This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Keene State Today
Volume XXXI • Number 1 Fall 2014
SPRI NG 2014 • 17
George F. Roberson ’86 explores Taoist
sites on Laoshan Mountain, near Qingdao
in Shandong Province, People’s Republic of
China. Courtesy photo
“No single thing impacted me more
during my KSC years than Dr. Al
Rydant’s lecture on the apartheid
system in South Africa,” writes
George F. Roberson ’86. Roberson,
who has a PhD in geosciences
and spent a year as a Fulbright
research scholar in Morocco, is the
founder, publisher, and director of
Collaborative Media International,
a nongovernmental organization
dedicated to “furthering
intercultural dialogue and
understanding between the USA,
the North Africa / Middle East
Regions, and world-wide through
research, and education.” He
divides his time among Denver,
Amherst, Massachusetts, Tangier,
and Mexico City.
’ve traveled in over 50 countries,
and nothing has humbled and
impressed me more than the
generosity, friendship, and solidarity
of the people I’ve met.
Once, visiting in a war zone (I can’t
mention the place due to safety
concerns), I met a large group of high
school teachers. They invited me to visit
their school to attend classes and talk
with their students. I eagerly agreed, but
the administration wouldn’t allow it.
A few days later I joined them to break
the fast during Ramadan at the home
of the top military commander in the
region. He was hosting a series of elegant
dinners, having just returned from the
Hajj in Mecca. He greeted me with great
humility, bowing low, head turned down,
gently holding my hand for a long time.
The school administrator was also there;
he greeted me more warmly than my
own family, with rounds of cheek kisses,
hugs, and compliments. All the guests
were male. The next few hours we were
served mountains of food, more food
than I’ve ever seen before. The fnal
course was fve-foot round platters of rice
and a whole grilled lamb, placed on the
foor, with eight or nine men crouched
around each. The odd thing was that no
one spoke the entire evening; I felt like I’d
stepped into the twilight zone. After we
left the dinner, all the teachers crowded
around, anxiously asking me questions,
talking, joking, etc. And I asked, “But,
why did no one speak at the dinner?” It
was a “protest,” they replied, “against the
administrator” – since he wouldn’t let me
visit their school.
– George F. Roberson ’86
Read more from George F. Roberson
about what drew him to his work and
link to CMI’s website at keene.edu/mag.
An Elegant Dinner,
Conducted in Silence
George F. Roberson ’86 is the founder, publisher, and director of Collaborative Media International, a
nongovernmental organization dedicated to “furthering intercultural dialogue and understanding between
the USA, the North Africa / Middle East Regions, and world-wide through multinational collaboration,
research, and education.” He divides his time among Denver, Amherst, Massachusetts, Tangier, and
KSC launched me into the world. Although I hold a PhD in geosciences, liberal arts is the toolbox with
which I work and engage in the world. No single thing impacted me more during my KSC years than Dr. Al
Rydant’s lecture on the apartheid system in South Africa. I took from it a responsibility to try to do things in
my life that might help reduce injustice.
In the 1990s I became interested in processes of change and in Muslim-majority countries and began
traveling – to places like Bosnia, Lebanon, Syria, the occupied West Bank, Western Sahara, and Indonesia.
I observed that force is neither a constructive nor a lasting strategy. I learned how little I knew about these
headline-grabbing places. I learned that what I “knew” was incomplete and often wrong.
So I returned to school and, after September 11, 2001, determined to learn as much as I could about the
Middle East and North Africa. I focused my research on Tangier, Morocco. At the cusp of lands, seas and
cultures, Tangier has been successfully negotiating what’s been called the “contact zone” since the arrival
of Phoenician traders 2,500 years ago.
By 2006, with force-centered strategies failing in Iraq and Afghanistan, I turned my efforts to putting
alternative theories into practice. With a Fulbright research grant I worked for a year in Morocco with Dr.
Khalid Amine of Université Abdelmalek Essaadi. We’ve established two NGOs dedicated to constructive,
collaborative international engagement: International Centre for Performance Studies, based in Morocco,
and Collaborative Media International (CMI), based in the US. We host an annual international conference
and publish educational materials, Arabic to English translations, and volumes of literary criticism and
debate. CMI’s first film, Joshua Tree, takes up the impacts of the 2008 US economic collapse.
Putting knowledge to use to create constructive theories, and then putting those theories into practice – to
me, this is what academics do. CMI is an example of this; our hope is that it will prove a more successful
and lasting approach to international engagement than the use of force.
– George F. Roberson ’86 Learn more about CMI.
© 2014 Keene State College. Keene State College is a member of the University System of New Hampshire.
Keep in Touch, Oui?
‘Connections Are What I Made’
A Responsibility to Work for Justice
'Exhausting and Exhilarating'
A Month in the Land of the
Return to Keene State Today
A Responsibility to Work for Justice · Keene State Today · Keene State C... http://www.keene.edu/featured/mag/responsibility/
1 of 1 10/16/2014 5:38 PM