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University of Missouri

Thinking Globally

Peace Studies offers lecture on global perspectives.

Clarence Lo

Clarence Lo, director of the Peace Studies Program at MU, uses his experiences as a Chinese American to educate his students on the effects of exile and migration on global conflicts. Photo by Melody Galen.

On Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert hosts the political talk show as an honest American with good intentions but with a set, limited perspective.

Clarence Lo works to broaden the outlook of the students who walk into his classroom so then don’t end up like Colbert. As director of the Peace Studies Program, the sociology professor interacts with students attempting learn about the world.

Everyone is talking about having a global perspective and expanding their horizons,” Lo says. “But oftentimes, students see the globe in very narrow terms based on their own experiences and their own prejudices.”

Sophia McClennen

Sophia McClennen, director of the Global Studies Center at Penn State, will lecture on fostering a global perspective at home at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in Hulston Hall. Photo courtesy of Sophia McClennen.

To foster discussion among students about their own limitations, Lo is bringing to campus Sophia McClennen, professor of international affairs and comparative literature and director of the Global Studies Center at Penn State, to give a lecture — “Think You Have a Global Perspective? Think Again.” — at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in 7 Hulston Hall.

Author of Colbert’s America: Satire and Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), McClennen dissects Colbert’s satire to get at the intersections of culture, politics and society. McClennen will highlight not only how global thinking is inherently biased but also how students can gain a broader cultural understanding.

The lecture serves as the keynote to a peace studies initiative on migration, exile and global cultures.

What’s related to war and peace and conflict are these huge population movements that we’ve seen around the globe,” says Lo, citing migrations of people from Mexico and Central America to the U.S., from Africa to Spain, and from Islamic countries to European countries. “We’re trying to build understandings of countries and cultures that are migrating around the world in the hope that more policies relating to their human rights will be respected and brought to the forefront.”

Lo knows firsthand what it’s like to be an outsider. His parents moved from China to the U.S. in 1942. After the Chinese Revolution brought communism to China in 1949, Lo’s family immediately came under suspicion.

There was basically a lack of understanding of China and things Chinese — they were just the enemy, communists,” Lo says. “This is where peace studies comes in. Through understanding and scholarly research, you begin to understand a foreign country such as China, not as your enemy, but as the country that it is.”

Many faculty who teach in the Peace Studies Program have family experiences of exile and migration and have academic careers that highlight the movements of diverse populations and the effect they have on global conflict, including Spanish Professor Michael Ugarte, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Spain after the Spanish Civil War, and History Professor Kerby Miller, who is of Irish ancestry.

The Peace Studies Program is planning a spring 2014 colloquium where faculty will speak about their experiences.

It’s increasingly complicated to understand yourself, your heritage, your country of origin, the society you live in and current U.S. relations to that country,” Lo says.