UW News

September 25, 2019

Joel Migdal, founder of International Studies Program, to mark UW retirement with public lecture, workshop, Oct. 3

UW News

Joel Migdal retiring Jackson School professor founded the UW international studies program

Joel Migdal

Joel S. Migdal, professor in the University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies, will celebrate retirement after 39 years at the UW on Oct. 3 with a daylong workshop featuring current and former students, followed by a lecture on “State and Society: Then and Now.”

Migdal has been the Robert F. Philip Professor of International Studies, with an adjunct appointment in political science, and now becomes a professor emeritus. He joined the UW in 1980 and was the founding chair of the UW’s International Studies Program.

As part of what the Jackson School is calling Joel S. Migdal Day, several dozen of his current and former students will gather at the UW Club for a roundtable discussion on aspects of his work. This will run from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and cover topics such as law and society, the Middle East today, the comparative politics of states and societies and the current state of higher education.

After the workshop, Migdal will give his lecture on “State and Society” at 5 p.m. in Room 210 of Kane Hall, followed by a reception. Both the workshop and lecture are open to the public.

Speaking to the topic of his coming talk, Migdal said he emphasizes to students in introductory international studies classes that United States foreign policy stayed fairly consistent from the end of World War II through the Cold War and the end of the 20th century.

The Cold War and its aftermath, he said, saw all U.S. administrations sharing two related concerns:

  • That the U.S. role in the world would entail “being everywhere all the time,” taking the lead in all international crises and affairs worldwide, and
  • That such a global role might bankrupt the U.S., creating the need for allies and for the U.S. to take action through multilateral organizations

“The early 2000s saw a continued worldwide U.S. presence, but now the neoconservatives felt that multilateralism was antiquated,” Migdal said. “To my mind, this was a significant cause of the 2008 economic crisis.”

He added: “The Trump administration is the first to contract the U.S. role altogether, leading to an isolationism not seen since before World War II.”

Migdal’s four decades at the UW have brought him several honors. He received a Distinguished Teaching Award in 1993, a Washington State Governor’s Writers Award in 1994 and the Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in 2008. Before joining the UW, Migdal was an associate professor of government at Harvard University, and a senior lecturer at Tel-Aviv University.

He has seen many changes in his long tenure, in world affairs as well as more prosaic scenarios.

Migdal described how in the years after he returned to the U.S. in 1975 following three years abroad, the sound of offices themselves had changed: “Gone were the striking of typewriter keys, the whirring of the mimeo machine, the characteristic ring of the telephone, the clackety-clack of the adding machine,” to be replaced by “an odd medley of beeps, pulsing sounds and paper shuffling out of copy machines.

“Little did I imagine how all these sounds presaged changes in how I would write, research, and teach, let alone changes in interpersonal relations.”

He’s at work on a book project under the title: “Who, Then, Will Speak for America?: The Creation and Unraveling of the American Public” and continues to write articles and review manuscripts. He intends to split his time between Seattle and Jerusalem.

“Retirement,” he said, “is not looking like a week of Sundays.”

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For more information, contact Monique Thormann, Jackson School director of communications, at 206-685-0578 or thormm@uw.edu; or Migdal at migdal@uw.edu.