Leir Institute Newsletter – Spring 2021

Newsletter Content
What’s New with the Leir Institute
Upcoming Student-Led Events
Past Events
Faculty Updates
Human Security Fellows
Alumni Spotlight

To our alumni and friends,

It has been a very eventful seven months since my last letter in October 2020. Much has been lost, most notably the millions of lives taken by the pandemic. We have also witnessed further abuses of power by police and security forces and a growing incidence of discrimination and hate crimes in many countries. In the United States, further attempts at voter suppression and a spate of attacks against Asian-Americans followed an assault on the U.S. Capitol by a riotous mob seeking to overturn the 2020 elections. The burden of these losses has fallen disproportionately on poor and marginalized communities, whose livelihoods have also suffered. And, across the board, states are implicated either directly through their use of violence or indirectly through their blatant disregard for collective well-being.

Much has also been learned, however. The scientific community has collaborated and worked tirelessly to produce Covid-19 vaccines in record time. People from all walks of life have raised their voices against racist policing and hate speech, sparking much deeper conversations about systemic racism and decolonization around the world. And the pandemic has exposed preexisting fault-lines linked to rising inequality, the spread of exclusionary nationalism, inadequate public healthcare systems, and the undervaluing of essential workers, many of whom are immigrants.

Human security is at the heart of many of these struggles and challenges, which makes the work we do at Leir that much more important. Faced with quarantines and travel restrictions during the 2020/2021 academic year, we turned to digital technologies to bring people together and engage with these and other critical issues in human security. We highlighted the themes of migration, social norms, contemplation, public health, essential work, detention/incarceration, and racial justice. We also prioritized and provided spaces for diverse and often underrepresented voices. You can read more about these activities in this newsletter and on our website.

We also welcomed two new Senior Policy Fellows: Daryl Collins, author of Portfolios of the Poor and a pioneer working at the intersection of finance and human vulnerability, and Jayshree Venkatesan, a financial sector specialist with over 15 years of experience in financial inclusion spanning investments and consulting. In September, we will be joined by a new Visiting Fellow in Human Security, Diogo Eiji Yoshida, a Brazilian doctoral candidate at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, who is writing his dissertation on the sociocultural and psychological adaptation of Brazilian immigrants in the United States and Japan.

Looking ahead, we plan to sustain our existing projects while developing new streams of research and programming. One exciting initiative in the early stages of development is a formal collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark to build a multi-year program on Human Security and Contemplative Practice: From Ego-System to Eco-System. We hope to have more details to share with you in the next few months. We are also pursuing funding for at least two migration-related initiatives: a financial literacy training program for refugees and migrants in the Boston area and a multi-media project on disrupted mobilities along the U.S.-Mexico border. We welcome your feedback and engagement in these projects.

Beyond these specific initiatives, we are launching a three-month process aimed at honing and implementing the “strategic positioning” of the Leir Institute in the field of human security. By better defining its niche and comparative advantage, Leir will be more effective in identifying funders and partners, explaining its value, and working efficiently. The process will include interviews with our various stakeholders, so we may be reaching out to some of you over the summer. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at leirinstitute@tufts.edu.

Before closing, I want to acknowledge the staff and students who supported me as members of the Leir team, with special thanks to Maria Teresa Nagel, our outgoing Assistant Director, and Neiha Lasharie, our outgoing lead research assistant. Without their work, dedication, and good humor, we would have accomplished very little and had much less fun doing it. They have both moved on to new challenges but only after leaving a solid foundation for the new Leir team coming on board over the next few months.

Please stay tuned, and do not hesitate to reach out if you have ideas, concerns, or questions. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to register in the database of Fletcher alumni who would like to be more engaged with the Institute. 

Wishing you health and safety,

Katrina Burgess
Director, Henry J. Leir Institute

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