On October 14, 2017, one of the worst truck bombs ever experienced in Africa ripped the capital of Somalia, Mogadisho. On a global scale, this blast was only second to the 2016 attack in Iraq that killed 341 people in Karrada. This particular attack was so horrific that even a former Al-Shabaab leader was pictured donating much needed blood. As of October 16th, almost 276 people had been declared dead with 300 hundred injured. This number is likely to increase in the coming hours as the rubble is sifted through. Due to the intensity of the blast, there is a very real chance a large number of the dead will never be identified. One of the victims of the attack is Dr. Maryama Abdullahi who was to graduate from the medical school this week and whose parents’ joy and anticipation has now become unbearable grief. Another was Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, a Minnesota man who prayed at the Dar-Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. I’m not sure if you saw this in your regular news outlets or if it even crossed your social media platforms.

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On March 19, 2015, two armed men entered a museum in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, and opened fire, killing 19 people. The assailants specifically targeted a popular tourist destination with the alleged goal of generating maximum impact on behalf of the Islamic State (IS). This example is hardly unique. Between mid-2015 and mid-2016, numerous large-scale attacks against civilians occurred in the capitals of France, Indonesia, Turkey, the UK, and Belgium, to name only a few. Why do insurgents choose to target capital cities? Are these attacks evidence of a global trend? Are there specific circumstances in which attacks on capital cities are more likely?

Insurgent Attack in Tunisia, 2015 (PC: CNN)

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On Sept. 25th, 2017, the electorate of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (henceforth called ‘Başûr,’ the Kurdish name for Iraqi, or Southern, Kurdistan) participated in a historic referendum for independent statehood. Kurds in Iraq carried the decision to an overwhelming 93% vote in favor of secession, with 72% of all eligible voters participating. Having had de facto autonomy in most of Başûr since 1991—which today includes its own sitting president, international diplomacy missions, a military wing (Peshmerga), and foreign trade negotiations independent from Baghdad—the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) now appears intent on honoring the results of the referendum and striving toward full independence.

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Kurds Gather at Pro-Independence Rally (PC: Ivor Prickett for The New York Times)

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For the first time since 1933, an extreme-right party has been voted into German parliament. Going by the name of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), this newcomer made substantial gains from the last federal election (+7.9%) while centrist parties were dealt (to use a German soccer colloquialism) a massive “Klatsche.” Now Germany must ponder its political future. But what does this mean about the country’s collective memory? more...

The Twin Cities Arab Film Festival is finally here! This year, the festival covers a wide range of pertinent and urgent issues, especially in light of ongoing islamophobia and xenophobia targeting immigrants and refugees globally. Here, we have compiled a list of films that highlight the stories of people who grapple with, resist and remember conflicts and tragedies in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Below are the blurbs featured on the official festival website. The 2017 Arab Film Festival will go on from September 27th-October 1st.

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Riv-Ellen Prell, Professor Emerita of American Studies and former director of the Center for Jewish Studies is the co-curator of the exhibit A Campus Divided: Progressives, Anti-Communists, Racism and Antisemitism at the University of Minnesota 1930-1942.” The exhibit is open to the public until November 30, Monday-Friday, at Andersen Library. The digital exhibit is live.

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Professor Riv-Ellen Prell

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What makes someone an effective leader? Arguably, one vital component is being a capable and willing protector of one’s people. Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counselor of Myanmar and also a Nobel Laureate, is currently failing in this role. She continually chooses to “protect” only the Buddhist majority of Myanmar by supporting the government of Myanmar’s stance that the Rohingya, long time inhabitants of the Rakhine region of Myanmar, are not citizens. Their lack of legal citizenship has been used as justification by the state to perpetrate atrocities against the Rohingya, who are denied civil rights. These atrocities escalated this August when Rohingya militants attacked Burmese security forces. In retaliation, the Burmese military launched a violent crackdown against the Rohingya, killing hundreds of people, and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee into Bangladesh. There is little doubt left that Myanmar has begun a state sanctioned ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, using the violence perpetrated by a few Rohingya militants to justify the mass slaughter of an ethnic population.

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Rohingya Protestors (PC: Hindustan Times)

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My official title during my Spring 2017 teaching appointment at the Global Studies program – Visiting Professor – was in some ways misleading. The University of MN campus was not in any form new to me. I trod its paths as a graduate student back in the seventies, and later as a faculty member in the Classical and Near Eastern Department in the nineties. I was glad to be invited to revisit a familiar turf, not as a momentary visitor, but as a staff member. Embraced by Chair of CHGS, Professor Alejandro Baer, and ever-accommodating Program Coordinator, Jennifer Hammer, I plunged into the University’s old and new teaching routines with a little side splash. Challenges were encountered on unexpected fronts such as the likes of decoding the mechanics of discourse between computers whose compatibility was unnatural – a “Hebrew Speaking” PC and the campus’ Apple lingo. Or the ever-astonishing fact of a May 1st snow storm. Even as a veteran of a dozen winters I was caught by surprise. Perhaps the twenty warm years since I left the campus, and the Israeli scorching sun must have affected my brain’s memory cells. I was also surprised by the sign over the entrance door to Classroom 1-111 on the first floor of Hanson Hall, which read: The Dairy Queen Class. Quite ironic, I thought to myself, for a course on the history of the Holocaust. Evidently no prank, just one coincidence of what life is made of.

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Jennifer Hammer, Yehudit Shendar, and Alejandro Baer

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Moritz has been recently awarded the 2017-2018 Bernard and Fern Badzin Fellowship in Genocide and Holocaust Studies! Congratulations, Moritz!

Moritz was born and raised in Berlin, Germany and moved to Minneapolis in 2013 to pursue his graduate studies. He received his M.A in Germanic Studies from the University of Minnesota in 2015. Before moving to the United States, Moritz had a vocational career in theater, stage lighting, and intercultural communication. He studied Cultural Studies (cultural history major, linguistics minor) at theEuropean University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), where he received his B.A. in 2012. Moritz’s teaching and research interests are modern European literary and intellectual history, German-Jewish history and modern Ottoman/Turkish history. Moritz is interested in the representation of the Holocaust and experience of exile in literature and the arts and focuses on the encounters of Holocaust representation with other forms of twentieth-century violence, specifically for the case of Turkey and the Middle East.

Moritz is currently working on his dissertation project on the history of German and German-Jewish exile in Turkey during the 1930/40s. Focusing on the case of the literary critic Erich Auerbach (1892-1957), who wrote his most influential works on European literature while in Turkish exile and later in the U.S., Moritz examines the relationship of German-Jewish émigré culture to Turkish intellectual history. During the 2017/18 academic year, Moritz will conduct research abroad and begin writing his dissertation (prospective defense: Spring 2019).

Between 1975 and 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), also known as the Khmer Rouge, fundamentally transformed the social, economic, political, and natural landscape of Cambodia. During this time as many as two million Cambodians died from exposure to disease, starvation, or were executed at the hands of the state.

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The dominant interpretation of Cambodian history during this period, known as the Standard Total View (STV), presents the CPK as a totalitarian, communist, and autarkic regime seeking to reorganize Cambodian society around a primitive, agrarian political economy. Under the STV, the victims of the regime died as a result of misguided economic policies, a draconian security apparatus, and the central leadership’s fanatical belief in the creation of a utopian, communist society. In short, according to the STV, Democratic Kampuchea, as Cambodia was renamed, constituted an isolated, completely self-reliant prison state. My publication From Rice Fields to Killing Fields: Nature, Life, and Labor under the Khmer Rouge (Syracuse University Press, 2017) challenges the standard narrative and provides a documentary-based Marxist interpretation of the political economy of Democratic Kampuchea.

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