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A sabbatical at the University of Oxford, England’s oldest institution of higher learning, gave Ilan Peleg, Charles A. Dana Professor of Social Science, an opportunity to begin writing a new book, explore new intellectual territory, and gather fresh material for his Lafayette classes.

Peleg’s five-month odyssey at Oxford began in early September 2002 and concluded last month. Having spent his previous sabbaticals at some of America’s most prestigious universities — Princeton, Harvard, and Penn — this was Peleg’s first one abroad.

He describes his link with Oxford as “dual citizenship.” He was appointed a Senior Associate Member of Oxford’s St. Antony’s College, elected by the permanent faculty among a large pool of applicants from all over the world. Peleg had specific reasons why he applied to St. Antony’s at a university with no less than 39 colleges: It is the most internationalized of all Oxford colleges in terms of its student body, 90 percent of which is non-British; it is one of the very few colleges dedicated exclusively to graduate work; and the global expertise there is “truly astounding.” St. Antony’s has eight area studies centers, each covering a different part of the globe. Peleg was associated with two centers — one dealing with the Middle East and one with Europe.

“Because of my interest in international affairs, I decided St. Antony’s would be an ideal Oxford institution to be associated with,” says Peleg. He was not disappointed.

During his stay, Peleg began working on his seventh book, tentatively entitled Democratizing the Hegemonic State. “This is easily my most ambitious project to date, both theoretically and empirically,” he explains. “It deals with political transformation, and especially democratization, in the early 21st century. While in the past I dealt with the Middle East, U.S. foreign policy, and human rights, this project is considerably broader.”

Government and law major Noah Goldstein ’04 (Barrington, R.I.) has assisted Peleg with research on the book, examining the foreign policy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last summer as an EXCEL Scholar. In Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, students collaborate with faculty on research while earning a stipend.

Peleg’s second affiliation in the UK was with the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, the largest institution of its type in Europe. Peleg was one of just four Skirball Visiting Fellows selected from a pool of 70 scholars. At OCHJS, located in a “beautiful, yet haunting manor, the kind of place that gave Agatha Christie inspiration for horror stories,” Peleg lectured and wrote about the politics of Israel, the country in which he was born and raised. While at OCHJS, he exchanged ideas with other faculty and gave several lectures. He also worked informally with graduate students from countries such as Australia, Norway, Germany, Slovakia, and Romania.

“I found the Oxford environment very conducive for reflection on my work,” says Peleg. “I had access to the large number of libraries connected to the university. I also had much interaction with professors from the colleges at Oxford. I took part in several seminars and through them I met a lot of interesting people from different fields of study. I intend to continue connections with the university in years to come and possibly publish my book through Oxford University Press.”

In addition to giving lectures at St. Antony’s, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and Oxford’s Oriental Institute, Peleg returned to the United States for 10 days to speak at the Middle East Studies Association in Washington, D.C., and Lafayette. He gave additional talks at Haifa and Ben-Gurion Universities in Israel and penned two articles.

“I think much of what I’ve learned at Oxford will help bring change to the courses I teach at Lafayette,” says Peleg. “I plan to broaden my classes, incorporate new material, and may even initiate a new First-Year Seminar on ethnic politics. This course would address the phenomenon of interethnic conflict in the modern world, its causes, and possible solutions.”

“I would encourage Lafayette students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities at Oxford,” he continues. “It is a wonderful place to study and learn.”

Editor of Israel Studies Forum, Peleg is the author of countless articles on international topics and author or editor of six books, including Negotiating Culture and Human Rights (Columbia University Press, 2001) and The Middle East Peace Process: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Peleg’s book on human rights in the West Bank and Gaza received a prize for scholarly excellence in 1996. He has received recognition from Lafayette on numerous occasions, including the Jones Award for superior teaching and scholarly excellence (1993), the Van Artsdalen Prize for outstanding scholarly achievement (1995), and the 2001 Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award.

He belongs to the American Political Science Association; Association for Israel Studies, of which he was president from 1995-97; and International Studies Association, to which he will present a paper based on his Oxford research at a June conference in Budapest.

Peleg is a frequent speaker on political and international issues. He has shared his expertise on CNN, Voice of America, National Public Radio, and other broadcasts. He served for nine years as chairman of Lafayette’s International Affairs program and for 12 years as head of the government and law department.

Categorized in: Academic News