Emeritus Faculty Association news October 2013

Next Meeting:

Friday October 4th, 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. Professor of History Robert Chase was to talk on The Prisoners' Rights Movement and the Construction of the Carceral State, 1945-1990, based on his forthcoming book.
Bio: As a scholar of the post-1945 period, Prof Chase's areas of research and teaching include state and racial politics, African American and Latino history, urban history, labor history and working-class culture, critical race theory, political and sexual violence, social movements, and civil rights. Born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C., He received his Ph.D. in US history at the University of Maryland in 2009 where his dissertation was the recipient of the University of Maryland's Ann G. Wylie dissertation award and the E. B. and Jean Smith Dissertation Prize in Political History. Previously, Dr. Chase held postdoctoral fellowships with Southern Methodist University, Case Western Reserve University, and Rutgers University. In 2011 he was the Public Historian of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. Outside of academia, he spent eight years as a public policy analyst for Washington, D.C. area think tanks and public policy research centers. He joined our SBU faculty in January of this year. His forthcoming manuscript, Civil Rights on the Cell Block . . ., explores the roots of twentieth century prison growth, inmate society and the coercive relationship between keeper and kept, and the legal struggle between inmates and the state over race, prisoners' rights, and questions of citizenship.

Last Meeting:
Judy Wishnia, reported on union news. The new contract has reduced sick leave for new hires. The governor and chancellor are still hankering to privatize all state hospitals. After downstate, will upstate be next, followed by SB? On the up side, SBU medical school graduates the most minorities in NYS. And Judy seems impressed with the new UUP president, Fred Koswal.
New EFA chair Bob Kerber then introduced Yassin EL-Ayouty (bio in last issue), for a very timely talk on the Arab Spring - What is it, and where is it going?.
Yassin stated his intention of providing an overall outline so as to allow ample time for questions from the audience, a practice followed in the outline below, subject to available space. He defined the Arab Spring as popular street uprisings, largely leaderless, ignited by social communications media, and seeking dignity, development, and democracy (the last not so well defined). He divided the current states of the Arab-speaking world into categories of:
Those affected so far: Tunisia, Eqypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria;
Those on the verge of being similarly engulfed: Algeria, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan;
Those so far unaffected but subject to later engulfment: the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan;
and finally those that will probably be the last: Lebanon, Quatar, the Emerates, Oman, and Iraq.
What made the Arab world so susceptible was first of all the language itself, largely poetic, Quranic based, and tending to excite, but also: The colonial background which created boundaries not on the basis one contiguous Arab nation or cultural or tribal identities but rather to divide and conquer; The primordial role of the army, a tradition fostered by Ataturk and the Ottoman empire; The continuing search for identity - If Islam should be a nation as well as a faith, and how it should integrate minorities of Christians, Jews, Bahais, non-believers, and women; and finally how to deal with the issues of terrorism, Israel, and petro-liquidity.
What of the future? Yassin thinks that Eqypt will be crucial, possessing as it does 25% of the total Arab speaking population and the longest cultural history. However, except for Egypt (and perhaps Tunisia, Jordan, and Morocco), Yassin expects to see the gradual replacement of the unitary state with federations, and along with that the decline of the present militancy and Shia/Sunni hostility, among other effects. As to how long this may take, Yassin thinks until the end of this century(!) If this is so the US might want to be a little more economical in establishing red lines. And in view of all the mistakes and reversals in the years since Vietnam, perhaps have a little more modesty in claims of American exceptionalism. This is what Yassin thinks anyway. Consider for example that while the US has sunk 12 years of blood and treasure into Afghanistan, China has been writing huge contracts to foster commerce, including one for a rail link from Beijing to Kabul.
Questions: Questions from the audience brought forth further clarification, such as:
Iran (Dan Dicker): This is not an Arab country and has a much deeper culture. It is cohesive in a way that for example Saudi Arabia is not, has elections and permits women on the street. In the Arab Spring it competes for influence on the Shia side, in competition with the new Ottomans of Turkey under the Sunni banner.
The Sunni-Shia split (Ram Srivastav): This originated in the dispute over who should lead the Muslims after Muhammad's death in AD 632, since he had no surviving sons. The Sunnis went with the first three appointed caliphs, whereas the Shia (which in Arabic means partisan) went with Ali (Ali bin Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law), who they believed was Muhammad's divinely ordained successor.
Algeria and Morocco (Sarah Fuller): When Yassin was assigned to Algeria in 1960 as a young UN operative, he found it to be a place of continuous fighting, and it hasn't changed much since. The French have mostly departed by now but discord continues due to the islamic majority trying to suppress the 25% minorities, mostly Berber. Morocco on the other hand was never a colony and has a long rich and mixed culture. Now that it has annexed large parts of Western Sahara (Mauretania) fissures are also starting to appear there.
Role of the UN (Nomi Solo): For someone who has worked for the UN on and off for 50 years, Yassin does not have much faith in it. Founded after WW2, the winners gave most of the power to themselves in the Security Council veto and are not rushing to share it with any of the new emergent powers. The General Assembly gives equal votes to all 193 nations, from tiny Malta to massive China, but has no teeth and no responsibilities. Most agencies are made up of political appointees who are mostly incompetent and cannot be fired. Yassin sees more potential in the development of the regional organizations - the European Union, the League of Arab States, etc.
Role of the US (Samir Nizam): Currently the US has troops in 120 countries which is unsustainable. The golden age of the USA was the post WW2 period with the mostly economic aid programs, including for example the establishment of the American universities in Cairo and Beirut. Since then with the emphasis on the military and benevolent (and mostly otherwise) dictators, US influence on foreign minds has been declining. Yassin recommended the book by Richard Haas, Foreign Policy Starts at Home. By coincidence, this week the Frontline documentary Egypt in Crisis was aired, see: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/
Finally it is interesting to read Yassin's blog at http://tahrirforever.blogspot.com/
As you may read there, in the runoff election of May 2012 Yassin voted for the moderate Abdul-Fotooh, only to be faced the next month in the general election with the stark choice between the General Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi. Although he voted for Morsi only to help Egypt escape another president from the military he soon saw that Morsi was abusing his mandate and he believes that the Moslem Brotherhood has been destructive since.