Anthropologist Visits Campus for Cyber-Space Lecture

Anna D'alessandro


On Thursday, October 13 re­nowned anthropologist and Notre Dame Professor Carolyn Nordstrom visited campus. Her day included re­cording a podcast with Colgate Uni­versity President Jeffrey Herbst and two meals with Peace and Conflict Studies students, faculty and alumni. She also attended Associate Professor of Anthro­pology and Peace and Conflict Studies Nancy Ries’s class “Practices of Peace and Conflict,” in which students were reading Nordstrom’s book Shadows of War: Violence, Power, and International Profiteering in the 21st Century. In the evening, she gave a talk entitled “The Global Shadow of Tomorrow’s War” to a packed Love Auditorium as part of the Peter C. Schaehrer Memorial Lec­ture series. She spoke about her newest research which focuses on the issues of cyber-security.

An introduction by Kenneth Schanzer ‘66 provided a background on the lecture series. In its third year, the series was established and continues to commemorate and honor Schaehrer “not because he died, but because he lived.” Schanzer shared with the audi­ence how Schaehrer enriched Schan­zer’s life and talked in particular about the theme of caring.

Ries spoke next. She informed the audience that Thursday was Nordstrom’s third visit to campus and that Nordstrom’s work was fre­quently taught in Peace and Con­flict Studies classes at Colgate. She also explained that Nordstrom was to be the keynote speaker at Mo­hawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees’s UNSPOKEN Human Rights Conference, which occurred Friday in Utica. Ries asked Nord­strom to participate in the Schaeh­rer Memorial Lecture series after discussions with Director of the Upstate Institute, Ellen Kraly.

“When I consulted with…the Schaehrer alumni and Daniel Monk, Cooley Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, as well as William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Geography Ellen Kraly, Director of UNSPOKEN Peter Voge­laar and others involved in organizing UNSPOKEN, all thought Carolyn Nordstrom was a perfect choice – as she turned out to be,” Ries said.

Nordstrom opened her lecture by recounting a conversation she had with the first-year seminar that she is teaching. Her students did not think “our society is going to make it.” She further explained that, “The threads of society are unraveling because people have stopped caring.”

While the majority of her students thought that there would be no end to this destruction, others thought that society would begin to acknowledge and address this problem when it is on the brink of disaster. Nordstrom described herself as “flabbergasted by this startlingly prevalent viewpoint.”

“The world does not change by innovations, it changes by us,” Nord­strom said as she tied her story back to Schanzer’s introduction. “The Schaeh­rer lecture represents people who care and want to bring that to others.”

After continuing the thoughts of Schanzer and Ries about the lecture series, Nordstrom began to address the topic of cyber-security. She told the story of her iPhone being hacked a year and a half ago. As a result, infor­mation from her e-mail to her global positioning system had been made ac­cessible to strangers, whose intentions were unknown. When police and telephone companies were unfazed by her concerns, she began to research the world of hacking extensively.

“I plan to scare you, pretty badly, and I’m sorry,” she said about sharing her findings.

Nordstrom’s main point is that the world is changing.

“We have not been in a situation in the world for centuries and centuries in which individuals have the same means, resources and technology that militaries do,” Nordstrom said. She claims that the change the world is experiencing is that we are once again entering a time when individuals, transnational orga­nized crime groups, militaries and gov­ernments have this same access.

“With this change in the nature of power, individuals have to accept responsibilities that they never had to accept before,” Nordstrom said.

Nordstrom told the story of an in­terview she had with a 12-year-old boy in an airport. The boy believed that the world was coming to an end because no one in the generations above his was doing anything to stop it. She used the example to introduce her call to action.

“We are entering an era that is ab­solutely unthinkable that we need to start thinking about,” she said.

She urged the audience to use their imagination when contemplat­ing the material she presented. Fur­thermore, Nordstrom left them with a reminder that if everyone did just one thing, those things would add up to create a difference.

Ries reported receiving positive feedback from students about the lec­ture, but noted that they were “com­pletely chilled by the implications of what [Nordstrom] said.”

“I absolutely loved this lecture,” senior Nicole Nadal said. “I think Carolyn Nordstrom is an extremely engaging speaker who is great at be­ing able to get you to think about your own life and the ways in which you interact with the world around you in a new way.”

Contact Anna D’Alessandro at [email protected].