“A World Unraveling”: Faculty panel discuss timely topics in politics

Photo by Trinity Kendrick ’21  A panel of faculty from various disciplines discussed timely topics in politics on Feb. 28, 2019 in Gamble.

Photo by Trinity Kendrick ’21

A panel of faculty from various disciplines discussed timely topics in politics on Feb. 28, 2019 in Gamble.

BY LIZ LEWIS ’22

“This is an effort by the Mount Holyoke community to address some of the most pressing political issues in the world today,” said Visiting Lecturer of Politics Adam Hilton as he introduced the faculty panel at the event “A World Unraveling: A Conversation in Politics” on Feb. 26, 2019. 

The panel, hosted by the Mount Holyoke departments of politics, international relations and Africana studies, examined four main themes: immigration politics, Brexit and the EU, Trump and the media and global climate change. Speakers included David Hernandez, Professor of Latinx Studies, Christopher Mitchell, Assistant Professor of International Relations and Politics, Sarah Tanzi, Visiting Lecturer in Politics, and Kevin Surprise, Visiting Lecturer in Environmental Studies.

The event began with a brief introduction from Hilton, followed by ten minutes of opening remarks from each speaker on their respective subject, before opening the floor to wider discussion. 

Hernandez, who focused on immigration policy in the United States, said that the current immigration “crisis” is not only fabricated, but calculatingly deceptive. “Though [Trump] seems to have been combating unlawful migration,” said Hernandez, “what I see is a broader assault on lawful migration….[he] ended DACA, limited military nationalizations, changed what it means to be on public charge and declared a national emergency at the border. Almost all of these policies deal with lawful migration.” To Hernandez, this reveals a broader and more dangerous goal of changing the “bedrock of U.S. immigration policy” for good. 

Mitchell addressed the increasingly urgent case of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. He believes Brexit, despite common oversimplification, is laced with critical questions, including what it means for a state to be democratic, free and powerful. In outlining both the complicated nature of Brexit as it stands and the popular arguments  both for and against it, Mitchell said that this issue has the potential to be “tremendously disruptive” if people don’t start having genuine, unveiled conversations about Britain’s future. He also noted that there is much more to Brexit than meets the eye, and that to boil it down to a “left versus right” issue is overly simplistic and potentially damaging.

Tanzi spoke next, focusing on the disconnect between mainstream and right-wing media and its tangible effects on the U.S.’s political climate. Zeroing in on the influence of talk radio on the right-wing demographic, she highlighted the severity of the disconnect between the left and right.

Surprise then examined the discussion around whether climate advocacy and capitalism can fundamentally work towards the same goal. He outlined the various views on climate change currently prevalent in the U.S., including climate denialism, climate capitalism and climate-advocating anti-capitalism. 

When asked by an audience member how to “keep the world from unraveling,” Tanzi answered, “Each of these crises [we’ve talked about] was in part because of fabricated narratives around real problems. We need to make sure we’re having honest conversations.”

Megan Littlehale ’19 attended the panel, and as someone who has never taken a politics, IR or Latinx studies class, found the panel to be “an interesting mix of perspectives” that she otherwise would not have heard. 

“Professor Sarah Tanzi offered a very compelling analysis of liberal and conservative news and media that made me reflect on the way I consume information in this political climate,” she said.

Littlehale added that “while it was great to hear these varied perspectives, I would have liked to see more integration or overlap of their views through the Q&A.”