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Columbia professor to be honoured at university conference

by Archives March 12, 2003

He’s out to debunk the idea that there’s a single coherent group or phenomenon behind terrorism, although that was not his original plan. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the current conflict with Iraq have had an impact on Historian and Social Scientist Dr. Charles Tilly’s work, which until recently focused on European history.

“They have forced me to apply my ideas about political conflict and collective violence more specifically to terror than I was previously inclined to do,” Tilly told the Concordian. “I have written a great deal more about terror, terrorism and terrorists than I had expected to do.”

Tilly will be in town as the keynote speaker at the Millennium University 2003 Conference to be held jointly at Concordia and McGill Universities March 14 and 15. There will be an inaugural lecture dedicated to Tilly, a Columbia University professor and author. He will also be recognized for his longstanding commitment to the social sciences and humanities.

In his speech, Tilly intends to, “stimulate people to think about how monopolies of knowledge generate worldwide inequalities in well being.”

Concerning his theory on terrorism, he believes that these acts are in part the result of competition among clusters of committed activists out to prove their greater devotion and efficacy to the cause of bringing down a vaguely defined enemy.

He also believes that bombing the presumed originators of such attacks and forcing other countries to choose sides aggravates the very conditions American leaders claim to be preventing.

The conference is organized by graduate students Rocci Luppicini and Abigail Colby Shorter who worked under the title of a graduate and researcher consortium. As a result, it is independent from any institution and will be free of charge to all students.

The organizers promise that topics will be explored from a number of critical perspectives engaging diverse ideas such as mentorship programs for the humanities, the creation of virtual classrooms and the pursuit of new funding sources.

Tilly’s lecture won’t be directly related to these topics, but he was willing to share some of his thoughts.

“The impact of new technologies on research has so far been much greater than its impact on teaching, which remains backward,” said Tilly. “Classroom teachers have been slow to abandon the traditional lecture method. I include myself.”

He also warned of a potential pitfall.

“If universities substitute technological fixes for human attention […] students will suffer a net loss,” he said.

But overall he believes technology will enhance the capacity of teachers to teach and students to learn, as well as make the problems of classroom teaching easier to repair.

He said that if he were the rector of a university, he would promote more integration among natural science, social science and humanities than there is currently. For example, he would put more emphasis on fields that combine them such as paleontology, archaeology, linguistics and public health.

Tilly is the author of Roads from Past to Future; Durable Inequality; Transforming Post-Communist Political Economies; Extending Citizenship, Reconfiguring States; How Social Movements Matter and Dynamics of Contention. His most recent works include Collective Violence and Stories, Identities, and Political Change

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