Interview with Chip Gagnon--July 11, 2013

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Interview with Chip Gagnon, professor of Political Science and currently the chair of the Department of Politics at Ithaca College. Interview conducted in Ithaca, NY on July 11, 2013. Gagnon is the author of the book The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s (published by Cornell University Press in 2006), which won the 2005 American Political Science Association's Prize for the Best Book on European Politics and Society and was Co-Winner of the 2006 Council for European Studies Best First Book Award.

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Interview Themes: Gagnon's academic background and how he came to the field (1:00); How Gagnon's study of languages affected the way he does political science (4:00); Gagnon's view of the advantages and disadvantages of area studies for our field (6:45); On how Gagnon's dissertation on Soviet-Yugoslav relations in the 1960s came into being (12:00); Responses of people at the time to Gagnon's dissertation (15:50); Gorbachev and Yugoslavia (18:04); How Gagnon came to write The Myth of Ethnic War (20:42); On whether the Yugoslav federal system was sustainable (23:04); How Gagnon's came to "demobilization" as a way of explaining what happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990s (24:48); Importance of the structure of the communist party in Yugoslavia for post-communist developments there (28:27); Was nationalism built into the communist system in Yugoslavia? (32:15); How important is history to what happened in Yugoslavia? (34:35); Gagnon's views on what constitutes a responsible use of history (38:30); To what extent should we attempt to think outside of constructed identities and pasts? (40:36); How much of what happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990s was the result of internal versus external events/interventions? (43:09); Comparison of the collapse of the USSR vs. Yugoslavia (47:15); Gagnon's views on Slobodan Milosevic (49:00); On "going astray" and Gagnon's approach to political science and attraction to ethnography and anthropology (51:12); How important are "the people" vs. elites and individual agency when thinking about Yugoslav history? (54:55); On courses Gagnon teaches on "Whiteness and Multiculturalism" and "Pirates, Mercenaries and Missionaries" and how they relate to Yugoslavia and his current project on democracy promotion (1:01:03); Where are the common problems and preoccupations with scholars who work on other parts of the world? (1:03:35); On what Western Europe could learn from Eastern Europe (1:06:48); How unusual is Ithaca in terms of the scholarly environment? (1:08:24); Gagnon's current work and interests (1:10:22)


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