A quick note to readers of this blog who may have wondered what the deal was with the hiatus of the last several weeks: I’m back! I was in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, for the past three weeks, engaged in dissertation research at libraries and archives there, and the technical difficulties – between Internet speed and connectivity issues and a broken power adapter – made it difficult to keep the outside world posted of what was going on.
Fortunately, now that I’m back between the United States and Oxford, I hope to keep readers more plugged in with a frequent stream of blog posts. Other than a short essay on my experiences in Central Asia this January, one upcoming project – whether in the form of blog posts or a podcast with friends – will be to break down a book that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, Thinking the Twentieth Century by the late historian Tony Judt in conversation with the Yale historian Timothy Snyder. Judt, who initially wrote about French intellectual history, became one of the most dynamic essayists and public intellectuals in the Atlantic World since the late 1990s, offering commentary on a wide variety of topics from Louis Althusser as an intellectual fraud to the two-state solution for Israel to Tony Blair.
Snyder, whose work I greatly admire and have commented on elsewhere in this blog, was a close friend of Judt’s and managed to engage him in several in-depth sessions of Tischgespräche, carrying out, in effect, a conversational history of the twentieth century. It sounds like a beautiful work, and while I searched in vain during a layover at Heathrow to see if booksellers there had it, I should have a copy in my hands shortly and be blogging about it soon.
Beyond commentary on Thinking the Twentieth Century as a smallish upcoming project for this blog, I intend to keep up with the usual stream of academic stuff I’m working on. I’m giving a talk at SOAS entitled “Soviet Development Thought, the ‘Central Asian Consensus’, and Soviet Afganovedeniie. c. 1953-1991,” on February 19, for which I hope to have slides and a recording up shortly thereafter. On February 25, I’m speaking at the Rothermere American Institute in Oxford on “An ‘American Century’ for Afghanistan? Bob Nathan and American Development in Cold War Afghanistan, 1961-1972.” Similarly, a Prezi and MP3 should be available for that talk, too. From March 10 – March 19, I’ll be traveling to Israel with the support of the Tanenbaum Foundation along with several other Rhodes Scholars, and may be providing notes on that trip as well, too.
In short, things are busy but good. I’m really excited to be back in Oxford shortly, both to get down to some serious writing and presentations as well as to see some friends both old and new. Here’s hoping this frigid time of year finds readers feeling as warmly towards the future as I do now.