Saturday, May 28, 2016

Come to HUFS, see the world

Five years ago in a Beijing hotel, I saw an ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education for a position as Senior Lecturer at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS). At the time, I was on a short-term contract as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Tsinghua University with little certainty about the future. With my PhD less than a year old and only a handful of publications, I was very far from my current job security as a tenured associate professor in Umeå. Yet, the world laid open with nothing holding me back so I submitted an application. A month later, after a rather confused phone interview in Osaka I landed the contract with a one-way air ticket to Seoul.

In the end, I spent three fascinating years at HUFS, meeting many remarkable people, like my super-bright student Sarah with whom I later came to co-author a paper on the domestic Korean climate change debate. During those years, I also travelled like never before, in part due to necessity (our faculty dorm room was simply unbearably small and hot for a small family) but primarily out of choice. I would not say that all the travelling gave me a “global perspective” or anything but it exposed me to snippets of alternative lifeforms and realities. In part I fear I also became a bit of the person I once mocked. But still, when making bulgogi in Gothenburg the other week, I realized that the journey is very much with me even as I never felt more settled. For more on that, once we get everything in order, there will soon be some pictures from our new home at Lyktvägen 5A in Tomtebo.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lego Creators

This picture is an excellent illustration of why being on parental leave with a 3.5 years old can be pretty magical when it is no longer only about changing diapers and being sleep-deprived...

Sunday, May 01, 2016

May Day

After a few days of icy cold rain, spring finally made it to the West coast of Sweden. Running around with this little fellow in the sun, it feels like we are in for a summer of truly great adventures!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Overcoming determinism

In retrospect, social democracy’s greatest achievement was not that it managed to strike an appropriate balance between equality and economic growth but that it realized that greater equality, made possible through broad social investments, was in fact the key to sustained economic growth. Similarly, ecomodernism is not so much about finding some ideal balance between environmental protection and material well-being, that golden ratio often referred to as “sustainable development”, but rather about highlighting that only through rapidly accelerating global growth, essentially a renewed modernity, will it be possible to harness the technologies necessary to safely navigate the Anthropocene and restore the natural world.

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With William soundly asleep on the other side of the window, I type these words into my word processor. This is my third day of official Swedish parental leave and I know that my time is measured. Reading Bronislaw Szerszynski’s latest trashing of ecomodernism in Environmental Humanities has left me unusually sad and frustrated. I try to tell myself that this is no different from in the past, that it was no easier for Eduard Bernstein or anyone else who has ever tried to challenge Marxist dogma and determinism. I wonder what, if anything, it would take to make people like Szerszynski come around and realize that violence and exploitation are not “structural” or that “winners” do not necessitate “losers”?

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Babyland

This winter has been one of extremes as we have struggled to find a sleeping pattern that fits both William and Eddie. Living in a small apartment, the kids tend to wake each other up, leaving me with little other choice than taking William out for long walks so that Eddie can still go to the preschool in the morning.

Despite many attempts to delay his evenings, William keeps falling asleep around 5.30 pm and waking up, seemingly refreshed, ten hours later at 03.30 am. As a consequence, that is when I too have to get up and take the stroller out along our little creek. To stay warm during cold winter nights, I tend to pick up a large coffee at Statoil which has resulted in that I now know the staff working there quite well. In light of my previous obsession with collecting air miles and award travel, it is only expected that I have also moved on to collecting free coffee coupons at Statoil (even as I have to admit that it is somewhat less aspirational than flying around the world in premium cabins)…

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One Flew South

When travelling without kids, small things like being able to enjoy a slow and quiet lunch at the airport become almost magical. Before leaving Atlanta we had the fortune of doing just that at One Flew South which repeatedly has been rated one of the best airport restaurants in the world. As expected, the food was incredible and so was the glass of Bernhard Ott’s “Am Berg” Grüner Veltliner.

Two days later, terror has again struck in the heart of Europe, leaving dozens of innocent people dead with no other purposes than fuelling yet more hate, division and extremism on all sides. More than ever, it is important to remember that, despite all the recent darkness, the world as a whole has never been this peaceful. It is imperative to not let these kinds of isolated events make us lose sight of the greater picture and the hope that the Enlightenment project still holds if we remain true to its cosmopolitan values.

Friday, March 18, 2016

It is morning again in America

As the sun rises over the Peach State, jetlagged Europeans gather over their conference programmes and flat whites. Since Wednesday, the ISA annual convention is in full motion with hundreds of panels covering every topic remotely related to the study of International Relations. This is my first visit to Atlanta proper and the view (above) from Anna’s and my room at Aloft definitely inspires some Stadtbummel.

It is strange with America, every time I land here I am overwhelmed by the same simultaneous feelings of extreme familiarity and alienness. For better or worse, the United States remains a world to its own, full of paradoxes that somehow always evade my political intuitions.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring

Barely had I finished complaining about the endless winter in my previous blog post when the skies turned all blue and I found myself looking for my sunglasses, a copy of “Pretentiousness: Why It Matters” by Dan Fox and, of course, a bottle of balcony borgoletto. With William turning 15 months yesterday, one can truly feel his excitement as he sets off into the spring:

In the outside world, many things remain frustratingly dark. The Republican primaries have been one long echo from our savaged past with its hypermasculinities, bigotry and reactionary irrationalism. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders may rightfully have criticized the influence of money over politics and advocated many good things from criminal justice reform to universal healthcare, yet his narrow-minded isolationism, protectionism and broken climate policies (for more on that, Ted Nordhaus just published an excellent op-ed) are all worrying signs in a time when the world needs integration and solidarity more than ever.

In other news, today marks five years since the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. At the time, Anna and I were living in Hong Kong and I remember that we were just about to board a flight down to Vietnam for the weekend when the news broke of the 9.0 megathrust earthquake. Yet, despite that the earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15 000 people, the world’s attention soon shifted almost completely to the nuclear disaster unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Even if that accident still has not caused any direct deaths, many people took it as evidence that nuclear was inherently unsafe. Rereading my own posts here on Rawls & Me, I have to admit that I too was swept along by the anti-nuclear hysteria that followed. Yet, in retrospect, I think that, more than anything, it was precisely the Fukushima accident that made me so strongly pro-nuclear. After all, if a technology can withstand one of the most massive earthquakes in recorded history followed by a 13 meter tall tsunami and numerous aftershocks without causing any fatalities (despite a terrible safety culture), then that should clearly count to the merits of said technology. Especially when considering the hundreds of thousands who die from fossil energy annually or the fact that an exclusive focus on renewable energy would condemn much of the world’s population to chronic poverty.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Tomtebo

The snow keeps falling and spring seems as distant as ever. Yet, in less than three months it will be June and we will have moved into our newly built home right at the lake in Tomtebo.

I have never been much into home ownership but the housing market in Umeå is what it is. After spending months looking for somewhere more permanent with hundreds of people answering the same ads, we simply gave up. With two small (and highly destructive) kids, we are obviously not the best tenants and I can understand why landlords pick someone else given how strong demand is. So, in the end, we had little other choice than buying. Nevertheless, had someone told me five years ago that I would end up buying a row house in Northern Sweden, it would definitely have been a stretch to my imagination.

While we still do not know the exact number, the street name will be "Lyktvägen" once all the houses are built so please come and visit!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Glasses

As someone who has been wearing contacts for nearly twenty years, it feels odd to suddenly have a pair of glasses that I actually feel quite good about wearing. Having said that, I am still not sure if I dare to wear them when presenting at the ISA in Atlanta in little more than a week’s time but the fact that I am even considering it shows that I am slowly coming to terms with my new bespectacled identity.