By Sarah R. Schwartz ’10
On Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the worst attack on American soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dr. Adrienne Redd, Adjunct Professor of Sociology, releases her new book, Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers: The Fate of the Nation in a Global World. The book discusses how to make sense of international catastrophes and transitions of the past two decades—starting from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, through the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and beyond.
In the introduction, Redd notes, “This book argues that to survive globalization the nation-state must evolve beyond the institution’s early conception in the 17th century. Specifically, I urge society to collectively re-imagine the following four historical properties of the nation-state: sovereignty, boundedness, unity and modernity.”
Redd also focuses on the ways in which global events are eroding and pressuring traditional political institutions. Her book, however grim the topic remains, offers an affirmative rather than apocalyptic perspective of the way in which the public and political leaders need to re-think the organization of the world.
In addition to teaching and writing, Redd is also the resident film discussion leader at the Hiway Theater in Jenkintown, Pa. To celebrate the release of her book, Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers will be available at the screening of Duck Soup (1933) at the Hiway Theatre on Sept. 28. For more information visit www.hiwaytheatre.org.
The Bulletin sat down with Redd to get in-depth look at Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers.
Q: First and foremost, what motivated you to research and write this book?
A: As many people were, I was stunned and saddened by the events of Sept. 11. I was teaching Contemporary Social Problems at Cabrini College at the time, and I tried to talk to my students about what had happened. As the foreign policy response of President George W. Bush evolved over the next two years, I was able to observe him and his advisers, particularly Donald Rumsfeld, trying to make sense of what had happened. The original discourse from President Bush and other world leaders and intellectuals seemed to postulate that “virtual nations,” of which al Qaeda seemed to be one, might be taking control of world politics. I tested this hypothesis over the next few years by reading 555 editorials and letters to the editor on crises, such as that of Sept. 11. I found that it was an incorrect hypothesis. The purpose of research and writing my dissertation and book was to open-mindedly test various theories about the trajectory of world order.
From the book:
“We are seeing something new here…”
By early 2002, the Bush administration was preparing the American public for the invasion of Iraq. The Secretary of Defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld, made statements in which it seemed he was groping to understand military conflict between a nation-state and a non-state.
Like Rumsfeld, scholars and other authors had been scrambling to understand what was happening. They were responding to the events of the final decade of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, asking: What is going on with the nation-state? Is a “postnational” era dawning, in which the assumptions about world order will no longer revolve around the nation-state? If the nation-state is indeed breaking down, what will the emergent organization look like? Will the world decline into disconnected chaos like that seen in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire? What will the nation-state become when it is not shaped by the tug-of-war between capitalism and communism?
Footnote: Transcript, Press Conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, April 25, 2002.
Q: What was the biggest challenge and or triumph during the research/writing process?
A: Fulfilling my responsibilities as a professor, mother and wife were the biggest challenges. At the time I entered doctoral research my second child was born. Doing the research was difficult but much easier than being a mom.
Q: How do you hope Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers will be read and/or used?
A: I hope that everyone who wonders what gigantic shift is underway in world affairs will read the book and will actually talk differently about our nation and other nations because they realize that how we talk affects political reality. I am using the book as a textbook for the University Seminar Understanding Global News this semester and I hope to continue to expand the book for use as a text for other professors.
Q: What are future plans and goals? Are there any other projects in the works?
A: Last spring of 2010, I wrote a book with the students of the course titled The Sociology of Whiteness. I am in the process of completing that as a book. I will also bring out an updated, expanded 2011 (10th anniversary) edition of Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers, just as Thomas Friedman did with The World is Flat. I am also working on a book on the changing meaning of nation-state boundaries, and would like to complete a book I began in the 1990s titled A Terrible Beauty, about how political activism transforms activists’ lives.
(Photo Credit: Robin Trautman)