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Introduction to Shifting Paradigms

by Johannes Lukas Gartner

Johannes Lukas Gartner served as the editor for Shifting Paradigms (Humanity in Action Press 2016), a collection of research essays written by the 2015 cohort of Diplomacy and Diversity Fellows. He wrote the introduction of this book, which is available for purchase from Amazon


Paradigm shifts occur when the usual or accepted ways of doing or thinking are found to no longer be fit for purpose. The rapid onslaught of new challenges to the international order in recent years has left many feeling that history is accelerating, leaving established practices in its wake.

After the West’s comparatively cozy 1990s, in which the authors of this book and I grew up, in which Europe was still busy growing together, not apart, and in which the United States seemingly had time to spend weeks pondering over a President’s aversion to broccoli and his successor’s extramarital affair, the new millennium has brought with it successive waves of turbulent change.

First international terrorism, then the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression, and now the biggest movement of people since the Second World War in what Europe refers to as its migration “crisis.” These are among the most recent threats to Western political structures, national and international, that were constructed in direct response to the challenges of the Depression and the disruption caused by the Second World War. Threats that came at a time of economic, ideological, and political fragility, as the West mustered its relative decline in a world order no longer comprehensible in the bipolar terms of previous decades.

New answers are needed as the world again enters a period of great turbulence. Conservatives have been quicker off the mark, offering responses ranging from resurgent border regimes to government surveillance of citizens and bans on burqas. Across all political divides, policymakers today passionately talk about integration, when what they really mean is assimilation. Outpourings like these have rightly given progressives reason to worry.

What we need are fresh minds to find solutions to the challenges we face. The authors of the following articles are singularly qualified as agents of change. We are convinced they will contribute to steering policy discussions in directions that are democratic, inclusive, and sustainable in the long run. Their perspectives and analyses demonstrate a nuanced ingenuity that today’s policymakers are often sorely missing.

This publication is divided into four sections showcasing our Fellows’ diverse interests. The first part of this book sheds light on changing approaches to international development. It starts with a thorough analysis of the (critiques to the) inclusion of governance in the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals. Written by David Bargueño, the piece seamlessly weaves together the works of several contemporary and historical thinkers from the social sciences to explain why good governance is so crucial to international development policies. Thijs van Lindert continues the conversation with a thought-provoking interview with Benjamin Barber. He shares the renowned American political theorist’s perspectives as well as some of his own on the growing influence of cities on diplomacy, diversity, and human rights in a world that is increasingly becoming urban. This first chapter closes with Lauren Reese, who spoke to representatives of international conflict management organizations about their increasing understanding of how power asymmetry and inequality between Western actors and in-country civil society organizations impact conflict transformation processes. In her article, Lauren examines the difficulties that beset efforts to increase local ownership in dialogue-based peacebuilding initiatives.

“Shifting Paradigms of Marginalization and Integration” is a chapter that deals with diverse European and American realities of marginalization and integration. Robert Alvarez urges European policymakers to consider and learn from the successes and failures of three decades of American programs and policies on gang diversion in the context of current policy aimed at deterring young European men from joining radical Islamist groups. He analyses characteristics shared by gang and ISIS recruits and lays out the similarities in terms of ideology and the causes of radicalization. Usra Ghazi picks up the baton with “Tunnel Vision,” examining the extent to which “immigrant integration” policy in the United States and Europe fails to address the role of religion in the lives of immigrants. Policymakers frequently neglect religion as a factor of integration, Ghazi finds, and she argues that for any immigrant integration policy to be truly effective, the role of religion and religious communities needs to be an intentional part of the process, and not merely a footnote. The chapter closes with Katie Hahn’s exploration of recent surveillance practices in the United States. Placing these in their historical context, Hahn powerfully argues that surveillance practices have long been driven by racism, feelings of cultural superiority, and xenophobia, and that it is this implicit motive that has caused millions of Americans to accept undemocratic surveillance practices without significant outrage or protest. The unstated assumption is that surveillance will not affect “real” Americans, but rather only those that are somehow Other.

Moving from marginalization and integration to diversity and belonging, the third chapter of this volume kicks off with a contemporary interpretation of Albert Camus’s writings in the context of current policy debates on assimilation. Pelin Ekmen intriguingly explores non-violent revolt as a state of being and state of mind to guide cooperative contact between individuals of different ethnic and cultural groups within a nation. To Ekmen, assimilation is not and cannot be a helpful means to overcome minority-specific experiences of injustice. Aasha M. Abdill follows with a call to move from diversity to inclusion: differentiating diverse spaces from inclusive ones, she argues for the value of the latter and proposes strategies to create inclusive spaces for intellectual dialogue based on her experiences as a Humanity in Action Fellow as well as interviews with key players at top international agencies committed to diversity and inclusion. Finally, in this section’s concluding work, Noam Schimmel considers the “loneliness of Jews” in France, the home of Europe’s largest Jewish population. He examines how French local and national government bodies have, or have not, responded to the alarming increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes since 2012. Schimmel comes to the conclusion that anti-Jewish attacks will only significantly decrease if and when French society at large starts demonstrating, convincingly and comprehensively, that it rejects such attacks.

Finally, “Shifting Paradigms of Realpolitik” investigates the impact of changing political constellations on states’ human rights agendas. Carly Goodman examines how the United States struggled to categorize people entering the country in the 1980s, letting Cold War concerns and racially charged domestic politics color who was awarded refugee status and who was deported or criminalized as an “illegal immigrant.” Her historical analysis comes as a timely reminder of the persistent roles played by foreign policy considerations and domestic politics in refugee and other migration policies. Iulianna Romanchyshyna, in turn, is concerned with the legacies of Cold War mentality in post-Soviet realms. In her investigation of hybrid warfare, she examines the Russian involvement in recent conflicts in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. Often under the guise of protecting the rights of minorities in these territories, Romanchyshyna argues that these countries have effectively become targets of Russian aggression as a result of Russia’s battle against a West that it sees encroaching on territory it continues to deem part of its sphere of influence. In the final article of this volume, Thijs van Lindert argues that human rights will only maintain their place in international politics if they can find champions among emerging nations. Van Lindert traces the emergence of the international human rights regime and wonders if it might soon fall apart.

In addition to the works included in this volume, Humanity in Action has posted several Fellows articles on cross-border issues of policy and pluralism online. These include Umut Pamuk’s analysis of the plight of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Sandrine Gil’s investigation of the state of Roma integration in France, and Nadiya Kostyuk’s perspectives on the present and future structures of internet governance. Convinced of the potential that our Senior Fellows’ insights and perspectives bear, we look forward to the debates we hope these essays will provoke.


Johannes Lukas Gartner


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About the Author 

Johannes Lukas Gartner serves as Program Director at Humanity in Action Germany. Previously, he worked on public sector projects as a Freelance Consultant at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants as well as at a variety of other places ranging from the Centro Nacional de ComunicacioĢn Social, a press freedom and civil society communications NGO in Mexico City, to Lilofee, an independent children's toy store in Berlin-Kreuzberg. He completed internships and research visits at places including the United Nations Development Programme in Panama City, the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna and multinational law firms in Istanbul and London. Johannes is a law graduate of King's College London as well as Humboldt University Berlin and an international relations graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Living in Berlin, Johannes was born and raised in Austria. He is a Humanity in Action Senior Fellow (Diplomacy & Diversity Fellowship Program 2014).

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