2019 Global Issues Symposium Addresses International Militarization

Oberlin’s fourth and final Global Issues Symposium will launch this month with a series of panels, presentations, film screenings, and discussions about the “Militarization of Global Politics, Economy & Society.” This year’s series will feature discussions on militarization in the Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, and the U.S.

The symposium begins next Friday with a lecture about U.S. militarization, as Rosa Brooks, professor of law at Georgetown University, questions the rise of militarization in the United States with her keynote titled, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.”

In addition to the typical series of lectures and panels, this year’s symposium course, History 240, “Militarization of Global Politics, Economy & Society” will count in the Politics and History departments. Around 100 students have registered for the course and will receive credit for attending some of the 11 symposium talks and attending workshops, lunches, and discussions.

“Usually the symposium would be just a series of events,” said Zeinab Abul-Magd, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History and one of the event’s four organizers. “But this year, we decided to be more creative about the format in order to allow more students to benefit from the speakers as well as to gain credit.”

For some students, the one-module course offered a chance to explore global politics in a more hands-on, relaxed environment.

“I was hoping to take courses that revolve around Middle East politics this semester but couldn’t find any so when I found out that this course has a Middle East politics component, I was very eager to take it,” said College sophomore Marah Ajeilat. “I think as a whole it’s an awesome idea and I think more departments could benefit from mimicking the model of this course to their respective subject of study.”

The symposium series was launched in 2016 as a way to bring scholars, activists, and politicians to campus to discuss relevant transnational issues. Previous themes have included the consequences of climate change, migrations rights and security, and the global city.

This particular symposium is organized through the International Studies Concentration and spearheaded by Abul-Magd, Associate Professor of Politics Kristina Mani, Professor of East Asian Studies Sheila Miyoshi Jager, and Visiting Assistant Professor of History Jiyul Kim.

College senior Roman Broszkowski is the course teaching assistant and will help coordinate logistics and communicate with students.

“I’m excited because the topic itself, militarization, is something I find super interesting and it also happens to be the speciality of both Zeinab and Professor Mani,” Broszkowski said. “So having the opportunity for us to work with them as students and hear speakers that they’ve chosen is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

The series is funded through a donation of over $125,000 from the Isenberg Family Charitable Foundation and has allowed the College to bring nearly 50 different speakers to campus, including former international ambassadors, politicians, historians, scholars, and activists. The donation was only meant to cover four symposia, so this will be the final year.

“From my own point of view I think the goals were reached,” said Abul-Magd. “Within these four years we covered a large number of very pressing and relevant themes and we also managed to bring an immense number of speakers. … We also managed to make students an integral part of the events by giving them opportunities to have closer discussions with the invited speakers — we always made sure that students would have every opportunity to speak one-on-one or gain more knowledge.”

The first event of the symposium, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything” will take place Feb. 15, in Craig Lecture Hall at 4:30 p.m.