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What Are Your Thoughts on a Changing World?

The Undergraduate Committee on Global Thought (UCGT) presents its first event of the semester, an open discussion among undergraduates and faculty about youth in the changing world.

An opportunity to contribute to the larger global “Thoughts on a ChangingWorld” project, the event is a call for student input.  In this changing world, what are your thoughts on your future? What issues are most pressing?

Participating Faculty:
Neil K. Aggarwal
Patricia Culligan
Vishakha N. Desai
Carol Gluck
Bernard Harcourt
Rosalind C. Morris
David K. Park
Kian Tajbakhsh

Refreshments will be provided, and all Columbia and Barnard undergraduates are invited to attend. Seating is limited so please be sure to register your attendance.

Event Contact Information:

Event Date: 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Event Location: 
Kent Hall, 1140 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027, Room/Area: 403

Associated Global A-Z item

Undergraduate Committee on Global Thought

The Undergraduate Committee on Global Thought (UCGT) offers an opportunity for Columbia’s undergraduate students to meet and talk with distinguished scholars and practitioners from the Columbia community and beyond whose work places them on the forefront of global trends.

The University and Public Views of Science

On Oct. 20, 2015, CGT member Amber Miller led a discussion about the contrast between public attitudes toward scientific research specifically, and the intellectual activity of the research university more broadly, in the post World War II and Cold War eras with those of today. The primary goal being to understand these changes in order to begin to engage the question of how we, as a university community, may be able to re-establish our role in the world as a primary driver of solutions to major global challenges.

Using the sciences as an example, why are research universities not understood as the vital contributors to contemporary society that they are? Where is their impact and how have communications from the sciences and/or universities helped or hindered this communication?

Universities face a democratic challenge. In research, design oversight has changed the conduct of research and was demanded from scientists. As universities are bodies that take in taxpayer money and tend to produce knowledge passed on to private entities, they also face questions. Mid-20th century science flourished by being identified as a way of resisting ‘enemies’. Does strong cultural priority for science require such an idea? What is to be done with current ‘enemies’ that are much more amorphous in issues like climate change or poverty? Is the problem that the enemy in question is ourselves and consensus is unlikely to develop because the question of how to live is not possible to answer in only one way.

Moreover, Globalism is a new factor: public demand to address crises through science that might once have been neglected as regional (for example Ebola) are now taken up as global issues. Scientific stakeholders have recognized ‘globality’ in alliances of national academies, despite different granting and funding strategies. Even so, science maintains nationalist function, if not form.

What we see is that science struggles historically to obtain public interest. Competition for funding in capitalist systems throws doubt on the victory or enemy model. While epistemic change leverages changing use of resources, science still has much to contribute. Communication and adaptation? How does that face a change in political ethic that has pushed intellectual work to the fringes?

Associated Global A-Z item

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The University and Public Views of Science

After Urbanization

What are the socio-technical systems that associate and differentiate people gathered together in densely populated spaces? Whose interests are represented (politically/symbolically) and what are the potential agencies of structures and representation? How do we re-conceive the “urbanoid” realm across the conventional bifurcation of structures vs. discourse.

On Sep. 2, 2015, CGT member Reinhold Martin, along with CGT members Mamadou Diouf and Brian Larkin, proposed a new research project, stimulated by Mamadou Diouf’s recently co-edited book (with Rosalind Fredericks) “The Arts of Citizenship in African Cities,” on “Infrastructure, Urbanization, Representation,” which, in essence, is a division of topics into two branches incorporating urban studies related to globality: a developmentalist one, focusing on material, technological, and politico-economic processes, and a culturalist one, focusing on symbolic processes, national-cultural imaginaries, language, and so on. The initial response therefore combines three terms, all of which are to be understood critically rather than descriptively:

“Infrastructure” names a critical response to the first tradition that draws on aspects of the second, in that the study of sociotechnical systems that both connect and differentiate populations, and hence, spatio-temporally define cities, focuses on the mediating effects of those systems as active agents.

“Representation” names a critical response to the second tradition that draws on aspects of the first, not only in thinking about whose interests may or may not be “represented,” both politically and symbolically, in any given city; or about the institutions—political or cultural—through which such acts of representation occur; but also about the potential agency of those acts in shaping the polis.

“Urbanization” refers not to some self-evident phenomenon encapsulated in such misstatements as “half the world’s population now lives in cities” but rather, the need to think the urban realm relationally, as bound up with other processes, some of which are traditionally designated as rural, others planetary, on the infrastructural and representational planes, simultaneously.

Associated Global A-Z item

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After Urbanization

Global Science

The sciences are often viewed as apolitical endeavors that form a natural basis for seeding international cooperation. Particularly in the years surrounding the First and Second World Wars, numerous projects were launched to foster scientific collaboration across national borders. At first glance, iconic enterprises such as the Carte du Ciel, the International Institute of Bibliography, UNESCO, or the International Geophysical Year may appear to derive from a common vision of science’s universality. In fact, new scholarship on these and other organizations has revealed significant divergences in their aims and rationales. Indeed, this research points out the highly particular character of these universalisms. Each had its own ethical justification(s), its own vision(s) of world order, its own conception(s) of the epistemic basis of universal knowledge, and its own blind spots when it came to the practical and ideological obstacles to collaboration. The end of the Cold War may be said to have launched a new age of scientific internationalism, in which federal budget cuts have forced even U.S. scientists to join forces with international research teams. Only in unusually expensive or controversial cases—such as the Human Genome Project or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—do scientists typically pause to consider the tacit assumptions on which their collaborations rest or the pros and cons of alternative models of cooperation. What are the lessons of the history of scientific internationalism for the global science of today?

This research project, led by Professor Deborah Coen, began with a half-day, closed-door workshop on February 12, 2016 at Columbia University and was meant to be a first step towards developing an analytical framework for assessing forms of international organization in the sciences. It brought together historians studying the history of scientific internationalism with scientists who have taken a leading role in international collaborations and negotiations. It looked at both the theory and practice of scientific internationalism—that is, both at the ideals espoused by founders of the new associations, and at the realities of interactions among their members. Case studies were drawn from the natural and social sciences in the twentieth century.

The immediate goal of the workshop was to put the global science of today in historical perspective. In this respect, participants sought to extend existing narratives of the history of international collaboration in the sciences to include recent history. What continuities and discontinuities could be traced between earlier forms of scientific internationalism and the ideologies and practices behind global science today?

Principal investigators: 

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Global Science

Global Money

Money is both one of the great intellectual puzzles and practical problems of the modern world. Taken at face value it appears to be one of the most basic and important expressions of state sovereignty. It defines the boundaries of national economies and their interrelationships. Printing and coining money is a closely guarded privilege of the state. And yet at moments of crisis we discover and rediscover the disconcerting fact that purchasing power in the most important currencies of the world is in fact generated in oceanic quantities beyond the boundaries of the states to which it belongs, by actors that are not the state. We live, in fact, in a world of global money. Learning how to think this radical fact is an urgent challenge, one which must by necessity be global in scope and involve both academics and the practitioners who are in the business of operating and innovating the global monetary system.

The Great Recession of 2008 has led to new efforts to understand the financial structures of the global economy. This research project, led by Professors Adam Tooze and Perry G. Mehrling, began with a public Global Think-in on April 25, 2016 which looked at Global Money: Past, Present, Future.

Principal investigators: 

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Global Money

M.A. in Global Thought

The Master of Arts in Global Thought is an interdisciplinary, research-based course of study designed to understand and address the challenges and opportunities arising in our world today.

A Major Source of Air Pollution: Farms

Monday, May 16, 2016

A new study says that emissions from farms outweigh all other human sources of fine-particulate air pollution in much of the United States, Europe, Russia and China. The culprit: fumes from nitrogen-rich fertilizers and animal waste that combine in the air with industrial emissions to form solid...

Cold War Power: A Conference

10-10:30: Keynote Speaker: Sergei Zhuk

10:30-12noon: Peace, Truth, Power, and the Legacy of President Dwight D. Eisenhower: The Hot War Turned Cold

Commentator: Sergei Zhuk

Sarah Roth: “The ‘-ess’ Effect: How Three Women Shaped the Legacy of the Eisenhower Administration”

Blake T. Mueller: “The Peace Corps”

Fatima Dar: “Psychological Warfare and Soft Power: A State of Total War”

Adriana Popa: “Radio Free Europe: The Battle in Eastern Europe”

11:30-12noon: Comments and Questions

12noon-12:15: Lunch

12:15-1:30pm: Architecture and Aesthetics

Commentator: François Carrel-Billiard

Spencer Cohen: “Military Base as a Symbol: The Cultural Diplomatic Effect of American Military Bases in Okinawa,” with commentary by François Carrel-Billiard

Annika Freudenberger: “Architectural Diplomacy: Soft Power and American Embassies During the Cold War”

Elena Schwamm: “Blueprints and Blue Prints: Design Aesthetics in the Cold War”

1-1:30pm Comments and Questions

1:30-1:45pm: Break

1:45-3:00pm: From “Star Trek” to “Space Bridges”: A New Cold War?

Commentator: Elizabeth Leake

Tinatin Japaridze: “MIND THE GAP: Rebuilding the U.S.-Russian Space Bridge in the Post-Cold War Era”

Caitlin de Lisser-Ellen: “New Hollywood and Paradoxical Counterculture: A Youthful Cold War Perspective”

Thalia Ertman: “Spies, Stars and Stripes: They Portrayal of Russians in Star Trek and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

2:30-3pm: Comments and Questions

3-3:15pm: Break

3:15-4:45: Hot Power, Fear Management, and Civil Defense

Commentator: Thai Jones

Nathan Grau: “War in the Crowd: France’s Revolutionary Warfare on the Frontlines of the Cold War”

Sara Newman: “American Library Censorship Abroad”

Allison Emmet: “Fear Management and the Nuclear American Identity”

Lina Raciukaitis: “Protection or Propaganda?: United States Civil Defense in the 1950s and 1960s”

4:15-4:45pm: Comments and Questions

4:45-5pm: Closing Remarks

Event Date: 
Friday, May 6, 2016 - 10:00am to 5:00pm
Event Location: 
Room 1201, International Affairs Building

Associated Global A-Z item

Global Circuits of Expertise and the Making of the Post-1945 World: Eastern European and Asian Perspectives

Please join the Harriman Institute, the Center for Science & Society, the University of Exeter, and the Weatherhead East Asian Institute for a two-day conference.

Registration here is required.


Friday, April 29

9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Panel 1: Science and Decolonization

Chaired by Eugenia Lean, Columbia University

Session 1: The Eastern European Peasant in Nehru’s India: Transnational Debates on Rural Economies, 1930s-1960s

Malgorzata Mazurek, Columbia University

Session 2: Water Management and Transnational Expertise in 1950s China and India
Arunabh Ghosh, Harvard University

Session 3: Curing Ills with Socialist Medicine: China's Medical Missions in Algeria, 1963-1973
Dongxin Zou, Columbia University


2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. 

Panel 2: Global Revolution: Circuits of Expertise and Techniques

Chaired by James Mark, Exeter University

Session 4: The Screen is Red: China and East Germany Make Films Together in 1950s

Quinn Slobodian, Wellesley College

Session 5: Between Work and Struggle: The Varieties of Bolshevik "Self-Criticism" in Maoist China
Chris Chang, Columbia University


3:45 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Panel 3: Politics of Exchange and Circulation

Chaired by Eugenia Lean, Columbia University

Session 6: Tending the Trees of Friendship, Breeding New Knowledge at Home: The Case of the Albanian Olive Tree in China

Sigrid Schmalzer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Session 7: Earthquakes, Disaster Governance, and Socialist China -- an International Perspective
Fa-ti Fan, State University of New York, Binghamton



Saturday, April 30

9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Panel 4: Late Socialist Reforms: Economics and Exchange

Chaired by Malgorzata Mazurek, Columbia University

Session 8:  Entangled Electronics: Bulgarian Computers and the Developing World as a Space of Exchange, 1967-1990

Victor Petrov, Columbia University

Session 9: The Political-Economy of Détente: Interdependence, Technocratic Internationalism and Formation of Perestroika Political Economy
Yakov Feygin, University of Pennsylvania

Session 10: Between Eastern Europe and the ‘East Asian Tigers’: Hungary, South Korea and Economic Exchange in the Late Cold War
James Mark, Exeter University


2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. 


Paul Betts, Oxford University

Eugenia Lean, Columbia University
Elidor Mehilli, Hunter College
Adam Tooze, Columbia University

Event Date: 
Friday, April 29, 2016 - 9:00am to Saturday, April 30, 2016 - 5:30pm
Event Location: 
Room 918 International Affairs Building (420 West 118th St.)
Associated Faculty: