Pale Wire (Popscene)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Enter, If You Dare
Storming the ivory tower

One of my recent fascinations has been listening to recordings of lectures at the University of California-Berkeley available through the school's Web site. Besides teaching me all sort of things about astronomy, physics, and the Reconstruction movement after the American Civil War, it has also provided an interesting (and free) window into America's most notorious campus.

My favorite find so far is a guest lecture on Afghanistan Steve Coll delivered to a foreign policy seminar last year. Dude knows things.

Today I'm getting a real kick out Prof. Thomas Laqueur's Tuesday lecture on witchcraft and religious war in his European history class. It's interesting to consider how the clash of overlapping political and religious loyalities in previous centuries resemble the events we've all been watching this week in Denmark, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and elswhere.

Despite his university's reputation for browbeating its students with political rhetoric, Laqueur only lightly brushes the contemporary comparison, confessing how he himself is a bit unnerved to find his decades-old lectures taking on a familiar charge.

(Note for Andrew: Laqueur's lecture includes one of my favorite historical moments, and one that I think you'd have a particular interest in, The Defenestration of Prague.)