in a small South Indian village and who has become a strong voice in Tamil poetry, is something of a poster child for this form of diversity at the festival.

Another theme that emerges is travel writing, especially the strong British tradition, which is relatively unknown in the U.S. The biographers of Bruce Chatwin and Patrick Leigh Fermor, the two paradigmatic 20th-century travel writers, are in attendance, as well as Geoff Dyer, a genius at the deadpan takedown (when a panelist "admits" that he would stop writing if offered a large sum, Dyer starts bargaining him down and offers to take up a collection). In response to the travel theme, William Sutcliffe, a British novelist, makes a strong case for the travel novel as the master genre of world literature today.

What is most striking, perhaps, is the absence of writers from China, India's Asian rival. Many here see America's exclusive focus on China as too one-sided. "It would make much more sense for the world's oldest democracy to forge closer connections to India," Maya Jasanoff, a historian, observes. The festival is a reminder just how much India and the U.S. share. They are the two largest democracies and pride themselves on their diversity; and they both came into being through hard-won independence movements from the British Empire, to whose vestiges they remain tied, above all through language.

India's ubiquitous call centers are only one part of this story; the other, is literature. It is difficult to imagine something like the Jaipur Literary Festival in China, and not just because of state censorship there. Jaipur is made possible by the democratic diversity of India (despite its limits, as the Rushdie case shows), but also by the deep roots that tie India to the Anglophone world.

The animals and the gridlock on the road make one worry about the limits of India's economic development, but the festival is a reminder of its cultural power.

 

Martin Puchner is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English at Harvard University and general editor of The Norton Anthology of World Literature. He is at work on a travel book about world literature.

 

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Russia Plans to Create Federal University in Crimea

Russia plans to convert Tavrida National University, in Crimea, into a federal university in the Russian system, The Voice of Russia Radio News reported. Some other higher education institutions in Crimea may be merged into the university.

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University Leaders Back Student Protests in Taiwan

Leaders of 52 universities in Taiwan have urged the government to respond and engage with a student protest movement that has occupied the legislature and generated considerable debate, Taipei Times reported. The students oppose a new trade pact with China that they believe does not help Taiwan and could endanger democratic traditions on the island. The anthropology blog Savage Minds features a backgrounder with many links and videos about the growing student movement in Taiwan.

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