- A Tribute to Harold Isaacs
A couple of weeks ago, I received my copy of the Journal of Third World Studies and, to my surprise, there was a note on Harold’s notepad. The note was from our friend, Gary Kline. It read in part, “I wish this could be a note from [End Page 63] Harold, but …” Now, a note from Gary is always welcome, but what Gary was alluding to was Harold’s long-standing custom of writing a personal note to accompany each issue of the journal. Mine always had a variant of “Hello, Chaitram. Hope all is well. Best wishes. Harold.” It was done in typical Harold scribble and it was his way of establishing a personal connection with almost every member of the Association of Third World Studies (ATWS). Over time, many like Gary Kline, Bill Head, Paul Rodell, and some of you present here developed a very close personal relationship with Harold. So, in a sense did I, but mine was more professional, relating to the organization and/or the journal.
I met Harold for the first time in 1984 at the ATWS conference at University of South Carolina (Columbia). I was presenting on a Caribbean panel with Edward Cox of USC and Ron Keppart of the University of Florida. It was a year after the US invasion of Grenada. I had been on the faculty at USC in 1983 in a visiting capacity and both Ed Cox, of Grenada, and I had commented on the invasion at the time it had occurred. The ATWS panel was, therefore, a more scholarly follow-up to the TV and newspaper commentaries of the year before.
I remember overhearing some of our African colleagues at the meeting asking Harold about his plans for a journal. Was it going to be a refereed journal? Was it going to be focused on political science or interdisciplinary? Although I was not a party to the conversation, I found the prospective project intriguing, not the least because I anticipated my own quest for publication outlets since all of my work was going to be on Third World Issues. I should point out that my previous conference presentations were at the American Political Science Association and the International Studies Association. What I had found was that Third World studies were the step-child at the APSA and the ISA, certainly [End Page 64] at that time, and my initial engagement with the ATWS was a far better experience.
I was to follow up with paper presentations at ATWS conferences at Pacific Lutheran in Takoma, WA; Palm Springs, Costa Rica, Jacksonville, Peru, Savannah, Ghana, and Brazil. Participation in all of these had confirmed that the ATWS was a better, more intellectually hospitable locale for discussions of Third World issues. My allegiance has since been to the ATWS, and I followed up with conference presentations at most of its meetings.
As my conference participation increased, so also was the number of acquaintances I made, including Harold himself, Bill Head, Gary Kline, Paul Rodell, Don Simmons, John Mbaku, Doyin Coker-Kolo, and others present at this meeting and some whose presence I have missed in recent meetings. I say this because scholarship thrives in a community, and my ATWS colleagues became valuable sounding boards for my own ideas as well as inspiration for my intellectual ventures into different regions such as Asia and Africa owing to my interest in civil-military relations.
I was not allowed, however, to be just a conference presenter. Senior members of the organization, Harold, Gary, and Bill Head, to name a few, had been talent spotting, and I was soon drafted to be the organization’s secretary. Following that, I served as the Associate Editor for Latin America on the editorial board of the association’s journal. I relinquished that position shortly after being named Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Berry College. However, a few years later, after I had stepped down from that position, I was elected as the Editor of the Association’s Newsletter and, later, Associate Editor of the Journal.
If this all sounds like a resumé listing, it’s not meant...