The international speakers who visit Bentley each year do more than bridge countries and cultures. They share direct knowledge of people and events that many of us have only read about, while also serving to inspire. Here are some of those who bridged, shared and inspired on campus this past fall. All were sponsored by the Valente Center for Arts and Sciences.
Visiting Scholar Khedija Arfaoui, a feminist activist and leading intellectual in Tunisia, shared her insight, experience and understanding of the two years following the Jasmine Revolution. The uprising toppled the regime of Tunisian President Ben Ali in January 2011 and led to the country’s democratization. Arfaoui put a special focus on whether democracy always leads to a better situation for the country, noting the social unrest that typically accompanies such change.
“Democracy is something we have been dreaming of. Your country was built on it, and it was not built easily. We are what is called a young democracy. We hope we survive."
Fernando de Mello Barreto, consul general of Brazil in Boston, discussed the Brazilian economy of today. The observations drew on his noteworthy career as a diplomat, in posts that included Brazilian ambassador to Australia, chief of staff and economic adviser in the Brazilian minister’s cabinet, and representative to the World Trade Organization. De Mello Barreto focused on his country’s expanding role in international affairs. He also shared personal views related to structure, characteristics, growth and trends in the Brazilian economy.
“The growth of the economy of Brazil has been steady since 2003 ... recently we became the #6 economy in the world … but what is important is to keep a steady growth to reach the poor people ….”
Andrei Korbut, a visiting research fellow from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, spoke on the “ethnomethodological” approach of social order as a product of social interaction. That is, how the orderliness of life in any setting is rooted in the way that members of society observe, recognize, and evaluate situations and interactions. Through a case study of airport security checkpoints, he explored methodologies that governed interactions between security officers and airport visitors. For example, an officer may categorize people depending on their gender or clothing, and communicate differently based on the assessment -- even though formal job instructions warn against making such distinctions.
“Interacting with each other, officers and visitors try to figure out what methods the opposite party is using (or not using, or should use) in current circumstances … these ordinary methodologies allow them to evaluate each other’s behavior as mistaken, good, proper, inappropriate, creditable or praiseworthy, for example.”