By George Mauzy
Ohio University's 2008 Baker Peace Conference, "Making Peace, Ensuring Justice: Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in Comparative Perspective," will take place April 3-4 on the Athens campus.
The conference, hosted by Ohio University's Contemporary History Institute, will take an in-depth look at the impact truth and reconciliation commissions have had in Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America. First presented in 1984, the annual conference offers an opportunity to explore how peace can be established and maintained throughout the world. It is funded by the John and Elizabeth Baker Peace Studies Endowment, established by Ohio University President Emeritus John C. Baker and his wife, Elizabeth.
"These reconciliation commissions are often held apart from each other with no interaction between the involved parties, so this year's conference will promote dialogue and comparisons across the board," Contemporary History Institute Steven Miner said.
Steven Stoltenberg, the U.S. State Department's foreign affairs analyst for Poland and the Baltic States, will kick off the conference with a keynote address at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in Baker University Center Theatre. He will discuss how Poland is coming to terms with its tumultuous communist past and whether its chosen methods have been successful.
"Poland is in a unique situation when it comes to reconciling its communist past because many members of the controlling political party (Solidarity) are determined to punish the people who participated in or helped the communist government commit crimes against humanity," Stoltenberg said. "These people aren't interested in forgiveness or amnesty for the violators, so there has been a lot of debate."
In his State Department role, Stoltenberg provides analytical assessments for the president, secretary of state and other senior policymakers. He also organizes conferences and teaches at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute. He has earned three Superior Honor awards (presented to groups or individuals for a special act or service or sustained extraordinary performance).
Stoltenberg studied Polish at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, in 1984 and lived in Poland in the late 1980s. During his stay, he witnessed a visit from the pope, the country's first post-war partially free elections, the 1988 strikes and the 1989 roundtable negotiations that led to the end of communism later that year.
He also has directed the Foreign Service Institute's Central European area studies programs and taught in the sociology department at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Baker Peace Conference concludes Friday, April 4, with three panel discussions in the Baker University Center Ballroom. Each panel will feature three renowned scholars and a moderator.
The "Barriers to Reconciliation," panel will be moderated by Associate Professor of Political Science Jim Mosher and take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Participants will include:
- Steve J. Stern, the Alberto Flores Galindo Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has studied political violence and memories of "dirty war" dictatorships and civil war in Latin America since the '70s. His most recent book, "Battling for Hearts and Minds: Memory Struggles in Pinochet's Chile, 1973-1988," won the 2007 Bolton-Johnson Prize for best book on Latin American history.
- Joanna Poznanska, professor of international business at Seattle Pacific University and an emigrant of Poland. She is an expert on the economic impact of politics and the economies of the transition governments in Central Europe.
- Lyn S. Graybill, an instructor on African politics and international relations at Georgia Tech and the author of two books about politics in South Africa. As an expert on transitional justice mechanisms in Africa, she has had numerous academic articles published on the political situations in South Africa, Sierra Leone and Rwanda. She recently received a grant from the U.S. Institute of Peace to study reconciliation perceptions among Sierra Leone's religious leaders.
The "Successes of Reconciliation" panel will be moderated by Assistant Professor of History David Curp and take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Participants will include:
- Greg Grandin, professor of history at New York University, who won the Latin American Studies Association's 2000 Bryce Wood Book Award for best book on Latin America for "The Blood of Guatamala." He is a past member of the United Nations Truth Commission for Guatemala and recently was awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, Ryskamp Fellowship Program.
- Richard E. Pipes, Baird Professor of History emeritus at Harvard University. He is the former director of East Europe and Soviet affairs for the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan. In 1992, he served as an expert witness in the Russian Constitutional Court's Soviet Union Communist Party trial. In 2007, he received the National Humanities Medal. He is the author of the 2006 book "Russian Conservatism and its Critics."
- Alison L. Des Forges, a senior adviser and board member for the Human Rights Watch. She is an expert in African history and is the author of the 2004 book "Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda." She has served as an expert witness in 11 genocide trials for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
The "Overview: Drawing Conclusions" panel will be moderated by Contemporary History Institute CIA Officer in Residence David S. Black and take place from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. Participants will include:
- T. David Curp, assistant professor of history at Ohio University. He is an expert on 20th century Poland, Soviet diplomacy, 20th century Catholicism and modern Ukrainian national movements. He authored the 2006 book "A Clean Sweep: The Politics of Ethnic Cleansing in Western Poland, 1945-1960."
- Patrick Barr-Melej, associate professor of history at Ohio University. He is an expert on modern Latin America, with a focus on the political and cultural history of 20th century Chile. He authored "Reforming Chile: Cultural Politics, Nationalism, and the Rise of the Middle Class" and is currently writing another book titled "Psychedelic Chile: Youth, Counterculture, and Politics on the Road to Socialism and Dictatorship."
- Nicholas M. Creary, assistant professor of history at Ohio University, is an expert in African history and a member of the African Studies Program Advisory Committee. He is working on a book titled "Returning to the Source: South African Literary Cultural Nationalists, 1918-1945." He has worked with displaced people in Mozambique and Angola through the Save the Children Foundation and Catholic Relief Services.
Updated at 12:58 p.m. March 20, 2008.