Spring 2015 Course Guides

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From Divisive Walls To Blurred Boundaries: How Much Has Really Changed Between US and Russia?

vcard.newschool.eduInternational Affairs Professor, Nina Khrushcheva, claims in an article entitled Building Berlin’s Wall helped avoid a nuclear confrontation that “[t]hough the physical Berlin Wall was torn down 25 years ago, the psychological wall remains intact. Stronger than ever.”  Nina asserts that the Berlin Wall was in fact put up not as an aggressive action seeking to control and divide the masses, but as a way to avoid nuclear confrontation.  Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, Nina’s great grandfather, was (unofficially) concerned with the possibility that the German region closest to the Soviet Union could posses nuclear weapons.  The wall, in some ways, was an unfortunate alternative to a potentially more violent and costly outcome of the USSR taking the entirety of Germany. 

This was all during a time when the US was indeed acting in an aggressive and hostile manner toward the Soviet Union and yet, according to Professor Khrushcheva, their was a willingness to explore diplomatic solutions to hostilities between the two world powers during the Cold War. A quarter century later, Putin insists that the US is acting aggressively in the region and is thus responsible for tension between Russia and NATO for its “unwelcomed expansion”.


Nina also appeared on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’donnel” and “The Reid Report” last week to talk about recent moves by Putin that demonstrate the symbolic tactics being used to show defiance toward the West.  Nina proposes that Putin, feeling the growing presence of NATO, and a refusal of the West to recognize Russia’s sphere of influence, is more than willing to invest in expensive propaganda, in the form of flying bombers over the Caribbean, just 50 miles from U.S. territory.  Putin seems eager to keep old tensions alive, likely in response to sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. 


Sean Jacobs on Morocco’s refusal to host the Cup of Nations

International Affairs Professor, Sean JacobsJacobs-06, recently published an article in The Guardian which commented on the reasons behind Morocco’s refusal to host the Cup of Nations.  The strenuous relationship between North and sub-Saharan Africa is highlighted in the article which points out how Morocco cited Ebola as one of the reasons for being unwilling to hold the cup in their territory.  This might be an overreaction as the virus is only in four of the 54 African countries. On the other side, even one Ebola case emerging in Morocco could deter tourism, an industry that accounts for 10% of GDP.  Further, Jacobs articulates the phenomena of migrants who pass through Morocco, usually headed from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, who “regularly complain about harassment, violence and xenophobia”, which adds to an already difficult relationship that Morocco has with many countries located to the South.

The article notes the opportunities that arise from Morocco’s refusal to host the event.  Moroccan organizers are proposing to move the event to next summer which would give European players getting a break from an already demanding schedule, which the event interrupts, and could also increase viewership.




Lisa Servon’s New York Times OP-ED Looks At The Cost of Using Banks

lisaLisa Servon is a Professor of Urban Policy at The New School, but has worked briefly at Check Center and RiteCheck in the South Bronx to better understand why so many people are using check cashers and payday lenders, prepaid cards, and lending and savings circles instead of banks.  In the OP-ED Servon highlights the staggering number of Americans that are “unbanked”, nearly 25 million.  Another 68 million Americans are “underbanked”, meaning they have bank accounts but also rely on alternative financial services such as payday loans and prepaid cards.


The problem, according to Servon’s piece, “is not that people are unbanked, but that banks are becoming too prohibitively expensive for people to use them”.  The fees and charges associated with formal banking services often deter people from using their services and in some cases the barrier to entry is too great for America’s low-income population to access.

Prof. Nina Khrushcheva on Russians in Hollywood and US-Russia Politics

Professor Nina Khrushcheva follows how Russians are portrayed in American pop culture and especially in film.  She was recently cited in a BBCnina article, Hollywood stereotypes: Why are Russians the bad guys? which highlights the use of stereotypes that have made Russians out to be the “bad guys” since the Cold War era.  Her own articles on the subject include: As if things weren’t Badenov: Even in good times, Russians are villains in Hollywood, and Putin face-off: Make Schwarzenegger our man in Moscow. In them she discusses how Russians have been portrayed as villians in Hollywood movies over time and why Arnold Schwarzenegger should have become a US Ambassador to Moscow.

Action movie villains are often former KGB agents or Russian mobsters and this trend has not changed much since the height of US-Russian tensions and shows no sign of changing in the near future.  Nina notes that “you can’t even turn the TV on and go to the movies without reference to Russians as horrible”.

This is not to say that other races, ethnicities and nationalities have had their moments of playing the villain.  Since 9/11 Arabs have increasingly been portrayed as the evil doer in American cinema and historically speaking, Germans and Japanese were the “bad guys”, especially around WWII.

Movies have the power to influence powerful figures, even heads of state.  Nina states that “Vladimir Putin has been significantly influenced by Hollywood’s parade of evil Russians.  “He moved into that villainous image that was presented by Hollywood of Russia or Russian leaders. He watched all those movies. He was like, ‘Well you’re going to portray me as a villain anyway, so I might as well go and start biting off other parts from other countries.’”

Related to this topic, Professor Nina Khrushcheva’s exhibition Romancing True Power will open on February 12, 2015 at Pasons’ Arnold and Sheila Aronson Gallery, 66 Fifth Avenue. The workshop will address the relationship between those who hold political power and the power of their films around the globe.

Stay tuned for news and updates on the show and possible workshop on Dictators as Directors in Spring 2015.

Please contact Yiqing Wang (wangy876@newschool.edu) if you are interested in the Parsons show and/or the workshop.


OCM Student Samantha Goldman Publishes Piece on 2014 Elections

SBG 1 headshotSamantha Goldman, an Organizational Change Management student, published a piece related to campaign elections and organizational culture which was also part of her Advanced Seminar project.  The article, which appeared in linkedin.com, “identified 10 key aspects of campaign culture that can be applied in non-campaign organizations as a way to amp-up staff engagement”.  Samantha highlights the differences between a campaign and an organization, the former not necessarily sustainable due to its inherent time-bound characteristics and the latter whose mission is to be structurally and financially sustainable over the long term.  However, the two also have many aspects in common such as having a singular mission and vision, capacity building, relying on stories and narratives and more.

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