You say you want a revolution …

Jonathan Schell is just one of many prominent speakers at an exciting conference about global revolution that will be held at Northeastern Illinois University next week.

Jonathan Schell is just one of many prominent speakers at an exciting conference about global revolution that will be held at Northeastern Illinois University next week.

Well, you’ve got one.

Or a conference about revolutions past, present, and future, at least.

Co-organized by several faculty of Northeastern Illinois University and my  friend, activist and author Danny PostelThe Past and Future(s) of Revolution: A Global Exploration will be held March 9-12 at Northeastern Illinois University.

It looks to be a fascinating four days. 

Participants will get to hear from luminaries like Ron Aronson, Jonathan Schell and Stephen Kinzer, among many others.  The conference’s focus will be wide ranging in time and global in scope.

Postel’s role in the conference has been a major one, and the significance of the accomplishment grows when one considers that he works full time as a communications coordinator at Interfaith Worker Justice

He is also an accomplished author in his own right.

Beyond his many interviews and essays with philosophers and scholars, Postel is the author of Reading “Legitimation Crisis” in Tehran: Iran and the Future of Liberalism.  This slender collection of essays, published by Prickly Paradigm Press, is a worthwhile read that contests the image of an undifferentiated and fundamentalist Iran often portrayed in the mainstream media and seeks to bring a different image to Western audiences. 

Postel opens the book with an analysis of the paucity of attention given by the American left to Iranian students and others striving for a more open and democratic society.  This lack of notice becomes more remarkable when contrasted with the far more vigorous and sustained struggle many on the left have waged for decades on behalf of people in Central America battling for many of the same causes.

This essay is significant because of its carefully constructed argument-to his credit, Postel notes that almost all writing and advocacy on this issue has come from the American right-his explanation for the behavior, and his challenge to those who would advocate for a better world not to segregate their concerns based on geopolitical analyses.

The essay to which the title refers talks about the rock star status German philosopher Jurgen Habermas received during a tour in Iran earlier in the decade.  Again, Postel effectively contrasts the reception of Habermas, who developed the concept of the public sphere, with that in America, where Habermas taught for years one quarter at Northwestern and often sat alone in his office during office hours.

The book also includes an extensive interview with prominent Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, who served a stint in Iran’s notorious Evin prison.  

Although the essays take different forms and tackle a range of subjects, they are underpinned by Postel’s commitment to democratic, free and just societies in which open dialogue and intellectual discourse flourish.  He also, through his work and his example, is advocating for an actively engaged and supportive role that people who are not on the front lines can play in freedom struggles through their witness and their words.

Add in Postel’s nearly unparalleled ability to convene conversations-one of our fellow Sunday night hoopsters half jokingly said he has a “network that’s bigger than Sprint”-and one can see the political and moral concerns that coalesced with the organizing skills to conceive  and bring the conference to fruition.

Postel spoke yesterday about the conference on the radio show Worldview.   You can listen to the conversation here.


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