029: Jeremi Suri, 34


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

29: Jeremi Suri, 9-11-06

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Area of Research:
Education: Ph.D. in history, 2001, Yale University
Major Publications: Suri is the author of Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003) Jeremi Suri JPGrecipient of the 2003 Phi Alpha Theta Best First Book Award.; Arabic Language Edition of Power and Protest (Beirut: Al Hiwar Athaqafi, 2005); Indian Edition of Power and Protest (New Delhi: Viva Books Private Limited, 2005); Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2006) and The Global Revolutions of 1968 (New York: W.W. Norton, forthcoming 2006).
Awards: Suri is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including:
2006 Class of 1955 Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin;
2004 Dorothy and Hsin-Nung Yao Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin;
2004-2007 Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer;
2003 Phi Alpha Theta Best First Book Award;
2001 John Addison Porter Prize for the best dissertation in the humanities, Yale University;
2001 Hans Gatzke Prize for the best dissertation in international history, Yale University.
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Interdisciplinary Workshop Grant, administered through the Center for the Humanities, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2006-2007;
Vilas Associateship, University of Wisconsin, 2005-2007;
Collaborative Research Grant, Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy (WAGE) University of Wisconsin, 2005-2008;
Innovation and Development Grant, International Institute, University of Wisconsin, 2005;
National Fellowship, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 2003-2004;
Research Travel Grant, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), 2004;
Faculty Travel Grant, Center For European Studies, University of Wisconsin, 2003-2004;
Rockefeller Archives Center Research Grant, 2004;
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University, 2000-2001;
United States Institute for Peace Research Fellowship, 1999-2000;
Jacob K. Javits United States Department of Education Doctoral Fellowship, 1994-1998;
A. Bartlett Giamatti Yale University Graduate Fellowship, 1996-1998;
Yale Center for International and Area Studies Dissertation Fellowship, 1998-1999;
Smith Richardson Dissertation Fellowship in International Studies, 1998-1999;
Friends of Princeton University Library Manuscript Research Fellowship, 1998;
Yale International Studies Summer Travel Grant, 1997;
Ohio University Contemporary History Institute Russia Travel Grant, 1996;
Stanford University Undergraduate Research and Travel Grant, 1994;
Harvard University John M. Olin Fellowship in International Studies, 1999-2000, declined by recipient;
Fellowship in Public Affairs, Miller Center, University of Virginia, 2000-01, declined by recipient.
Additional Info:
Suri has had op-ed articles published in “The Seoul Times,” “Washington Times,” “San Francisco Chronicle,” and the “Wisconsin State Journal.”
Founder and editor (with Professor Sven Beckert) of Princeton University Press scholarly book series on “America in the World” and Editor, Encyclopedia of the Cold War (London: Routledge, forthcoming 2007), section on ideas, concepts, and institutions, and on the Editorial Board, Cambridge Dictionary of Modern World History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2007).
He is also a Senior Fellow, Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Personal Anecdote

Writing contemporary international history is often a strange experience. Sometime it feels more like a Woody Allen movie than a traditional scholarly existence. Here is a slice in the life of the new book project that I am completely on Henry Kissinger and the American Century.

In the spring of 2004 I received an email message from a name I did not recognize with the following subject line: “Message from Dr. Kissinger.” I was working on a book about the man, but I had never communicated with him. One of my crazy history colleagues must be pulling my leg, I thought. I was wrong. It turned out that the all-knowing Dr. K found out about my project, read my prior book, and wanted to meet me. I needed his instruction, he obviously thought.

“I will meet Dr. Kissinger whenever he would like,” I responded to his assistant’s inquiry. No playing hard to get for me. We met at his Park Avenue office in New York a month later. There was no small talk. For an hour-and-a-half he grilled me on my research and “how I could know” what I had written. We argued and I lost every point of dispute. “Why am I arguing with the man who negotiated with Mao,” I wondered halfway through this surreal experience. Suri and Kissinger JPGWhen he was finished, Kissinger dismissed me with the words: “You just don’t understand what it is like to make policy.” Okay, I thought, but that is a very convenient excuse for your controversial actions. Nice cop-out, Henry.

Kissinger asked me about my future research for my book about him. “I am taking my family to your hometown of Fuerth, Germany this summer,” I explained. “Why on earth are you doing that?” he responded. “I want to understand your early years and the social history that influenced your policies.” “You will learn nothing about me in Fuerth,” he growled. “It means nothing to me.”

I dragged the family to Germany anyway. On the Monday of my second week in the city’s Jewish archive, the main research supervisor told me that Kissinger was making a private visit to town with his brother, Walter. She only knew because her friend worked at the local press agency — the only press agency told about this visit. I immediately surmised that Kissinger would visit the old family apartment, in the old Jewish ghetto, that I had examined in prior days. I bolted for the neighborhood and spent about 3 hours sitting on the stoop, stalking the man. “So this is what I got a Ph.D. for,” I thought. “Maybe I should have chosen a more respectable profession — like the law.”

Kissinger arrived, finally, in a Mercedes with his brother and the mayor. He recognized me immediately and exclaimed, “What are you doing here.” I had 3 hours to plan my response. “I am researching you, Dr. Kissinger. You know, I have my own back channels.”

That moment broke the ice. Since then, we have met for extended discussions on numerous occasions. He remains manipulative and controlling. He does not really sit for interviews. Kissinger and I have, however, developed a working relationship that has provided me with important insights — some favorable, some critical — about his background, his development, and his historical legacy. He probably will not like my book, but I feel much more confident in my ability to write about him because of our relationship.

You see, Woody Allen was right. Ninety percent of life is about showing up. Sometimes that means answering email; sometimes it requires sitting on a stoop.


By Jeremi Suri

  • People of all kinds are now looking beyond the boundaries of the nation-state to understand the world around them. The end of the Cold War, the Internet, and the economic turbulence of the 1990s have raised public awareness about “globalization.” Environmental and human rights activism has inspired more attention to common interests across cultures. Most shocking, the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent “war on terrorism” have encouraged a sense of shared danger among the members of diverse societies.To help us comprehend what it means to think globally, scholars have begun to conceptualize history in these terms as well. By examining how states, peoples, and cultures interacted with one another in the past, we surely gain some leverage on understanding the present. To see globalization as a historic phenomenon is to recognize that the new technologies of our day are not necessarily the primary forces behind the interdependence of economies, the interpenetration of cultures, and, perhaps most worrying, the internationalization of terrorism. Studying the 1960s and détente in global terms reveals how ideas, institutions, and personalities transcended national boundaries before the Internet or the “war on terrorism.

    Power and Protest JPGThe Cold War, more than anything else, created a remarkable conjuncture among societies in the 1960s. Nuclear dangers elicited common fears of annihilation. International competition contributed to the growth of state-run bureaucracies. This was especially true for universities, which expanded in nearly every society to accommodate both a larger population of young citizens and state demands for more advanced technical training. Cold War rhetoric about capitalism and communism inspired rising expectations that, by the late 1960s, produced a common sense of disillusionment among culturally diverse men and women.

    To see the period in these terms, and détente’s function as counterrevolution, requires a global perspective that looks across national boundaries and within societies at the same time. It demands attention to various kinds of relationships: social, cultural, political, and diplomatic. To isolate one kind of interaction from another, simply re-creates the provinciality of national history on a wider geographical terrain. Understanding moments of global conjuncture, like the 1960s, calls for an international history that treats power as both multicultural and multidimensional. This involves following the interactions of ideas, institutions, and personalities at many levels. It also leads one to examine how policies, like détente, evolved from truly diverse, and often unintended, influences.

    An international history of this kind allows one to re-think many issues that animate historians and other fellow travelers in our global age. Analyzing power in multicultural and multidimensional terms adds to our understanding of human interactions. It also enriches the ways we remember the 1960s and the decade’s legacy for the twenty-first century. — Jeremi Suri in “Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Detente”, 262-63.About Jeremi Suri

  • “Suri’s portrayal of detente as counterrevolution is a brilliant rendition of the new diplomatic history. Linking social, demographic, and cultural developments to international politics and diplomacy, Suri shows how domestic protest inspired American, Russian, Chinese, French, and German leaders to collude with one another to stabilize their societies and preserve internal order. This bold and provocative book vividly illuminates the connections between domestic and international politics.” — Melvyn P. Leffler, University of Virginia reviewing “Power and Protest”
  • “This book heralds the emergence of a newly ambitious agenda in international history, Suri ingeniously links the domestic upheavals that convulsed so many societies in the 1960s with the emergence of the international regime known as detente, giving persuasive weight to his conclusion that “foreign policy is also social policy.” Drawing on prodigious research in American and European sources, Suri suggests that common features powerfully shape the lives of all modern states, regardless of their particular demographic, institutional, or ideological configurations. An impressive, original achievement.” — David M. Kennedy, Stanford University reviewing “Power and Protest”
  • “Power and Protest is superb in every respect–imaginatively conceived and elegantly written. This is the most ambitious attempt I have ever seen to explicate the meaning of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and its aftermath. I find the argument provocative and on the whole persuasive. Disparate events usually presented in separate national histories are conceptually connected in what may be seen as the first truly global history of that turbulent decade. This is a most important study that will have an electrifying effect on scholarship and, one hopes, on political leaders everywhere who seem to be grappling with the question of reform versus stalemate both domestically and externally. — Akira Iriye, Harvard University reviewing “Power and Protest”
  • “In the community of ‘sixties scholars,’ virtually all of us at one time or another have nodded sagely in agreement with the assertion that to truly understand the decade, one would need to undertake a comparative international history. In “Power and Protest,” Jeremi Suri boldly goes in the direction toward which the rest of us merely feebly gesture, and makes a singular contribution to our understanding of the 1960s in world history.” — Maurice Isserman, co-author of “America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s” reviewing “Power and Protest”
  • “Jeremi Suri has liberated us from the rigid formalism of “comparative history” to the more satisfying concept of “international history.” His fresh look at the 1960s links the elite world of diplomacy and international politics to shared, underlying social and cultural experiences, transcending national and class boundaries, to reveal a more complex, richer view of that unsettling moment. Suri’s work is ambitious, but he delivers with thoughtful, pioneering, and rigorous analysis. Here is history on a grand scale.” — Stanley I. Kutler, author of “Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon” reviewing “Power and Protest”
  • “This man is on the forefront of American Historical perspective. He is incredibly informative, helpful, friendly, and approachable. Probably one of the most pertinant classes at UW-Mad today.”… “love his lectures…. they sound like speeches and debates, they are great, interesting and easy to follow. He’s a very very very intelligent guy.”… “Friendly and intelligent.”… “Wonderful man–very entertaining and interested in what he is teaching.”… “The best prof I have had here at Madison. He is truly concerned about students, fair with homework, and gives lively/substantive lectures. Absolutely one of a kind!!!!!” — Anonymous Students

Posted on Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 3:49 PM

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