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A lecture on Color Revolutions, Arab Spring, and Youth Mobilization in East Asia from the East-European Perspective

By Caroline Hosey, Student Reporter
Mon. MARCH 6, 2017


On March 6, 2017, Professor Krzysztof Kozlowski, the vice director of the Warsaw School of Economics in Poland, gave a guest lecture discussing the color revolutions, Arab Spring, and East Asian youth mobilization. In this discussion, Professor Kozlowski challenged students to consider new perspectives and to think beyond their own cultural parameters when analyzing social movements.


The lecture started with an intriguing exercise in which the attendees reflected upon a simple question to see how different cultures would solve a problem. Professor Kozlowski told everyone to imagine having a lawn outside of a house and that we were aiming to keep tidy and well manicured. After having everyone imagine this well-manicured lawn, he asked the class, “What would you do to keep people off the grass?” Some people suggested building a fence; others proposed making a sign or telling people verbally not to walk there. After discussing ways in which people would resolve this problem, Professor Kozlowski then suggested a more diplomatic approach by building the lawn where people would not walk anyway or providing a nice walking path next to the lawn. Using this solution, everyone is pleased because the lawn would stay tidy, while others have a place to take a stroll. Professor Kozlowski explained that when trying to enforce social management, we should look for solutions that allow us to control the actions of others while also not infringing on their rights to do something.


While presenting this metaphor, Professor Kozlowski also explained that different cultures might come up with certain solutions, because of their cultural values or societal patterns of thinking and behavior. For example, an American may be more likely to state that we should build a fence during this exercise, while someone from France may suggest putting up the sign. He then explained that cultural limitations cause people notice only what they have been taught to perceive and that these assumptions and ways of thinking are based on sociological patterns.


Next, Professor Kozlowski explained that the theme of this discussion was that in our own cultures, what we see does not only depend on what we are looking at but what we are taught to notice. Often we don’t look outside of our own cultural and social parameters when analyzing a situation. Professor Kozlowski wanted students to reflect on the fact that every social system is organized with certain patterns and these social patterns require rules for task and problem-solving. Even scholars and academics make shortcuts by basing their analysis on assumptions, superstitions, and patterns. We do not really think beyond our social parameters, and many people never consider perspectives that are not customary. In this sense, Professor Kozlowski wanted to challenge students in this lecture to consider the color revolutions, Arab Spring, and youth movements in Asia from a new perspective.


After introducing the theme for this lecture, Professor Kozlowski showed photographs from the color revolutions and Arab Spring, many taken himself during his research. With each photo, he discussed the revolutions that occurred in countries such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Kurdistan. He then proposed a question about why regimes had not really changed, though the people were protesting. Professor Kozlowski explained that the citizens in these countries wanted to see democratic change, but it did not happen. Then he concluded that there is a bigger picture than what appears on the surface and we should look beyond what we are taught and ask questions to see these problems from a new perspective. He then concluded that we are never able to escape from assumptions because they define our personality, however, we should be conscious of them.


In an interview with Professor Kozlowski, he gave some advice for students who are studying political science or political journalism. He stated that in this field it is important to recognize changes in societies as well as our own limitations in perceiving them; however with this recognition, one should consider challenging his or her own perspectives to dig deeper than what one would see on the surface. By noticing the various interpretations of a movement, one can notice more than what has been taught to be seen. 


(Photo credit: Caroline Hosey)

Professor Kozlowski asked everyone to imagine having a lawn outside of a house and that we were aiming to keep tidy and well manicured. "What would you do to keep people off the grass?"
Professor Kozlowski encouraged students who are studying political science or political journalism to challenge his or her own perspectives and dig deeper than what one would see on the surface.
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