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Foreign policy phobias to be topic of 2008 Klein lecture

Sept. 15, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Four national "phobias" shaping politics in European states today will be examined Sept. 24 during Western Michigan University's 2008 George Klein lecture.

Dr. Ray Taras, professor of international relations and director of the world literature program at Tulane University, will give the free, public lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, on campus in the Fetzer Center's Putney Auditorium. His talk is titled "Phobias and Foreign Policies in Central Europe: Do National Prejudices Determine National Security? The Special Case of Russophobia."

While on campus, Taras also will present a colloquium for WMU faculty members and graduate students titled "Xenophobic Parties and Exclusionary State Nationalisms in Western and Eastern Europe."

The four "phobias" Taras will focus on in his Klein lecture are anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Russophobia. The presentation will address whether hostile citizen attitudes toward outsiders affect the making of a country's foreign policy?

Taras says although anti-American and anti-Muslim attitudes are more often found in western Europe, anti-Semitic and anti-Russian attitudes seem more commonplace in central and eastern Europe.

"With its widespread anti-Russian sentiments, central Europe may furnish the best example of a phobia driving states' foreign policy behavior," he says in the synopsis of his lecture. "Divisions within the European Union and NATO over how to deal with Putin's resurgent Russia--or the Bush administration for that matter--appear to reflect differences in national antipathies. Is prejudice, therefore, preventing the emergence of a common European security policy?"

Taras is an expert on international relations, ethnosectarian conflict, nationalism and transnationalism, and Russian and East European politics. He has written and edited or co-written and co-edited 17 books, including "Europe Old and New: Transnationalism, Belonging, Xenophobia," which was published in 2008, and "Understanding Ethnic Conflict: The International Dimension," a fourth edition of which will come out in 2009.

A Montreal native, Taras has taught at universities in Canada, Denmark and England, as well as held visiting positions at such U.S. institutions as Harvard and Stanford universities and the universities of Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan and Vermont.

He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Montreal, a master's degree from both the University of Essex and of Sussex in England, and a doctoral degree from the University of Warsaw in Poland.

The 2008 Klein Lecture is being organized by the Institute of Government and Politics in WMU's Department of Political Science. It is part of an annual lecture series named after the late Dr. George Klein.

Klein was a longtime member of the University's Department of Political Science and an internationally known expert on Balkan politics and eastern European political systems. His widow, Dr. Patricia V. Klein, WMU associate professor emerita of science studies, created an endowment in his honor that funds the Klein Lecture series as well as political science symposia, conferences and scholarships.

For more information, contact Dr. Susan Hoffmann, associate professor of political Science, at susan.hoffman@wmich.edu or (269) 387-5692.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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