Brantly Womack is currently enjoying a one-month position as visiting scholar at China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU), the university associated with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He presented a lecture, “Comparing the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the 2017 Global Political Crisis,” at CFAU and at Beijing University, China University of Politics and Law, Nankai University in Tianjin, and Jilin University in Changchun. He presented a paper, China, ASEAN, and the Re-Centering of Asia,” at CFAU and at Guizhou University. At the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau he talked about “Xi Jinping and Continuing Political Reform in China” and participated in a seminar on the English translation of Chinese political terms. He held a graduate seminar at CFAU on asymmetry theory, and has met with leading Chinese scholars in international relations at Tsinghua University and Renmin University (Jin Canrong, Shi Yinhong, Yan Xuetong, Yu Keping, Sun Xuefeng).
Despite what you may conjure from the headline of this story, it is not about the politics of football—the power players and the trades, the Superbowl and DeflateGate, severe head injuries or insights into quarterbacks in panty hose. Allen Lynch, professor in the Department of Political Science at UVA, is a place kicker for the Virginia Silverbacks, a semipro team in the Atlantic Football League, filled with (mostly) 25-30 year-olds who love playing football and never wanted to give it up after high school or college. It’s a beautiful sight.
For Professor Allen it’s about the resumption of kicking for a team. He played for two years in high school and four years at Stony Brook (State University of New York, Long Island)—he was there during the early years of football at Stony Brook, a club team, though in his first season there in '73, the team fell apart after the 4th game, having lost their initial game 69-6 to Albany State. The coach said he’d never coach again.
Despite that shattering experience, something inspired the club to give it another shot in 1974. By 1975, the team was playing at the National Championship (against Westchester Community College)—Stony Brook showed vast improvement in skill, but still scored a loss. He notes they played on astroturf, perhaps that was the cause. Or perhaps because WCC had 90 great players to Stony Brook’s 40, many playing offense and defense, tongues hanging out.
I try to entice him into the topic of sports vs. academics, but he doesn't bite. Dr. Lynch did indicate THAT during his college game, once a month he’d have to leave practice early and attend a student government meeting, still in uniform, to make sure they didn’t cut the team’s $10,000 budget.
"At that time there were no NCAA level sports at Stony Brook and it reflected the true spirit of amatuerism. You base a school on academics—and if you want to play sports, you form a club. Now they probably have a $1,000,000 budget and are in the NCAA. We created a monster.” In Lynch's time the team would mow the grass, erect goalposts, fence the field, and hire the coach.
Following graduation Professor Lynch was getting ready for try-outs for the Canadian Football League, but unfortunately got a full scholarship to graduate school at Columbia. He says it was a good thing because he was a straight-toe kicker and the future wasn’t in straight-toe kicking. Despite being sidetracked into political science he kept kicking — a bag of footballs at a high school field on Saturday mornings. Most modern kickers approach the ball soccer style, but he still uses a square toe shoe. He laments that there are no replacements for that shoe and jokes about buying up all the square toe shoes on eBay—an imagined market of square toe shoe futures.
His Silverbacks are mainly from Charlottesville and Albemarle county, with a few from Culpeper, Richmond, and Louisa. All were high school players, some were UVA players, some played arena football. Everyone has a day job, a family, and still loves football. Beyond the individual, it is a network of local guys led by coach and owner, Jamie Davis, who sometimes suits up to play QB. Davis played several seasons in NFL Europe, based in Switzerland.
I try to draw connections where there are, apparently, none:
Q: What does this do to your teaching, to your research—an improvement?
A: It does nothing, I was already kicking before I knew about the team.
Q: Are you a more aggressive player as an academic?
A: No, you’ll see I stay pretty close to mid-field. If the opposition does break through, I stay far enough away to bluff him to the sidelines.
Q: Does it make you happier playing with a team?
A: No question about it. Team Spirit! Common Enterprise. Football is emotional, violent; it’s all for one—or everyone is going to fall down.
Q: As I was taking pictures on the sideline I was afraid of catching an elbow. Would they resent me being that close?
A: The Team gets totally psyched. If they hit you it would be nothing personal, they’re just hyped up.
Q: What’s it like playing on this team?
A: I feel more accepted here. My earlier teams, they didn't respect the kicker as much.
He claims there’s really not a lot of difference between his behavior before he joined the team and after, but “My wife and mother see a difference, they say I'm happier."
There were so many poor choices for this story's headline. Some I've considered: Kicks are for Kids, Play Ball!, Lynch Kick Ass!, but it’s ultimately about a man having fun on Saturday mornings. Dr. Lynch says "it’s incongruous, it’s a scream."
"The extra point really captures the form — almost perfect."
Joe Namath on Beautymist Pantyhose.
On Tuesday, April 4th Paul Freedman (Politics), Lou Bloomfield (Physics), Stephen Cushman (English), and Martien Halvorson-Taylor (Religious Studies) each spoke about themselves for fifteen minutes. In most situations this might sound unduly self-centered, but it was actually the topic of I Contain Multitudes: A Quartet of Favorite UVA Professors Converses about "The Self", the brainchild of Creative Writing's Lisa Russ Spaar. While it sounds like a program of professors letting it all hang out, they were restrained about themselves and each focused on the topic as it related to their field.
In her introduction Dr. Russ Spaar naturally referred to Whitman, Dickerson, and Emerson, but also spoke about how Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat have all gone extinct before we learned to use them, how the Word of the Year is not a word (a pictograph, the emoji), and how, in poetry we don't solve for x. She set history and context as a launching place for her four friends.
First, Dr. Bloomfield lamented how most scientists have turned into businessmen – managers, who scrabble to make their labs and discoveries profitable. He pointed out how we let integrity take care of itself...and it never does. And that the biggest display of self on Grounds is when a building is named after you. But not all his observations about the self were tilted downward, he still finds joy in generosity and play, the things that drew him to science in the first place. He notes, in case we forgot, that the world is not a zero-sum game and that he entered science "to do something really useful, to make the world a better place."
Dr. Cushman focused sharply on The Self; the word and concept of ego came into English in 1789 in the light of Romanticism and continued onward into the shadow of Freud—"the I at the Center of the Universe." Cushman's also noted the difficulty and necessity of getting his Cushman-self out of the transaction between the students and the works they are reading, and yet being there too. "How does this work?" he was not the only speaker to find paradox in the observation of self.
The Department of Politics' Dr. Paul Freedman admits to Googling "I contain multitudes." He was happily surprised by results referencing the microbiome, surely the best example of multitudes. He suggests that we invite the trillions of others into the conversation, that they will have something to say about The Self, perhaps as something concealed, as something yet to be revealed, and then as something uncovered and exposed. He mentions his students efforts to suss out the political stance of each professor in the department, which way do you lean, hidden in every question? As if Google was not available to them-selves as well.
Finally Dr. Halvorson-Taylor spoke on the Bible, a book which clearly contains multitudes. She addressed humankind as male, female, and then self as a undifferentiated mass, not as individuals at all. Each self has directionality in time—aharit, that which lies ahead, and ki-aharit, that which lies behind. This self imagines that it "lives into the future," – the self is prepositionally challenged, a person in a rowboat, their back to the future and their front to the past.
The audience was given a chance to show themselves as well, addressing critical thinking, surveys, and smart phones: "What do we know of ourselves?" "We are conscious of our ignorance." "We think we know ourselves. And sometimes we are wrong."
I Contain Multitudes was held at the Fralin Museum of Art in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center for Teaching Excellence, and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Winners of the 2017 Quandt Fund
Gregory Lannon, for research in Czechoslovakia and Japan on Russian foreign policy toward Eastern Europe and Japan in the early 1990s. He will do archival research in both Prague and Hokkaido.
Carolyn Coberly, for research in Moscow on the role of non-governmental political parties in an authoritarian regime.
Jennifer Simons for research in France on the role of ethnic and religious minorities in the rise of radical right-wing parties in Europe.
Aurora Lofton, for an internship in Oxford to increase her understanding of the international refugee problem.
Yuang Cao, for research in Cangdong village in Guangdong Province, China, on how a very remote region is affected by larger issues of national politics.
Ross Mittiga’s presentation, What’s the Problem with Geo-Engineering?, was both eye-opening and heartbreaking. Unlike many of the Huskey Award speakers, this presentation was not based on his dissertation—rather he followed a crooked path from the literature on Climate Change to the dark corner of emergency response, solutions of last resort. Geo-Engineering is a topic which should be a challenge to the rational thinker as well as any ethical thinker.
Rarely does a presentation automatically grab your attention like this one. Geo-engineering is a dramatic and extreme approach to global warming; it involves deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change. There are two primary categories: Solar Radiation Management (SRM), and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR). Within these categories are many proposed methods; among these Mr. Mittiga spoke on one of the most common proposals, stratospheric sulfate injections (SSI), which involves releasing sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere to reduce how much sunlight reaches the earth—like an enormous smog parasol. It sounds so simple, and the (known) side effect?—the sky will turn from blue to white. There are many variants on geo-engineering, all scary and many are ethically questionable.
At the start of graduate school, he was determined do something useful with political theory. After a conversation with Danielle Allen, a political theorist at Princeton University he decided on the issue of climate change, the most important problem of our generation, a problem he had followed since high school. She revealed her methodological approach—identify a problem and then work backward to whatever literature is most relevant, finding and using primary texts. Allen’s problem-first approach inspired him to place it at the center of his research.
Mr. Mittiga is currently running for State Delegate, Virginia District 57.
As a political scientist, Yaping Wang has always had an interest in territorial disputes and is now looking at how governments propagandize these disputes. Border conflicts are the most dangerous kind of international event and the kind most likely to turn into a militarized conflict. Propaganda could make these disputes even more dangerous and long-lasting as well.
Her dissertation reaches into the topic using four conflicts/crises between China and Vietnam as case studies — the naval clash in the Paracels in 1974, the border war in 1979, the skirmish in the Spratlys in 1988, and finally the oil rig standoff in 2014. She uses her work-in-progress dissertation as a basis for her presentation The Dog that Barks: State-led Propaganda Campaigns on Territorial Disputes.
Ms. Wang collects evidence in original sources through extensive fieldwork in China and Vietnam, including archival work in numerous locations and interviews with retired government officials and journalists. She recognizes the difficulty in conducting field work in authoritarian countries, but acknowledges that it is still possible to overcome some of these challenges through creative means and hard work. She also carries out computer-assisted content analysis of People’s Daily to provide quantitative data on these cases. She’s devised a simple and effective matrix to determine causal inference in the government’s media behavior.
A native of People's Republic of China (PRC), she is now a permanent resident of the U.S. and lives in Washington, D.C. She is starting in the fall a predoctoral fellowship at George Washington University to continue to work on her dissertation.
Dale Copeland’s new book, Economic Interdependence and War has received the Best Book Award from the International Studies Association. Professor Copeland will receive his award at the 2017 ISA meeting on February 23. This is Copeland’s second book, and is spurring international relations experts to the use of words such as magisterial, bold and original, and a landmark study. Grand statements for an important book.
"An extraordinary accomplishment. This magisterial work, by one of the leading scholars of international relations, brings together theory, history, and quantitative data to demonstrate the critical role economic relations play in the 'high politics' of war and peace. The evidence Copeland produces is fascinating and his argument is provocative and forceful."Michael Mastanduno
The book examines the key cases from the last two hundred years of great power politics, including the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, the two World Wars in Europe, the Pacific War, and the Cold War and its crises. It also supports its historical work with a rigorous examination of the quantitative literature that has tended to dominate the study of trade and war up until now. The book ends with an examination of the book's implications for current affairs, particularly U.S.-China relations.
Professor Copeland's book shows how changing expectations of future trade drive great power interactions and the likelihood of war from the 1790s to the end of the 20th century. Copeland views liberal & economic realist theories as insightful but incomplete. Great powers, in calculating their long-term security interests, consider both the gains in power accruing from trade as well as the increased vulnerability to cut-off that such interdependence entails. When they have positive expectations about the commercial environment, they will see the gains as outweighing the risks, and will thus tend toward peaceful policies. Consider China's relatively moderate behavior after 1985 as it became integrated into the global economy. When expectations of the future become negative, however, and great powers worry about their ability to access key raw materials and markets, they tend to see hard-line policies and even war as necessary means to their long-term survival. Japan's increasingly aggressive behavior in East Asia from 1930 to 1941 is a sobering reminder of this dynamic.
Professor at the University of Virginia, Dale Copeland is recipient of numerous awards, including MacArthur and Mellon Fellowships and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University.
Professor Copeland will present at this year's ISA conference on February 25, 2017 at 1:45 PM in the Hilton Baltimore. His paper is "America on the Brink: Systemic Theory and the Future of Great Power War and Peace."