The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca can be seen for miles in each direction when not blocked by buildings. Built on the coast, jutting into the ocean with views of the beach from each side, the clean lines and intricate designs of the tower starkly contrast with the surrounding dingy buildings of the industrial city. I visited on a gorgeous spring day, warm enough to take off my jacket, with droves of people visiting on their Sunday off from work. Entering from the street, two flanking buildings and fountains block the sheer scope of the mosque, but after passing into the courtyard the area feels like it belongs to a time and city apart.
Finished in 1993, the mosque does not belong to the distant past, but is designed to link the past with the present in aesthetics and function. The architecture is indelibly Islamic, but reminiscent of artistic visions of the future, with sweeping lines, slight curves, and the impeccable juxtaposition of intimate spaces in the covered walkways along the perimeter with the sweeping open space of the courtyard and the monumentality of the main mosque.
Couples, families, friends, and individuals roamed the grounds, and sat along the edges with a view of the rocky coast and beach. The mosque is not only unique due to its incredible architecture, but also is one of the few mosques open in Morocco to non-Muslims, at certain appointed tour times. I was unable to take one of such tours, because I arrived just prior to the noon prayers and so the mosque was open only to practitioners. At about 12:30pm, the call to prayer rang out from the tower. Immediately people began moving from the sidelines to the enormous main gate to pray. Not all went to pray, and many remained outside in the sun, sitting, walking, and talking. Continue reading “Monumentality and the Individual”
Y’en a marre or ‘Enough is enough’ are words written on walls all across the capital city of Dakar, Senegal. But these are notjust words. Y’en a marre is a youth movement led by rappers and journalists. As I took my hour-long walk down a main road to school every day, these words were put in context when I passed beggars and groups of lean-tos built on the side of the road. These images would reappear in my consciousness when there was a power cut again, as there was everyday for several hours. The sight of my neighborhood darkened by a power cut was particularly striking against the backdrop of the African Renaissance Monument in the distance. This 164ft monument was meant to symbolize Africa rising from a history of oppression yet its construction was estimated at $27 million while the majority of the population constantly struggled with poverty. The frustration towards these contradictions and life in Senegal was palpable as well. I could see it when my host mother would sigh, “What kind of country is this?!” or when we would meet a demonstration in the streets and be forced to find a different route.
This movement and these frustrations were also coming at a critical time in Senegalese history: a highly contested election. Then president, Abdoulaye Wade, was running for a third term despite the fact that he had passed a law restricting presidents to serving only two terms earlier in his presidency. Wade also faced widespread criticism and accusations of corruption. In many ways, Y’en a marre and the people of Senegal seemed to be dissatisfied with Wade and his presidency and considered this to be the cause for most problems. The preparations of the coming election were everywhere: walls were also graffitied with names of candidates and expressions of hope for 2012 and there were nightly debates on TV discussing the legality of Wade’s bid for candidacy. Continue reading “Y’en a marre (Enough is Enough)”
Editor’s note: Dr. Beatrice de Gasquet will moderate our discussion of “The Challenges of Global Migration” (this Wednesday, Feb. 15th, at 6:30 pm in the Mandel Center Reading Room).
Next fall Dr. de Gasquet will teach A Democratic Babel? Language Politics in Contemporary Europe. The class that will use language to explore topics in European politics such as European integration, the persistence of nationalisms, regionalism, minority rights and immigration.
What IGS classes have you taught at Brandeis?
In the Fall I was teaching a class called ‘Behind the Veil’ about religion and ethnicity in France. The idea was to start with the law banning the veil in schools (and later banning the full veil in public space) and then talk more broadly about issues of religion, politics, race and immigration in France. So we looked not only at Islam but also Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism in France to understand the history of religion, politics and secularism and how it intersects with the history of immigration in France. The point was to begin with a very specific issue and draw out the links with larger historical and political issues.
How do you think that these themes are relevant and useful for IGS students?
There were several things that came up especially in class discussions that are relevant for IGS students. For instance, depending on the country, the way people view the relationship between religion and politics is very different. Of course, the French view and the US view contrast quite nicely and this comparative aspect was very interesting to many students. I saw this in the presentations they did. Some talked about religion and politics in Morocco and Turkey so we had nice comparisons with other countries looking at race and immigration in different ways. There was another aspect that came up regarding the relationship between French and US politics. French politics, on many issues, is in part a reaction to a perceived threat to national identity or independence from either the US or Europe or immigration from North Africa. So we addressed this particular connection between religion and concerns about national identity in France as opposed to other countries such as the US. Continue reading “Interview with Florence Levy Kay Fellow Beatrice De Gasquet”
As an ex IGS UDR who helped launch this blog, it is with great warmth and pride that I return to this evolved platform to give you my story. After graduating in May 2011, I completed my GMAT, did the whole ‘Europe on a shoestring budget’ and went through the arduous process of finding a job. I must say that Brandeis prepared me well for all three situations by refining my academic skills, teaching me how to survive with very little money and providing me with the personal as well as professional skills and qualifications to get a real job.
Life lesson: no matter how skilled or qualified you may be, it is not easy to get a job in a place you enjoy. I was fortunately helped by The Lady (Luck for those not familiar with Pratchett’s Discworld!) and my resume landed in the hands of Rajesh Kamath; a man who single handed, launched, and took a TV channel from anonymity to number one in its genre in India in two years time. He had just been hired as the Indian CEO of an international venture, and only had a CFO working with him at that point. I was the third to join this team, due to opportune circumstances and relevant internships that I had done. I joined, and currently work in the India office of C.A. Media. Continue reading “The Business of Media in India”
The best part about being abroad in Europe is the ability to travel cheaply. Of all the major cities I visited, Berlin was one of Europe’s real gems. From shortcomings of the German sense of humor to the popularity of bubble tea to evocative instances of Jewish remembrance, Berlin provided the best combination of both outrageously entertaining and more thought provoking experiences.
On my second night in Berlin, I accompanied my friend Aaron to an East Berlin party in Mitte. The entrance to the building was located at the end of a dark alley that led to a series of soviet era giant courtyards. As I entered, I encountered a room full of Berliners speaking German very loudly and making references to antiquated pop culture such as Two and Half Men, King of Queens, and Murder She Wrote. While extremely friendly and fun, one asset that Berliners lack (though they definitely do not realize it) is a sense of humor! The funniest thing at the time was a video of an epic break-dance battle between two boys wearing gold chains and flopping around on the ground like fish in a boat. I just pretended to laugh awkwardly realizing that Germans are always watching, and they find that hilarious.
Berliners are also ardent fans of Hertha, their very mediocre football team wishing it was a European juggernaut. I was told that no trip to Berlin is complete without visiting the Olympic Stadium and seeing Hertha battle it out against a league rival (this was same stadium that Jesse Owens ran his historic race!). While our obstructed last row seats were less than ideal, we were surrounded by drunken Berliners singing and chanting about Hertha BSC, and we soon joined in. Despite a tiny 5 year old child flipping off the other team when they scored, Heartha sadly lost 2 to 1. Continue reading ““Ich bin ein Berliner””
Amidst the bucket “showers”, episodes of South African soap operas, and discussing politics with my mama, the culture shock of the lightning storm that transpired on February 16th was the most memorable. I was walking with my sister and my friend Ariana when we first noticed the sky getting darker. My sister, Sanele, told us that she was scared and thought that we ought to go back to our house before it started raining. Sanele is probably the most fearless and outgoing 14 year old I have ever met so hearing her mutter any sounds of vulnerability was something highly unusual. When we finally reached our house, it had already started raining.
There was an odd quiet and calmness to the house. When all of my siblings and mother were home, the television was kept on, house music blasted out of the stereo and my brother, Simphiwe was always laughing and text messaging his friends. Sanele was usually outside singing and dancing with her friends or neighbors. Now, however, everyone was seated in the couches and lounge chairs in the living room area. My mama started preparing the house for the thunderstorm. She covered the mirror with a blanket, turned off the radio and television and covered the windows with the shades. As the rain started to pour, the house became increasingly quieter. Whenever I attempted to peer outside of the windows by pulling back a curtain, my mama shot me a subtle glance of disapproval. My mother sat on couch and covered her head with her hands and slowly rocked back and forth. My brothers also became eerily silent and looked at the floor. Kuhlekan, my 20-year old brother, had a newspaper over his face. Continue reading “Rain in South Africa”
This past spring I traveled outside of the United States for the first time in my life. I was on my way to Freiburg, Germany to spend four months in the IES European Union Program. I chose this program because of my interest in international politics and travel, and this opportunity afforded me a lot of both. I learned more about the EU than many European citizens know and I traveled to 13 different countries. It was an amazing experience in every aspect. I made great friends and had lots of fun traveling and visiting cities like Rome, London, Copenhagen, and Tallinn. I went sledding down an entire mountain in the Swiss Alps and I went hiking on the cliffs of the Mediterranean Ocean in Cinque Terre. I visited the UN in Geneva, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the Reichstag in Berlin, and even interned at the European Parliament in Brussels for a month.
My internship was probably the most exciting and interesting aspect of my study abroad experience. I lived in Brussels for a month and went to work at the European Parliament in the office of Zita Gurmai. Mrs. Gurmai is a socialist member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Hungary whose main interests are women’s rights and gender equality. While compiling information for Mrs. Gurmai’s visit to the U.S., I realized that gender issues are basically nonexistent in American politics right now. I also learned that socialism is a legitimate political ideology in Europe, and although it is a dirty word in American politics, many democratic positions are closer to socialism than democrats would care to admit. Europe as a whole is further left on the political spectrum than the U.S., although many social programs that Europeans take for granted are in danger of being cut by austerity measures. The Socialist & Democrat Party (S&D) that Mrs. Gurmai belongs to is strongly opposed to these cuts.
Continue reading “A European Summer”
This fall IGS will be hosting “IGS Conversations,” a series of panels on the hottest current world issues. Global leaders and IGS seniors will the share the stage as they analyze the pressing issues of our times.
Our first discussion panel is scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 26, 2011 at 7 pm and will focus on government debts and their effect on the faltering world economy.
Are the United States and Europe bankrupt? What can be done about the international debt crisis? What happens if the European Union can’t bail out Greece – or Italy, or Spain? As the world economy teeters, should governments be cutting back or spending much more? And what effect does fear itself have over faltering economies of the West?
We are honored that Mr. Kent Lucken, a managing director with Citigroup, will join us for this conversation. As an international banker Mr. Lucken has extensive experience in global finance but he also knows European politics well. In his past career as a U.S.diplomat Mr. Lucken served in several embassies in Europe and is familiar with the roots of the continent’s economic crisis.
Joining Mr. Lucken will be our own Craig Elman and Adina Weissman, both recently returned from studying abroad in Europe. Craig, a double Economics and IGS major, will speak briefly on the debt crisis in Spain, where he studied for a semester, while Adina, a double major in economics and psychology, will talk about the intersection of public perception and economics in the debt crisis in England.
It all happens next Wednesday, October 26th in the Mandel Humanities Center Reading Room, up on the third floor. Come at 6:30 for pizza and informal conversation, then enjoy the panel and discussion from 7 pm on.
The “IGS Conversations” series is being managed by Joshua Cracraft, a PhD candidate in History who is also IGS’ Assistant Director for Academic Programming. Please do get in touch with Joshua (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have ideas for future conversations.
I spent the semester of Spring 2010 working for Taylor Hampton Solicitors, a small law firm in London, England. We received a lot of phone calls and emails from concerned people at our office. Most of them were pulling at strings – people looking for attention, crazies with conspiracy theories, tipsters with no backing – but we followed up on every claim we could in case there was a bite on the other end of the line. During my four months, I got to experience some of the big bites but it was just after I left did the whole world realize that my last bite would end up snapping the line.
Taylor Hampton Solicitors specializes in media law and is located in the heart of London’s legal center. The lawyer I worked for at the firm was named Mark Lewis. Since mid-June he has been quoted in hundreds of publications all over the world. Why? He is one of the first, and one of the largest solicitors (a type of lawyer in the UK) working on the News of the World Phone Hacking case. His paramount case is that of the family of Milly Dowler – the 13-year-old girl whose phone was hacked while she was kidnapped and eventually found murdered. It was the case that brought down Rupert Murdoch’s historical tabloid ‘The News of the World’ and set into motion a chain of events that experts allege may eventually bring down Murdoch himself. Continue reading “London Calling, Yes I was There Too”
Ben Rifkin, Madagascar
A Malagasy man naps on top of a Taxi-Brousse in the capital, Antananarivo, before he embarks on a long journey across the country. I was about to embark on my own 24 hour non-stop cross-country journey in a similar Taxi-Brousse.
Jesse Appell, China
Da Shu Hua: A traditional festival I went to in Hebei Province, where a man hurls molten iron against a wall and it explodes as it falls back towards the ground. The festival is called “Da Shu Hua,” or, “To beat down the flowers from the trees.”
Madeline Stix, Bolivia
This photograph is taken during my village stay in the town of Tocoli (population 200), on the edge of Lake Titicaca, the lake with the second highest altitude in the world (at 14,000 feet). Two women from the village scuttling down the hill to prepare for our welcome “almuerzo” (lunch), which took place by the sacred waters of the lake.
Melissa Donze, India
“Smiles”: Sharing smiles at the community meeting on the Right to Food Campaign in Ullaluapanagar, Bangalore, India.