Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stan Katz, for whom the bell tolls?

About the Author
Stan Katz teaches public and international affairs and directs the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at the Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. He is a past president of the American Council of Learned Societies, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society for Legal History. He comments frequently on policy issues relating to higher education, particularly liberal education, and on the humanities and social sciences, philanthropy, scholarly relations with Cuba, and the interplay of civil society, constitutionalism, and democracy. And on his beloved Cuba's

Back to Havana
Yesterday I watched the Princeton Memorial Day parade. We have a classic small town event that proceeds for about six or eight blocks down the main drag (Nassau St.). No floats, but three or four high school bands, the Cub-Girl-Boy Scouts, several pieces of fire and EMS equipment, and a locally-owned steam calliope (my favorite). I was a couple of minutes late, so I suppose missed a few veterans, and the Mayor. There were lots of parents and kids on the sidewalks, watching on a warm day with clear blue skies. It was a wonderfully American event.
My thoughts yesterday were shaped by the trip I had taken earlier this week to Havana. Whereas America yesterday was basking in sentimentalism, the Cubans are going through a difficult time. Fidel Castro has stepped down from official office, which is now held by his younger (not much) brother Raul. About six months ago Raul removed two of the most prominent younger members of the ruling group and replaced them with older (and presumably more reliable) members of the Party. Those changes did not seem to affect the academic and cultural work I am engaged in there, but just before my arrival this week there were further changes in governance. A couple of ministers were removed and replaced, and the Rector of the University of Havana was summarily replaced. There may be more changes forthcoming, but no one seems sure – indeed the dominant mood seemed to be one of uncertainty and insecurity. Of course I was only in Cuba for three days, and that is not long enough to make a confident judgment. As I noted here several weeks ago, I was disappointed that President Obama did not act more decisively to broaden U.S. contacts with Cuba in February, at the time of the Latin American summit. But there is a good deal of pressure on the U.S. from allies in the South to welcome Cuba into some fuller participation in regional cooperation. My guess is that the Cubans are apprehensive about what might happen if we do change our Cuba policies.
On Tuesday we (the Social Science Research Council Working Group on Cuba) held the final meeting of a wonderful group of librarians and archivists who are working (with the cooperation of foreign specialists) to enhance cultural heritage preservation on the island. This has been a very satisfying project, but the funding has now run out. On Wednesday we met with several groups (at the University and elsewhere) to explore the possibility of future research collaboration between Cuba and the U.S. (as well as with other countries). And I was also able, on both days, to firm up plans for a Woodrow Wilson School undergraduate seminar to be held at the University of Havana in the spring semester a year from now. It would be wonderful to be able to extend these contacts – but for the moment what counts is for academics to keep in touch.Posted at 09:55:39 AM on May 24, 2009 All postings by
Stan Katz (Click the name for source)

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