Lecture series abstracts

Politics of Denial: Germany's International Responsibility and the Silencing of Mass Atrocities

Bernhard Stahl, Professor of International Politics, University of Passau (Germany)

The past years have been marked by a high number of conflicts with mass atrocities and humanitarian emergencies. The civil wars in Yemen and South Sudan or the fate of the Rohingya in Myanmar provide only a few examples. Most of these situations are in dire need of responsible external support for humanitarian relief or conflict solution. Yet, in the political discourses of many countries, they hardly emerge as relevant issues, if at all. This stands in stark contrast, not only to the common promise of the UN charter, but also to value-laden aims of national foreign policies. Using Germany as a case study, this talk examines the thesis that mass atrocity situations are silenced in globally influential countries, which thus fail to assume their responsibilities. By applying discourse-analysis to statements of the chancellor, foreign ministers and parliamentary faction leaders, it is argued that Germany, in fact, silences mass atrocity situations. Three silencing mechanisms - non-mentioning, trivialisation and framing - are identified, allowing us to draw important implications regarding future theoretical and explanatory analysis.

Bernhard Stahl has been Professor of International Politics at the University of Passau (Germany) since 2010. He holds a diploma in Economics and a master’s degree in European Studies. After having earned his Ph.D. and Habilitation in Political Science from the University of Trier (Germany) – the latter with a study on French foreign policy identity ─ he spent some years in Serbia on behalf of the German Economic Cooperation. His research interests cover identity theory and comparative foreign policies and EU foreign policy, in particular with regard to Southeastern Europe and the Arab world. Dr. Stahl is at Western Michigan University as part of a faculty exchange program between Western and the University of Passau.

If the United States Promised Health Care as a "Right," What Would We REALLY Have to Deliver?

Jason Marker, M.D., Memorial Hospital (South Bend, IN)

“Universal healthcare,” “Medicare for All,” “Healthcare as a human right.” These buzzwords fill our airwaves and generate emotions along a spectrum from visceral disgust to ecstatic optimism. Let’s not get the cart too far before the horse. Before the politicians and policymakers promise America this panacea, we should understand what this promise means for the patients and providers who will live within this construct. What about the business interests that gain (and lose) from the current healthcare delivery system in the U.S? What about the business interests that would gain and lose in a new system of care? Have we considered the unintended consequences of making such a policy shift? Have we taken the time to understand what must happen to deliver on the promise of healthcare as a human right?

Starting with a viewpoint from within the exam room, Dr. Marker will discuss “the good, the bad, and the ugly” parts of the doctor-patient relationship as it plays out in the current healthcare delivery system. How could things change for the better (or the worse) under a new system? Drawing on the body of international experience with universal healthcare and the traditional priorities of the American people, he’ll talk about what healthcare as a human right might “look like” in America? Are we ready to accept both the risks and benefits of that transition? If so, what will be required of patients? Doctors? Hospitals? Communities? Businesses? Universities?

Moving from the buzzwords to reality generates more questions than answers, more unknowns than certainty, and more need for philosophical contemplation than is allowed by the pace of modern media. In this discussion we’ll explore the deeper meanings of “healthcare as a human right” from the perspective of a practicing physician who desires to be thoughtful about what his patients really want and need – past, present, and future.

Jason Marker, MD, MPA, FAAFP, is a Core Faculty member at Memorial Hospital (South Bend, IN) in its Family Medicine Residency Program and also serves as Clinic Director at the E. Blair Warner Family Medicine Center. He has been in these positions for two years, having previously spent 15 years in a solo, rural private practice in northern Indiana. Along the way, he and his wife, Kirsten, raised three daughters and managed a hobby farm while engaging in a whole host of community pursuits from their church to 4-H and beyond. 

Not wishing to push health-care leadership to the background, Dr. Marker has served in many capacities within the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians and is a Past President of that organization.  He is also a past Board Member of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and is a Past President of the AAFP Foundation, an organization he continues to serve through his role as the Chair of their Emerging Leader Institute for leadership development among medical students and family medicine residents.

Dr. Marker is a member of the St. Joseph County (IN) Board of Health and the Michiana Opioid Task Force.  He sits on the Board of Directors of the Community Hospital of Bremen and is the Vice Chair of the Quality Committee for Beacon Health System. Dr. Marker is a frequent public speaker on a wide range of health-care topics to both medical and lay audiences and has spoken to national and international audiences on topics from health-care futurism to Neurofibromatosis.  Last spring he was an invited presenter at the inaugural Notre Dame Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values “Educating the Whole Physician” conference. 

Race and the politics of loss: revisiting the legacy of emmett till

Ashley Atkins, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Western Michigan University

The 2017 exhibition of Dana Schutz's “Open Casket” was met with widespread criticism and even outrage. "Open Casket," described by one critic simply as a “painting of a dead black boy by a white artist,” engages the legacy of Emmett Till, a teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955. His mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted that his badly decomposed body be seen by the public, holding what would turn out to be a four-day open-casket viewing. In the course of responding to the criticisms of the painting, Atkins offers an account of the significance of Mobley’s gesture that suggests that what is most provocative about the painting is already present in her gesture. She discusses whether we might take up this legacy today, so understood, as well as the bearing of these matters on our thinking about the politics of loss and, specifically, the proposal that political institutions should facilitate the collective mourning of legacies of racial violence.  An image of “Open Casket” will be shown during the presentation.

Ashley Atkins received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton in 2014. Her main areas of focus fall within the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and social and political philosophy. This paper is the second in a series of papers written in reflection upon the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Saudi Crisis in the Contemporary Middle East

Juan Cole, Professor of History, University of Michigan

During the past decade, Saudi Arabia has begun flexing its muscles in the Middle East, helping crush the youth protests of the Arab Spring, launching a years-long air war on Yemen, blockading gas-rich Qatar, and allying behind the scenes with Israel against Iran. Along with Russia, Saudi Arabia and its allies played a role in trying to help elect Donald Trump in 2016. The monarchy stumbled in fall 2018, when the crown prince ordered a clumsy hit on dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. How has the Saudi assertion of hegemony shaped the contemporary Middle East and what does it mean for the average American?

Juan Cole obtained his undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in 1975, having majored in History and Literature of Religions. For two quarters in his senior year he conducted a research project in Beirut, Lebanon, and returned to the city as a graduate student in the fall of 1975. However, the civil war prevented Cole from continuing his studies there. Therefore, he pursued a master's degree at the American University in Cairo in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, graduating in 1978. Cole then returned to Beirut for another year and worked as a translator for a newspaper. In 1979 Cole enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, as a doctoral student in the field of Islamic Studies, graduating in 1984. After graduation, Cole was appointed Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where he became a full professor in 1995.

Cole was awarded Fulbright-Hays fellowships to India (1982) and to Egypt (1985–1986). In 1991 he held a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the study of Shia Islam in Iran. From 1999 until 2004, Juan Cole was the editor of The International Journal of Middle East Studies. He has served in professional offices for the American Institute of Iranian Studies and on the editorial board of the journal Iranian Studies. He is a member of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and served as the organization's president for 2006.

The Right(s) Question: Can and Should Robots Have Rights?

David J. Gunkel, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University

In a recent proposal issued by the European Parliament, it was suggested that robots and AI might need to be considered “electronic persons” for the purposes of social and legal integration. The very idea sparked controversy, and it has been met with considerable resistance. Underlying the controversy, however, is an important ethical question: When (if ever) would it be necessary for robots, AI, or other socially interactive, autonomous systems to have some claim to moral and legal standing? When (if ever) would a technological artifact need to be considered more than a mere instrument of human action and have some legitimate claim to independent social status? Or to put it more directly: Can or should robots ever have anything like rights?

In this presentation, Gunkel offers a provocative argument demonstrating what has been previously regarded as unthinkable: that robots and other technological artifacts of our own making can and should have some claim to rights and that this assignment of moral/legal status is not something for the future, but is necessary here and now for the sake of respecting the integrity of existing moral and legal systems.

David J. Gunkel is an award-winning educator and scholar, specializing in the philosophy of technology with a focus on the ethics of emerging technology. He is the author of more than 75 scholarly articles and has published nine books, including Thinking Otherwise: Philosophy, Communication, Technology (Purdue University Press 2007), The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics (MIT Press 2012), Of Remixology: Ethics and Aesthetics After Remix (MIT Press 2016), and Robot Rights (MIT Press 2018).

Populism, social media and democratic participation

Anna Popkova, Assistant Professor, School of Communication, and Taylor Koopman, graduate student, School of Communication

With several elections throughout the world bringing to power populist political leaders of various ideologies, populism has become a buzzword in the last few years. Generally defined as a strategic approach that frames politics as a battle between “the ordinary people” and “the corrupt elites,” populism as a political style is not new. What is new is the role of social media networks in amplifying populist messages. The resurgence of populism in the last few years has raised concerns about the state of democracy worldwide, including in such mature democracies as the Unites States.

But is populism bad for democracy? Are all populists the same? Has the rapid transformation of the technological and media environments contributed to the rise of populism on the global stage? In this talk, the speakers will take a deeper look at different types of populisms and populists, from Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States, to Victor Orbán (Hungary) and Vladimir Zelenskiy (Ukraine) in Eastern Europe. Their talk will examine the links among populist discourses, democracy, and participatory communication on social media.

Dr. Anna Popkova's research examines the relationships among media institutions, media discourses, policymakers, various publics, and communication technologies as these apply to such issues as the politics of national identity at national and transnational levels, state and non-state public diplomacy, and the role of culture, technology and communication in shaping the traditions of public participation and civic discourse worldwide. Dr. Popkova’s work has been published in the Journal of Communication Inquiry, International Journal of Communication, International Communication Gazette, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, International Journal of Strategic Communication, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, and elsewhere.

Koopman is a second-year master’s student studying under Dr. Popkova in the communication program at Western Michigan University. Her research interests include political communication, democratic participation on social media, and left-wing populism in the United States. Koopman is the graduate assistant for WMU’s Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, and also works in media relations for Kellogg Company.

Justifying the Beneficiary Pays Principle

Saba Bazargan-Forward, Philosophy, University of California, San Diego

According to what is known as the “Beneficiary Pays Principle” (BPP), an individual who benefits from a wrongdoing has compensatory duties to the victim of that wrongdoing, even if the beneficiary a) did not cause or contribute to that wrongdoing, b) did not seek out the benefits, and c) was not an intended recipient of those benefits. The BPP has a host of real-world implications. For example, it affects duties to bear the burden of addressing climate change, duties to aid the global poor, and more besides. Though much has been written on the BPP over the past decade, Bazargan-Forward believes no one has come up with a principled basis for it. He will argue that we can justify the BPP by adverting to a “user-based” account of corrective justice. On this account, a wronged individual is owed more than what will make her as well off as she would have been absent the wrong. In addition, she is owed the amount for which she would have accepted in exchange for permitting the wrong (subject to the constraints of proportionality). Bazargan-Forward will argue that there are independent reasons to accept this account of corrective justice, and that it also provides a basis for the BPP. 

Bio coming soon!