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Samuel Huntington — on Immigration and the American Identity

The remarkable rise of Donald Trump, fueled in large part by his determination to keep immigrants out of his Greatening America, has caused many to re-examine the key concerns of the controversial political scientist Samuel Huntington. His writings on immigration and American national identity seem today to be sad prophecies of what has come to pass. In light of last year’s headlines — extreme vetting for Syrian refugees, Presidential dithering on DACA, white nationalist riots — I decided to re-post my 2005 ThoughtCast interview with Huntington, who died in late December, 2008.

Note: This interview was broadcast twice on WGBH in Boston.

Sam Huntington
The eminent and provocative political scientist and prolific author, talks with ThoughtCast about what he sees as the threat to America’s national identity (and its founding ‘Anglo-Protestant’ culture) posed by large numbers of unassimilated Hispanics, legal or otherwise, living in the United States. His most recent book: “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity” has caused quite a stir. Huntington is also famous for an earlier work called “The Clash of Civilizations.” In this book, he argues that civilizations, not nations or ideologies, form the basic building blocks of future cooperation — and conflict.
Huntington, a longtime professor of political science at Harvard, is also a member of the editorial board of a new magazine chaired by Huntington’s former student, Francis Fukuyama, called “The American Interest.”
We discuss these topics in a half-hour interview while seated in the back yard of his home on Martha’s Vineyard — hence all those birds chirping away cheerily…

Click here: to listen (30 mins).

 

Posted on January 15, 2018 in a new podcast, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Immigration, Politics
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Cosmic Evolution’s Predilection for Constant Change

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station, and by KPIP in Missouri.

The theory of cosmic evolution is a relatively new addition to the field of cosmology, and attempts to answer the questions of who we are, where we are, and how we came to exist, among others, by taking the long view — from the big bang, to the present day.
Here’s another definition for you: “Cosmic evolution is the study of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of energy, matter and life in the thinning and cooling Universe.”

This explanation comes from Eric Chaisson, a vigorous champion of the cosmic evolutionary theory. He’s an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a lecturer at Harvard Extension School, who is also the subject of this Faculty Insight interview, conducted by ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh.
And while it might leave more questions asked than answered, we hope it will give you the chance to stick your toe into deep astrophysic waters, and feel the tug of the cosmic tide…

Note:  Images of galaxies and other cosmic phenomena courtesy of Eric Chaisson. Thank you very much for their use!

Posted on November 7, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Science
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The history and future of the New England Forest

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station, and by KPIP in Missouri.

The forests of New England are, remarkably, a success story. They’ve recovered from attack after attack. The early settlers hacked them down, by hand, for houses, fences and firewood. Later on, the insatiable sawmills of a more industrial age ate up the lumber needed for our expansion.
Today, the forests contend with acid rain, invasive plants and exotic beetle infestations — evidence of our ever more global economy. And the future of these forests? Going forward, that’s a story that’s largely ours to shape, and narrate.

If only these trees could talk … Well, we have the next best thing – Donald Pfister, the Dean of Harvard Summer School, curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium, a fungologist (the more erudite word is mycologist), and the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany at Harvard University.
In this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, he tells the tale of the New England forest from as far back as the glacial Pleistocene era.
To help illustrate this tale, we’ve made grateful use of high resolution images of some dramatic landscape dioramas, which are on display at Harvard’s Fisher Museum, in Petersham, Massachusetts.
And finally, for an audio version of this story, click here: to listen (9:47 mins).

Posted on September 3, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Science
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The Mau Mau rebellion — a revisionist history

How does history get rewritten? How do victimizers become victims, and the valiant turn into villains? As Harvard history professor Caroline Elkins has learned, this process can be a hazardous one. The Pulitzer prize-winning author of Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya devoted many years to the study of the Mau Mau uprising in the early 1950s, and the British response,  a model of counter-insurgency technique — or so she thought.

The Mau Mau were a group of native Kenyans who turned to violence and terror to drive out their colonial British masters, but as Elkins discovered, they weren’t the only ones to use such tactics.  Now a court case will decide where the truth actually lies, as you will hear in this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and  Harvard Extension School.

For an audio version of this story, click here: to listen. (6:50 mins).

Posted on November 1, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Front Page, Harvard Luminaries, History
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Louis Menand, John Summers and Dan Aaron take on Dwight MacDonald

Louis Menand Back in the day when Dwight MacDonald was a household name (on the Upper West Side, at least) his critique of “middlebrow” American culture, and its inflated self-regard, singed eyebrows. Today, do his arguments still sting? After listening to three academics discuss MacDonald’s Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, recently released by New York Review Books Classics, the audience at the Harvard Book Store might say ‘yes’. But then they might not agree on what exactly MacDonald’s message is.
The conversation, with New Yorker staff writer and Harvard literature professor Louis Menand, the author and Baffler magazine editor John Summers, and the longtime scholar and critic Daniel Aaron, lasts 30 minutes.

Click here: to listen, and judge for yourself!

Posted on October 24, 2011 in Harvard Luminaries, Literature
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Is WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a hero, or a villain?

In this sixth installment of Faculty Insight, produced in partnership with Harvard University Extension School, ThoughtCast speaks with Allan Ryan, the director of intellectual property at Harvard Business School Publishing, a member of the American Bar Association’s Committee on the First Amendment and Media Litigation, and an instructor at Harvard Extension School.

The subject is a sensitive one for journalists: Is Julian Assange one of us? Does WikiLeaks serve a legitimate news-gathering purpose, or is it a dangerous, possibly illegal website that spreads official secrets without due diligence or consideration of the consequences?
Let us know what you think!

Posted on August 14, 2011 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Politics, Public Media
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