Europe

Insight on Syria: The Unseen Challenges of Refugee Integration in Germany

For Syrian refugees fortunate enough to reach Germany—a model among European countries for its commitment to refugees—the day-to-day realities and the uncertainty of their futures loom large.

Image of Syrian Refugee

Third in a series that asks Weatherhead Center affiliates to examine the dimensions shaping the Syrian conflict.

Weatherhead Center Undergraduate Research Fellow Hanaa Masalmeh spent a semester in Germany studying Syrian refugee integration. Her work focuses on the formal and informal structures of integration, especially on the role of women—both German and Syrian—in the integration process. This article, written by Masalmeh, is based on her research on volunteer groups in Bavaria, Germany. Names have been changed to afford privacy to the interviewees.

Every Wednesday and Friday, Barbra gets into her blue Volkswagen and drives five minutes down the road to a small yellow house near a churchyard. After carefully parking her car and grabbing her brown messenger bag, she knocks on the door. 

Barbra is a Sprachpartner, a volunteer who makes sure that Syrian refugees are learning German. Barbra also explains the basics of German culture, helps Syrians open bank accounts, file insurance claims, and apply for work. 

A young man opens the door and invites Barbra inside. “Mohammad!” Barbra says, greeting him with a hug. “Welcome, Grandmother!” the young man responds jokingly, and Barbra laughs.

Like the majority of volunteers in Bavaria, Barbra is a woman in her fifties. The Syrian men Barbra works with are in their early twenties—young enough to be her children.... Read more about Insight on Syria: The Unseen Challenges of Refugee Integration in Germany

The Cold War’s Endless Ripples

Harvard historian Odd Arne Westad contends that the Cold War lasted 100 years—and affected many more countries than originally thought.

Image of Arne Westad

As an international historian, Faculty Associate Odd Arne Westad may be best known for bringing a fresh interpretation to the Cold War in which he argues that the era began much earlier and extended much farther than popularly thought.

Those and other themes are explored in detail in a comprehensive new history of the Cold War written by Westad, the S.T. Lee Professor of U.S.-Asia Relations at Harvard Kennedy School. In The Cold War: A World History, Westad traces the broad history of the era, including what he sees as its origins and its far-flung effects.

The Harvard Gazette spoke to Westad about his perspective on the Cold War, including the forces that brought about and sustained the epic confrontation, and how it continues to reverberate decades after ending.

Q: What inspired your fascination with the Cold War?
 

A: Growing up in Norway would be a part of it. Norway in the 1960s and early 1970s when I grew up was very much a kind of border region with regard to the East-West conflict. It very much felt like that when I was a child. Then when I was just out of college I was doing a lot of work with different kinds of volunteer organizations. I went to southern Africa to work there for a while with a relief organization dealing with refugees. I did some work in Pakistan a little bit later in the mid-1980s. And that certainly also inspired me in terms of thinking about these issues, because then you got to see the impact of the Cold War in a very different kind of way. Many of the problems these people were coping with had actually been created by the Cold War in a much more direct sense than anything I had experienced where I grew up.... Read more about The Cold War’s Endless Ripples

Turnout and Voter Insecurity in the French Elections

Do economically vulnerable voters care more than the average voter about politics and elections—or less? Weatherhead Scholars Program Fellow Adrien Abecassis, former political advisor to French President François Hollande, offers three explanations.

Image of voter registration sign in doorway

One of the key questions in the current debate on the causes of the rise of populism is whether the economic harshness and distrust in traditional political parties increase or decrease election turnout.

This question was debated in a recent roundtable discussion, organized by the Weatherhead Research Cluster on Global Populism, on the economic and cultural causes of populism’s prevalence. Would voters struck by economic shocks—those whose futures seemed to be vulnerable, and who have lost their sense of security about their own lives and that of their children’s—tend to vote to prevent this from happening? Or would their suffering cause them to retreat and withdraw from political elections?

And indeed, the answer is not obvious: Luigi Guiso et al. found that economic security shocks significantly increased the likelihood of abstention, while David Autor et al. showed that economic shocks due to foreign trade competition raised—not lowered—voter turnout.

Without seeking to settle the debate, I would like to offer some hypotheses based on my experience as a political advisor to French President François Hollande. Of course, this question was one of importance for us: What would the most insecure French voters do in elections? Would they turn out or not? If they did, would they vote for the National Front Party? From what I observed, there is no single answer, and many dynamics are at play. But we can make some conjectures.... Read more about Turnout and Voter Insecurity in the French Elections

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.

... Read more about A Life in the Margins: Understanding the Roma Experience

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.

... Read more about From Rome to Rwanda: The Centuries-Long Effort to Define Civil War

Background to Brexit: Populism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Resentment

Harvard sociologist Bart Bonikowski explains why Brexit has two important lessons for political analysis on both sides of the Atlantic

Image of raised fist made of people

Third in a series on what Weatherhead Center scholars think about the unfolding institutional, political, and economic consequences of the June 23 United Kingdom referendum on European Union membership.

In the weeks following the UK’s historic referendum on EU membership, pundits have been weighing the implications of the vote for the U.S. presidential election. The more alarmist analyses have claimed that if the unthinkable happened in the United Kingdom, it could also happen in the United States: Donald Trump could ride the wave of populism to the presidency.... Read more about Background to Brexit: Populism, Nationalism, and the Politics of Resentment

Background to Brexit: How to Leave the EU

Establishing political order in the UK and EU after historic Brexit vote

EU flag missing one star

Second in a series on what Weatherhead Center scholars think about the unfolding institutional, political, and economic consequences of the June 23 United Kingdom referendum on European Union membership.

Disbelief from last month’s vote for Brexit lingers. Proponents of Britain’s continued EU membership want to revisit the decision. Some hope the British parliament will vote against implementing the referendum, or that the next prime minister will decide not to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Others suggest Scotland could refuse to consent to Brexit. There is also an online petition urging a second referendum, and there are calls for a general election.... Read more about Background to Brexit: How to Leave the EU

Banners, Barricades, and Bombs: How Social Movements Affect Public Opinion

Protest, Plaza del Sol, Madrid

It’s an argument we’ve heard before: governments should not negotiate with terrorist organizations that engage in violent activity. This idea is pervasive throughout the academic and policy worlds, but what about public opinion? Do citizens think the government should shun social movements that adopt extreme tactics often associated with terrorist organizations?

Social protest takes various forms, and organized social movements have various intentions—from benign disruption to purposeful violence. In their forthcoming paper for Comparative Political Studies, Connor Huff and Dominika Kruszewska look at how the tactical choices of social movements affect public opinion about whether or not—and to what degree—governments should negotiate with social movements.1... Read more about Banners, Barricades, and Bombs: How Social Movements Affect Public Opinion

Neoliberal Policy Implementation Goes Hand in Hand with Stronger Symbolic Boundaries

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Jonathan Mijs and Michèle Lamont

Citizens in countries that implemented more rigorous neoliberal policies over the last two decades (1990 to 2010) draw stronger symbolic boundaries between themselves and unwanted others. Based on publicly available data from the European Values Study, our research suggests that neoliberal policy implementation is intricately related to the ways in which citizens define worthiness.... Read more about Neoliberal Policy Implementation Goes Hand in Hand with Stronger Symbolic Boundaries