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NYU Washington, DC students reflect on event with leading intellectual Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj ŽižekOn October 8, 2015, NYU Washington, DC hosted an event with Slavoj Žižek, one of Europe’s most influential intellectuals. The event, MORE ALIENATION, PLEASE! A Critique of Cultural Violence, was an inspiring opportunity for students to engage with this dynamic thinker. Two students, Bella Chia and Arielle Hersh, reflect on the experience.
About Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek’s thinking is rooted in the European Enlightenment, with a strong basis on German Idealism, Hegel, Marx, and Lacan. He is a senior researcher at the Institute of Sociology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and a visiting professor at a number of American Universities (Columbia, Princeton, New School for Social Research, New York University, University of Michigan). SŽižek received his Ph.D. in Philosophy in Ljubljana studying Psychoanalysis. He also studied at the University of Paris. He is a cultural critic and philosopher who is internationally known for his innovative interpretations of Jacques Lacan. He has been called the ‘Elvis Presley’ of philosophy as well as an ‘academic rock star’.
Žižek writes on a diverse range of topics, including political theory, theology, and psychoanalysis. His lectures and appearances around the globe underline his position as a leading contemporary thinker and cultural theorist. He is valued for his critique of global capitalism and as an intellectual figurehead for the leftist protest movement.
The shock over the terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015 inspired Žižek to write an essay on Islam and modernism. In it, he addresses the rupture between the Western world’s advocacy for tolerance and the fundamental hatred of Western liberalism within radical Islam. Žižek makes a plea for the West to insist on the legacy of the Enlightenment, with its strengths of criticism and self-reflection. He argues for a renaissance of individual autonomy and the sovereignty of the people.
Bella Chia, NYU ‘19
I had the privilege of hearing Slavoj Žižek speak in person at More Alienation Please! A Critique of Cultural Violence, an event hosted jointly by EUNIC and NYUDC. As a first-year international college student studying away from home back in Singapore for the first time, this talk reminded me of the importance of taking the time to better understand and learn about the different cultures I encounter on a daily basis.
Žižek made a few interesting points about the culturally patronising attitudes held by many societies today, and how efforts to be politically correct may result in unintended disrespect. He argued that the European tendency to deprecate Western economic and cultural imperialism while extolling the environmentally and spiritually holistic lifestyles of foreign cultures is in many cases an indication of underlying racism. He gave a notable example of how Native Americans burned down many more forests and killed more bison than modern myths give them credit for, and how misguided interpretations of these events have resulted in people missing the mark when it comes to displaying sincere respect towards this community.
At first, acknowledging this point was rather counter-intuitive, as the need for politically correct respect towards foreign (and this is an entirely relative term) cultures and marginalised groups in society has been repeatedly emphasised both in my home country and in the United States. But as I mulled over the idea, it became clear to me that politically correct gestures often don’t succeed at their intended goal because it is simply impossible to show genuine respect towards cultures unfamiliar to us without taking the time to deeply know and understand them. Without such knowledge, we are susceptible to making false assumptions and vulnerable to accepting hasty generalisations made by the media. These beliefs may influence our daily interactions with individuals from foreign communities, and our inability to deal with people as they truly are would stunt our relationships with them.
During a research presentation I attended at my college, the audience was shown two films with identical images but different voiceovers. The effect of this was that the narrative of each film was vastly different in tone and character. Just like voiceovers, our attribution of misconceived motivations and mindsets to foreign cultures may have the potential to perpetuate misrepresentations of reality. Besides, as Žižek rightfully pointed out, even the act of proclaiming that other cultures are less selfish than our own due to their unacquaintance with the ills of technology and civilisation dehumanises them by portraying them as being too simple to be ‘evil’.
I realised that we have to be aware that showing politically correct ‘respect’ is a well-meaning but risky gesture that can backfire by uncovering extremely parochial mindsets. In an globalised world where we are faced with the prospect of increasing transnational collaboration to solve problems on a planetary scale, patronisation of this sort should be given a wide berth. Not only is it offensive, but it also hinders our abilities to communicate about and resolve international conflicts.
Given this, how may we gain an intimate understanding of cultures other than our own? Ultimately, I think we have to remember that beyond the differences in language, ethnicity and socio-economic background, we are all humans born with the same nature and constitution; the differences in our lifestyles and outlooks are merely diverse manifestations of similar principles that guide us within. The bottomline is that we need to be sincere in our thoughts and speech. I realised after Žižek’s talk that respecting other cultures doesn’t involve mere sentimentality, but that real respect is intelligent and knowledgable. When we’ve got this down, it will show through regardless of how politically correct we try to appear.
As the Iconoclash series continues, I hope to be able to be exposed to even more perspectives and ideas on culture that challenge the ways I live and communicate with the people around me. I am thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of the audience for this event, and hope that I would be able to attend many more talks in this series.
Arielle Hersh ‘19:

When I heard the name “Slavoj Zizek,” my face lit up and I may or may not have squealed a little bit, much to the puzzlement of my roommates. Sometimes I forget that it’s not an everyday event to have your friends send you video clips of philosophy lectures on everything from ethics to world crises to figuring out exactly what Kant is saying, ever. I signed up immediately and couldn’t have been happier that I did.
At the event itself, NYU DC’s Auditorium was jam packed with intellectuals, students, and even the Slovenian ambassador. Zizek took the stage to applause and then immediately denied it. He respectfully disagreed with enticement of Slovenian wine after the talk, claiming that he doesn’t drink wine, which may have been the most respectful thing he said all night. Slavoj Zizek does not speak like other writers, professors, or intellectuals. What the audience expected to be “A Critique of Cultural Violence” lecture style with Q&A was overrun by the sheer magnitude of having a character in the room like Zizek. From start to end he told jokes and anecdotes, making his points through humor where we all thought to ourselves at times, “I shouldn’t be laughing at this.” But everyone else was laughing, and so was Zizek, and so it goes.
Amidst quotes like “the true test of radical change is the morning after” and “the most intelligent kind of Stabucks idealism” Zizek proves his point – obscenities cross boundaries and create a kind of necessary exchange to break down cultural barriers and get to the heart of an issue. And he does exactly that. After sitting through an hour and a half of anecdotes and euphemisms, it doesn’t seem like there’s an end point in sight, but I walked away from the event understanding exactly what Zizek was trying to say.
While I don’t claim to understand the grander intricacies of modern philosophical thought and its implications on the world around us, “MORE ALIENTATION, PLEASE! A Critique of Cultural Violence” with Slavoj Zizek opened my eyes a little bit more to the issues at hand and what can be done by stripping away everything that is inessential and getting to the important stuff, with, of course, a few jokes thrown in for good measure

Dispatch from Tel Aviv

Bejamin HaryNYU Tel Aviv Site Director Benjamin Hary provides an update:
Greetings from NYU Tel Aviv!
Sixteen bright students are currently attending NYU Tel Aviv and they all tell me that they are very happy here. They come from CAS, Liberal Studies (including GLS), Steinhardt, Stern and NYU Shanghai. Their interests range from science to politics, religion and language, language studies, history and archeology, business and entrepreneurship and innovations (which is so typical to Israel). We are all excited about the possibility of doubling the number of our students in the fall.
NYU Tel Aviv is experiencing much excitement and growth. We just completed the construction of the third floor of your beautiful dormitories; consequently, students enjoy first-rate modern accommodations with a beautiful shared kitchen and lounge! Furthermore, we are in final negotiations for a new building for our offices and classes and we hope to launch it in the Fall of 2016. We are also experiencing growth in our staff and consequently reorganizing the administration structure at NYU Tel Aviv.
Please note that we have some new courses, which may have not been uploaded to our webpage yet. In addition to our regular science, business and history/politics courses in the spring, we will offer Crossroads of Empires and Conflicts: Jaffa and Tel Aviv in Modernity, taught by our popular Dr. Martin Wein, using extensive academic walking tours in the city and ample opportunities for interactive fieldwork. We will also offer Queering the Middle East, exploring LGBTQ issues in the Middle East in historical perspective and asking how Tel Aviv has become a “Gay Mecca.” The course can be accompanied with an internship at a LGBTQ organization in Tel Aviv. In fact, we are very proud of our flagship Internship program at NYU Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv is a vibrant city and students have a fantastic time here. We are having a great weather now, in the 70s, and people are out and about, working at cafés around the town (and the cappuccino here is simply superb!) or even walking or jogging along the Mediterranean. Recent violence that erupted at some areas in Israel and the Palestinian Authority has not really been felt in Tel Aviv and we are all hopeful for peace and quiet.
Here are some pictures from our recent trips to the western Galilee and the Dead Sea!
students during orientation
students in the Dead Sea

NYU Prague hosts Professor Michael Beckerman from the Department of Music at the College of Arts and Sciences

Michael BeckermanMichael Beckerman, a world-renowned musicologist specializing in Czech and Eastern European music, came to Prague as the keynote speaker at Sounding Czech, a conference on aural history organized by NYU Prague and The Center for European and Mediterranean Studies. The graduate conference addressed the role of sound and aurality in the histories of Bohemia and Moravia, bridging such diverse fields as musicology, history, literary and film studies, and oral history. It explored how the aural can contribute to historical knowledge.
Professor Beckerman is a leading expert on Czech composers; he has written books on Dvorak, Janacek and Martinu, and he is currently studying the music of Gideon Klein, a composer who wrote music in Terezin and died in a concentration camp. Last year he received an honorary doctorate from Palacky University in the Czech Republic, and he is also a recipient of the Janacek Medal from the Czech Ministry of Culture.
The goal of the conference was to investigate the relationship between sound and history, inviting academics to discuss such topics as the political uses of sound or music in a Czech context, the historical investigation of sites and moments in which sound or music has played an important role, the role of voice and voicelessness in Czech culture and history, Czech modes of sound transmission and audio technology, and language as a form of sound. It was organized by graduate students in history and musicology from NYU and University College London.

NYU Shanghai student Jack B. Du develops mouse for kids with cerebral palsy

Jack B. Du
Jack B. Du (Jiadong Du), a junior at NYU Shanghai pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Interactive Media Arts, describes how he developed the idea of JOY Mouse – a device that helps kids with cerebral palsy use the computer. (To see more of Jack’s work, visit jackbdu.me.)
I developed the idea of JOY Mouse<jackbdu.me/joy-mouse> when a group of us were brainstorming for a deign challenge at 2014 Barcamp, which was held at NYU Shanghai. The objective is to design a device for the kids with cerebral palsy to help them use the computer. So my idea was to redesign a mouse, which would be built from a joystick, that moves the cursor to different directions as the joystick was turned around. It was fortunate that Arduino<arduino.cc> has this micro-controller board called Leonardo, which has low-level connection with computers so that it can work as a computer mouse or keyboard. I started coding for that and the mouse I built could only move the cursor around, unable to perform a click. It was only a one- or two-hour challenge so I didn’t make everything work.
JOY Mouse
Weeks later, when I was participating in 2014 HackShanghai<hackshanghai.com>, I picked up that idea and started some real work on it. Eventually, within 24 hours, I built JOY Mouse, which can work as a fully functional mouse, controlled by only one finger, or one arm if it were made big enough. Moreover, it supports quite a few gestures to trigger different functions, like scrolling pages, switching between desktops, etc. The project won the 2nd Best Hardware Hack in that hackathon. Later on, with Professor Marianne R. Petit, I went to CereCare, a non-profit organization that provides training and accommodation for kids with cerebral palsy. I talked to the teachers there and discussed different methods to redesign JOY Mouse to actually fit their students.
JOY Mouse in use

Master’s level study semester program launches in Buenos Aires

students in Buenos Aires
This fall, classes began for the Silver School of Social Work’s first full-semester, graduate-level study abroad program – fusing education, research, and practice – in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The program, which the McSilver Institute helped design and implement, enables second year MSW candidates to take the same required courses they are offered at NYU’s Washington Square campus and to do their field placements with the McSilver Institute’s community-based partners in Argentina.
Gisselle Pardo, LCSW, MPH, who leads the McSilver Institute’s global educational programs, explained, “Students have their field placements at a variety of agencies in Buenos Aires, ranging from one of the city’s oldest and largest public hospitals to a program that uses art as a therapeutic tool for children in poverty-impact communities, to a feminist grassroots organization supporting women and children living in Villa Paris.
Silver School MSW student Monika Estrada Guzman said, “As soon as I heard about the program, I got really excited about the opportunity to learn what social work is from a global perspective – how it’s defined and how it’s seen – and, as a Latina, to develop more of a clinical vocabulary in Spanish.”
Ms. Pardo added, “Within Latin America, Argentina has a complex and rich history around social movements, activism around social justice, and fighting for human rights. Students in the program are learning how this history impacted policy, practice, and communities, and they are getting an opportunity to work with organizations that are still doing a great deal of social justice activism today. Buenos Aires is also a cosmopolitan city, like New York, so it is somewhat familiar to our students but it also challenges them be in different context and culture.”

NYU Abu Dhabi Students Organize Panel on the Refugee Crisis

NYU Abu Dhabi student Sue-Ann Lau, Class of 2018, writes about how NYU Abu Dhabi has examined the refugee crisis:
The influx of migrants and refugees streaming into Europe from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa has created one of the biggest strains on Europe since the migration wave that occurred during and after World War II. While international agencies, local residents and NGOs work to develop immediate responses to the increased volume of migration to Europe, EU leaders are struggling to generate a long-term plan for collective action.
To spark dialogue about the situation, NYU Abu Dhabi Political Science student Toma Pavlov (Class of 2017) organized a panel discussion with prominent scholars from the fields of migration, sociology and political science. More than 150 people attended to hear about this pressing global issue and evaluate recent events, consider old precedents and explore new answers to what has been called one of the most pressing migration crises in European history.
“My main motivation was to create a space for discussion,” said Pavlov, who adds it’s important that students have an informed opinion or at least some knowledge beyond the news headlines. “Academics from different universities bring fresh perspectives and encourage students to think critically about the topic and how we can shape the future.”
Leading the panel discussion was Alejandro Portes, a visiting professor from Princeton University and sociologist who has been studying migration and urbanization for 30 years. He was joined by Ronald Rogowski, visiting professor of Political Science who is at NYUAD to teach courses on political institutions and international trade, NYUAD Faculty Fellow of Social Science Michael Harsch, and Assistant Professor of Social Science and Humanities Marc Michael. The panel guest of honor was His Excellency Dr. Eckhard Lübkemeier, Ambassador of Germany to the UAE.
In response to Germany having the highest asylum claims in the EU, Dr. Lübkemeier, said, “While our hearts are wide open and our compassion is infinite, our capacity to cope is finite”.
All panelists stressed the importance of differentiating between refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants when discussing the crisis.
After almost two hours, Professor Rogowski closed the discussion by saying, “This has to be a shared burden…it’s not just Europe’s problem.”
panel at NYU AD

NYU Prague Responds to the Refugee Crisis in Europe

items for sale to support refugees
NYU Prague director Jiri Pehe has signed an open letter calling upon Central European intellectuals to show solidarity with the refugees and the rest of Europe, adding his name to a list of over 100 signatories that include Poland’s former presidents and former Czech, Lithuanian and Hungarian prime ministers.
“In the name of our humanity, our principles and values, we call upon the authorities and people of our region to demonstrate practical solidarity towards refugees so that they may find safe haven in our midst and enjoy freedom to choose their own future,” it said. The impassioned appeal has been making waves around Europe and was published in the Guardian, The Washington Post, and numerous other publications. The entire letter can be read here: https://euobserver.com/opinion/130323.
“I admire Jiri Pehe’s courage,“ said sociologist and NYU Prague professor Salim Murad. “His is one of the few voices in Czech media that advocates humanity, not hatred towards the refugees.“
As refugees start entering the Czech Republic in accordance with the recent decision by the EU, the issue is certainly not going to go away. To promote further dialogue NYU Prague is organizing a conference in November with leading political and academic figures – including the Czech Minister for Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Jiri Dientsbier, political scientists Jacques Rupnik and Muriel Blaive, and human rights activist Simon Panek, the director of People in Need – one of the largest human rights NGOs in Europe. “The conference will discuss the refugee crisis from three different perspectives – nations and borders, governments and citizens and media and society,“ said organizer Vanda Thorne, Assistant Director of Academics at NYU Prague.
At NYU Prague, students and faculty have also been initiating activities to help the Syrian refugees. “My students are so interested in understanding the crisis and comparing it to the situation in the US,“ said Professor Murad. “Tammy Hsu (Steinhardt 17) came to me with the idea of doing a charity drive and bake sale, and on the same day, Jiri Pehe asked me if I would help organize a discussion about the crisis for our students. Tammy and I decided to combine the two ideas and make September 23 a Day for Refugees at NYU Prague.“
“With the current refugee crisis happening right before us, it’s hard to ignore how many people’s lives have been affected,” said Tammy Hsu. “The Student Council organizes bake sales every semester and this semester we saw it fitting to do a charity bake sale to help the refugees even in the slightest.“ The bake sale raised over $200, which has been donated to a local charity that assists the refugeees.
Professor Murad invited experts from two local NGOs that work with refugees to NYU Prague to explain the situation of the migrants. Why is over 80% of Czech public is against having refugees from Syria? “Over 99% of the Czech population has never met a refugee or a Muslim… the fear is based on stereotypes propagated by the me-dia, and our political leaders are only adding to the hysteria,“ said Martin Rozumek, the Director of the Czech Organizaton for Aid to Refugees.
“I hope [the Day for Refugees] was a catalyst to conversations among NYU students about the current refugee crisis, and that we continue to become more informed,“ said Tammy.
Meanwhile, Salim Murad has invited Tammy Hsu to talk to his Czech students at the University of Southern Bohemia about her efforts to help the Syrian refugees. “Maybe we can inspire the Czech students to organize a Festival of Good Will similar to the NYU students‘ initiative.“
students listening to the panel

NYU Berlin hosts Tal Nitzán, award winning poet, writer, editor and translator

event poster
On Tuesday, 13 October, NYU Berlin is hosting a reading and discussion with Tal Nitzán, award winning poet, writer, editor and a major translator of Hispanic literature. Nitzán is the author of five poetry books and one children’s book, and editor of three poetry anthologies. She has resided in Buenos Aires, Bogotá and New York. Currently she lives in Tel Aviv. Her poems have been translated into more than twenty languages; her collection of poetry “Zu Deiner Frage“ will be published by Verlagshaus Berlin for the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015.
The event is co-organised with NYU Bronfman Global and the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich foundation (ELES), which sponsors Jewish students and PhD candidates at German universities. ELES CEO Jo Frank, familiar to NYU Berlin students from the journalist panel in August, will host the seminar. Jo Frank will also talk with Tal Nitzán about contemporary life in Israel and her political activism.

Global Art Daily to explore art as a tool of multicultural understanding

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Global Art Daily (GAD) is a new publication covering exhibitions of contemporary and historical art as well as art fair reports, artist interviews and feature articles about what Global Art means in our 21st century across the globe. You can access it at: www.globalartdaily.com. Started by a student at NYU Abu Dhabi and looking to stay NYU-focused, GAD welcomes contributors from all over NYU’s global network to write 500-word articles about the visual arts in their current sites. The only requirement for publication is to be a full-time student of the NYU Global Network University. If interested, please email Sophie Arni (sa2898@nyu.edu) for more information and to discuss article ideas.
Similar efforts exist elsewhere at NYU. For example, Mapping Contemporary Florence, is an ongoing collaborative project at NYU Florence. It can be seen at: http://mappingcontemporaryflorence.com
GAD, however, will be the first effort focusing on the visual arts across NYU’s global sites. GAD founder Sophie Arni welcomes contributions from students everywhere. Sophie’s global interest stems from her upbringing. She was born in Geneva, Switzerland and thanks to her father’s diplomat career, she lived in four different continents before she was 18 – an early international exposure which led to fashion her taste for the exotic as well as facing the inequalities of the current world political stage. The influence given by her mother, a teacher of Abstract Painting, led her to develop a passion for art and a succinct flair for Art History, a discipline she is currently studying at NYU Abu Dhabi. After her experience at NYU’s Washington Square campus, and after completing internships at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery, the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay in NYC and at Sotheby’s London offices, she founded Global Art Daily. The publication aims to cover global contemporary art making and viewing throughout the GNU. She is excited to see it grow and carries its mission to view art as a tool of multicultural understanding.
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NYU Professor Jonathan Zimmerman in Tel Aviv talks about how Globalization Stymied Sex Education

Jonathan Zimmerman
On October 8, NYU Professor Jonathan Zimmerman gave talk at NYU Tel Aviv entitled “Hot and Bothered: How Globalization Stymied Sex Education”.
Professor Zimmerman’s talk focused on how sex education has never won a sustained foothold in modern schools. Although sexual attitudes around the world have liberalized in the past half-century, sex education has not followed suit; indeed, the modern phenomena of globalization have mostly served to inhibit–not to expand–the subject. As visual and digital technologies spread new sexual images and ideas around the world, citizens joined hands to curtail sexual instruction in their schools. In the 20th century, the movement of people and ideas across nations made sex education into a subject without a home.
Jonathan Zimmerman is Professor of Education and History and Director of the History of Education Program, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He also holds an appointment in the Department of History of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. A former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher, Zimmerman is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Yale, 2009), Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century (Harvard, 2006), Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools (Harvard, 2002), and Distilling Democracy: Alcohol Education in America’s Public Schools, 1880-1925 (Kansas, 1999). His academic articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, the Teachers College Record, and History of Education Quarterly. Zimmerman is also a frequent op-ed contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, and other popular newspapers and magazines.