Great Decisions 2015 – Tickets Available on Eventbrite

Established in 1918, the Foreign Policy Association is a non-profit education organization and sponsor of the Great Decisions program. Great Decisions is a national civic-education program that encourages participants to:

  • Learn about U.S. foreign policy and global issues
  • Discuss multiple viewpoints in a group setting
  • Take part in a national opinion survey

Spring 2015 Topics:

 Sectarianism in the Middle East

Sectarianism in the Middle East – Sohail Hashmi on March 27

Many of the current conflicts in the Middle East have been attributed to sectarianism, a politicization of ethnic and religious identity. From the crisis in Iraq and Syria to the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the struggle between Sunni and Shi‘i groups for dominance is tearing apart the region and shows no signs of abating. But for all the religious discourse permeating the conflict, much of its roots are political, not religious. How does sectarianism fit into a larger narrative of the Middle East? How have governments manipulated sectarian differences? And finally, what is the U.S. doing about it?

Sohail Hashmi is Professor of International Relations and Alumnae Foundation Chair in the Social Sciences at Mount Holyoke College, where he has taught since 1994.  He is currently the chairman of the International Relations Program at Mount Holyoke. Hashmi’s research and teaching interests focus on comparative international ethics, particularly comparative ethics of war and peace, and on the study of religion in politics, particularly Islam in domestic and international politics.  He has published on a range of topics in Islamic ethics and political theory, including sovereignty, humanitarian intervention, tolerance, civil society, and the theory of jihad. Hashmi received a B.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Harvard and an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton.

Cleared for release by Joint Staff Public Affairs

Russia and the Near Abroad – Constatine Pleshakov on April 10

As calls for closer ties with the EU failed to be met, Ukrainians took to the streets in in November 2013. As the movement later known as the Euromaidan, or “Euro Square,” pulled western Ukraine closer to its European neighbors, another powerful force threatened to tear away the country’s eastern half: Russia. Putin’s pushback against European expansionism has the West wondering: If Putin’s Russia isn’t afraid to take an aggressive stance against Europeanization in Ukraine, what does that mean for the rest of Russia’s neighbors?

Constantine Pleshakov, Five College Visiting Professor of International Relations at Mount Holyoke College from 1989 to 2014, is the author of five books including There Is No Freedom Without Bread! 1989 and The Civil War That Brought Down Communism(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), Stalin’s Folly: The First Ten Tragic Days of World War Two on the Eastern Front (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), and The Tsar’s Last Armada: The Epic Journey to the Battle of Tsushima (Basic Books, 2002). His books have been translated into fourteen foreign languages. Pleshakov has held many fellowships and positions abroad, and was previously at the Five Colleges as the Karl Lowenstein fellow at Amherst College in 1995. In 2012, The Princeton Review put him on the 300 Best College Professors list. He lives in Amherst.

Privacy in the Digital Age

Privacy in the Digital Age – Martha Umphrey on April 17

The idea of “privacy” has undergone significant changes in the digital age, as has the idea of privacy “harm.” Fearful of British spying, influence and intervention, the founding fathers granted citizens significant protections in the Constitution. Now, the tables have turned: Concerns about what some see as a U.S. “dragnet” and unwarranted privacy intrusions have compelled other countries to revamp their own privacy protections. Legislation, both at home and abroad, hasn’t kept pace with technological developments, leaving some wondering if privacy as we know it is long dead.

Martha Merrill Umphrey is Bertrand H. Snell 1894 Professor in American Government, and Chair of the Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College.  She is also Dean for the Class of 2016.  Martha received her B.A., J.D. and Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. She has been a member of the Amherst faculty since 1994, where she  teaches a seminar on Privacy in which she raises questions about the meaning of privacy and the state of privacy in contemporary life. An active law and humanities scholar, her research and teaching address the interaction of law and culture, historically and theoretically, with particular emphases on the cultural life of trials; on the relations among law, culture, and social identity (particularly gender and sexuality); on cultural representations of law in film and literature; on American constitutional and criminal law in historical context; on privacy and speech; and on law and love.

India Changes Course

India Changes Course – Kavita Khory on April 24

Fed up with corruption, dynastic policies and ineffective public services, Indian voters catapulted Narenda Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party to power in the country’s 2014 elections. For voters, Modi embodied real change and an India that wasn’t stumbling, but running, to greatness. But for the U.S., change in India brings its own set of unknowns, heralding an age ruled by a prime minister new to national office and other policymakers who have been out of the public eye for a decade. Now, the U.S. has to determine how to best secure its interests as India asserts itself on the world stage.

Kavita Khory is Professor of Politics at Mount Holyoke College, where she teaches courses on international security, politics of South Asia, and global migration. She has been involved in a number of curricular initiatives at Mount Holyoke, including serving as co-director of a project funded by the Hewlett Foundation for promoting the case method across the curriculum. Khory’s work ranges from analyzing political violence in South Asia to tackling questions of political identity and citizenship in multicultural societies. She has written on nationalism and ethnic politics in Pakistan, regional security problems in South Asia, and migration. Her current project explores transnational mobilization and activism among South Asian diaspora populations in North America and Europe. She is the editor of Global Migration: Challenges in the 21st Century, (Palgrave-Macmillan 2012). Khoury received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and her M.A. and Ph. D. from the University of Illinois.

Human Trafficking in the 21st Century

Human Trafficking in the 21st Century – Erin Albright on May 1

Human trafficking represents a multibillion in international trade per annum and continues to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries. While undeniably a global phenomenon, the U.S., as one of the world’s leading human trafficking importers, bears a special responsibility to combat this practice. The U.S. and the international community have adopted various treaties and laws to prevent trafficking, but to truly understand and combat the issue, they must find the root causes enabling traffickers to exploit millions of victims.

Erin Albright, J.D., is the Anti-Trafficking Regional Coordinator at the International Institute of New England (IINE), and Regional Program Director for the foundation Give Way to Freedom (GWTF). Albright coordinates a network of service providers throughout New England, and specializes in building organizational capacity and service collaboration through consultation with service providers, law enforcement, task forces, and lawmakers. She provides ongoing consultation to the United States Attorney’s Offices and Attorneys General Offices and has consulted on the development of human trafficking legislation throughout New England. Previously, Ms. Albright worked for the Boston Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit and the Massachusetts Human Trafficking Task Force, where she was responsible for maintaining all data and statistics on human trafficking cases in Massachusetts. Ms. Albright is the co-chair of the Freedom Network’s Policy Committee and the Boston Bar Association’s Human Trafficking Committee. She is a graduate of Boston College Law School and Mary Washington College, and a member of the Massachusetts Bar.


All events will take place on Friday mornings between 9:30 am and noon at the Northampton Senior Center, 67 Conz Street, Northampton , MA.

Ticket Prices and Registration

5CLIR members: $12 per individual discussion or $40 for the full series
Public admission: $15 per individual discussion or $50 for the full series

  • There are no refunds on series purchases.
  • Sessions will be canceled if schools are closed for inclement weather.
  • Parking is available at the Senior Center. Overflow parking must park across Conz Street at the World War II Club parking lot. Please keep fire lanes free.

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