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Looking for Green in the Desert, an Irishman is Lured to Bahrain

In his new book, Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State, Gareth Doherty, assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, captures the tension between staying green and being sustainable.

Photo of Bahrain

To Gareth Doherty, there's no such thing as a single color "green." There are just too many hues and variations to commit to one label. Doing fieldwork in Bahrain, a desert nation in the Persian Gulf, he found a palette of colors, each imbued with the history, social dynamics, and politics of the island nation. Even when they live in a desert, people need green. On his daily walks across this arid, thirty-mile-long island, he documented the persistent presence of green, from green-painted roofs and doorways to a flourishing of scrub in the desert after a brief rain shower.

Because people hunger for green space, states and individuals will go to great lengths to get it, taking steps that are at odds with sustainable development. Doherty investigated the resources required to keep Bahrain green, and explored the facts and myths of how a country lost its fresh water and its iconic date palm groves over the past century. His fascination with fieldwork also has led him and his students to the Bahamas to study the sustainable development of an island archipelago, and to Brazil, where states experience different amounts of rainfall and seasonal blankets of green.

The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs asked Doherty about his year in Bahrain, and what he’s discovered about how people use and respond to the various colors of green in their landscape.… Read more about Looking for Green in the Desert, an Irishman is Lured to Bahrain

A Life in the Margins: Understanding the Roma Experience

In recognition of International Roma Day, Weatherhead Faculty Associates Jacqueline Bhabha and Jennifer Leaning, and their colleague, Roma Program Director Margareta Matache, discuss the annual conference and their team’s research on a disenfranchised people.

Image of Roma painting

In one of the popular Madeline children’s stories, the well-known redheaded French schoolgirl runs away with her friend Pepito to join a caravan of Gypsies who train them to perform in their traveling circus. At first they are thrilled not to have to go to school or brush their teeth. But when they become homesick, the Gypsy mother sews them into a lion costume, effectively kidnapping them.

Of course it ends well, with a rescued Madeline exchanging farewells with the affectionate Gypsy mother and children and returning to boarding school.

Is this a harmless children’s adventure story or does it perpetuate an enduring stereotype of criminality and indifference among a little-understood ethnic group? The educational crisis of Romani children (pejoratively referenced as “Gypsies”) is just one of many research topics spearheaded by a faculty team from the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center on Health and Human Rights at Harvard.

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Now That TPP Is off the Table, What's Next for NAFTA?

Political economist Marc Melitz weighs in on what the United States has to lose when trade agreements come undone.

Graphic of NAFTA auto industry imports and exports

After President Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement earlier this year, it seemed that NAFTA was next in his crosshairs.

But soon President Trump is expected to take a measured approach to the issue of trade and step away—at least temporarily—from his threats to dismantle the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by signing an executive order calling for a comprehensive study of US trade imbalances. The Trump worldview has consistently blamed foreign trade deficits, especially those with China, for job losses here at home. He has wanted to take down NAFTA to purportedly save American jobs, calling it “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country.”… Read more about Now That TPP Is off the Table, What's Next for NAFTA?

From Rome to Rwanda: The Centuries-Long Effort to Define Civil War

A new book by Harvard historian David Armitage unearths two millennia of thinking about a most ignoble type of war.

Image of Romulus and Remus on a coin

If you live in a developed country, you are among those enjoying the “Long Peace,” a period marked by the absence of large scale interstate war since the end of 1945. It is the longest period of such calm in modern history. During this same time period, however, the world’s pockets of conflict have moved away from the frontiers and turned, instead, inward. 

“The Long Peace stands under a dark shadow—the shadow of civil war,” writes Harvard historian and Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate David Armitage, whose new book, Civil Wars: A History in Ideas tracks the evolution of human understanding of civil war over two millennia.

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Veganism: An Elegant Solution to a Host of Global Problems?

Based on the “speed talk” Nina Gheihman presented at Global Food Plus 2017, February 24, 2017, which was recorded live on Facebook.

Image of Nina Gheihman

The year 2016 was hailed the “Year of Veganism.”[1] In the last year alone, Google searches for the term “vegan” increased by 32 percent; the World Health Organization classified processed meat as a carcinogen in the same class as cigarettes[2]; and a survey by Nutrition Business Journal found that more than a third of people consume dairy and meat alternatives regularly.[3] While many people still see veganism—the non-consumption of products derived from animals—as an extreme cultural practice, it is clear that veganism is no longer a marginalized social movement. This brings up the intriguing sociological question: How does a fringe cultural practice become mainstream?… Read more about Veganism: An Elegant Solution to a Host of Global Problems?

Elite Cues or Social Cues? The Formation of Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

A new study challenges long-held beliefs about what influences the public’s positions on foreign policy.

Image of people forming the shape of a person

In July 2014, a wave of violence erupted in the Middle East, as Israel responded to a barrage of rockets from Gaza by launching airstrikes, and eventually, a ground incursion intent on degrading Hamas’s military capabilities. In Washington, both Democrats and Republicans firmly sided with Israel: the Senate passed a unanimous resolution blaming Hamas for the conflict, and both prominent Democrats and Republicans gave staunch defenses of Israel’s right to defend itself.  

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The Power of Restraint in the “Golden Age” of Arms Control: A Tribute to Thomas C. Schelling

Image of Thomas Schelling teaching at Harvard

Thomas Schelling’s passing last month represents a great loss to many in this community and beyond. He leaves a remarkably rich intellectual legacy. Among his many achievements, Schelling’s influence on the theory and practice of arms control cannot be overstated. He produced his seminal works on the subject—Strategy and Arms Control, published with Morton Halperin in 1961, and Arms and Influence, published in 1966—during his twelve years in residence at the Center for International Affairs (1959–1971). I had the pleasure of spending time with Professor Schelling at his home in Bethesda while researching my book on the history of the Center in 2005. Two things stood out from that conversation then, and perhaps even more so now in retrospect. First, Schelling was deeply committed to policy-relevant research, and his long life of work reflects that fact. Secondly—and relatedly—his work on the efficacy and control of nuclear weapons remains a singular benchmark for research in the field and a profoundly erudite and intelligent guide for today’s policy makers, just as it was for their predecessors some sixty years ago.

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The Complex Ties between Poverty and Exclusion

Conference theme quotation

To what extent does poverty contribute to social exclusion? How can the exclusion of particular groups be reduced?

These were just two of the questions scholars addressed at the Social Inclusion and Poverty Eradication Workshop on November 17–18, 2016, a two-day event co-sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Center for European Studies, and the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty (CROP). The conference was convened by Weatherhead Center Director Michèle Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and professor of sociology and of African and African American studies at Harvard University; and Hilary Silver, professor of sociology and urban studies and professor of public policy at Brown University.

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The Lines We Draw Between Us

Harvard historian Charles Maier explores the boundaries that separate and bind societies throughout modern history.

Image of Charles Maier

To read Charles Maier’s latest book, Once Within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging Since 1500, is to take a bird’s-eye-view journey through five centuries of geopolitical history, to witness how societies have regarded and apportioned space on our planet.

As concepts of boundaries and territories are being reconceptualized in the twenty-first century, the notion of what it means to be part of a particular society takes on new dimensions. For most of us, traditional concepts of nation, state, and territory remain deeply ingrained in our sense of self and belonging. In his book, Maier takes readers on a meditative journey through the “fitful evolution of territorial organization,” and reflects on how science and technology have expanded our conceptualization of space, authority, and sovereignty. Once Within Borders invites us to step back and consider the many ways in which human societies have claimed borders and territories to consolidate power, wealth, and group affiliation—and how those borders have shaped our consciousness through time. The Weatherhead Center engaged Charles Maier, Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History at Harvard University, in a discussion about the value of borders in today’s networked world.

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The World That Awaits President-Elect Trump

The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs asked five of its faculty to outline the most pressing global challenges that Donald Trump will face when he takes office in 2017.

World map with various regions highlighted

During the 2016 primaries, Donald Trump claimed he had more foreign policy experience than any of the GOP contenders. In fact, he has traveled widely to meet with presidents, prime ministers, financiers, and developers over the past decade as part of his highly profitable business of licensing the Trump name to large real estate developments around the world. On the campaign trail, Trump’s provocative statements about foreign policy have become part of the public record. From pressuring NAFTA members to bombing ISIS, his pledges have caused a stir in the arena of foreign relations. Publicly, candidate Trump threatened to close borders to Mexicans, slap tariffs on Chinese goods, restrict Muslims in the United States, among other vows. Without a record of public service to draw on, it is difficult to know how these declarations might translate into a Trump foreign policy. To understand what lies ahead for the new president, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs asked its Faculty Associates in international relations to comment on the challenges and opportunities that await in five regions of the world: Africa, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Latin America, Europe, and China.

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