Event Summary: Ukraine – June 23, 2014 (Boston)

Moira Pulitzer-Kennedy • June 26, 2014 • Boston, Event Summary

On Monday, June 23rd, Workbar Cambridge hosted Professor Asbed Kotchikian, who spoke with Civic Series attendees about current affairs in Ukraine. Dr. Kotchikian is a senior lecturer at the Global Studies Department at Bentley University where he teaches courses on the Middle East and former Soviet Union. During the last 10 years, Dr. Kotchikian has traveled extensively and lived in the Middle East and former Soviet Union. He has written, lectured, presented, and organized conferences on questions of identity and transformation of transnational (Diasporic) groups, foreign policies of small and weak states, national identity, and regional developments in the Middle East and Eurasia.

Laur Fisher, the event’s organizer, set the tone for the evening by welcoming the 26 attendees to Workbar and articulating the mission and vision of the Civic Series: to provide a safe space for communal learning and discussion of current affairs, where, sincerely, “there are no dumb questions.” She shaped that safe space by introducing that all questions are valid, and that she may step in from time to time to ask for elaboration or to keep the conversation on track.

This year’s events in Ukraine comprise one of many issues that Laur and other Civic Series participants wanted to learn more about. The Civic Series is thoroughly community oriented – Dr. Kotchikian engaged those present in lively conversation, with a commitment to authentically answering questions and making complex information accessible to the lay listener. Stressing the importance of understanding the past in order to make sense of the present, he gave a detailed overview of Ukraine’s history, and culminated with a discussion of the recent crisis which he described, at its most basic, as a civil war between the western and eastern parts of the nation (some would say, the Pro-West and Pro-Russian regions).

Throughout his talk, participants jumped in with questions and shared their viewpoints on various assertions Dr. Kotchikian made. Attendees’ knowledge and experiences varied hugely! While at least one person spent time living and working in Ukraine, another felt completely comfortable asking: “So…who is fighting who? And why?” The latter question illustrates what makes the Civic Series so special and compelling. It’s a place to learn and grow.

While Dr. Kotchikian was scheduled to speak from 6 to 7 pm, followed by a half hour of questions and answers, Laur ended up ushering folks out of Workbar at five minutes to 8 pm when they were scheduled to lock up!

We hope you’ll join us for the next event, and please get in touch if you’d like host a Civic Series!

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