Introduction

Hello everyone, my name is Vincent Larocque and I am in my first year of the EURUS masters program. I did my undergrad in Political Science with a concentration in International relations at Carleton and I have allot research interests that go back and forth but I am very interested currently in security and defense issues pertaining to the EU and NATO and its relationship with Russia, and how they deal with the different situations that have risen out of conflicting interests. Specifically, I find the on going conflict in eastern Ukraine something that should be continued to watch closely.

I have lived in Ottawa all my life and have only had the opportunity to travel in southern Ontario, BC and the American east and southern coasts. I was hoping to get an opportunity to travel abroad to Europe but that’s not in the cards as of now but fingers crossed for the future! With all the extra time staying put at home during COVID, I have been trying to read more novels, draw, and made attempts to bake and cook more which I find relaxing.

I’m looking forward to gaining more insight in this class to the causes of the rise in authoritarian power and the movements that help them seeing as we can draw on comparisons to occurrences happening in todays political happenings.

Introduction: Alexandra H

Hello! My name is Alexandra and I am a second year masters student in EURUS, focusing on Russia and Eurasia. My academic research thus far has focused around postcolonial studies and the utilization of borders and language within the colonial process and their ongoing impacts/legacies. I now focus specific on post-Soviet states, but might shift my MRP to something completely different, i.e. a gender analysis of witchcraft in Russia vs. Western Europe.

I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, Nickle capital of Canada, and moved to Ottawa almost six years ago to being my undergrad at Carleton in political science. Prior to that I was living in Dublin for about 9 months after finishing a college diploma in business administration and before embarking on a university degree. Pop-culture, feminist, anti-racist, and queer studies are my passion outside of academia and I’ve recently found tiktok to be an interesting tool for engaging in political discourse. I also find the algorithm that curates our feeds to be fascinating. Bimbo tiktok has been a blessing and I would highly recommend.

I have a small 14 year old Chihuahua that I adopted roughly 4 years ago, she’s super sweet to me and questionably kind to everyone else depending on whether you have food. She has many clothes which should make an appearance this semester.

Introduction

Hello All!

My name is Austin Pellizzer. I am a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in European and Russian Studies and minoring in Political Science. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a great interest in European history, politics, and current events. Being adopted from Russia and raised Italian, I have been exposed to facets of what it truly means to be European and share in the heritage and history of such a diverse and unique continent.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of being a student in Professor Evan’s class of 20th century German History. It is in this class that I acquired a true interest in the politics of “remembering” related to the Post-Cold War nations of the Eastern bloc. Specifically, East Germany. It is because of these very significant historical aspects I believe it is imperative to understand why and how the rise of populism is becoming so mainstream.

Lastly, on a more personal note, some of my hobbies and passions include travelling, photography (particularly aviation and landscapes), binge-watching horror movies (the classics are my favourite), and learning all there is about European history, American and Israeli politics, and getting sushi with friends.

My trip to Israel in December of 2017 was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

I am so excited to meet you all and to have lively and respectful discussions and debates.

Introduction: Gabe McReynolds

Hi everyone! My name is Gabe and I am in the last year of my B.A. program for history. I’ve been lucky to explore a variety of topics and ideas over the past few semesters at Carleton University!

I was born in Ottawa, but spent 13 years in Casablanca, Morocco before moving back to Canada in my last year of High School. This also allowed me to explore a lot of Southern Europe as we lived in relatively close proximity to it. Prior to attending Carleton, I had the opportunity to live overseas in Thailand where I was pursuing a professional Muay Thai fighting career, and later in Southern France and Corsica where I briefly served in the French Foreign Legion. Having lived overseas and had the chance to interact with people of all different walks of life sparked an interest in peoples’ cultures and histories. Currently, I am interested in International Security and Conflict and I believe this course will tie in nicely to that!

On a personal note, I am an avid sports fan both watching and participating. Prior to this pandemic I played a lot of hockey and soccer and am looking forward to getting back into this once this is all done with! In the mean time I am been enjoying spending time with my family and catching up on lots of reading.

I am looking forward to working with all of you and getting to know you all better over this term!

Populism v Fascism: Return of The state?

Written by Conrad Yiridoe

The theme of this week’s readings focused primarily on the terminology of populism and fascism. With a few of the readings, the main focus was on the comparison of fascism to the modern day and why this may not be the most effective strategy to address current events. In the United States specifically, the comparison of the republican party (or rather this specific version of it) and especially soon to be former president Donald Trump has become to the historic days of fascist regimes (Italy’s Mussolini) has become rather “fashionable”. De Grazia, Moyn and Gordon all argue (to differing degrees) that the constant comparisons may in fact actually dilute and even to some degree even insult the “actual fascism” that was present in the past. Moyn and Gordon argue with a broader approach, that the trend of comparing current events (regardless of their degree of horror and general disapproval), may in fact serve to be counter intuitive to a certain extent.

With regards to Moyn’s analysis, I am inclined to both agree and disagree with his opinion. Specifically, I concur with his overall message that the main objective with comparisons to the past need to take into consideration not only the context of what occurred, but also examine the weight with which these comparisons should be taken into account. As Moyn states, “charging fascism does nothing on its own. Only building an alternative to the present does…” and hence the idea that simply drawing the comparison between Donald Trump and fascism without actually providing context for why specifically the comparison is being made and furthermore what should be done about it, needs to be readdressed.

As a final note, I also agree with De Grazia’s main point which I feel was the fact that once again, another “trendy” term (this time being fascism) is in a sense not being fully appreciated, due to many of those using the term, not fully appreciating its weight. As a question going forward, I wonder if perhaps these analogies to historic events would become more useful and meaningful by first ensuring that the definition of the term (fascism in this case) is fully understood by the audience (whether it be a specific person, or the general public). Furthermore, I postulate if perhaps it would be worth while to always follow up said comparison with more actionable concepts

Onwards to populism briefly and here I found the DEMOS study to be quite surprising (at least to my less historically experienced eyes) in that they were able to divide up the different movements into four distinct types of populism. In addition, these types were all over the political spectrum, from the far left and right, to in-between, which surprised me as I figured based on the limited definition of populism (essentially charging a “the people” vs “the elite” anti-establishment mentality), that the specific ideology of populism was fairly rigid (which of course is not the case). I also do not completely understand the significant difference between the illiberal compared with the anti-establishment populist movements. In particular, I wonder about the “radical democratic appeal” that the authors charge is present mainly in the anti-establishment movement yet lacking in the illiberal movements. I also wonder how the use of “conspiratory explanations” with the illiberal charges is also not strongly reflected in the anti-establishment movements.

Distinctions and Similarities between Past and Present

By: Gabe McReynolds

This week’s articles seek to establish and contextualize terms that could be argued are used fairly flippantly today. In many industrialized, Western states, “Fascism/Fascists” and “Authoritarianism” are used by all ends of the political spectrum to demonize one’s opponents. Moyn and Gordon both to define these terms in the context of the past and our present society, while also putting forth their own position on approaching this subject. The authors seekto understand the benefits and drawbacks to using analogies or comparisons of the past and relating them to the present. Gordon puts forth the idea that being able to compare parts of history with the present is valuable. It allows us to understand the path and present so much better as well as morally orient ourselves and protect against future atrocities. This is simply a more elaborate way of saying we learn from our mistakes. Moyn argues that the dangers of relying on past narratives or events is that they tend to disregard distinctions and differences from the period in which they are being compared to. Moyn also argues that the danger in doing so is that people may disregard differences or misconstrue the historical contexts of these events.

 However, instead of focusing on their differences, of which there are some, I find that both authors argue a rational middle ground from which to approach these comparisons. Moyn and Gordon are arguing many of the same ideas just from different starting points. Moyn seeks to show that comparison is important but that the distinctions when comparing are equally important. He argues that the lack of this can result in partisanship as people will seek to justify past atrocities. For Gordon, these similarities must be examined to avoid dismissing comparisons due to each subjects’ distinctions. It seems like they both argue for a balanced approach to using comparisons. However, it seems that they both argue this from their own perspective and experience of resistance to their ideas. Gordon seems to have gotten resistance from many who would posit that the distinctions are too different to allow for comparison and so his article reflects that. For Moyn, it seems as if the resistance and challenges have come from those who would attempt to dismiss the finer points of distinction when comparing and using these labels which dilute and diminish past experiences as well as current experiences.  

References:

Gordon, Peter E. “Why Historical Analogy Matters.” The New York Review, 7 Jan. 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/01/07/why-historical-analogy-matters/

Moyn, Samuel. “The Trouble with Comparisons.” The New York Review, 19 May 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/05/19/the-trouble-with-comparisons/

Etymology and contemporary political discourse

Etymology is at the forefront of the readings posed this week, as we seek to contextualize contemporary events in the light of historic atrocities and political uprisings. Each reading this week poses questions about the utilization of terminology that has garnered significant media attention since waves of populism have catapulted to mainstream political discourse with movements in the US with the election of trump, and around Europe with far-right groups seeking to challenge established liberal democratic norms.

While we seek to define fascism from our historical recollections of Italy and Germany in the De Grazia article to situate ourselves within the trump presidency, it becomes evident that etymology plays a significant role how we understand and analyze this reality. What does the role of characterization of historical movements within the contemporary achieve, does it seek to overshadow the current issues? Does using terms like fascism to describe people, rather than the historical moment obscure the realities of contemporary social issues. When we use the word fascism as a blanket statement, on both sides as De Grazia mentions, what words are being left out, does it appropriately address the contemporary or utilize the past to fear-monger?

Moving from fascism, the etymological analysis is shifted to defining populism within Europe through DEMOS. Populism as a term often that has increasingly become synonymous with far-right ideals in Europe, the reality that the article highlights is the diversity for which populism manifests politically. Rather than being a one-party problem, the entire political spectrum from end to end can manifest as populism. This complicates the ways in which we analyze and understand populist movements, defining them only by far-right actors undermines the work of those on the far-left. More nuanced approaches to utilizing terminology like populism, as a method of undermining a movement, must become normalized to effectively understand the differences and variations of motives and ethics of populist movements in Europe.

We can see the ways in which negative interpretations of populism are leveraged as inherently anti-liberal democratic, therefore challenging minority rights, pluralism, and the separation of power within the article put forward by Cas Mudde. What seems to be lacking within this analysis of populism is an analysis of why liberal democracy is so prized. The article seeks to show the ways in which all populism undermines liberal democracy and threatens these rights, but why is liberal democracy elevated to something so pivotal. The idea that minority rights and other forms of anti-oppressive institution are inherently and protected within a liberal democracy undermines the reality of liberal democracies in North America and Europe, which operate on the ongoing theft and genocide of populations built using stolen people.

Lastly, we see the ways in which etymology can cause significant division as instances of historical violence are utilized as comparisons to contemporary acts of violence. Gordon highlights the pitfalls and while also discussing why individuals seek to conceptualize one act of violent within language used for other historical acts of violence. Comparing acts of violence, while some may find fruitful to galvanize others into actions and outrage, can also seek to create hierarchies of violence and undermine the specificity of certain acts of violence. The Holocaust is the main example utilized within the article, with many individuals speaking against the comparison considering ongoing violence in the US. While I can understand the ways in which historical comparisons undermine targeted violence, I think it is important to note Gordon’s article engaged in significant erasure in the violence against Roma, disabled people, homosexuals, and other groups targeted by Nazi Germany. The lack of language around this reality while arguing about the need for nuance around language of violence and historicizing of contemporary events feels problematic.

Overall, we see the importance of etymology when discussing and analyzing contemporary political discourse in relation to historical acts of political upheaval and targeted violence.

DEMOS Identifies Four Types of Populism in European Political Parties. https://demosh2020.eu/en/demos-identifies-four-types-of-populism-in-european-political-parties  

Peter E. Gordon, “Why Historical Analogy Matters,” NYR Daily (7 January 2020), http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/01/07/why-historical-analogy-matters/

Victoria de Grazia, “What We Don’t Understand about Fascism” Zocalo Public Square https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/08/13/understand-fascism-american-historymussolini-hitler-20th-century/ideas/essay/

Cas Mudde, “Populism in the Twenty-First Century: an Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism” The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, University of Pennsylvania, https://www.sas.upenn.edu/andrea-mitchell-center/casmudde-populism-twenty-first-century

Analogies and Comparisons in Political Dialogue

Evoking analogies and comparisons to the past can be a natural response to contemporary political developments. There are both advantages and disadvantages to these actions. Recalling historical figures or events in relation to present ones can sometimes help society grasp the gravity of a situation and serve as a warning. Conversely, it can also risk trivializing the true nature and repercussions of a historical event if it is compared to a recent one. This is because we do not have the luxury of viewing the present through the lens of history, and thus our analysis of it can be prone to personal biases and a lack of nuance.

In Peter E. Gordon’s article, he refers to a recent example of a politician comparing migrant detention centers on the southern United States border to the concentration camps of the Holocaust. Gordon briefly summarizes the debate that ensues and the positions of those on both sides. In writing that “all human atrocities are human acts, and as such all are candidates for comparison,” Gordon does not explicitly affirm the validity of this comparison, but he suggests that such comparisons can stimulate a healthy and respectful dialogue. I can appreciate his point, but I also think that there is a danger in overzealous politicians employing these analogies to appeal to the raw emotions of their constituents, at the expense of those who were personally affected by a traumatic event.

Similarly, Samuel Moyn discusses the potential inadequacies of comparing the present and past, specifically with regards to the Trump administration and the parallels some have drawn between it and Nazi Germany. What I took from Moyn’s article is that in times of uncertainty, it is human nature to rummage through the historical record to find something that matches the present circumstances. When Trump was elected in 2016, many were anxious as to what the future held and some saw the situation reflected in the rise of Hitler during the 1930s. The dangers in this however, it that we risk overlooking the conditions that allowed Trumpism to take hold and thus we are unable to engage in thoughtful dialogue with those on the other end of the political spectrum. Simply dismissing Trump supporters as Nazis is unproductive and lazy if we truly wish to effect meaningful change.  

Works Cited

Gordon, Peter E. “Why Historical Analogy Matters.” The New York Review, 7 Jan. 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/01/07/why-historical-analogy-matters/

Moyn, Samuel. “The Trouble with Comparisons.” The New York Review, 19 May 2020, nybooks.com/daily/2020/05/19/the-trouble-with-comparisons/

Introduction

Written by Conrad Yiridoe

Hello everyone! This intro’s cutting it close but better late than never eh?…

My story is a little different (unique? unusual?) than everyone else’s. Neither of my previous degrees were focused chiefly in policy, geography or even history. My first degree is actually science based (Microbiology), while my second degree is in healthcare (Pharmacy).  At the moment, I am a first year M.A. student in the EURUS program. While I was studying during Pharmacy, I was fortunate to spend some time abroad, specifically in Madrid, Spain. Having kept an eye on the situation in the region of Catalonia (after their recent push for independence), I was further inspired to continue to follow up on European affairs after the trip (specifically with regards to policy and integration issues). Partnering this experience with my previous trip to western Europe a few years prior, where I was fortunate enough to visit among other places, the Palace of Versailles in France, the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, and Checkpoint Charlie in Germany, my curiosity for European affairs has never been fully satisfied. As a result, given my passion for certain policy focused issues in Europe (from the Catalonia independence movement to Brexit), I felt as though this class would provide a fantastic opportunity to better solidify my understanding of the history in the continent in order to better understand the policy decisions and political stances of today.

In terms of hobbies, thanks to Covid-19 I have gone from venturing outside to experiment with photography on a weekly basis, to picking up yoga and meditation (very helpful after a long day at the pharmacy dealing with stressed out patients), to currently considering adopting a kitten after debating it for a couple years (my close friends have all strongly been pushing me to do so, so I guess we’ll see…).

Introduction

Lucas Lang

Greetings,

My name is Lucas Lang. I was born and raised in Ottawa and have lived in the region my entire life. I have two brothers with myself being the middle one (not always an easy position). I enjoy reading, writing, art, a little too much of video games, and hanging out with my cat when I am not at work or stressing out on school assignments. In history, I am primarily interested in politics and military conflict, especially the second world war. I am, however, always interested in learning more about any topic which I am not familiar with and more about topics which I already know.

 I am on my fourth and final year of my History major with a minor in Archaeology and am looking forward to hopefully graduate this spring. My goal for after I graduate is to complete a course at Fleming College in Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management in order to pursue a career in artifact conservation and restoration. Another aspiration I have for the future is to travel to Europe and visit as much as I can, especially the battlefields.

I look forward to this course and to hearing from others this semester. I want to wish everyone the best for their studies this semester and for their future careers.