March 29, 2012
Professor Bob Brenneman, a sociologist at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, spoke about his book and research on gangs and religion in Central America on March 29. He gave a public lecture, which is described below, and he spoke to my class on Latin America and had lunch with some students. His visit was a great success.
Homies and Hermanos: God, Gangs, and the Drug War in Central America
Why would a gun-wielding, tattoo-bearing “homie” trade in la vida loca for a Bible and the buttoned-down lifestyle of an evangelical hermano (brother in Christ)? To answer this question, Robert Brenneman interviewed sixty-three former gang members from the “Northern Triangle” of Central America–Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras–most of whom left their gang for evangelicalism. Brenneman will share stories from his new book on gang conversions (Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America, Oxford 2012) before concluding with a discussion of the spiral of drug-trafficking and violence ravaging the region today.
April 16, 2012
Peace & Conflict Around the World
Professor Johan Galtung, a Norwegian sociologist and founder of peace and conflict studies, was on campus on April 16-17. In addition to his public lecture, he gave a workshop on peacemaking and mediation, talked to two classes (Prof. Kris Thalhammer’s “Courageous Resistance to Injustice” and Prof. Laura McKibbin’s “Inclusive Practice: Groups, Organizations and Communities”), and shared three meals with students and faculty. It was a real inspiration for me and for students and faculty to talk with him about his experiences in mediation and his analysis of various current conflicts in the world.
Professor Johan Galtung will discuss peace and conflict in relation to recent political and economic changes in several areas of the world. After an overview of five major trends—the US empire falling, the West in general de-developing, the state system yielding to a region system except for the biggest states, the “Rest” developing, China recreating the world of +500-+1500—some details will be given about the states mentioned. These include: US inability to handle its crisis, Norway caught between the roles of victim and perpetrator, a possible solution for Central Asia, a possible solution for the Middle East, Brazil and the United States of Latin America, and the possible decline and fall of the communist dynasty in China.
May 9, 2012
El Taller–a theater group from Puebla, Mexico–will perform at St. Olaf as part of their national tour of the United States (their visa is pending, but we’re assuming it will be approved). The tour has been organized by Justin Remer-Thamert, a St. Olaf alum, in conjunction with the student group, Presente. Information on the event and the press release for the tour are below.
A Viva la Raza event, sponsored by Presente and DCC. Come watch a Mexican feminist theater group present on social issues while enjoying authentic Latin cuisine! Free admission for all Olaf community.
For Immediate Publication 10 APRIL 2012
Justin Remer-Thamert, El Taller International Assistant
The Puebla, Mexico-based social justice theatre organization, El Taller A.C. (The Workshop, non-profit), is literally crossing borders to bring the message that borders affect people on both sides, albeit in very different ways through their tour Women Opening Borders: A Journey in Equity, Culture and Art. Between April 27 and May 15 2012, El Taller A.C. will present two plays in ten (10) US cities: El Paso, TX; Las Cruces, Anthony, Albuquerque & Santa Fe, NM; Northfield & Minneapolis, MN; Washington DC; Baltimore, MD; and New York, NY. The troupe members—six Mexican citizens and one US citizen (currently carrying out a Fulbright project in Puebla on the impact of art in social transformation)—will present two actor-written and -directed plays. Through the participatory plays, El Taller A.C. challenges audience members to resolve a myriad of forms of violence that most directly affect women: the challenges faced by migrant women, sexual harassment at work, domestic violence, and prejudice due to sexual orientation. The primary focus of the tour is a show about a single mother who is compelled to migrate to the US in order to provide a better for her children who stay behind in Mexico. The piece is entitled Camino de Esperanza / Esperanza’s Passage and uses Brazilian Augusto Boal’s (1931-2010) methodology, Theatre of the Oppressed: Forum Theatre, which invites audience members to step into the shoes of one of the characters in order to change the final outcome of the play. The other piece, Mujer no se escribe con M de Macho / You Don’t Spell Woman with the Same ‘M’ in Macho is an upbeat one-woman farce divided into three monologues. The troupe shows us our commonalities in spite of our differences, and helps us build bridges of understanding across the chasms of prejudice which have been widened by political forces on both sides of the US/Mexico border, and the more subtle manifestations of violence against women created by discrimination and tradition.
El Taller: Centro de Sensibilización y Educación Humana A.C. [The Workshop: Center for Sensitization and Humanizing Education A.C. (non-profit)] is an organization directed by creative, feminist women who are committed to reflection and action regarding the role of women in Mexican society. El Taller A.C. believes in the importance and appropriation of artistic expression that permits personal exploration and liberation while simultaneously allowing dissemination or public denouncement of communal and collective problems within society. Particularly, El Taller A.C. recognizes the need to empower subgroups of women who, in some way, have been oppressed, and to promote lesbian visibility and the generation of feminism that: 1) strives to understand and to transform our environment, 2) envisions a society beyond the current patriarchal and hetero-normative system, and 3) works in solidarity with other movements through dialogue and concurrent action. El Taller A.C. is also a space for collective creation where theory and practice are integrated into a process of teaching-learning, above all through recognition, strengthening and reflection on the body as a fundamental and inherent part of the dignity of all human beings.
2010-11 Events & Activities
January 24, 2010
Visiting Lecturer on Peace in the Middle East
Hassan Barari, a native of Jordan, spoke on “Prospects for Peace in the Middle East” on January 24. He is a professor of Middle East politics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Before coming to Nebraska, he was a professor of International Relations and Middle East politics at the University of Jordan and executive director of the Jordan Group for Research and Training. He also served as a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) based in Washington, D.C. in 2006-07. Barari’s core area of research is the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East peace process, Israeli domestic and foreign policy, Israel-Jordan relations, regional security and Middle Eastern politics. He has written extensively on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the peace process in Arabic, English, and Hebrew. His most recent books include Israelism, Arab Scholarship on Israel: A Critical Assessment(London: Ithaca, 2009), and Israeli Politics and the Middle East Peace (New York and London: Routledge, 2004). The K-J Endowment co-sponsored the lecture with the Sociology/Anthropology Department.
February 18-19, 2011
Annual Social Science Conference
After completing the ten-year cycle of its Globalization and Social Responsibility Conference, the St. Olaf Social Sciences Faculty continues to organize an annual Social Science Conference. This year’s conference took place on February 18-19, and was on “Indigenous Peoples: Rights and Revitalization”. Visiting Professor Elizabeth Hoover (Mi’kmaq/Mohawk) gave the keynote address on Friday afternoon; Friday evening’s keynote was by Magne Ove Varsi, a Sami rights pioneer and Founder/Director of the Gáldu Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Kautokeino, Norway; and Saturday’s keynote was by Waziyatawin (Wahpetunwan Dakota), the Indigenous Peoples Research Chair of the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. The conference was a great success and was well attended. The K-J Endowment was one of many sponsors for the conference.
February 20-25, 2011
Haiti Human Rights Week
The Haiti Justice Alliance of Northfield organized a series of events for Haiti Human Rights Week, February 20-25, in conjunction with groups at St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges and other local and national partners. In spite of some cancellations due to weather-delayed flights, it was a great success. The K-J Endowment was one of several sponsors of the week’s events.
March 2-11, 2011
Art Exhibit on the Conflict in Colombia
From March 2-11, 2011, St. Olaf hosted the art exhibit, “Remember Me: Voices of the Silenced in Colombia”, an interactive exhibit that tells stories of the people of Colombia and how they have struggled during the ongoing 60-year conflict in Colombia. The Kloeck-Jenson Endowment for Peace and Justice co-sponsored the exhibit with the Mattila Jacobsen Endowment for Campus Ministry, and the Pastors’ Office.
March 13-15, 2011
Professor Kris Thalhammer coordinated the visit of two mothers from the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo—Línea Fundadora, from Argentina, March 13-15. Renowned advocates for human rights since the 1970s, this Argentine group of women has continued to use nonviolent collective action first to help bring down an authoritarian regime, then to push for punishment of perpetrators who kidnapped, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of civilians. Overcoming obstacles that have delayed justice for decades, their recent successes send a strong signal to all those engaged in state-sanctioned torture and murder that international human rights norms and laws are stronger than ever before. Carmen Aguiar de LaPacó and Maria Adela Antokoletz of Madres de Plaza de Mayo-Linea Fundadora spoke about their ongoing struggle, highlighting recent successes.
School of Americas Protest 2010
A group of roughly ten St. Olaf students traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, in order to protest the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. This annual protest includes remembrances of Latin Americans who have been killed and tortured by soldiers, death squads and other Latin American army officials trained at the School. This weekend was an educational opportunity for students, providing an idea of what the SOA/WHINSEC has done and the potential of conscientious resistance to the School. Following the weekend (November 19-21) a presentation was given on campus at the World Issues Dialogue and some of the issues discussed were presented through films and a letter-writing session. The K-J Endowment supported the event through covering some of the transportation costs of the students who attended the protest.
Killer Coke Campaign
In an effort to convince college campuses to eliminate Coca Cola products from their cafeterias and vending machines, the campaign highlights Coke’s violations of its workers’ human rights around the world and especially in Colombia and El Salvador; and the devastating environmental, health and economic effects of its enormous use of water to produce Coke around the world and especially in areas with shortages of potable water, such as India. The campaign on campus continued the work of last year and with great success: because of their work on campus, the Student Government Association held a referendum for students, staff and faculty to vote on whether to keep Coke on campus. Unfortunately the voting process was problematic and inconclusive because of poor design (individuals were able to vote as many times as they wanted), and spamming by some individuals which crashed the system and prevented many from voting at all. although the College renewed its contract with Coke, some concessions were gained as a result of the campaign. The events on campus were organized by the student organization Corporate Accountability, and the K-J Endowment provided some support for these events.