Identity Crisis: the 53rd I.A. Symposium

Image by David Shapiro

This year’s International Affairs Symposium tackles the idea of identity in a globalized world

By Maddie Barto /// Staff Writer

Next month, Lewis & Clark will be welcoming academics, ambassadors and journalists to participate in a series of debates on identity in a globalized world.

From April 6 – April 8, the International Affairs department will be holding their 53rd Annual Symposium. This year’s theme is “The Dynamics of Identity: Characterizing Conflict in a Globalized World.”

The event is co-chaired by Caroline Gray (’17) and Lincoln Boyd (’15), and will feature twelve speakers from around the world coming together to debate topics of identity, including sessions on ethnic disputes, religious freedom, and Western interventionism. The symposium will culminate in a debate between keynote speaker General Wesley Clark and journalist Murtaza Hussain.

According to Gray, the planning committee has been working since the first week of school to organize the event. The team is composed of both Gray and Boyd, in addition to twelve students from every class year. When looking for students to join the committee, Gray said they wanted to find “creative, open minded and thoughtful” people.

The committee is especially excited over General Clark’s visit to campus. Clark will debate on the topic of foreign fighters and the threat they pose.

“He’s a four-star general and a brilliant man,” Gray said. “He was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and led NATO forces to victory in the Kosovo War. We’re so excited to have him.”

Clark will debate Hussain, a national security and civil liberties journalist at online publication The Intercept, according to the symposium website.

On the inspiration for the theme of the symposium, Gray said, “When Lincoln and I were talking last April, we were trying to look at current conflicts in the world at the time.” Seeing that identity is something not widely discussed in the field of International Affairs, she said that they wanted to try bringing it to the forefront of the discussion.

According to Gray, when looking for speakers for the symposium, they wanted individuals who not only have a lot to say about the various debate topics in relation to identity, but also have opposing viewpoints in order to make the debates more lively.

“Sometimes we found people who we thought would fit, but then they weren’t contentious enough,” said Katarina Grohs (’17), a member of the planning committee, citing this contention as one of the most important considerations the team made when reviewing possible speakers.

The committee said that this year’s symposium has great potential to appeal to even those outside the International Affairs and Political Science majors.

“We have speakers coming that aren’t just IA theorists,” Gray said. “The speaker sessions will be very approachable and not just theoretical.”

In past years, International Affairs Symposia have often focused on more traditional discussion topics such as security and power.

While some topics this year will discuss power, all sessions will have some relation to identity and connect to other areas of study.

“We wanted it to be very interdisciplinary and available or attractive to lots of different fields,” Gray said.

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