Nitpickers would say that the decade is not over yet (it ends on Dec 31, 2010) and valid questions would undoubtedly be raised about the benefits of dispensing history in bite sized doses. However, none of this would stop us in indulging ourselves in a bit of pop-history. The Noughties (as British tabloids imaginatively christened the 2000s) present an exciting case and, after all, who better to go to for a decade review than global historians right (everyone seems to be doing it so why should we not weigh in)?
At first glance there seems little to cheer about- 9/11, two wars, the recession and climate change were the big global issues. The decade saw the end of American supremacy, with the rise of the non-western nations, particularly China. This went hand in hand with the demise, almost to the point of being discredited, of the neo-liberal ideology. Government control of the markets increased in the west, while it saved India and China them from a great degree of damage during the recession. At any rate, new great powers entered the scene.
Winter School 2009 took place last weekend in the national park of the Karkonosze Mountains, Poland. The First Years and anybody else who chose to attend, were put up in two huts, Samotnia and Strzecha, located 500 metres from each other, with the nearest city of Karpacz situated a good 1.5 hour walk through the snow-covered mountains. Given the circumstance, making a quick and painless get-away from the place is near impossible. The logic then for the remote choice of location, as explained by Poldi, is somewhat tautological: Making a quick and painless get away from the Winter School is near impossible. The resulting corollary is that everyone must spend all their time with each other. If you have any doubts about such a model of integration, of forced companionship amongst poor, unsuspecting students from all possible backgrounds, the Winter School is the place to be. Surprisingly enough, the model works.
Successfully into its Second Year, the School continues to be a place of great learning alongside intellectual and physical stimulation for its participants. Informally however, it has has been in existence for a much longer time. A strong indicator of its continuing popularity is the fact that students and teachers alike have unabashedly fallen in love with the place, expressing ardent wishes for a continued association with it: these range widely from wanting to be buried there to wanting to be married in the hallowed precincts of Samotnia. Although wry bystanders have marked there might not be much difference between the two.
I spent a large part of today watching Prof. Ian Buruma’s brilliant lecture series at Princeton university entitled ‘No Divine Rights: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents’ which I am posting here. Buruma is a scholar of great versatility. His subjects range from a fictional-biography of an Indian cricketer-prince, to works on European and Japanese history. In this lecture series he tackles the relation between state and religion in America, Asia and Europe, in which he makes extremely revelatory connections between religion and state in different societies. All the lectures here are extremely interesting especially for students of global history.
Buruma’s assessment of how elitism, liberalism and democracy interacted with religion in Europe is particularly informative. Throughout the series he is concerned with the changes affecting Europe, which he addresses directly in his last lecture posted here. His views on the changing meaning of the Enlightenment, the role of language in forming identities amongst immigrants and his examination of the kulturkampf between Europe and Islam is deeply informed, as is evident from the range of his examples, and deeply relevant.
Update: Also posting the other two lectures in the series: