Thursday, September 27, 2007

Announcing the Okin-Young Award in Feminist Political Theory

The Women and Politics and Foundations of Political Theory sections of the American Political Science Association and the Women’s Caucus for Political Science announce the Okin-Young Award in Feminist Political Theory. The award commemorates the scholarly, mentoring, and professional contributions of Susan Moller Okin and Iris Marion Young to the development of the field of feminist political theory. This annual award recognizes the best paper on feminist political theory published in an English language academic journal during the previous calendar year. Papers will be considered by self-nomination or nomination by other individuals. The award carries a cash award of $600. To be eligible, the article must have been published in 2007.

The deadline for submissions is February 15, 2008. To be considered for the award, one copy of the article should be sent to each member of the award committee by mail or electronically as a PDF attachment:

Award committee chair:

Professor Nancy J. Hirschmann
Department of Political Science
The University of Pennsylvania
Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Professor Kathy Ferguson
Department of Political Science
University of Hawai'i
640 Saunders Hall
2424 Maile Way
Honolulu, HI 96822

Professor Joanna Vecchiarelli Scott
Eastern Michigan University
1525 Harding Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Hither and yon

Beginning today: The Plural States of Recognition, Montreal

This Saturday: CSPT: "Intellectual Foundings: J.G.A. Pocock and the Cambridge School", at Columbia.

Two weekends hence: Association for Political Theory, London, Ontario. (Time to make my travel arrangements...)

Two weekends after that: Immigration, Minorities, and Multiculturalism in Democracies, back here in Montreal.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dani Rodrik:
Going into this, my expectation was that blog popularity and scholarship would have little (or perhaps even a negative) correlation. After all, the skills of a blogger (writing quickly and well, working for short-term results, spending a lot of time reading and digesting others' work) are not necessarily those that a scholar who wants long-term impact needs to have. Plus, there is the time spent on the blog--which does mean less time for research. Remember the Acemoglu response: I am too darn busy writing research papers... And one can certainly be an excellent and popular blogger--providing stimulating commentary on others' work--without having large scholarly output or high impact.

And yet the correlation between how well one does on bloggership and on scholarship turns out to be positive and statistically highly significant. The rank correlation between the two is 0.27, and it is significant at the 99% level of confidence.
Too funny.

At Sean Carroll's Cosmic Variance: Academics: Still Totally Lame, a commentary on the Chronicle symposium on guilty pleasures.
Arrrgh! Stuff like that sets back the cause of academic non-geekiness for centuries!
The reading list

Actually, scratch that: immediately read upon receipt of the journal, and highly recommended.

Lee Ward, "Montesquieu on Federalism and Anglo-Gothic Constitutionalism," 37(4) Publius 551-77, 2007.

It's hard to be novel, correct, and concise in writing about Montesquieu; indeed, it's hard to be any two of those at the same time. This article manages all three.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Taylor speaks out

The latest from the Taylor-Bouchard commission:

'Who's to judge?' commission asks
Jeff Heinrich, The Gazette

A loquacious Charles Taylor made his daytime debut today at the Quebec "reasonable accommodations" commission her co-chairs with Gérard Bouchard - and waded right into the controversial debate over veils and kirpans.

His first interjection took the safe form of a series of questions, preserving the neutrality the commission is trying to maintain as it hears from Quebecers across the province on the touchy issue of religion in society.

"It's a question I've wanted to ask of many (people who've presented) briefs," Taylor told Argenteuil resident John Saywell, one of 30 residents who addressed the commission, whose 17-city tour made a stop in the Laurentians today and last night.

"You talked about religious symbols and what they mean - but who decides?" asked Taylor, a Montreal philosopher and author.

"For example, some say the kirpan is a knife and is therefore an instrument of violence. Some people think the hijab reflects a situation of inequality between men and women. Some people think the crucifix reflects the violence we're now up against.

"But who's to judge?" Taylor asked.

Sociological studies in France and elsewhere have shown that young Muslim women wear the veil for myriad reasons, he said. Some do it out of faith, some do it out of opposition to their non-practicing parents, some do it out of reaction against the secular society around them.

"Is it really possible in a free society that someone can define for me under law what a symbol means for me?" Taylor asked. "I ask the question: Is there not something profoundly (wrong) about saying we'll decide in the National Assembly that what a symbol means is such-and-such and that if you don't like it, shut up?"

Added Bouchard, a sociologist and historian: "Isn't it the right of a group to live on the margins of society?"

The discussion got crustier when Taylor confronted Lise Bourgault, mayor of Brownsburg-Chatham who also was a Conservative MP from 1984 to 1993. In her presentation, Bourgault called for religious clothes to be banned entirely in public, because for her, veiled women "project an image of oppression" and makes her more and more xenophobic.

"I go to the Adonis supermarket (in north-end Montreal), I see women in veils behind their husbands who are pushing the shopping cart. It goes against so many battles we won for the equality for the sexes," Bourgault said.

"Why do people feel so threatened?" Bouchard asked her.

"We're threatened by terrorist movements," the mayor replied.

"There's reason to be afraid, but we should be afraid in an intelligent way," Taylor shot back.

"I throw into question your reasoning."

Bouchard also had a comment.

"If the burqa starts making in-roads in Quebec," he told Bourgault, "I don't think you'd be among the first victims."

The chairmen were more gentle with Ste-Sophie resident Lidia Quintana, a Chilean immigrant. Her sister, Carmen, was a household name in Quebec in 1986 when she came here for lengthy medical treatment after being severely burned by Chilean troops under the Pinochet regime.

Carmen has since returned to Santiago. had three children and and teaches psychology at university. Lidia married a French-Canadian, had children of her own, and settled in the Laurentians 16 years ago. Today she said immigrants should try harder to adapt to Quebec society, especially by learning French, as she did.

And she said accommodations of a small number of religious minorities go too far. Quebec should draw up a "Charter of Rights and Responsibilties of Immigrants" for everyone to sign, "before this problem degenerates," she said to applause, evoking an idea others have brought up during the hearings as well.

"You talk about a moral contract," Taylor replied. "You don't think that goes both ways?" he asked.

"We've heard that sometimes a lack of integration makes people fall back on their closed group and a feeling of alienation. It seems there's a reciprocal relationship going on that doesn't always work," he said.

"It's not just about accommodations."

Hear, hear, though I fear that he will not be heard.

There's also an update to my previous post on the hearings.
Great moments in multiculturalism

From the latest Bouchard-Taylor commission hearings:

"It's really a mentality that's separate," St. Hippolyte resident Lise Casavant said of the Hasidism, adding that immigrants should sign a new Quebec citizenship charter "or choose another province," a sentiment several other speakers also evoked.

John Saywell, of Argenteuil, said when he hears a Hasidic Jewish leader speaking only in English on the TV news, he thinks it's wrong. The community should make the effort to speak French, he said.

And Lise Provencher, of St. Jerome, said immigrants are "buying their way in" to Quebec and that Jews are the worst because they're "the most powerful. ... It's always been said that the Jews are the trampoline of money in the world." After she spoke, the crowd applauded.

At the last round:

The Roman Catholic religion has played an important role in Quebec history and its imagery should remain in public institutions, said Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay at hearings into immigrant accommodation.

Catholicism is still very important for a majority of Quebecers and that heritage should be reflected in the public realm, he told the Bouchard-Taylor commission on Thursday.

"The Catholic religion is one of the nicest values we have in Quebec," the mayor declared at the second day of hearings in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, north of Quebec City.

Tremblay is one of a few mayors left in Quebec who still start council meetings with a prayer. He defended that practice.

"We are a little easy-going," he said. "When someone who represents three per cent of the population wants to do something, everyone bends. But when the mayor wants to say his prayer, we tell him to respect secular principles."[...]

Marcien Bisson, a retired Saguenay resident, suggested Quebec introduce a law to eliminate kosher foods he said are ubiquitous despite the province's small Jewish population.

Bisson also asked Quebec declare God's supremacy in order to respect the Canadian Constitution.

Monsieur le Maire and Monsieur Bisson, meet Ms. Asselin-Vaillancourt.

Allowing women to wear a veil in public is a major impediment to assimilation because it is a personal and political act, said Marthe Asselin-Vaillancourt, a feminist activist who works with a local retired persons' association.

"Wearing a veil does not encourage integration. It produces negative effects. It irritates and bothers people," she said.

Asselin-Vaillancourt suggested future immigrants to Quebec be well-informed about the province's values of secularity [laicite] and gender equality before they come to Canada.

"We have to send a clear message that when they choose Quebec, they are choosing and accepting to live in a society that supports equality between the sexes," she said.

NB: this is an important part of the dynamic that's being revealed through the commission hearings. The Herouxville norms wanted it both ways (Quebec is a laique society that respects its heritage with giant public crucifixes), but that doesn't entirely seem to be the norm. Both sides in the 40-year-old Quiet Revolution fight know that they're at an impasse and are frustrated with the status quo. And both sides are willing to take it out on religious minorities. The secularists don't like 'em because they have, and are public about, religions. And the old-line Catholics don't like 'em because, well, they're not Catholic, and they [further] undermine the old Catholic identity of the province. We can hear sweeping declarations one right after the other, each stated as if it were obvious fact and not frustrated aspiration: Quebec is laique. Quebec is Catholic. Both are offered as reasons not to accommodate religious minorities; but the reasons can't both be valid ones, and no one seems to point out that the divide itself undermines any claim that social policy should be made on the basis of the homogenous shared Quebecois values.

The CBC coverage has some other choice moments.
On Monday, the commission heard from several Quebecers who are upset about kosher foods. Many mass-produced packaged foods available in supermarkets are kosher, which means a rabbi supervised their preparation to ensure the products meet Jewish dietary laws.

Laurentians resident Émile Dion said that makes him angry because he believes the cost of getting a rabbi's blessing raises food prices by as much as 10 per cent. "Why should I pay 10 per cent more for the Jews?" he asked during his comments, which went on for several minutes. "It forces us to eat kosher, and I don't want to," he said in French.

Midway through Monday's hearings, commission co-chair Bouchard interrupted the comments to remind the audience that only about two per cent of Quebec's population is made up of Muslim and Jews.

"Do you see a certain disproportion there, between your concerns and the cause?" he asked in French.

Ten percent! And I'm pretty sure no one's forcing the gentleman to eat food with Jew-cooties in it; sausage remains readily available, and he can always combine his kosher milk with some kosher meat to keep them the cooties at bay.

[A bit of economics: in the wildly implausible situation in which the rabbinic approval added that much to the price of food, and given that kosher-observant Jews make up a tiny share of Quebec's population, there would be a massive, obvious opening for a producer who didn't get the approval and provided food for 10% less to the rest of us. Conversely, if the market-clearing price for a box of corn flakes really is $3.30 rather than $3, what makes you think that abolishing rabbinic approval would lead the producer to cut the price?]

I wish I had any idea whether the coverage of the hearings was representative of what's said at them, and more importantly just how unrepresentative people who sign up to speak at them (guaranteed to be the people with axes to grind, bees in their bonnets, and time on their hands to concoct elaborate theories-- ahem...) are of their regions' populations.
Since I noted last year...

that there were no academic humanists or social scientists among the new MacArthur Fellows, I thought I should note that this year there is one. "Jay Rubenstein, an associate professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is a medieval historian who illuminates how violent events such as the First Crusade are recorded and remembered by future generations."

Otherwise: hard scientists, artists, curators, activists, etc.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I hesitate to say this...

because there's an obvious sense in which Lee Bollinger is the hero of the hour, and has done exactly the right thing: invite, and criticize. Listen, but take the occasion to (in the most literal sense) speak truth to power. Make clear that an invitation does not honor the dishonorable, and is about the interests of the listeners not that of the speaker. For once in the life of a "petty and cruel dictator," let him sit and listen to open and truthful criticism. The offer of a faculty position to Kian Tajbakhsh was an especially great move.


but I can't get over the sense that he did exactly the wrong thing. One can refuse to invite. One can invite, and treat courteously, while relying on the general principle that such an invitation does not imply endorsement of the views expressed. But I'm not sure that inviting-and-insulting is the right thing to do; I was astonished to find myself in a bit of sympathy with Ahmadinejad's objections in the name of hospitality. The rules of hospitality are of a very different kind from the rules of intellectual discourse and debate-- but they're old and deep rules, not conditional on the extramural behavior or character of the guest, and I'm very uncomfortable with seeing them thrown overboard.

On a more mundane level, this might not be good for the general ability of universities to host controversial speakers. Such speakers always know they may face student protest, but it is something else to know that you may be introduced with a ten-minute denunciation. And when Bollinger crossed from questions, however rhetorical, for Ahmadinejad to answer into such (accurate!) personal descriptions as "cruel and petty dictator" or "ridiculous" or "I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions"-- before Ahmadinejad had had the chance to say a word!-- it seems to me that he crossed the line into grave discourtesy,and may have seriously dampened the willingness of speakers to be hosted by universities where there views are likely to be disagreed with.

John Coatsworth's direct aggressive questioning of Ahmadinejad after the latter's remarks, and giving the latter a chance to respond, was terrific. Students openly laughing at Ahmadinejad when he said there was no homosexuality in Iran-- great. The guest who comes to a debate can be expected to debate, and the guest who makes a fool of himself can expect to be laughed at. But Bollinger's remarks seem different to me.

Again, no quarrel with a word Bollinger said; and he might have been spectacularly right to say it. But I'm not sure...
ASPLP/ Nomos: Loyalty

While the program isn't yet finalized, the schedule for the next American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy meeting, December 28-29 in Baltimore at APA, is online.
Of local interest

I'm told that the new Minor in Political Theory was approved by the final step of the Powers That Be last week. It will take a while for it to appear in the course catalog and so on, but if there are McGill undergraduates who want to pursue that minor, they should start planning on it rather than doing something else just because the minor isn't on the list yet.

To discuss what "planning on it" entails and what courses make up a minor in political theory, feel free to get in touch with me by e-mail.