September 4, 2008  

AMHERST, Mass. — The Colloquium on the Constitution and the Imagining of America will convene its semiannual meeting at Amherst College Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26 and 27, to discuss the question “America in Decline?”
The following talks will take place at the college’s Alumni House and are free and open to the public:

Sept. 26
•    3:30 p.m., Welcome—Chris Dole, assistant professor of anthropology at Amherst.
•    4 to 5:30 p.m., “Torture and Democracy: What Now?”—Darius Rejali, professor of political science at Reed College; moderated by Carleen Basler, assistant professor of American studies and sociology at Amherst.

Sept. 27
•    9 to 10:30 a.m., “American Decline: The Birth of the Mono-Culture”—Mark Edmundson, University Professor at the University of Virginia; moderated by Cathy Ciepiela, professor of Russian at Amherst.
•    11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., “A Brand New Day for America: Invigorating Diplomacy and National Security in a New Era”—Mara Rudman, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and president of international consulting firm Quorum Strategies; moderated by Nina Siulc, assistant professor of legal studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
•    12:30 to 2:30 p.m., “America in Decline?” (lunch and roundtable)—Edmundson, Whitehead Senior Fellow of The New America Foundation Michael Lind, Rejali and Rudman; moderated by Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst.

About the guest speakers

A wide-ranging critic who interprets literary, educational and social trends, Mark Edmundson, University Professor at the University of Virginia, is the author of Nightmare on Main Street: Angels, Sado-Masochism, and the Culture of Gothic; Literature Against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida: A Defense of Poetry; Towards Reading Freud: Self-Creation in Milton, Wordsworth, Emerson and Sigmund Freud; and Kings of Rock and Roll, which will be published in the fall of 2009. He also is editor of Wild Orchids and Trotsky / Messages from American Universities, which discusses scholars’ viewpoints on the current debates over liberal education. In addition, he writes articles and reviews for a number of publications and is contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine, Raritan and Civilization. His has served as a Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change Fellow and has received the Keats-Shelley Association Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Michael Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow of The New America Foundation, is the author, with Ted Halstead, of The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics. He is also the author of Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics, What Lincoln Believed and The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution, among others. He has been an editor or staff writer for The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and The New Republic, as well as executive editor of The National Interest, and written for The Atlantic Monthly, Prospect (U.K.), New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times and other leading publications. He has also appeared on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, CNN’s Crossfire, and PBS’s The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Darius Rejali, professor of political science at Reed College, is a nationally recognized expert on government torture and interrogation. Iranian-born, Rejali has spent his scholarly career reflecting on violence and the causes, consequences and meaning of modern torture in our world. Torture and Democracy, his most recent book, is an examination of the use of torture by democracies in the 20th century. It won the 2007 Human Rights Book of the Year Award from the American Political Science Association and placed Rejali in the international media spotlight, positioning him among the world’s preeminent scholars on torture. In addition to Torture and Democracy, Rejali penned Torture and Modernity: Self, Society and State in Modern Iran, as well as many recent articles on topics including masculinity and torture, media representations of torture, the political thought of Osama bin Laden, the history of electric torture, the practice of stoning in the Middle East, the treatment of refugees who have been tortured and theories of ethnic rape.

As senior fellow at The Center for American Progress, Mara Rudman focuses on national security issues and advises Middle East Progress. She is also president of Quorum Strategies, an international strategic consulting firm. From 1997 to 2001, Rudman held various positions at the White House, including deputy national security advisor to President Clinton and National Security Council Chief of Staff, where she coordinated and directed activities among the various federal departments and agencies with defense and foreign policy responsibilities. In that capacity, she also played a role on Middle East peace efforts. Prior to that, she worked as chief counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Chairman Lee Hamilton. She has also worked as a litigation associate at Hogan & Hartson and, early in her career, clerked for Stanley Marcus, now of the Eleventh Circuit, in the Southern District of Florida. Rudman now serves on the Middle East Investment Initiative board, on the board of advisors of the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College, on the Aspen Institute Middle East Strategy Group and as an Aspen Institute Crown Fellow. She is also a prolific media commentator.