enjoying the foliage

academics do real work too

Posted on: Sunday, May 18, 2008

As you all know, I’m stuck in my wicked little town this summer because I have an internship with a major collaborative research initiative (MCRI) being run out of Queen’s called the Ethnicity and Democratic Governance project. Although I don’t do anything particularly original or academic, I got a really good sense of the kinds of things that other people are doing for the project this weekend when about fifty of us converged on the Four Points by Sheraton in downtown Kingston for two days for a workshop/conference called Assessing Territorial Pluralism. Comparative politics, constitution building, and empirical studies are really way beyond the scope of my interests, so I definitely got some exposure to things I’d never really thought about or heard of until yesterday or the day before. I just thought I’d share some of the things I learned that came out of the conference:

  • philosophy students tend to grimace especially when academics are accused of being so far removed from the real world, but then there are individuals like Richard Simeon and Marie-Joelle Zahar who were in Iraq in 2005 to advise the Iraqis in the drafting of their constitution
  • everyone is busy talking about Tibet, but Chinese ethnographers have officially identified 55 different ethnic minorities living within Chinese borders, and strangely enough, there are articles in the Chinese constitution that recognise the existence and rights of these nationalities. For the present, of course, all real power lies with the CCP, but these constitutional guarantees might come in handy in the future
  • Belgium is an incredibly divided nation-state that may in fact be in its death throes. Civil society, politics, and just about everything else are divided along language lines, i.e. as a politician, you’d probably speak both French and Flemish, but you’d have to decide whether you’d run as a candidate for the Francophone green party or the Flemish green party. There just isn’t any dialogue going on between the Francophone and Flemish populations anymore. [The chocolate of both societies, however, is still fabulous – I can attest to this personally.]

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