Archive for discussion

Race Thinking and the Sciences in French Colonial Vietnam

The following post was written by Sawako Sonoyama.  I am constantly amazed by the sheer number of events our students have access to.  We will feature more posts soon from some students that have been working on their capstone projects.


SIPA offers a variety of activities that help equip students with the skills necessary for a successful career. During your two years here, you can be trained in specialized skills such as Monitoring & Evaluation, Conflict Resolution, and Crowdsourcing from experts in the field, while being deeply embedded with the appropriate professional networks. SIPA, however, is not only about acquiring skills and networking, but has rigorous academic caliber as well.

During your two years away from the professional world, you will have the opportunity to be a student again. This is the time to once again bury your selves under thousands of pages of readings, tackle intellectual debates with your colleagues, and absorb pure knowledge from prominent guest speakers in the field of your academic choice.

For example, I attended a talk titled “Race Thinking and the Sciences in French Colonial Vietnam” by Mitch Aso. Aso is a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, focusing on environmental change and human health on the rubber plantations of southern Vietnam. His talk focused on how race was created through colonialism via biopolitical mechanisms such as agriculture and medicine. Through rubber production in Vietnam, certain ethnic groups were categorized as being barbaric laborers, even when a mix of ethnicities within Vietnam was conducting the same agricultural practices.

In reaction to the malaria outbreak in Southeast Asia, the colonizers labeled certain ethnicities to be carriers of the disease and attempted to segregate those people. Aso illustrated concrete examples on how the concept of race is extremely complex; it can be created through political and calculative avenues. Racial identity is never concretely defined. The conversation also expanded to the concept of modernity and whether these new agricultural and medical practices actually modernized the indigenous people’s lives. A constant debate amongst anthropologists and philosophers surrounds the exact timing and definition of modernity. Was the western influence that detrimental to revolutionizing the lives of the indigenous communities?

The concept of identity and modernity may be quite abstract and academic to be applied on daily affairs in international relations, however, a solid understanding of such notions are undoubtedly helpful. As an Economic and Political Development concentrator, even though I may never fully understand the philosophy behind how identity shifts when different countries interact with one another, but having some understanding will improve my development practices. In fact, in current development practices, there is still not enough research or analysis being done with regards to the local context or how that will be affected by the development intervention planned. Considering a non-practical and academic mindset may be necessary in thinking about how we conduct these operations.

Going to such talks reminded me of the holistic approach SIPA offers – a combination of rigorous academic research and effective hands-on practice.

World Leaders Forum

One of the great things about SIPA is that it is much like New York City, amazing things take place practically every day that you can participate in.  One great opportunity to interact with global policy makers is the World Leaders Forum that takes place each year.  Below is information on speakers visiting this month.


President Lee C. Bollinger invites you to join him in welcoming heads of state and special guests from across the globe as part of the eighth annual World Leaders Forum. The World Leaders Forum Web site will be updated daily as visits are confirmed.  For the most up-to-date list of events, please visit

Schedule of Events
Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan

Wednesday, September 15, 2:00 p.m.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of Nigeria

Monday, September 20, 3:30 p.m.

In partnership with the School of International and Public Affairs

“Challenges of the Drylands”

A discussion with leaders from Eastern Africa.

Monday, September 20, 5:00 p.m.

In partnership with the Earth Institute

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Tuesday, September 21, 10:00 a.m.

In partnership with the Alliance Program and School of International and Public Affairs

Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

Wednesday, September 22, 4:00 p.m.

In partnership with the Committee on Global Thought

José Manuel Ramos-Horta, President of Timor-Leste

Thursday, September 23, 4:00 p.m.

In partnership with The Earth Institute, Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4), and the Vale Columbia Center

José Sócrates, Prime Minister of Portugal

Thursday, September 23, 5:00 p.m.

In partnership with the School of International and Public Affairs

Ivo Josipović, President of Croatia

Friday, September 24, 11:00 a.m.

In partnership with the Harriman Institute

Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey

Wednesday, September 24, 3:30 p.m.

In partnership with the School of International and Public Affairs

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime

In April authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann visited to speak to at a joint SIPA/School of Journalism event about their best-selling book, Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime. The discussion was moderated by Columbia University’s Alan Brinkley and co-hosted by SIPA and the Graduate School of Journalism. You can watch the discussion below:

Thursday Evenings at SIPA

The following was contributed by Kristoffer Tangri, a second-year SIPA student from Germany pursuing a MIA degree with a concentration in International Security Policy.


Thursdays are popular for events and receptions at SIPA and sometimes it can be difficult to choose. Last Thursday was one of these days.  After having listened to the insights of a respectable guest speaker from the International Peace Institute in my class on “Building Peace after Conflict”, I had a remarkable choice of public events and reception to attend at SIPA. Not always an easy choice.

Downstairs on the 4th floor, the auditorium was filling with students who were interested in hearing Noam Chomsky’s opinions on “The Unipolar Moment and the Culture of Imperialism”, while in the building next door, Robert C. Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Planning and Policy Coordination in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, was speaking on “The Secretary-General’s Agenda and The Challenges He Faces.”

Meanwhile, on the 15th floor, SIPA’s Energy Association was hosting a panel to discuss “the adaptation of large-scale renewable energy under a proposed cap and trade system” and on the same floor, Columbia’s Dirk Salomons was moderating a panel discussion about the international response to the ongoing crisis of childhood malnutrition with experts from the Doctors Without Borders.

After so much academic input, one feels the need to go out and socialize with fellow students – but where?  Should I go to the UN Studies Christmas Party on the 9th floor, or drop by the Latin American Association’s reception? Maybe I go over to the B-School on Campus for a few hours of free drinks (paid for by the tuition of our wealthy Business School students). Later that evening, the Migration Working Group was having a fundraiser party down in the East Village, too.

One thing you can be sure of at SIPA. You will always have an amazing variety of public lectures and events to attend, both at SIPA and at the many departments around Columbia University and of course New York City itself, with the UN and Wall Street just around the corner. And in case you are worried about the living costs of New York, these events always come with free food and wine.

This Week at SIPA

The Harriman Institute and the Russian American Cultural Center
Fragments from the Past: A Photography Exhibition by Yuri Shalamov, who worked for top Soviet magazines and newspapers for over thirty years.
11:00 am to 5:00 pm
International Affairs Building, 12th Floor

For additional information:

Monday, November 9
The Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Brown Bag Lecture: China’s Science and Technology Talent Pool: Competitive Advantage or Critical Problem? with Denis F. Simon, professor, Penn State School of International Affairs and Cong Cao, senior researcher, the Levin Institute, State University of New York (SUNY).
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 918

The Middle East Institute and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender
Talk: Palestine and  Israeli Occupation, with Amira Hass.
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Knox Hall, Room 207 (122 St. between Broadway and Claremont Ave.)

The Harriman Institute
Talk: The Potential for Energy Cooperation with Russia–the Future of Natural Resource Development and Management in the Arctic, with Dr. Louis Skyner.
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1219

The SIPA International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP) Concentration
Lecture: In the Aftermath of the Global Economic Crisis—Redesigning the WTO for the 21st Century, with Professor Debra Steger, WTO Appellate Body Secretariat with comments by Professor Michael Ewing-Chow, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore; Jennifer Hillman (invited), member, WTO Appellate Body and comments by moderator Professor Merit E. Janow, director, IFEP.
4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Warren Hall, Feldberg Space

The School of International and Public Affairs and SIPA’s South Asia Association and Urban Policy Concentration
SIPA Global Mayor’s Forum: Urban Policy, Global Challenges–A Conversation with Syed Mustafa Kamal, Mayor of Karachi, Pakistan.
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
International Affairs Building, 1501

The Committee on Global Thought
Panel Discussion: A Bretton Woods Moment? with panelists: Benjamin Cohen, Louis G. Lancaster Professor of International Political Economy, University of California, Santa Barbara; Adam Posen, senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Joseph Stiglitz, Professor of Economics, Columbia University. They will be asked to reflect upon the role of governments and central banks in overseeing a new financial architecture, and whether new institutional innovations, such as a new global reserve currency, are required.
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Faculty House, Presidential Room 1

For more information:
To register:

The Harriman Institute and Programs in Comparative and International Education and International Education Development
A comparative analysis of the results from the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)–Learning Achievement in the CEE/CIS Region, with special guests from UNICEF Geneva Phillipe Testot-Ferry and Erin Tanner. Presentation will be followed by a reception.
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Teachers College, Milbank Chapel
For more information: Erin Weeks-Earp at [email protected]

Tuesday, November 10
The Harriman Institute
Talk: The Economic Crisis and Russian Museums: Some Recent Observations by Kristen Regina, chief art librarian at Hillwood Museum & Gardens.
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1219

The International Media, Advocacy and Communications (IMAC) Specialization at SIPA
Talk: How the Liberal Blogs Are Keeping President Obama Honest, with John Aravosis, editor of, one of the most influential Democratic political blogs in Washington, DC, discussing the role of liberal blogs in working with (and fighting against) the Obama administration during the 2008 presidential campaign and other far ranging issues.
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1302

The School of International and Public Affairs
Info Session for the Hertie School of Governance Dual Degree Program in Berlin. For first-year SIPA students, interested in applying for the SIPA/HSoG Dual Degree Program.
1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1510

The Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy and the Mori Memorial Foundation in Tokyo
Report: Global Cities Power Index, a comprehensive study of 35 global cities, released in October 2009 that ranks cities based on six overall categories: Economy, Research & Development, Cultural Interaction, Livability, Ecology & Natural Environment and Accessibility with 69 individual indicators among them.
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
Avery Hall, Wood Auditorium

To register:

The Harriman Institute
Book Talk: Join us for a literary evening with Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, while she reads from her latest book, “There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Fairy Tales.”
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Barnard College North Tower, Sulzberger Hall

For more information:
To register:

The Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life
Lecture: Charles Taylor, professor emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University and winner of the 2007 Templeton Prize and the 2008 Kyoto Prize–Can Human Action Be Explained?
6:15 pm to 8:15 pm
Schapiro Center, Davis Auditorium

The Conflict Resolution Working Group, the Center for International Conflict Resolution and ACCORD
Conflict Resolution Career Panel: Opportunities in the Field.
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 403

Wednesday, November 11
Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL)
Faculty and Instructor Workshop: CourseWorks–Getting Started. This workshop is designed to introduce Columbia University faculty and instructors to the basics of using CourseWorks (from logging in to setting up your course syllabus). This free, hands-on workshop is recommended for beginners.
11:00 am to 12:15 pm
Butler Library, Room 204 (CCNMTL Faculty Support Lab)

To register:

The Harriman Institute
Talk: Overcoming Warlords and State Failure–Lessons from Post-Soviet Georgia, with Kimberly Marten of Barnard College and Columbia University.
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1219

The Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
Presentation: Strategy Serving Tactics–Iraq, Afghanistan, and the New Way of American Warfare, with Colonels David Gray and Gian Gentile.
12:15 pm to 2:00 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1302

The Institute of African Studies
African Architecture & Urbanism Series: Timelines–New Perspectives explores contemporary African cities as unique built environments with Abosede George, assistant professor at Barnard College, specializing in African history, women’s history, urban history of Africa, and the history of childhood in Africa.
6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1501

Thursday, November 12
Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL)
Faculty and Instructor Workshop: Podcasting Essentials–Creation and Distribution will provide in-depth information on how audio and video content is being produced for students in higher education, and will explain how podcasting has helped distribute educational media. The second portion of the workshop will provide a step-by-step demonstration on how to create audio and video media that can be used in a podcast or any other Web-based environment. There will also be a brief demonstration on how you can use online platforms such as iTunes U to promote your media materials. This workshop is recommended for beginners.
11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Butler Library, CCNMTL Faculty Support Lab (Room 204)
To register:

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Brown Bag Lecture: Japanese Politics from Tanaka to Hatoyama (via Koizumi), with Margarita Estévez-Abe, associate professor of Political Science, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse.
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 918

The Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies
Annual Kenneth N. Waltz Lecture in International Relations, with Dr. Robert O. Keohane, professor of International Affairs at Princeton University, on Social Norms and Agency in World Politics.
12:15 pm to 2:00 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1501

Note: Registration for this event is currently open.
To register:
If you have difficulty registering, please email [email protected].

The Middle East Institute
Brown Bag Lecture: Young Women in Riyadh–Between Transgressions of Islamic Rules and Consumerist Norms, with Amelie Le Renard.
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
Knox Hall, Room 208 (122 St. between Broadway and Claremont Ave.)

The Columbia Center for Homelessness Prevention Studies
Grand Rounds: Economic Evaluations of the Housing & Health Intervention Study. Welcome Dr. David Holtgrave, professor and chair, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
2:30 pm to 4:00 pm
Medical Center
Psychiatric Institute, Room 6602
Entrance at 40 Haven Ave. and 168 St. (inside bridge goes directly to 6th floor)

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Lecture: Japan and the United States in Afghanistan–A Dialogue, with Sadako Ogata, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency and M. Ishaq Nadiri, Jay Gould Professor of Economics, New York University. A reception will follow the lecture.
6:15 pm to 7:45 pm
Faculty House, President’s Room

Reservations are required:

Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14
The Institute of Latin American Studies
Workshop: Crime, Fear, Insecurity in Mexico–Ethnographic and Policy Approaches brings together scholars from different disciplines to establish dialogue incorporating different perspectives on this critical topic for Mexico and its neighbors.
Friday, Nov 13 from 9:15 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday, Nov 14 from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm
International Affairs Building, Room 1501

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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