UW Today

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April 17, 2008

Migdal to deliver Provost Distinguished Lecture

Tools such as microfinance, better health care and enlightened social policies are alleviating poverty in Third World nations. They’re changing not only what happens at kitchen tables and tiny kiosks, but also in schools, financial markets and key social institutions. Seattle-based nonprofits, some based on a new model, are making many of these changes happen.

Joel Migdal, longtime professor of international studies at the UW, will explain these developments when he delivers the spring Provost Distinguished Lecture on Tuesday, April 29. Sponsored by Provost Phyllis Wise and the UW Alumni Association, the twice-annual series highlights an important topic and features an internationally recognized UW faculty scholar.

Fostering Democracy from the Ground Up is scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. in 130 Kane. The lecture is free but seating is limited, and registration is required. Call 206-543-0540 or visit http://www.uwalum.com.  

In a recent interview, Migdal talked about his lecture.

When the Civil War ended, he said, the American economy grew rapidly, and capitalists needed much more labor for their fast-growing companies. They opened the doors, sometimes reluctantly and only as much as necessary, to people they’d previously scorned, many of them migrants or immigrants. This launched a vast transformation of American society that brought money and status to people who’d not had either.

Today, Migdal continued, strategies such as microfinance — which funds tiny businesses — and socially oriented technologies, such as cell phones — which connect distant villages with national and international markets — are raising Third World people out of poverty in somewhat the same way post-Civil War jobs gave rising income to previously disenfranchised people.

Nonprofits and foundations based in Seattle are helping fuel this work among the poor. In a number of cases, the nonprofits are bypassing governments, working largely on their own or with similar organizations in the host area. These efforts, Migdal said, are raising whole groups of people, giving them voices, gradually forcing powers-that-be to listen.

Migdal holds the Robert F. Philip chair in International Studies, and has taught at the UW since 1982. His awards include the Governor’s Writers Award for Palestinians: The Making of a People (1994), the UW Distinguished Teaching Award (1993), the Student Service Award in international studies (1992), and the Marsha Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award ( 2006).

A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Migdal has also held a Fulbright-Hayes Research Fellowship (1985-86), a Harvard University Graduate Prize Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate from Harvard University.