Exploring and Serving the World

Chinese energy policy, Hispaniolan history, Japanese naval strategy —
dozens of recent books by the School's professors expand the
Institute's international role

by Peter Niels Dunn


Extending MIT's global presence and service is a priority at the highest levels of the Institute. As President Susan Hockfield noted during a recent speech in India, "As researchers, if we are driven to find the most gifted collaborators and the most intriguing ideas, we must be prepared to look far beyond our own backyards. And as educators, if we fail to help our students learn to live and work with their peers around the world, then we have failed them altogether."

No part of MIT has a more extensive record of making international connections for students and faculty than the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. A large percentage of MIT's international programs are based within the School, including the MISTI international internship program, the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS), and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab.

Other hands-on initiatives include the Economics Department's World Economy Laboratory, which links MIT with central banks from many nations as well as business economists; month-long IAP programs in a diverse range of countries; and the new interdisciplinary Applied International Studies minor offered within the School. All these represent just a fraction of the School's ongoing international efforts, with many more in the works.

Richard Samuels, Director of the CIS and Ford International Professor of Political Science, notes that, "Within the School, there are many people—in fields like history, anthropology, economics, languages and literature—whose professional lives revolve around understanding how international society works. That's reflected in their research and teaching, and it's natural that responsibility for helping engineers and scientists understand the world would with rest with them."

"International work has always been a priority at our School, but there's a special excitement and focus right now," adds Dean Deborah Fitzgerald, who is also Professor of the History of Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society. "Many of our faculty have established deep relationships and cross-cultural partnership abroad, and they spend substantial research time in other countries."

To illustrate the depth and range of the School's international engagement, Dean Fitzgerald cites a host of recent faculty books that explore virtually every region of the globe:


Associate Professor of Writing and Humanistic Studies Junot Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize this year for his novel The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which explores the complex history of the Dominican Republic, and the Dominican immigrant experience in the US.

On the other side of Hispaniola, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Erica James' research has led to multiple publications about the history of Haiti; her book Democratic Insecurities: The Ethics of Intervention in Haiti is forthcoming in mid-2009.


Michael M.J. Fischer, Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies, has done anthropological research on social change, religion, and revolutionary process in Iran; his publications include the recent book Mute Dreams, Blind Owls, and Dispersed Knowledges: Persian Poesis in the Transnational Circuitry.


Elizabeth Garrels, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, won the 2006 NECLAS Translation Prize for her work on Recollections of a Provincial Past, the autobiography of Argentine writer and politician Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

Professor of Anthropology Jean Jackson has conducted extensive studies of mobilization in Colombia, and is the editor (with Kay B. Warren) of Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America.

James Howe, Professor of Anthropology, explores the encounter between the Kuna (Panamanian indigenous peoples) and anthropology over the course of the 20th century in the forthcoming Chiefs, Scribes, and Ethnographers: A Native People's Encounter with Writing and Anthropology.

Associate Professor of Political Science Chappell Lawson has written extensively about the Mexican electoral system, editing Building the Fourth Estate: Democratization and Media Opening in Mexico and Mexico's Pivotal Democratic Election (with Jorge Domínguez).


CIS Director Richard Samuels' 2007 book Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, was a finalist for the 2008 Lionel Gelber prize for the best book in international affairs.

Ian Condry, associate professor of Japanese Cultural Studies, studies media, culture, and technology; in 2006 he published his first book, Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization.

John Dower, Ford International Professor of History, won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Bancroft Prize, and many other honors for his Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II.



M. Taylor Fravel, Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Associate Professor of Political Science and member of the Security Studies Program at MIT, has just published Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China's Territorial Disputes.

His colleague in the Political Science Department, Associate Professor Lily Tsai, researches issues of accountability, governance, and state-society relations; in 2007 she published her first book, Accountability Without Democracy: Solidary Groups and Public Goods Provision in Rural China.

Jing Wang, Professor of Chinese Cultural Studies and S.C. Fang Professor of Chinese Languages in Foreign Languages and Literatures, brought out a new book, Brand New China: Advertising, Media, and Commercial Culture, in 2008, extending a long list of publications covering branding, marketing, media and cultural policies with a focus on China.



Newly arrived Assistant Professor of Anthropology Manduhai Buyandelger, who studies how people deal with drastic social transformations after the collapse of socialist governments, has a forthcoming book, Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Socialism, and the State of Neo-Liberalism in Mongolia.



Melissa Nobles, Associate Professor of Political Science, works on comparative study of racial and ethnic politics, and issues of retrospective justice; her new book, The Politics of Official Apologies compares political uses of official apologies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.



Associate Professor of Anthropology Christine Walley writes about her 19 months of field work in East Africa in Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park.

Patricia Tang, Associate Professor of Music, is an ethnomusicologist specializing in West African music, and a musician; her book Masters of the Sabar: Wolof Griot Percussionists of Senegal was published in 2007.



Suzanne Berger, Director of the MISTI program and Raphael Dorman-Helen Starbuck Professor of Political Science, analyzes globalization strategies of Asian, American, and European firms through the MIT Industrial Performance Center; her book, How We Compete, contains initial results of this recent research.

Professor of History Elizabeth Wood, a scholar of Soviet and Russian history as well as historical studies, women's studies, and the history of trials, recently published Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet Russia.

Jeffrey Ravel, Associate Professor of History, focuses on French and European political culture in the mid-17th through mid-19th centuries; this year saw publication of his book, The Would-Be Commoner: A Tale of Deception, Murder, and Justice in Seventeenth Century France.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Heather Paxson, who studies how people grapple with changing socioeconomic conditions and new bioscientific knowledge through everyday ethical practices, authored Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece.



James Buzard, Head of the Literature Faculty, works on 19th- and early 20th-century British literature and culture. He recently published the book Disorienting Fiction: The Autoethnographic Work of Nineteenth-Century British Novels.

Harriet Ritvo, the Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, who teaches British history, environmental history, and the history of natural history, adds to her extensive publication list with her forthcoming book, The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and the Victorian Environment.

James Paradis, the Robert M. Metcalfe Professor of Writing and Humanistic Studies, focuses his research on Victorian cultural studies, as well as science and technical communication. He edited the 2007 volume, Samuel Butler: Victorian against the Grain—A Critical Overview.

Fellow Literature Professor and Shakespeare scholar Diana Henderson, whose works covers Renaissance literature, women's literature, and media studies, published Collaborations with the Past: Reshaping Shakespeare Across Time and Media, in 2006.

Literature professor Ruth Perry has a forthcoming scholarly edition of Charlotte Lennox's 1758 novel Henrietta and in 2004 published the book Novel Relations: The Transformation of Kinship in English Culture and Literature 1748-1818.

Associate Professor of Literature Mary Fuller's interests include the literature and culture of early modern Europe and Milton, as well as exploration and colonization; this year saw publication of her Remembering the Early Modern Voyage: English Narratives in the Age of European Expansion; with Kei Izawa, she is also the co-translator of A Life in Aikido: The Biography of Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Noel Jackson, Associate Professor of Literature, researches several topics including science and literature; his new book, Science and Sensation in Romantic Poetry, examines how Romantic poets define the categories of art experience and articulate the social purposes of aesthetic form.

Assistant Professor of Literature Sarah Brouillette published her first book, Postcolonial Writers in the Global Literary Marketplace, in 2007; it addresses the global expansion of publishing markets via transnational media corporations, and grew out of her work with contemporary British, Irish, and Postcolonial literatures.

Soundings, Fall 2008