Adam Rosenblatt

Assistant Dean for Global Engagement/Assistant Professo, Champlain College

Burlington, Vermont, United States
  • United States
Languages Spoken:

About Me

I am the Assistant Dean for Global Engagement and an Assistant Professor in Champlain College’s Core Division. My teaching focuses on human rights, global studies, and other topics. I hold a PhD from Stanford in Modern Thought and Literature, and have worked at human rights organizations in both the U.S. and Chile, including Physicians for Human Rights and the Human Rights Center of the University of Chile. My research focuses on the use of forensic science in the investigation of mass graves and other atrocities. I live in Burlington, VT, with my wife, two sons, and my collection of international comic books.

Hi everyone, I'd like to start this new discussion by welcoming our global partners from Lebanon (Haigazian University) and South Africa (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) who have recently joined Third Planet and been participating in our conversations. I think I speak for all of us here at Champlain College when I say we're thrilled you came aboard and looking forward to getting to know you better! Mar 9, 2013

While I personally found the restorative justice process described in the Times article very appealing (and given the problems of racism, cruelty, overcrowding, and inefficiency in our prison system, I think any alternative model should be looked at carefully), when it comes to forgiveness I’ve always been haunted by the words of Dostoevsky’s character Ivan Karamazov, from The Brothers Karamazov. Ivan recites a litany of horror stories that Dostoevsky had pulled from newspaper headlines in Russia. The stories are largely about unspeakable cruelty inflicted on children, and they prompt Ivan to reject the possibility of forgiveness for such actions: “I do not […] want the mother to embrace the tormentor who let his dogs tear her son to pieces! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she wants to, let her forgive the tormentor for her immeasurable maternal suffering; but she has no right to forgive the suffering of her child who was torn to pieces, she dare not forgive the tormentor, even if the child himself were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, then where is the harmony?” (Dostoevsky 245; bk. 5, ch. 4). The question that Ivan raises is that forgiving someone for a terrible murder means forgiving them on behalf of the person who was murdered¬, and perhaps at some deeper level forgiving a type of suffering that by its nature cannot be forgiven. It’s unclear to Ivan, as it is to me, whether even family members or loved ones of a murder victim have the right to forgive on behalf of the person who is now gone (“she dare not forgive the tormenter, even if the child himself were to forgive him!”). Perhaps in some cases it doesn’t matter: Ann Marie Grossmare herself has neither the power to punish nor to forgive Conor McBride, and so it is left to the living to figure out the best way forward. But when efforts at forgiveness occur on a mass scale, such as in attempts to forge “national reconciliation” in countries that suffered terrible human rights violations, I think it’s important to remember that the forgiveness the living can offer is only partial. As Ivan Karamazov says, you have the right to forgive your own suffering, but not to forgive on behalf of what another suffered, especially when some acts are so perversely cruel that it seems no one (not even God, according to Ivan K.) should have the authority to forgive them. Jan 29, 2013

Hi everyone and thanks for joining this discussion--which, I gather, is already garnering a lot of interest from different corners of our own intertwined in-person/digital Champlain College communities. On that note, I just wanted to kick off by pointing out that this question of "digital belonging," while it's being asked in many places, has special relevance for we who are students, teachers, and staff at an institution of higher education. Some of you have probably heard of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are, as we speak, delivering university courses to people by the millions. And here at Champlain, we are a strange hybrid: on the one hand, we inhabit a small campus famed for its informal, intimate atmosphere and small seminar discussions, while on the other hand our institution is also comprised of a number of online-only, or mostly online, degree programs. Champlainers and those at other campuses around the world: how meaningful is the face-to-face campus experience? If you could get the same education cheaper and more conveniently online (and *could* you, really? Would it be the same education?), would you? Do you think a real college could exist in a virtual space? Jan 14, 2013

It seems to me that one of the problems with the gun debate in the U.S. (and I say this, somewhat reluctantly, given that I teach human rights) is all of that talk about a right to do this or to do that. Owning a firearm may be a privilege that we believe, in certain cases, should be protected--but since even the most aggressive defenders of the 2nd Amendment are in favor of some basic requirements, like a minimum age and a valid ID, clearly it's not an absolute "right" in the same sense as the right not to be subjected to torture, for example. Even in the text of the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms is dependent upon, or at least related to, the clause,"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." While there are a lot of conflicting interpretations of the language of the Amendment, it seems pretty clear that this "right" is meant to serve some sort of specific purpose, and that we are not all just born with some God-given right to have a gun put in our hands right at birth. Talking about rights, in absolute terms, gives you something to shout about but often doesn't let you get very far into the deeper issues. Jan 7, 2013

Colleagues at Champlain and around the world, I'm thrilled to welcome you to Third Planet, and particularly excited about this space where we can network as educators working in very different places and institutions, but with the shared purpose of giving our students better global perspectives. As you've probably seen, the topic for discussion on the homepage right now is about how to "be prepared" for the most important trends of the near future. Our students are likely to answer in various ways depending on their backgrounds and courses of study. But I'd like to ask my fellow educators: When you think about how you personally work to prepare your students for the future, how much do you find yourself focused on specific skills or content they must master (a specific programming language, the ability to conduct a literature review, the basic principles of chemistry)? To what extent, alternatively, do you focus instead on concepts and tools of analysis (understanding the scientific method itself, or contemporary theories of globalization, or why certain programming languages succeed or fail)? Are you satisfied that the way you teach right now finds the right balance--that it really is preparing your students for the future they face? If not, which direction would you move in? Oct 15, 2012

Dear Noah and R.R.: As the director of this site, I heartily agree that sincere, un-canned responses are incredibly valuable. I don't know how far into earlier posts you have read, but I would point out that the first two posts in this topic, both from partners of ours at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, were both based on personal experiences of different types of governance in South Africa and Nigeria; they were very thoughtful and far from "mundane," in my view--I learned a lot. I certainly welcome and hope to see contributions of this caliber from our community here at Champlain. While I am very happy that you care enough to demand more of your fellow students, I would ask you to keep in mind that the community on this site is a global one with people from many different traditions and backgrounds reading the posts. R.R., by not using a real name, you are both making it impossible for your professor to locate your posts when it is time to evaluate your participation in the site, and offering other participants a stereotype rather than a name to associate with your comments. And Noah, the culture of higher education institutions outside of the U.S.--and particularly in countries where it is considered a tremendous privilege to be able to attend university--is often more formal than our own. The language you use in your comment, while perhaps seeming informal and honest to you, may actually offend some others, and thus provide a disincentive to the type of open, risk-taking participation you and R.R. are so hungry for. Thanks, both of you, for being willing to start a conversation about how best to dialogue on the site. Mar 26, 2013

This is a very thoughtful and interesting response, Zandile--thank you. I appreciate how you wove in observations about post-Apartheid South Africa. In my human rights class at Champlain, we are studying mass incarceration in America, which disproportionally affects African-Americans and other minority groups. According to Michelle Alexander, in her book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," the U.S. has not so much left racial segregation behind as developed a new "sorting mechanism"--where once African-Americans were explicitly forbidden from going to the same schools, living in the same neighborhoods, etc., now our criminal justice system separates us into "racial castes" without anyone openly admitting segregations still exists. It's a provocative thesis, and one that shows certain similarities between the post-Apartheid South Africa you describe and post-slavery/post-segregation America. Thanks again for the great post. Mar 23, 2013

"[F] ood becomes a way of transmitting different values to people who come from different cultures." Yes! And, of course, cooking can be a way of learning about/celebrating other cultures, not just sharing your own. This weekend I spent a few hours making a mole (pronounced MOLE-ay), a traditional sauce from Mexico--in this case, an approximation of the version famous in Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. I have no Mexican roots myself, but have lived on the U.S.-Mexico and traveled in Mexico. It is a place and culture that enchants me. Mole is an extremely complex sauce made with a crazy variety of ingredients, including toasted seeds and nuts, spices, plantains, tomatoes, and even chocolate. In many ways, it strikes me as a metaphor for the complexity of Mexico, and that's important, because people in the U.S. have traditionally had an extremely narrow and stereotyped image of Mexico. To me, now, the tomato salsa we easily find in supermarkets and burrito restaurants symbolizes the simplistic, inaccurate view of Mexico propagated in the U.S., and the rich mole I make at home takes me back to the surprising, diverse, contradictory (and delicious!) place I have seen with my own eyes. Mar 18, 2013

The idea of “intersectionality” or “interlocking oppressions,” which has become increasingly influential in scholarship and social justice work, asks us to look not just at racism, sexism, or any other single form of inequality, but rather at the interaction between different identities and forms of marginalization. One boundary, however, tends to be left unquestioned: the boundary between human and non-human. This workshop is about non-human animals, justice, and the interlocking oppressions of animals and some humans. It is not a slideshow about the horrors of factory farming; rather, it explores the connections between how we think about the animals we eat and other issues of social justice: feminism, race, and genocide. Who is rational? Who is intelligent? Who feels pain, and who cannot? All of these distinctions are applied to animals on a daily basis, just as they historically have been to women, blacks, Native Americans, and many other groups. The workshop will introduce attendees to recent scholarship on the interlocking cultural objectification in which women are depicted as pieces of meat, meat is sold through images of available women, and meat-eating is the only way to be a “real man.” It will also describe how racist ideologies and programs of extermination have often justified themselves by marking off certain people as animals. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of an excerpt of Art Spiegelman’s award-winning graphic novel Maus, which makes the unexpected choice not to “humanize” Jewish Holocaust victims but rather to depict them in the animal form in which the Nazis described them: as rodents. The workshop will end with ample time for questions and discussion. Mar 9, 2013

Thanks for this comment, Ashton. I also noticed that Jack Donnelly's comment fails to trace the many connections between terrorism and the global market--the way economic decline and vulnerability can fuel terrorism, for example, but also the fact that many organizations that are terrorist or have been labeled terrorist depend on global communications and a global network of sympathizers for funding and support. Feb 18, 2013

Thanks so much for this excellent start to our conversation, iwanaiki. I am curious how you and other visitors to Third Planet would describe the difference between patriotism and nationalism... when does patriotism go 'too far" and become nationalism? Are some types of patriotic feeling and expression more likely to turn into nationalism than others? Nov 15, 2012

A warm welcome to all of the partners from Champlain College and around the globe who will be joining the site in the next few weeks! Here in Vermont the falling leaves are a sign that winter is not far away, so many of us are "being prepared" by getting our heavier sweaters and coats out of our closets and basements. But we are also preparing for our presidential election, just around the corner in November. Here at Champlain I've been happy to see students on campus setting up tables to help their peers register to vote; we also had one of our Vermont senators, Bernie Sanders, on campus speaking on themes related to the election. Regardless of what candidate one supports, it is clear that this election is a contest between different views on a variety of important issues for our country's future: the fate of the Obama Administration's attempt to reform healthcare, the level of funding provided to our military, and competing views of how to create a sustainable energy future in the nation with the world's highest per capita energy consumption. Other trends that affect not just one candidate, but the entire electoral process, are the high levels of spending by outside groups and corporations hoping to sway the election, news coverage that focuses on awkward phrases or aggressive "zingers" by each candidate rather than their views on important issues, and significant attempts to make it more difficult for registered voters to cast their ballots at polling places. These last few trends I have mentioned make me worried for our democratic future here in the U.S. Though as I walk across campus and look at the beautiful leaves strewn across the ground, it's easy to put these worries aside and just be glad to live in a beautiful place and work on a campus full of thinking, hopeful people. Oct 22, 2012

Champlain College says that part of its mission is to create global citizens. How do you understand that term, and what are you doing, in or outside of the classroom, to help your students become global citizens? Does the current college competency (copied below) capture the most important elements of what global citizenship means in your program or disciplinary area? If not, what should we eliminate or add? Nov 13, 2012

Julian and Ame, I think you both make some great points about what I would call the role of systems in shaping experience. So, in other words, I have a cultural identity, and that identity is "mine," but the impact it has on my experiences has a lot to do with how it is read by different systems that are out there: systems of criminal justice or taxation, in Julian's examples, but also of course things like systems of recruitment, application, and retention of college students, as Ame knows well from her work. The second bullet under Global Citizenship seems both too vague and too prescriptive--perhaps we need to replace it with a bullet about whether students are capable of understanding how their own identities, and the identities of the people around them, are impacted through global and local systems that ascribe different values to different identities and shape all of our experiences in the world. Except there's got to be a way to say that more elegantly! Julian also brings up the HUGE issue of the relationship between the global and the intercultural. When Scott, Michelle, and I went to the CIC conference in August, we met people from other colleges not dissimilar from Champlain whose college competencies included Intercultural Sensitivity with global awareness as just a subset of that, people whose colleges had both competencies without clarifying any relationship between them, and then of course we had Champlain's language which largely treats the intercultural as one subset of the global. I admit to being completely at a loss as to what the best framing is, and I think it's important that this not be a turf war but rather a discussion of what will best translate into a plan for how to educate our students. Thoughts? Nov 13, 2012

Global Awareness -Identifies the foundational cultures, events, institutions and ideas -Identifies areas of conflict and cooperation among cultures -Use basic concepts of cultural and physical geography -Examines and critiques information and arguments related to substantial global issues -Develops a sophisticated conceptual framework for analyzing global developments Cultural Sensitivity -Develops a sense of one’s own cultural identity -Identifies and appreciates various viewpoints -Questions assumptions and challenges stereotypes -Adapts personally to different cultures and communicates effectively -Promotes tolerance and the free exchange of ideas Global Citizenship -Demonstrates an awareness of the growing interconnectivity of the world -Demonstrates the necessity of her/his ability to function within the global community -Works effectively in different international or diverse settings -Implements a program of action in conjunction with community service requirement Nov 13, 2012

What an amazing set of reflections, Josh. While we'll never know the "answer," you point out some very important possibilities. I think Art, too, ultimately plays a role in the marginalization of Anja's story--while he's not responsible for burning the journals, he gives us so few memories of her beyond the very disturbing comic about her suicide. We learn so much about Vladek the survivor, but Anja survived too. What was she like? Art really doesn't tell us, and so Anja becomes less of a survivor, and more another silent victim of the Holocaust who happened to die later than the others. Apr 17, 2013

I think Kevin raises a really interesting point: Vladek seems to be an almost super-humanly clever person during the war, and nearly every incident he relates involves him surviving while others died because he was more clever, or planned ahead better, than his fellow Jews. This could all be entirely true. But it is also the case, as the burning of Anja's journals makes clear, that the only perspective we have on Vladek's past is his own. And memory is famously malleable. How true do we think Vladek's story is? What does the way he tells it say about him, and what does it say about all the people who didn't survive the Holocaust? Apr 10, 2013

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