04. Later Europe & Americas, Art & Humanities, England, Europe, Travel

Oxford University: History, Politics & Society Summer School

Oxford University: History, Politics & Society Summer School

I’m *actually* going to Oxford this time!!! Short recap: February 2019 I won a $7,000 scholarship from the English Speaking Union of Central Florida travel to Oxford, England to study for three weeks. Well we all know what happened that March (COVID) and my trip was canceled. I choose not to go the next summer (being 8 months pregnant really helped my decision making) but this summer we are definitely going!!!

*Note: if you live in Seminole, Osceola, or Orange counties (Florida) you’ve GOT to check out their website for other amazing grant opportunities. Don’t pass up free money y’all!

At Oxford I get to be a student again, sitting in lectures and participating in seminars. I am quite intimidated at the prospect that maybe I’m not smart enough to discuss 20th century geo-political policies or if I have forgotten how to actually sit and take notes! I’m being serious. I was an excellent student in college but I really enjoy being on the other side of the essay grading. 🙂

However, the one thing that drives my desire to keep applying to programs like this is that it pushes me to be a better teacher. Every summer I walk away with a refreshed outlook on the year and renewed with with academic vigor. This year I have really stretched myself because I choose two intimidating topics: Modern Warfare & Refugees. The refugee one I know a bit about but modern warfare? Lord, no. I hate war, but that’s exactly why I picked it.

Preventing Entry, Removing the Unwanted: Refugees, States and Borders since 1918

Does the manner in which European countries have opened themselves up to millions of Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s invasion mark a seismic shift in attitudes and polices towards refugees? Other recent mass flights, notably from Syria, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa have elicited entirely more ambiguous responses. In the face of growing global crisis not only as a consequence of ethnic conflict, impoverishment but also massive environmental breakdown, the Global North continues to largely deny the free movement of desperate peoples. It is a paradox that the rich world today is much less willing to welcome refugees than before the First World War. This course will chart the historical trajectory of largely dystopian international responses to humanitarian crisis and the determination of many twentieth century states to enact forced, often genocidal population movements. Our exploration will take us through case studies which include the population exchanges at the end of the Ottoman Empire, Holocaust rescue efforts and their antithesis, Soviet mass deportation policies and the impact of the Cold War and globalisation. Finally, it poses the question how we as ordinary human beings can and will respond to the mass movement of environmental refugees as a result of human-induced climate change.

Session Topics

Session 1 The barbarian at the gate?

  • What does the classical world tell us about contemporary fears of ‘the other’? Does it have its own logic?
  • What economic, political and environmental factors have given hope to migrants and refugees over time?
  • What have been the factors impeding their free movement?
  • Why was it easier for people to move before 1914 than it is today?

Session 2 ‘The unmixing of peoples’: the Asia Minor population exchange, 1922-23

  • How and why was the Ottoman Empire a multi-ethnic mosaic?
  • What destabilised it?
  • What were the human consequences of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne?

Session 3 Hope and despair: European Jewry, 1933-1939

  • Cause or catalyst: how much was Nazi antisemitism the driver to the 1930s European Jewish refugee crisis?
  • Did anybody come to the Jewish rescue?
  • Was an alternative scenario possible in its historical context?

Session 4 Dystopian solutions: wartime strategies for population removal, 1940-1948

  • Why were both wartime Axis and Allied states fixated on territorial ‘solutions’ of the Jewish question?
  • What did the USSR contribute to the scope, scale and possibilities of population removal in
    this period?
  • How significant was the 1945 Yalta conference in giving international imprimatur to mass ethnic cleansing?

Session 5 Denied entry: boat peoples, and people behind walls or razor wire, 1975-2017

  • Is there something about being cast from terra firma which particularly demands an extraordinary humanitarian response?
  • Have international institutions and NGOs done a good job in responding to the increasing scale of people displacement?
  • Has modern media reportage helped or hindered our understanding of the causes of recent refugee crises?
  • How much have Trump and Brexit radically changed the landscape?

Session 6 A perpetual emergency? Refugees in the age of anthropogenic climate change

  • Why are there so many refugees in the world today?
  • What impact is climate change likely to have in the future?
  • Will states – and people – respond with compassion or violence to an accelerating biospheric emergency?
Read more: And there was no one left to speak for me

Warfare in the Modern World

The twentieth century has undoubtedly been the most sanguinary in recorded human history. This course will examine the origins, course and results of several regional and civil wars and will set them in their political, economic, religious and ideological contexts. It will also explore the phenomena of guerrilla insurgencies and various military responses to this type of warfare. Clausewitz remarked that ‘every age had its own kind of war’: we will pick out the threads of our present kind of war – asymmetric or fourth generation warfare – and explicit comparisons will be drawn, where appropriate. This course will also seek to understand the impact of certain military operations since the 1980s on military organisation and security policy in the USA and UK, particularly on how the model applied in the Gulf in 1990-91 mutated into that applied in the post 2002 ‘War on Terror.’

Session Topics

Session 1 Approach to Armageddon

  • This session will act as an introduction to our theme; we will examine the modern concept of
    warfare and how it has evolved

Session 2 The whirlwinds of change

  • This session will deal with the post-colonial period in Africa and how former colonial powers coped
    with insurgent methods; Rhodesia will be used as a case study.

Session 3 Ivan’s War

  • This session will look at the post-Soviet Union Russian military. The war in Ukraine will be used as a
    case study.

Session 4 Willpower versus firepower

  • This session will examine the US Army and its performance in Vietnam and will make explicit
    comparisons with the French and British experience in Malaya.

Session 5 The people’s war?

  • This session will exercise the phenomenon of modern guerrilla warfare and European terrorism;
    Northern Ireland will be used as a case study.

Session 6 God’s furious warriors

  • This session will examine the origins and progress of takfiri terrorism; Al Qaeda and Daesh will be
    used as case studies.
Read more: AP Crossover: Yaa Asantewaa’s War & the Golden Stool

I have to thank the English Speaking Union of Central Florida (ESU) for this incredible scholarship that is providing for the opportunity for me to even go on this trip. This money is truly the only thing allowing this to happen & I am so lucky I have found generous organizations out there that support the arts and humanities fields. This money covers my food, lodging, tuition, airfare, and incidentals.


P.S. here is the newsletter with our awards ceremony

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