Global citizenship theme year explores new risks, opportunities
Before hair gel could bring down an airplane and the Internet connected people around the world with the click of a mouse, citizenship for many Americans meant voting, jury duty, the Pledge of Allegiance and the Fourth of July.
Today high energy costs, global warming, terrorism and debates over immigration and human rights have blurred the traditional boundaries of 21st century citizenship. Nations around the world must understand one another's politics and cultures in order to survive.
On the eve of a critical mid-term election and the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, LSA is launching a year-long look at what it means to be a citizen locally and globally.
The LSA Theme Year, "The Theory and Practice of Citizenship: from the Local to the Global," will offer students a chance to learn about the opportunities and risks facing citizens in their local communities and the global village. Students also will be able to put knowledge into action through community outreach programs.
For more than 20 years, theme semesters have been an integral part of U-M's teaching and learning experience, offering a unique, interdisciplinary approach on topics as varied as civil rights, death, food and evolution.
This year the tradition has been expanded to a full academic year, marshaling the resources of the entire University to examine this critical topic, says Terrence J. McDonald, dean of LSA.
"Understanding citizenship has never been more important." McDonald says. "We have an obligation to apply the vast resources of one of the nation's preeminent research universities to illuminate the issues and showcase the opportunities for action. This is especially important in our role as educators of the next generation."
Through a series of courses, lectures, plays, concerts and public events, the theme year will examine issues facing citizenship, how it is reflected in the arts and citizenship in action.
Charles Bright, chair of the theme year steering committee and director of the Residential College, says the theme year will explore the interconnectedness of citizens around the world.
"In the mid-term elections this fall hundreds of political campaigns will turn on matters that seem parochial and of urgency only to folks close by," Bright says. "The attacks of 9/11, on the other hand, have exposed to us all to our 'global selves'and underscored what a trip to the mall can tell us: that the world is very much part of our local livesin us and close by.
"What we do here is sharply affected by what happens there; the buffers of time and distance are much reduced; the far away is very much in your face. In fact we live, all the time and at once, in multiple and layered contexts that run from the local to the global.
"How do we act effectively across these tiers? Where are the boundaries of citizenship? What are the frameworks in which we lay claim to rights or the outer limits of our responsibilities to others? These are questions we hope to explore in the theme year."
Global Citizen theme semester highlights
Sept. 7: Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at Princeton University and author of "Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers," will discuss global citizenship at the kick-off lecture. Appiah, whose book "In My Father's House" placed him in the forefront of the struggles for African self-determination, will offer ways to look beyond boundaries to see a common humanity.
Sept. 11: The Rosenthal Lecture. On the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Juan Cole, professor of history and an expert on the Middle East, will discuss whether America is winning the war against Al-Qaeda. The annual lecture, sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, honors Josh Rosenthal, a U-M alumnus who was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. (See U.S.-al Qaeda conflict assessed in Rosenthal Lecture>)
Sept. 14-15: Changing the World, Changing the Academy: Feminisms in China, India, Poland and the U.S. The two-day conference will showcase oral histories of feminist activist-scholars from these countries. Panels and workshops will discuss ways of using the interviews in teaching and research.
October—November: Performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company of "Julius Caesar" and "Antony and Cleopatra" will explore timeless themes of citizen responsibility, including justifiable violence in the face of tyranny, political power and human passion.
For details on more courses, programs and speakers, visit: www.lsa.umich.edu/citizenship.