Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Iraqis at Harvard

Peter, is there any way the Ashbrook Center can provide Harvard’s poor Iraqi guests a somewhat less alienating vision of American freedom? A sample of what’s in store for them in the PRC:

Here is a bit of the syllabus for Prof. Bernstein’s course to be attended by the Iraqi visitors at Harvard:

We will use the methods of Cultural Studies to consider US imperialism not only as a military venture, but as a cultural project. Cultural Studies is (to offer a very condensed definition) an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the creation and flow of power and resistance, especially through ordinary people’s uses of mass-marketed products. The field of Cultural Studies enables us to consider imperialism not as a narrowly defined governmental venture, but rather as a sprawling set of practices in which many, if not all, people participate. These practices include performances on stage and screen, tourism, holiday rituals, and the writing and reading of literature (both “high” and “popular”). One may look for imperialist practices not only in military units, but in World Fairs, museums, and schools.

Cultural Studies opens unique avenues by which to consider issues of gender. Analyses of imperialism based in military history or international relations often focus on men as colonizers and conquerors, women as victims. In contrast, this course’s focus on culture opens the following questions:

1. How has gender affected the experiences of colonized people (and how has the experience of being colonized affected those people’s genders)?

2. How has gender affected the experiences of colonizers (and how has the experience of colonizing affected those people’s genders)?

3. How has gender functioned as part of the ideologies and strategies of American imperialism?

4. How has gender functioned as part of the ideologies and strategies of anti-imperialist activism and resistance?

These four questions constitute the heart of this course.

Here’s Win Myers’s conclusion:

All of this adds up to an attempt to leave the six visiting Iraqi students with the impression that America, liberator of their country, is in fact a racist, sexist, homophobic land. They will learn, in effect, just how awful life here really is, as seen through the eyes of one of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

But will they believe it? At the very least, the danger exists that they will speak with media, here or abroad, and tell of what they learned in this course. So armed, anti-American media in the Arab world can bombard its audience with news from the belly of the beast on just how horrendous life here is. Or, conversely, they may seize upon such a class to demonstrate our ostensible degeneracy to an audience already propagandized by decades of anti-Western bile.

Let’s hope that our Iraqi visitors find the presentation of life at Harvard to be so at odds with the world they observe around them, and with the nature and generosity of their hosts while they’re in America, that the conclusions they draw will be more enlightened than the ideology of some Harvard professors. Let’s hope, that is, that they ask themselves: how could a people so vicious sacrifice blood and treasure to free us from Saddam? If they draw the logical conclusion, they will have a leg up on many Harvard students and professors who, never having experienced real tyranny, spend their lives imagining themselves victims of the freest society on earth.

Here’s hoping that the Harvard Republicans, mentioned in the NYT piece on Karl Rove’s speech at CPAC, make the effort to offer the Iraqi guests a different picture of life in America.

Betsy’s Page has a lively discussion--well, a discussion--of Win’s post. Here’s the Harvard course catalog for this academic year; you pick the courses the Iraqis should be sitting in on. (I named my choices here.)

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