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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

In search of political prisoners: A dialogue with Padraic Kenney

States around the world imprison people for their beliefs or politically-motivated actions. Oppositional movements of all stripes celebrate their comrades behind bars. Yet they are more than symbols of repression and human rights. Padraic Kenney discusses his new book, Dance in Chains: Political Imprisonment in the Modern World, which seeks to find universal answers to questions about the meaning and purpose of imprisonment.

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For the people, by the people: democracy in the US and India [excerpt]

India is the world’s largest democracy. However, despite its shared political system with the United States, India’s approach to human rights and foreign policy differs greatly from its Western counterparts.
The following excerpt from Our Time Has Come highlights the key differences between the American and Indian democratic systems.

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Beethoven’s Ninth at the G-20

The world leaders who had gathered in Hamburg, Germany, this summer for the twelfth G-20 summit on 7 July 2017 found an unusual item on their itinerary: a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth symphony.

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Putin and patriotism: national pride after the fall of the Soviet Union [excerpt]

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin undertook the formidable task of uniting a restless and disorganized Russia. Throughout the early 1990s, the national narrative behind USSR’s regime remained unclear—causing national pride to deteriorate in the confusion. In the following excerpt from The Long Hangover, journalist Shaun Walker sheds light on how Putin used Russia’s victory in World War II to reestablish patriotism within the new Russia.

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The rise of female whistleblowers

Until recently, I firmly believed whistleblowers would increasingly turn to secure, anonymizing tools and websites, like WikiLeaks, to share their data rather than take the risk of relying on a journalist to protect their identity. Now, however, WikiLeaks is implicated in aiding the election of Donald Trump, and “The Silence Breakers,” outspoken victims of sexual assault, are Time’s 2017 Person of the Year.

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Emigration and political change

International mobility has been reshaping the economies and societies of countries over the course of human history. In Europe, during recent years, media and policy-makers have been focused on immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East who cross the Mediterranean Sea to look for opportunities in Europe. However, another important but much less noticed mobility phenomenon has been on the rise.

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To understand modern politics, focus on groups, not individuals

Modern politics seems very ego-centric. It’s common and rational to focus attention on particular individuals, or individual leaders, and puzzle over their actions.For several decades, the social scientific approach to politics also focused on individuals as the unit of interest to explain outcomes and behaviors. On the other hand, we tend to talk about politics in terms of relationships and networks.

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Good and evil: the role of smugglers in the migrant crisis [excerpt]

Since its inception in 2000, International Migrants Day has served as a platform to discuss human rights issues affecting migrants. This year, the UN is focusing on safe migration in a world on the move—opening up an international dialogue about how to ensure safe and systematic migration during times of instability. The migration system today is largely dependent on smugglers: as millions seek to escape violence and economic inequality, many become dependent on criminal networks to facilitate their transport.

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Human Rights Day: a look at the refugee crisis [excerpt]

Human Rights Day, held on On 10 December every year, honors the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a document which details the rights that all human beings, regardless of race, religion, nationality, or religion, are entitled to. The following excerpt from Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World takes a look at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an agency tasked with protecting the human rights of stateless people throughout the world.

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The Oxford Place of the Year 2017 is…

Our polls have officially closed and the results are in: our Place of the Year for 2017 is Puerto Rico. Although it was a tight race between Catalonia and Puerto Rico in both the long- and shortlist polling, the events that have occurred in this Caribbean Island in the past year have truly resonated with our followers who partook in voting.

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The Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine: a timeline

Between the summer of 1937 and November 1938, the Stalinist regime arrested over 1.5 million people for “counterrevolutionary” and “antisoviet” activity and either summarily executed or exiled them to the Gulag. This was Stalin’s “Great Terror” and, contrary to popular belief, the largest number of victims were not elites or “Old Bolsheviks,” but common people. Below is a timeline of The Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine.

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: North Korea

Today Northeast Asia confronts the world with a volatile mix of geopolitical competition and nuclear threats unseen since the beginning of the Cold War. The imbroglio over a nuclear armed and very dangerous Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) involving the United States, China, Republic of Korea (ROK), and other actors epitomizes this peril.

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Understanding secularism [excerpt]

“The separation of religious institutions from state ones had also been a feature of societies elsewhere, and at other times in history.” What is secularism? In the following extract from Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom, Andrew Copson breaks down 3 different parts of the definition of secularism, its history, and how its meaning has developed over time.

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Historical Commemoration and Denial in Australia

Last month a statue commemorating Captain James Cook in Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia was attacked, the words ‘Change the date’ spray-painted on it. This act continues recent protests by indigenous people and their supporters which have called for the changing of the day upon which Australia celebrates its founding: 26 January 1788.

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: Catalonia

The Catalan independence movement was frequently in the news in 2017, earning Catalonia its place among the nominees for Oxford University Press’s Place of the Year. While tensions seemed to come to a head this year, the independence movement has a long history of clashes with the Spanish government, beginning with the separatist movements of the mid-19th century.

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Place of the Year nominee spotlight: Puerto Rico [quiz]

In September 2017, two powerful hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico. Two months later, 50% of the island is still without power, and residents report feeling forgotten by recovery efforts. From the controversy of hiring a small Montana-based electrical company, Whitefish, to restore power to the island; to the light shone on the outdated Jones Act, the humanitarian crisis following the hurricanes catapulted Puerto Rico to the world stage.

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