Dozens of academics in the U.S. and abroad joined members of the New Haven public on Sunday and Monday to discuss racism and the radical right.
The two-day conference, which began at the Whitney Humanities Center on Sunday, is co-sponsored by the Yale Center for the Study of Antisemitism and Yale’s Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration. French professor Maurice Samuels, director of the YPSA, noted that this conference marks the first time that the YPSA has worked together with the RITM, a center which studies racism broadly. The conference’s call for research papers, released on the YPSA’s website, received around 50 responses, six of which were accepted for presentation.
“It is one of a few conferences in which extremism and racism and anti-Semitism are taken as an issue all together, instead of divided,” said Erdoan Shipoli, a visiting researcher at Georgetown’s Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and a speaker on one of Monday’s panels. “We finally understand that to be able to fight this new trend of extremism, we need to all come together and fight it together.”
Samuels emphasized both in his opening remarks and in an email to the News that the goal of the conference is to better understand the role of racism and anti-Semitism in radical right populist movements domestically and globally. Samuels co-organized the conference with Stephen Pitti, history professor and director of the RITM.
The first panel of the conference on Sunday, “Border Crossings,” touched on Russian political action in Western far-right movements, the reconciliation of the American and Israeli right and racism against refugees and immigrants. The second panel, led by history professor Marci Shore, discussed the intellectual foundation of Trumpism, Bannonism and the “racist right.” Nancy Khalil, a RITM postdoctoral associate, led the third panel of the day on the political implications of racism and the White Power movement.
Anton Shekhotsov presented the findings of his book in the first panel of the conference. He contends that Russian state actors, using connections made in the 1990s, have — particularly since the Color Revolutions of the early 2000s — seized the opportunity to undermine Western political consensus through far right and extremist movements.
“I see continuity between the Cold War era and the world that we see today,” said Shekhotsov, whose book “Russia and the Western Far Right” was published last month.
Students interviewed welcomed the open discussions about racism and anti-Semitism.
“I think it is very important that we discuss these issues as a society. Especially in this day and age, when many of the ideals and values … appear to be threatened,” Brandon Chambers ’21 said.
Samuels, in his opening address, acknowledged that the organizers were criticized for having an unfair political bias in focusing exclusively on the radical right. In response, Connor Purcell Wood ’19, chairman of the Yale Political Union’s Conservative Party, said in an email to the News that it is important not to ignore left-wing extremism.
“There is nothing inherently wrong or biased about a conference whose goal is to study right-wing extremism; the specificity is useful,” Wood said. “The important condition is that the organizers and attendees not pretend that extremism and racism are exclusive to the right.”
The convention marks the fifth annual meeting of the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism. The ICRAR, originally started in 2011 by historians in Europe, the United States and Israel, is an organization committed to the study of anti-Semitism and racism through interdisciplinary means, in the context of comparative history as well as in today’s society.
“If these conferences are open to the public, then they definitely contribute to the public discourse, public discussions,” Shekhotsov said.
History professor Timothy Snyder will deliver the keynote “On Tyranny” today at 5 p.m.
Keshav Raghavan | firstname.lastname@example.org