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Assignment: Iran Through Three Lenses

Monday, January 20th, 2020
  1. Watch Inside Iran from Sky Sky News (12 minutes). Come to class with notes summarizing the clip.
  2. Watch the first hour or so of Our Man in Tehran and come to class with content rich notes. Be prepared to discuss the following What is interesting? What supports, modifies, or refutes our studies of Iran thus far? What evidence of bias is there? What is omitted from the film? What is (over)emphasized?
  3. Explore Cara Parks’ 2012 “Once Upon a Time in Tehran photo essay from Foreign Policy Magazine. View it as a slideshow (otherwise you need to subscribe to FP). Be sure to read the captions. Come to class with your favorite photo or two and a willingness to share.
  4. Consider as an option, not an assignment, viewing other films (below)
Sky News on Iran

Our Man in Tehran – a revealing series on life inside Iran, with New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink. In this two-night documentary special, Erdbrink shares a rare journey into a private Iran often at odds with its conservative clerics and leaders. The series offers surprising encounters inside the closed society of Iran, as Erdbrink gets Iranians to reveal the intricacies of their private worlds and the challenges of living under theocratic leaders.

Join Rick as he explores the most surprising and fascinating land he’s ever visited: Iran. In a one-hour, ground-breaking travel special on public television, you’ll discover the splendid monuments of Iran’s rich and glorious past, learn more about the 20th-century story of this perplexing nation, and experience Iranian life today in its historic capital and in a countryside village. Most important, you’ll meet the people of this nation whose government so exasperates our own.

Iran is opening its doors to foreigners and a train ride from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea is a great way to get to know the country and its people. The travel restrictions that are now being lifted were in place for decades. Many Iranians are hoping they will now be able to lead a freer life – and we meet many of these hospitable and welcoming people on our journey through the Middle Eastern nation. The country’s most important rail link, the Trans-Iranian Railway, runs for approximately 1400 kilometers from the Persian Gulf via Teheran to the Caspian Sea. From DW Documentary.
National Geographic photographer, Alexandra Avakian, sets out to break this stereotype as she goes behind the veils of these women to discover a female community of strong women.She will also delve into Iran’s underground youth culture and travel to her ancestral village in search of the grave of her great-great grandmother.

Building & Sustaining Robust Liberal Democracies

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Here is my lecture in liberal versus so-called illiberal democracies and my summary of Levitsky and Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die.

Lecture: Weimar Society and Culture

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

My lecture on Weimar Society and Culture.

Lecture Outline:

  • Socioeconomic Setting
  • Education and Intelligentsia
  • Gender Revolution
  • Crime & Punishment
  • Cinema
  • Expressionism
  • Dada
  • New Objectivity
  • Music
  • Architecture

Is It Possible To Fit the Civil War Into a Single Chart?

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

This chart, digitized by the Library of Congress, depicts major battles, troop losses, skirmishes, and other events in the American Civil War.

Food and Drink in Barcelona

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

I returned to Barcelona for a visit this weekend. It is so easy to eat and drink well there. So I did…

For a menu del dia (affordable 3 course meal b.w 13:30-15:30) head to almost any place behind the Boqueria market on Las Ramblas

My dear friend Susannah and her partner Kat just launched Bread and Circuses, a scrumptious American-style sandwich shop. Stop in, say hi for me, and order a Muffaletta.

Head to Barcelona’s best Basque pinxos place, Taktika Berri. M-F from 13-16 hr and from 20:30-23 hr. Saturday from 13-16 hr. Nosh on the pinxos at the bar, but save plenty of room for the hot tapas. Oh, and ask for a glass of Txakoli.

I heart Bestiari in the Borne.

Pick up some Argentinian empanadas at Reckon. Eat in or carry them away.

Awesome twist on tapas at Tapac 24. Susanna says it went down hill since Chef Dani left and opened his tapas place Tapeo BCN. I love both places. And at either place you must order the foie gras burger (unless, of course you have some scruples and care for ducks…which I don’t)

If you want a creative twist on traditional tapas and an awesome atmosphere, I’d suggest Tapeo in the Borne. It was opened a couple years ago by a disciple of Carles Abellan.

For perfect seafood and paella, then Kaiku in Barceloneta is amazing. They’ve got some meat and vegetarian stuff  including a vegetarian paella made with smoked rice that’s gorgeous. Definitely make a reservation.
For a relatively traditional 3-course dinner Las Fernandez in the Raval. Then there’s Hisop and Coure, which are both incredible, but that’s Michelin star territory.
Lots of places now serve good beer in Barcelona (which kinda sorta makes me regret having left). Back when I was there the only place I knew of in town was Belchica, which has 30 Belgians. On this visit, I hit up Ale & Hop and Cat Bar, the former of which has an impressive selection with a beer-conversant staff. Consider trying some of the local beers from Hospitalet and Montseny.

Lecture: The Rise of the Modern State in Prussia

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Lecture outline:

  • 1640-1688 Frederick William the Great Elector
  • 1688-1713 Frederick I
  • 1713-1740 Frederick William, The Soldier King
  • 1740-1786 Frederick II, The Great (the focus)

Here are the notes

Artists, Writers, and the Great Depression

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Primary source video footage on TGD art and literature

German Government

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

The Interview Questions

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Interview Questions: Chapter 1-4

Oral History Project

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Wall in the Minds: An Oral History of the Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

The John F. Kennedy School

Oral history is the dynamic process of gathering and preserving historical perspectives through recorded interviews. This method of historical inquiry gives a voice to people who have been hidden from history and provides researchers with a forum to speak with history face to face.

The John F. Kennedy School Berlin Wall Oral History Project is the culmination of the efforts of fifty students. Each of the students in my two tenth grade history classes played a role in the creation of this book. Thirty students conducted, recorded and transcribed extensive interviews with Germans who lived in a divided country. They interviewed individuals from various backgrounds and encountered a diversity of experiences and perspectives. In all, their interviews amount to over 250 pages of raw qualitative data (the full text of the interviews is available at this page). Adding to this data bank, four students took on the responsibility of gathering quantitative information. These quantitative researchers, armed with the knowledge that numbers can speak volumes, provided the charts, graphs and maps used in the book. Another four students compiled archival photographs of divided Berlin. One student created a video documentary which, through interviews with student participants, offers valuable insights into the process undertaken for this project. Finally, eight students wrote this book. These students synthesized the data gathered by their classmates with published works in order to create a scholarly oral history text. Their collaboration was nothing short of beautiful, their sacrifices are the lifeblood of this endeavor and I admire their devotion.

It has been my responsibility, as the editor of the John F. Kennedy School Berlin Wall Oral History Project, to facilitate a student-directed effort by encouraging and coordinating their efforts. This book is for and by my students and my objective was to support them in bringing forth the voices of those who stood in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. What stands before the reader is the culmination of the efforts of conscientious, compassionate and curious tenth grade students.

It is a pleasure to present Wall in the Minds: An Oral History of the Rise and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

You are encouraged to offer feedback in the “comments” link situated on the bottom of this page.

Alaina Mack documented the processes that we engaged in as we wrote this book. In this video documentary, she captures the challenges that we faced and some of the lessons that we learned:

THE MAKING PART 1: Oral History Project

THE MAKING PART 2: Oral History Project

In addition to documenting the making of our book, Alaina quoted our transcribed interviews as the basis for an historical documentary, titled “Just a Day”, which offers valuable insights into life in a divided city and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

JUST A DAY: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

On 30 April 2008, we held a book release seminar for all those involved in this process. This gathering served the dual functions of celebrating the release of our book and commemorating the experiences of those who lived in a divided Berlin. We had a panel of interviewees who joined us to elaborate on their experiences.

While Alaina was filming, Chasity Crisp, who contributed to the photos used in the book, took pictures. You can view her photo montage here


The project made a splash at JFKS. Read an interview with Anna Zychlinsky and I from the JFKS student-run newspaper, The Muckraker.

Students utilized various online resources for the this project. Feel free to explore the resources here

The assignment sheets and accompanying rubrics for the various contributors to the project are available at this page