2016 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum: Population, Health and Social Change in Eurasia

The 2016 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum was held during the 17th and 18th of June, and was organized by Cynthia Buckley, a Professor of Sociology, and Paul McNamara, an Associate Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. The main sponsor of the event was the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC), while the co-sponsors for this year’s Fisher Forum include the Fisher Forum Endowment, Illinois International Programming, Center for Global Studies, Global Health Initiative, and Russian and East European Institute (REEI) at Indiana University.

Population, Health and Social Change in Eurasia were the central themes of this year’s Fisher Forum. In delving deep into the research regarding the health profiles of countries within Eurasia, the presenters came together to answer these three core questions:

1. What are the positive and negative health legacies of structural change and institutional resilience in Eurasia?
2. What are the processes and interpretations employed by individual actors as they navigate uncertainty and make health related decisions in the Eurasian context?
3. How do the cumulative results of health behaviors in Eurasia confirm, expand or challenge existing theories related to the relationship between economic inequality and health outcomes?

Participants who took on the challenge of addressing these questions, included: Dr. Yuri Frantsuz, a Professor of Social Work at St. Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences, who presented research on The Impact of Income Inequality on Health in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Countries; Dr. William Alex Pridemore, the Dean and Professor of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany – State University of New York, presented on Crime, Justice, and Death in Post-Soviet Russia; Dr. Cynthia Buckley, a Professor of Sociology, REEEC, and LAS Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke about Ethnic Differentials in Reported Disability: Insights from Russia and Estonia; Dr. Nicole Butkovich Kraus, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, examined her research on Xenophobia and Homophobia in the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe; Dr. Jill Owczarzak, an Assistant Professor of Health, Behavior and Society at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Sarah Phillips, a Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, presented together their joint research endeavor on Harm Reduction and the Transformation of Public Health and Governance in Ukraine; Dr. Tricia Starks, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, who replaced Dr. Hannah Reiss as a presenter, spoke about Kosmonavty ne kuriat! The Campaign against Smoking in the Late Soviet Period; Dr. Victor Agadjanian, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Kansas, presented on International Migration and Sexual Reproductive Health in Post-Soviet Eurasia; and finally Dr. Theodore Gerber, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, presented data and research regarding Housing and Fertility in Russia, 1992-2013.


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Fall 2014 Courses

Introduction to Central Asia (SOC 196)

The course is designed for students interested in international politics, energy policy, conflicts in the region (Afghanistan), postcommunism, gender studies, and human rights. There are no prerequisites. If you are interested in enrolling, please contact Cynthia Buckley (Professor of Sociology) at buckleyc(at)illinois.edu for more information and a preliminary syllabus.

Introduction to Russian Culture (REES 116)

Introduction to the culture of Russia and the USSR. The course addresses two central themes. First, the very distinctiveness of Russian culture, and the functions of that notion within Russia and for outsiders. Second, Russia as a cultural space between East and West. We will explore Russian culture through the following: the language(s); foundational narratives of collective memory going back to the medieval times; the cultural impact of colonial subjugation both by and of peoples to the East, South, and West; Russian Orthodoxy’s connection with the political and cultural spheres; peak achievements in literature, music, architecture and visual arts.  Taught by Richard Tempest (Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures). 3 hours.

International Law (LAW 656)

The course will explore the nature, sources, and subjects of international law, and its place in the control of international society. It includes an examination of the law of jurisdiction, territory, recognition and succession of states, rights and immunities of states in foreign courts, diplomatic immunities, treaties, protection of citizens abroad, settlement of international disputes, war and neutrality, the United Nations, and the International Court of Justice. 3 professional hours. 4 graduate hours. Please contact Francis Boyle (Professor of Law) at fboyle(at)illinois.edu for further information.

REEES Bibliography and Research Methods (LIS 530)

The course will introduce students to the University of Illinois’ large library collection on Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. They will learn how to search for academic sources, and navigate the various databases and library guides on the region. Taught by Kit Condill (Slavic Reference Service). 4 hours.

What Can Afghanistan, Kosova, and Poland Tell Us About American Universities?

On Thursday, September 19, REEEC welcomed Professor Michael D. Kennedy who gave a fascinating lecture titled “What Can Afghanistan, Kosova, and Poland Tell Us About American Universities? Or How Area Studies Can Anchor Cosmopolitan Intellectuality and Consequential Solidarity.”  Michael D. Kennedy is a Professor of Sociology and International Studies at Brown University.  His research interests focus on both intellectuals and professionals in Eastern Europe as well as cultural politics, global transformations, and knowledge networks.  Most recently, he has been exploring social movements and universities. His recently finished manuscript “Articulations of Globalizing Knowledge” provided the basis for much of his lecture.

Professor Kennedy’s talk considered the importance and difficulties of understanding and conceptualizing difference across the world. Through an examination of Afghanistan, Kosova, and Poland, he also discussed the features that unite us.  He began by looking at the issue of where we choose to internationalize and why and he assessed the significance of linking together local and global networks. In particular,  he explored why we look at some locations as possessing a certain intellectual value that other locations lack.

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Professor Kennedy stressed that we need to explain why we perceive some locations to be more important than others.  His lecture focused on being able to recognize the value in locations across the world and forge international collaborations.  He explored these issues through a study of Afghanistan, Solidarność in Poland, Vetёvendosje in Kosova, and Afghanistan in light of its reception of international aid over the last several years.  He examined how Poland became a place that was “recognizable” and seen as a location of value because the Solidarity movement  had become a phenomena of interest to scholars and intellectuals.

Kennedy demonstrated that world events have a major impact on the level of importance scholars assign to a country.  He showed that sociological journals became heavily focused on Poland in the 1980s, during the time of the Solidarity movement.  In contrast, leading anthropological journals did not see a comparable spike in interest in the country.  I began to consider how different fields of study weigh the value of events and locations very differently.  As Professor Kennedy stated, Poland in the sociological scholarship of the 1980s was an “exemplary place to make a theoretical point.”

The lecture then shifted to a discussion of how the intellectual community does not see Kosova as possessing the same value as Poland, despite Vetёvendosje, a radical nationalistic political movement for self-determination.  The reason, he mentioned, is that Kosova is “not part of the global imagination” and does not possess, among others, the substantial knowledge networks that had elevated Poland’s position in American sociology.  Another discussion point of the lecture was Afghanistan.  Like Kosova, Afghanistan does not have strong knowledge networks, but Professor Kennedy highlighted that Afghanistan is “seen as a problem not a source of intellectual elevation.”

Within this context, he examined how these issues impacted policy implementation at the administrative level in higher education.  Additionally, he underscored the need to foster greater intellectual responsibility both at the local and global level.  According to Professor Kennedy, we need “to get systematic about the challenge of difference across the world” and “inspire image and gravitate to places that challenge our cosmopolitanism.”

After this lecture, I now have a greater understanding of how challenging the issue of difference is, and that value is a very relative term when speaking about different nations.  While I see improvements within the scholarly and intellectual community, more work clearly needs to be done to construct better international ties and global awareness.  More than ever, I believe that improved area studies programs at American universities and greater ties between these different programs within a university can help facilitate positive changes.

Ryan Eavenson is a second year MA student.  He is particularly interested in democratization, human rights, and European integration in the post-Soviet world.  His additional interests include Imperial and Soviet Russian history.  He received a AB in History/Russian and East European Studies from Lafayette College in 2010.  After graduation, he hopes to find employment focusing on international affairs or continue his education.

New Courses in Fall 2013

Elementary Uzbek I is being offered this Fall 2013! Uzbek is a Turkic language spoken in the Republic of Uzbekistan, the surrounding Central Asian republics and Afghanistan. It shares varying levels of similarity to other Turkic languages and is the most similar to Uighur. The language is agglutinative. The lexicon has borrowed extensively from Arabic, Persian and Russian. The class is a 3 credit class which will meet three times a week. It is offered through the Less Commonly Taught Languages program under the course code LING 404 32052. Register now or contact Lydia Catedral at medill2@illinois.edu   for more information. We are very excited to offer Uzbek at UIUC and hope you will join us to learn this less commonly taught language!

Professor Francis Boyle at the College of Law will be teaching LAW 656: International Law in Fall 2013! The course will explore the nature, sources, and subjects of international law and its place in the control of international society. It will also include an examination of the law of jurisdiction, territory, recognition and succession of states, rights and immunities of states in foreign courts, diplomatic immunities, treaties, protection of citizens abroad, settlement of international disputes, war and neutrality, the United Nations, and the International Court of Justice. Credit: 3 professional hours/ 4 graduate hours. Register now or contact Professor Boyle at fboyle@illinois.edu for further information.

New Courses in Sociology to Enhance Your Undergraduate and Graduate Area Studies Degree! Cynthia Buckley, Professor of Sociology will be teaching two courses in Fall 2013 to help you strengthen your area studies credentials. SOC 596 Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Methods will be focused primarily upon the possibilities and problems related to the mixing of methods in comparative research. The seminar seeks to provide you with a “hands on” approach to data collection, evaluation, and analysis. While the course explores the importance of mixed methodological approaches, even students who anticipate a career as acolytes of ethnography or analysts of secondary data can benefit from learning about the norms, methods, and principles relating to how the “other half” works. Credit: 4 graduate hours. This course will meet 3:30-6:50 p.m. Wednesdays in 236 Wohlers Hall. SOC 488  Demographic Methods provides an introduction to statistical and mathematical procedures in population analysis; the gathering, processing, and evaluating of registration and census data; the life table model; and procedures of mortality and fertility analysis and population projections. The course will deepen your comprehension of how documenting demographic trends can contribute to understanding social, cultural, economic and political development.  Credit: 3 undergraduate or 4 graduate hours. Prerequisite: SOC 380 Social Research Methods or consent of instructor. This course satisfies the General Education Criteria for a UIUC: Quant Reasoning II and it will meet 2:00-3:00 p.m. MWF in G27 Foreign Language Building. For further questions and the instructor’s consent, please contact Prof. C. Buckley at buckleyc@illinois.edu.

New Sociology Graduate Course in Spring 2012

SOC 596ZG: Global Ethnographies—Prof. Gille

The purpose of this course is to help graduate students develop an analytical and methodological toolkit with which to embark on their research projects.

We will address the following questions.

  • How can we give an account of people’s diverse experiences of globalization?
  • How can ethnography, traditionally understood as the study of the here and now, be relevant for the study of communities and cultures whose boundaries are seen as increasingly porous?
  • How do we study issues, people, places without ignoring connections and links among multiple sites but without fetishizing the global?
  • How do we choose the appropriate level of analysis when social relations stretch beyond national boundaries?
  • What implications does the conceptualization of globalization carry for methodology and political conclusions?
  • What is the role of historical analysis in studying globalization ethnographically?
  • What changes are necessary in qualitative research for a critical analysis of social processes associated with globalization?
  • What are the theoretical implications of recent conceptualizations of neoliberal globalization for interpreting our data?

We will start with a brief overview of ethnography as method then we will compare and evaluate different conceptualizations of globalization in social theory and research. From the middle of the semester on we will focus on how various scholars have conceptualized the social and the spatial—whether implicitly or explicitly. We will explore the political and methodological implications of each of these approaches.