Reginald Oduor, Kenyan Scholar and Human Rights Activist

Messiah College is pleased to offer two opportunities for students to learn and engage with Dr. Reginald Oduor, a Kenyan scholar and human rights activist.

Co-sponsored by Diversity Affairs, the Intercultural Office, the Center for Public Humanities, and the Departments of Biblical and Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Politics and International Relations, Dr. Oduor’s sessions will have something for everyone. As a philosopher and activist, Dr. Oduor is internationally known for his scholarship in political philosophy, ethics, and philosophy of religion. Blind since he was a baby, he is also one of Kenya’s leading voices for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.

On Monday, November 16th, from 7-8pm, he will be speaking in Hostetter Chapel, describing and analyzing “How Africa Can Help America.”

The next day, Tuesday the 17th, he will discuss “African Philosophy: Thought and Practice” from 4:15 to 5:30pm in Boyer 336.

We sincerely hope you will be able to join us!


CultureConnect Lecture 2015

Please join the Department of Communication in welcoming Dr. Mark Sachleben for a lecture on International Broadcasting and National Identity on Monday, November 2nd at 7pm in Parmer Hall.

Dr. Sachleben’s political science expertise perfectly equips him for this discussion, which will weave together politics and media. Tickets are free, but are required, and can be picked up at the Ticket Office. This event is not to be missed!



A Second Look at the Migrant Crisis

Thinking Through the First Two Questions

by:  Katie Gartner

Unsurprisingly, the migrant crisis has not abated over the past few weeks. Approximately three weeks ago, a highly divisive EU vote passed, creating mandatory quotas by a qualified majority. Directly affecting national sovereignty, the vote received intense support from Germany, France, and Italy, while the UK and Denmark have opted out of the plan, voluntarily making their own resettlement plans. Two nations who previously objected to the idea of mandatory quotas, Latvia and Poland, voted with the majority. The discussions and negotiations continued yesterday, as European leaders met again in Brussels to consider questions of security around the borders of the European Union. Considering these developments, my previous questions deserve more attention.

  • Does Europe’s “culture of guilt” as described by Christopher Caldwell in his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe influence the initial spirit of hospitality in many nations?
    • Yes, absolutely! Seventy years ago, Germany was synonymous with Nazism, hatred, and intolerable acts of unimaginable bigotry-fueled cruelty. During this crisis, while right-wing extremists may protest Germany’s acceptance of so many migrants, the overwhelming sentiment among Germans is one of welcome. I read an article a few weeks ago, an opinion piece, which discussed this change, using Munich as a case study. In World War II, the concentration camp at Dachau was a mere ten mile outside of Munich, and the Nazi leadership referred to the city as the “Capital of the Movement.” Now, Munich wants to be seen as the “city of protection and help.” A friend of mine is currently studying abroad in Munich, and has said that the German newspapers echo other Western media. Having declared themselves willing to accept 800,000 migrants, the consensus within Germany is that they must act decisively to ameliorate the situation. I have no doubt that Europe’s tragic history and Germany’s antagonistic role in the first half of the century have influence the German desire to set an example of welcome for the rest of the continent during this crisis.
  • How many of the limitations placed on migrant movement result from a nation’s lack of capacity to accept migrants, and how many result from a centuries-old European fear of Islamic culture?
    • I knew when I wrote this question that it was controversial, and I certainly hesitate to try to answer it now. In Samuel Huntington’s famous essay, The Clash of Civilizations, he discusses the origins of cultural (or civilizational) conflict. He outlines differences in history, language, culture, tradition, and religion as the key components of different civilizations, arguing that these varying perspectives will continue to create conflict well into the future. From the time of the Crusades to the Spanish expulsion of the Moors in the seventeenth century to the long struggle of European Christendom against the Ottoman Empire, the historically Christian Europe has been unable to come to terms with the increasing influence of Islam within its bounds. Today, while the continent-wide adherence to Christianity is much diminished, its effects are still felt. This struggled between two titanic religions has shaped European culture. With this in mind, I find myself divided in answering this question. I do believe that the limitations placed on migrant movement result from a lack of capacity to accept migrants, but I also believe that some of the reluctance to make sacrifices to accommodate the influx stems from historical discomfort with Islam.

These are not complete answers to these questions, nor do they amount to expert opinions. While I have other questions from my original post that I have yet to answer, I have been returning to these two questions the most frequently as I watch Europe’s evolving reaction to the migrant crisis. In the coming weeks, I will begin to organize my thoughts on the last few questions, hopefully providing some food for thought if not definitive answers.


An Honest Attempt to Understand the Migrant Crisis


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by: Katie Gartner

The conflict in Syria has led to a massive movement of refugees across the Mediterranean and through Turkey, all looking for similar destinations. Europe, seen as a land of opportunity, prosperity, and safety, has struggled in recent months to cope with this influx of migrants. Germany, fresh from dealing with the Greek economic crisis, initially promised free and open borders to migrants, with an overwhelming welcome in Munich. Unfortunately, they quickly realized that the standards established under the Schengen agreement, regarding unrestricted travel across the borders of European Union nations, were unsustainable due to the incredible numbers of migrants looking to settle in Germany. Many countries in central and southern Europe, like Serbia, Hungary, and Croatia, also began by accepting migrants with open arms, but quickly realized their inability to uphold their hospitable intentions.

In light of these political and economic issues, there are several questions to consider, questions that are the central focus of this blog post.

  • Does Europe’s “culture of guilt” as described by Christopher Caldwell in his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe influence the initial spirit of hospitality in many nations?
  • How much of the limitations placed on migrant movement result from a nation’s lack of capacity to accept migrants, and how much result from a centuries-old European fear of Islamic culture?
  • If barbed wire border fences are not a viable solution, but neither is continued acceptance of migrants, what should a nation’s course of action be?
  • Does the EU have a responsibility, given its relative peace and stability, to respond overwhelmingly to the tragedy on its shores and borders?
  • Western nations, like France and Germany, are likely to have a greater capacity to accept immigrants than their Balkan counterparts. Knowing France’s problems with outward expression of religious (especially Islamic) devotion, how would you recommend the French government proceed?
  • How will this migrant crisis shape a new European culture? In comparison to the Bosnian war in the 1990s, what will its impact be?

Having spent nearly half of my childhood in Belgium and Germany, these questions are plaguing me as I continue to read more and more articles on the migrant crisis. My father spent several months in both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine, and much like the problems surrounding Crimea that began in early 2014, this migrant crisis will indubitably have a profound impact on the continent that I called home. With this in mind, I hope to spend a few more blog posts exploring these questions and trying to justify my opinions or form new answers.


Career Conversations 2015: Business Edition


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This year’s Career Conversations event featured notable Messiah alumni who are pursuing careers in the business world. Our panelists were Melissa Bell (Politics ’04), Alejandro Garcia (Politics & Economics ’13), and Amy (Pedersen) Killelea (History ’94).

The panelists first discussed how they got to where they are since graduating from Messiah. Melissa noted that in addition to attending the London School of Economics for her master’s degree in international relations, she spent two and a half years in Ukraine with the Peace Corps, working in HIV/AIDS prevention programs. She then moved into consulting, working with Deloitte in London, the Middle East, and Australia, where she now resides (she thus Skyped in at 4 am her time!) In Australia, Melissa co-founded The Terrace Initiative, the consulting firm where she now works. Much of her work is with oil and gas companies, and she has enjoyed creating “the kind of consulting firm I always wanted to work for.”

Melissa and Alejandro

Melissa and Alejandro

Amy graduated from Messiah with a history major and a double minor in political science and economics. After working in D.C. for a time, she pursued a Master’s in National Security Studies from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, focusing on Middle East terrorism. Her career has taken her to the staff of the National Security Council at the White House, to the defense of 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, and to facilitating naval exercises onboard a ship in the Mediterranean. Amy recently spent ten years doing consulting for Booz Allen Hamilton, and now works in consulting within the intelligence community. Amy explained that her work is helpful to companies and organizations because they sometimes need to be reinvigorated with ideas from the outside, and consulting helps them to assess their needs and accomplish their goals.

Alejandro started the Master’s in Public Administration program at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Syracuse University the fall after he graduated. That October, he got a job offer from Deloitte, where he now works as a consultant. He is currently focused on developing transformation roadmaps for state and local governments as they seek to improve service delivery and efficiency. Alejandro, who is originally from Bolivia, admitted that living in America away from his family has been a challenge, but says that it has helped him to develop a sense of independence, and that he feels a special connection to parts of America now. He advised students that living abroad “is difficult, but it’s worth it.”

All three panelists readily agreed that their studies in politics and the liberal arts in general prepared them well for graduate school and their careers. Politics, in its essence, said Melissa, is about “who gets what,” and consulting involves the management of “who gets what.” A liberal education helps with the problem solving process and with bringing together disparate bodies of knowledge to make things happen. Alejandro noted that his degree in politics taught him how to learn to think through issues and made him a more capable, well-rounded person. Melissa is active in the hiring process at her firm, and says she looks for both experience and “habitual excellence”—well-roundedness in all areas of life. Amy, who has also had extensive experience in hiring, says that she too looks for people with broad capabilities, because she has to train employees in certain areas regardless of their academic experience. She agrees that her study of history, politics, and economics at Messiah taught her to appreciate nuance and to “look at a problem in its totality” rather than seeking easy answers.

Alejandro and Amy

Alejandro and Amy

A special thanks to our alumni who participated in this informative event, and we wish them the best as they continue along their career journeys! They are truly a testament to the possibilities available for Messiah graduates.

“Why America’s Obsession with STEM Education is Dangerous”


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Technology is an integral part of our lives, and it is vital that our workforce be able to understand and use it.  But too narrow a focus can be a limitation– America needs citizens with a broad range of interests and varied skills to do the work that technology cannot: reasoning, debating, and writing about issues of global significance.  What can you do with a course of study in politics, and the humanities in general?  Almost anything that requires critical thought and good written and verbal communication skills!

A recent Washington Post article by Fareed Zakaria further details the necessity of a liberal arts education for engaging with the world.  The next time someone asks you what on earth you’re going to do with a humanities major, point them in the direction of this article and state your intentions with confidence!

EDIT: Another excellent article on a similar theme can be found here.

Minors Matter: Politics Edition


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On March 25, Messiah held its first “Minors Matter” fair, which encouraged students to supplement their major with a minor in another discipline.  In celebration, two of our politics minors shared how they came to the politics department, and how a politics minor has enriched both their academic and personal lives.  Enjoy!

 Rachel Bauman ’15: English Major

A fine-lookin' dameI am a senior English major with a writing concentration. I had always been more interested in politics and political history than the average person my age, but I had never even remotely considered studying it in college. As I was registering for classes for the spring semester of my sophomore year, I realized that one of the classes I was planning to take was already full and I needed three more credits. I figured I might as well choose a class that sounded interesting since it would be a free elective. After frantically scouring the course offerings in numerous disciplines, I decided on American Government with Dr. Rego. I knew nothing about the politics department, but since it was a lower-level politics class, I thought it would be fairly low-stress, so it would be no big deal if I didn’t like it. Au contraire, I am pleased to say. The class turned out to be more challenging than I expected, but I enjoyed the material and the lectures so much that I was glad to get the opportunity to delve into the subject through readings and class discussion.

I soon realized that I was way too excited about The Federalist Papers (family and friends can attest to this trying time) not to invest at least part of my college career in politics. And I’m so glad I did! Studying politics has enriched my life in so many ways. It has complemented my English major by enhancing my critical thinking skills and my ability to analyze texts. And because the department combines the best of the humanities and social sciences, I have been exposed to writing in and for different disciplines. The department’s small size has enabled me to meet an entirely different set of people from those in my major, and the wonderful professors have taken me in as a member of the politics family. (I’m even the department work study!) My experiences in the politics department have opened my eyes to different career opportunities that I had never previously considered and have changed the way I think about my future. My only regret was that, due to timing and circumstances beyond my control, I was not able to do a double major. But when people ask me what I’m studying at school, I’ve taken to responding “English and politics” anyway!

Jonathan Barry Wolf ’16: Ethnic & Area Studies and English Double Major

Jonathan Barry WolfAs a first year student, I was looking for that perfect major-minor combination that would expand my mind, prepare me for grad school, and look great on a resumé. In order to explore these academic options, I enrolled in a variety of different classes that piqued my interest. One of these classes was American Government. In American Government, I learned about the foundations and operations of our government. I found the subject of politics to be fascinating, and so I continued to enroll in Politics courses. By the second semester of my sophomore year, I declared a double major in English and Ethnic and Area Studies with a minor in Politics.

The way I see it, my Politics minor is the perfect foundation for both my majors. Classes like American Political Thought and Ethnic and Racial Politics in America have informed the way I approach English and Ethnic Studies and have strengthened my understanding of American sociopolitical history. By analyzing the arguments of federalists, antifederalists, pro-slavery writers, abolitionists, as well as the majority and minority opinions of Supreme Court justices in classes like Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, I learned how to shape good arguments and articulate my thoughts clearly and concisely.

Minoring in Politics has also helped me to become a more informed citizen. I have a better understanding of current events, and I am also more aware of how I can affect positive change when I disagree with a situation. My original goal was to find a major-minor combo that would challenge my thinking, prepare me for further education, and intrigue a future employer. I believe I have achieved all this and more as a Politics minor.

Politics at the Movies: Selma and The Imitation Game


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The following guest post was written by senior politics major Casey Daggett.Selma_poster

For as long as I can remember, I have loved stories. No small amount of my childhood was spent surrounded by piles of books borrowed from the local library. As I grew up, that love developed into an equal affection for film. Film is just as transformative, just as powerful a medium, as what we consider to be traditional narrative, and I’ve found it is often through film that I find myself moved, inspired and touched.

Last month, I spent two consecutive Sunday afternoons at the movie theatre in Camp Hill, first to see Selma and then The Imitation Game. Both were nothing short of masterful; each beautifully and poignantly portrayed their respective protagonists as well as the challenges and cultural nuances of their settings. As both ended, the last image on the screen was a title card explaining the fates of MLK Jr. and Alan Turing. Shortly after the events of Selma, MLK Jr. was assassinated, and less than a year after beginning hormone treatments, Alan Turing committed suicide.

After the end of both films, just as the lights began to rise, I heard someone behind me sigh wistfully, “What a shame.

It is, of course, a shame. It is nothing short of a tragedy.

In both cases, the lives of two brave, brilliant men were ended far too early as a result of systematic injustice. For Turing, a government that actively dehumanized homosexuals and worked to ‘cure’ them through either jail or hormone imbalances; for King a government that for far too long had ignored the plight of its own citizens and turned a blind eye to rampant discrimination.

This led me to consider how many ‘shames’ I will sit down to watch in a theatre thirty or forty years from now. How many instances of injustice that now only warrant perhaps a sad sigh or casual interest wilThe_Imitation_Game_posterl one day appear upon a movie screen and result in the disbelief of an audience? How was such a thing allowed to continue, to endure? Where was the outcry, the rage? Where was the justice?

This is the primary reason why I chose to study politics and why I believe my discipline, contrary to the opinions of many, is critically important. Politics is a study of constitutions, ideologies, and electoral systems, certainly, but the beating heart of the study examines how communities choose to live together and, most importantly, how those within can be given the best possible life. Political activism, an understanding of the nuances of difficult and often uncomfortable issues, works to combat these ‘shames’ and to see injustice defeated.

Viewing both Selma and The Imitation Game reminded me of the necessity of what I study, of the call not only to recognize injustice but to end it through political activism. It is a challenge, absolutely, and one that requires no small amount of determination and strength, but it is unquestionably deserving of the effort. Years down the road, when we’ve a free Sunday afternoon to spend at the movies, let’s work to see as few of these ‘shames’ as possible up on the big screen.


Russians: A Review


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The following post was written by department work study Rachel Bauman.


(New York: Twelve Books) 2014

Russia has been a frequent focal point of international attention since the days of the Soviet Union. The actions of the Russian government continue to confound and frustrate the international community. A recent example is Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, which continues despite ceasefire agreements and international sanctions. Yet Putin remains very popular among Russians, perhaps a partial reflection of Russians’ desire to be taken seriously in the global community, even if it means sacrificing freedoms to a more authoritarian leader.

I am of the opinion that Russia, and its political system, can best be understood through the prism of history and culture. And so, with a semester of post-Soviet Russian politics under my belt and an intense (perhaps obsessive) interest in understanding the Russian people, I picked up Gregory Feifer’s 2014 book, Russians: The People Behind the Power, for a little leisure reading. Feifer, a journalist and former NPR correspondent, has a unique perspective: his American father and Russian mother met at the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959. Though he grew up in London and Connecticut, he spent years traveling and living in Russia, experiencing part of his heritage firsthand. There is nothing detached about Feifer’s relationship with Russians—it is peppered with stories of his mother and her family, his parents’ relationship, and his own observations experiencing and writing about Russia.

That being said, Feifer still draws on outside sources—including recent surveys, historical accounts, and literature—for his background information as he argues that the factors shaping Russia today have been doing so for years. Each chapter serves to address one of these factors. Of particular interest is his exploration of “extravagance” in Russian culture—much of it a holdover from the rise of the oligarchs in the early 1990s who capitalized on the privatization of state-owned enterprises and amassed huge amounts of wealth. Moscow alone is home to more billionaires than any other city in the world. Economic inequality in Russia is a source of resentment for many Russians, who rightly conclude that many of the wealthy obtained and retain their wealth due to collusion with the government and other corrupt practices.

Feifer focuses heavily on corruption as a deeply-rooted problem in Russian society. In general, political institutions are nothing more than a front for the “informal networks of crony arrangements” which rule behind the scenes. Personal loyalties take precedence just as they did in medieval Muscovy, during which time, Feifer notes, tsars would distribute their powers among ruling clans. In Putin’s Russia today, power and influence are contingent on support for the President, at least outwardly. Dissidence is easily punished in a society where bribes and threats are more influential than the rule of law, which has little historical precedent in Russia.

Russia’s problems are indeed deeply entrenched, but Feifer reminds his readers that Russia is still grappling with the legacy of 70 years of Soviet rule and cannot be expected to come out of that experience without some trauma. He calls for the West to confront Russia with an understanding that the way Russia operates, and the assumptions its leaders make, are often radically different than our own. Although this book is more than a list of things that are wrong with Russia and the origins of these problems, I found it to be a very bleak read, perhaps too colored by the negative personal experiences of Feifer and his family in the past. Nonetheless, the book is engagingly written and provides many excellent insights into Russian culture and its influence on politics. It is by no means a textbook, but I recommend it as a timely supplement to more academic analyses of contemporary Russia.

Orwell, Language, and Liberty: Part Two


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The following post is the second of two installments by department work study Rachel Bauman. Part One can be viewed here.

1984 cover

Orwell clearly ties his thoughts on current political discourse to the state of language itself in his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” and these opinions are an integral part of Orwell’s commentary on the totalitarian state in Nineteen Eighty-Four. He begins the essay by asserting that “the English language is in a bad way,” a situation whose origins, he believes, stem from problems in the political sphere (“Politics” 143). Orwell posits a vicious cycle of language degradation, a kind of reciprocity in which “foolish thoughts” lead to sloppy language, and imprecision of language contributes to foolish thoughts (“Politics” 143). It is thus a linguistic renewal which must occur in order to improve the level of political discourse, and Orwell argues that such a change is possible if prose writers, and particularly political writers, would turn away from the “staleness of imagery” and “lack of precision” which belie a “mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence” (“Politics” 143-5). It is on this basis that he constructs Newspeak as one of the Party’s main methods of controlling minds in Nineteen Eighty-Four (Bolton 154).

Newspeak is a tool of the Party; according to Orwell’s appendix to Nineteen Eighty-Four, the language was created “to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism” (Nineteen 312). Winston, the novel’s protagonist, receives an explanation of the principles of Newspeak from Syme, a Party philologist. Syme clarifies that, in his belief, “Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak” (Nineteen 55). They depend on the existence of one another, and both wield power over the individual, subsuming their identity into the mentality of the collective. Newspeak’s aim, according to Syme, who is working on the eleventh edition of the Newspeak Dictionary, is to “narrow the range of thought” by systematically narrowing the vocabulary, an idea that corresponds with Orwell’s linguistic determinism— that is, the theory that the structure and content of a given language dictates its speakers’ range of thought (Nineteen 55). By limiting language, then, the Party can control minds, ensuring that “a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc… should be literally unthinkable” (Nineteen 312). With this loss of language comes a loss of liberty—for example, words associated with political freedom, such as “liberty” and “equality,” are subsumed into crimethink and become independent of any meaning other than being associated with thoughts against the Party; other words which could be used to express anti-Party sentiments are deleted entirely from the lexicon (Nineteen 318). Essentially, Newspeak is a combination of Oldspeak words for everyday things and activities, purged of any meanings other than innocuous ones; words created by the Party “to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them,” and specialized scientific jargon (Nineteen 313, 316, 322). It is with this power of limiting language that the Party aspires to perpetuate its social structure, subjugate its citizens, and create its own truth in order to have complete power over its people.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell makes a potent case against totalitarianism by satirizing the elements of the ideology he saw in his own society. Orwell sees politics and language as intricately linked, and the consequences of this relationship play out on a grand scale in Ingsoc. Language is the currency of the Party— it gives the Party the ability to control society as a whole, individuals, and history. With these three elements combined, the Party has the ultimate power to define reality as it sees fit. Orwell calls for a return to awareness: he “wishes us to be attentive to our use of English because he wants us to be alive to our beliefs”—mere passivity will not do (Bailey 43). As Winston writes in his diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows” (Nineteen 84). Where a reflective, unfettered spirit of language is preserved, so too is liberty.

Orwell’s commentary on the state of the English language in political discourse is strikingly relevant today in our media-bombarded society. From the twisted words of campaign ads to the squawking of partisan pundits, current political discourse brings with it an unsettling sense that we’ve heard it all before. Perhaps, as Orwell feared, the language we use to talk about politics has narrowed—whether by simple attrition or by the limitations, even implied, imposed on it by government and society as a whole. We would do well to heed Orwell’s call to use language carefully and critically, with an appreciation for nuance. Language is too valuable, too integral to our reasoning, to be squandered on trite talking points.


Works Cited and Further Reading

Bailey, Richard W. “George Orwell and the English Language.” The Future of Nineteen Eighty-four. Ed. Ejner J. Jensen. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1984. 23-46. Print.

Bolton, W. F. The Language of 1984: Orwell’s English and Ours. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984. Print.

Newsinger, John. Orwell’s Politics. New York: St. Martin’s, 1999. Print.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-four. London: Secker & Warburg, 1997. Print.

Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” Inside the Whale and Other Essays. London: Penguin in Association with Secker & Warburg, 1957. 143-57. Print.

Orwell, George. “The Prevention of Literature.” Inside the Whale and Other Essays. London: Penguin in Association with Secker & Warburg, 1957. 159-74. Print.


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