Saturday, October 03, 2015

World's Least Read Blog

Based on the number of comments this blog gets it appears that I have almost no human readers left what so ever.

The Difference Between US and African Universities

Unlike in the US my students here in Africa are thouroughly aware of the crimes of the Stalin regime. It takes up a big portion of my Aspects of World History, 1914-1945 class I teach every fall semester. Once you actually explain things like the Holodomor to students they are perfectly capable of understanding that the Stalin regime reached a level of evil that had few contenders.

Administration to Gut Curriculum of School of Oriental and African Studies

I have been posting a lot on Afro-Asian discourses recently. This has been primarily because of the recent conference here in Ghana, but it is also because I am an "Orientalist" teaching in Africa. I did my MA and PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I am thus very saddened to see that the administration at SOAS is completely gutting its curriculum and eliminating 184 courses including core courses in such subjects as Arabic, Turkish, and Persian. SOAS used to be the premier university for the study of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East in the English speaking world. It has been losing that edge for a long time because of the deliberate stupidity of its administration. But, this latest act is akin to institutional suicide. There was a reason SOAS was founded in 1916 and that mission will be extremely difficult to fulfil if these course cuts go through. What will be left will be a shell of what used to be one of the greatest small universities in the world.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Publications on Russian-Germans available on the internet

For people attempting to put together bibliographies or just looking for information in English on the subject here is a list of articles of mine that can be accessed for free.

J. Otto Pohl, Eric J. Schmaltz, & Ronald J. Vossler (2009) "In our hearts we felt the sentence of death": ethnic German recollections of mass violence in the USSR, 1928-1948, Journal of Genocide Research, 11:2 323-354.

J. Otto Pohl (2009) Volk auf dem Weg: Transnational migration of the Russian-Germans from 1763 to the present day, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 9:2 267-286

J. Otto Pohl (2012) Soviet apartheid: Stalin's ethnic deportations, special settlement restrictions, and the labor army: The case of the ethnic Germans in the USSR, Human Rights Review, 13:2 205-224

J. Otto Pohl (2013) Hewers of wood and drawers of water: The Russian-Germans in the labour army, The Eurasian Studies Society Journal, 2:1

J. Otto Pohl (2014) Colonialism in one country: The deported peoples in the USSR as an example of internal colonialism, Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion, 5:7

Crimean Tatars and settler colonialism

The Crimean Tatars share a number of similarities with other forcibly displaced indigenous people subjected to racial discrimination during the last few centuries such as Native Americans, Black South Africans, and Palestinian Arabs. The people who dominate the study of Soviet nationality policies in the US like Francine Hirsch and Amir Weiner, however, militantly deny that there was ever anything racist about Stalin's deportation of the Crimean Tatars and other peoples. In part because of this systematic denial of Soviet racism in defense of the Stalin regime there has been almost no attempt by scholars in the Western world to compare the history of the Crimean Tatars with that of indigenous people victimized by settler colonialism in places like South Africa. This is one area where I think non-Western scholars should take the lead and work independently of the established Western orthodoxy. There are ideological reasons why people like Hirsch and Weiner defend the USSR from the charges of racism and genocide. But, those ideological reasons don't exist in Africa and Asia where the similarities between Soviet treatment of the Crimean Tatars and other cases of settler colonialism should be obvious. Not being tied by the ideological constraints that exist in US academia I believe that scholars in Africa and Asia can research these type of areas much more effectively despite their lack of resources.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Justice for Shayan Mazroei

On 7 September 2015 Craig Tanber, a member of a white supremacist prison gang who had recently been released after serving six years for an earlier homicide,  murdered Shayan Mazroei outside Patsy's Irish Pub in Laguna Niguel, California. Mazroei was an engineering student at Saddleback College in nearby Mission Viejo. It is quite clear from the evidence of eyewitnesses that Craig Tanber and his girlfriend Elizabeth Thornburg who assisted Tanber in escaping the scene of the crime are guilty of a hate crime. They clearly state that the perpetrators hurled racial insults at the victim before killing him. Yet, the Orange County District Attorney refuses to press hate crimes charges against Tanber or to charge Thornburg with being an accessory to the crime. Indeed she has not yet even been arrested. It is beyond my comprehension why these two individuals who were guilty of killing another man six years ago were not in prison on the night of Mazroei's murder. OC used to be run by law and order conservatives that were tough on crime.

I never met Shayan Mazroei, but this story has a personal connection to me by virute of geography. I used to drink and eat quite frequently at Patsy's Irish Pub where he was murdered. I am also familiar with Saddleback College where he was a student. I took Spanish and a library course there. At one time I worked there. It is amazing to me that one can murder multiple people in Orange County and still not be permanently removed from society. Currently they are not even talking about life for Tanber who has now killed two people. In the old days when conservatives ran OC the DA would be seeking the death penalty for scum like Tanber. But, those days are over and the current DA's office in Orange County is proving itself to be extremely weak on punishing Tanber and his girlfriend despite the fact that they are recividist violent criminals. Not only does Shayan Mazroei and his family deserve better, but the people of Orange County deserve better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What is the Historical Role of German Diasporas in Africa and Asia?

The role of German diasporas in Africa and Asia even more so than Central Asia where many of them ended up is largely absent from the Afro-Asian discourse. This is despite the fact that starting in the 19th century large numbers of Germans moved to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia in Asia. This was the subject of the panel I put together for the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference. Despite the fact that the German diasporas in Soviet Asia at one time reached over two million people it does not seem to have any place in Afro-Asian discourse. A similar neglect can be observed regarding the German diasporas in Africa, primarily Namibia where some 30,000 still live. Our panel was the only one dealing with German diasporas in Asia or Africa at the conference and it got very little attention. Yet, the large size, strong ethnic identification, length of settlement, and economic contributions makes these among the most important German diasporas in the world. It also makes them important contributors to the history of Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Namibia. Despite these facts attempts to integrate the study of the history of these German communities into a greater Afro-Asian scholarly discourse remains extremely limited. While currently there are many scholars in Africa that study China or India there are very few that study Central Asia. Outside my office the number who study ethnic Germans in the USSR is to my knowledge exactly zero. The subject is an important one that deserves its own academic conference. But, it is also one that has not managed to generate much interest due to institutional marginalization of the topic. However, if anybody would be interested in such a conference let me know.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Place of Central Asia in Afro-Asian Discourse?

One thing I noticed at the conference Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge is that scholars of those parts of Asia that were part of the USSR are still marginalized in Asian studies. At this major conference on all of Asia and Africa the only area less represented than Central Asia was the Middle East and North Africa. The lack of representation by Central Asia is more worrisome than that of the Middle East and North Africa because this latter area has its own scholarly organizations that have proven themselves able to engage in politically independent research. The same is not true for Central Asia. Those organizations devoted only to Central Asia are far too parochial and subject to influence by Central Asian governments and elites. There are after all only five Central Asian states and US and UK scholars are unduly deferential to the regimes in Bishkek, Astana, and even Tashkent compared to people studying other regions of the world. Even if the Caucasus are included the world view of such organizations is still rather limited. Which is one major problem. There is a reason why Asian studies exists. Would one study Vietnam solely in the context of Indochinese studies organizations and closely ally western scholarship with the viewpoint of Hanoi? But, for the most part Central Asia is included in the study of Eurasia which continues to suffer from an excessive Russocentric and Soviet mentality. Intellectual decolonization requires that the study of the region be placed among other post-colonial states not with the former ruling power. After all Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are included in Asian studies not French studies. The argument that Russian and Soviet influence in Central Asia was greater than French influence in Vietnam is not an excuse for keeping Central Asia out of Asian studies and confined to a Soviet ghetto. In fact it is an argument for the opposite. British influence and French influence in West Africa is as great as Russian and Soviet influence in Central Asia. In fact in some ways it is greater. But, that is viewed as all the more reason to promote the study of places like Ghana and Nigeria in the context of Africa, not the UK and the white Commonwealth states. The negative influence of Soviet rule like that of colonialism needs to be countered in scholarship not reinforced like it is currently. Based upon their performance at this last conference in Ghana, Asian studies organizations like IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies) and ICAS (International Convention of Asian Scholars) could do an awful lot more to incorporate and encourage the inclusion of scholarship on Central Asia within the context of scholarship on Asia. Currently the entire discourse of Africa-Asia excludes the former Soviet states leaving a huge lacuna in the scholarly map of Asia.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge Conference now over

The three days of the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference was well worth attending. The food was great and the band on Friday night was out of this world. Some of the academic panels were pretty good too. I learned a lot about the Sindhi diaspora in Africa, the relationship between Indian and African film, and the Indian Ocean slave trade. As is obvious from above, India was well represented at the conference due to its large size, population, and political influence. However, the dominant theme of the conference seemed to be Chinese-African relations. So much so that it seemed that often speakers were using Asia and China as synonyms. Yes, China is important internationally and especially as regards to Africa. But, a lot of Asia wasn't covered at all. Most of the papers dealt with China or India and a handful of others covered Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. There was nothing at all on Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines, or the entire Arab world just to mention some of the larger states in Asia and in the Arab case in Africa as well. Central Asia was represented only by our panel which had a paper on Kyrgyzstan by me and a paper on Kazakhstan by Eric Schmaltz as well as a paper given in another panel on irrigation in Uzbekistan.

Unfortunately, very few people showed up to our panel on ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Siberia. We had a total of seven, but some came late and other left early. So there were only three audience members there for the whole panel. Out of those three attendees one was a colleague of mine here in Legon, one was a Canadian post-graduate students doing a PhD in London, and one was a South African scholar specializing in Sinkiang. I don't know if the Canadian woman was paying attention or not since she was completely silent throughout the entire question and answer and discussion period. That left my colleague and the South African. Which meant in terms of reaching a new audience that had not previously been exposed to the topic we can only verify a total of one South African anthropologist. Of course one person is infinitely more and better than zero, but I expected a larger audience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Central Asia underrepresented at Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge Conference

Tomorrow is the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference here at the University of Ghana. While large Asian countries such as China, Japan, and India are well represented, Central Asia is not. Other than my panel which includes my paper dealing with Kyrgyzstan and another one dealing with Kazakhstan there is only one other paper at the conference dealing with Central Asia. This is symptomatic of the declining scholarly interest in the region internationally in recent years.