Professor Golub

International and Comparative Politics

Why did you spend part of your childhood in Europe, after being born in the US?

My parents—Leon Golub and Nancy Spero—were artists, and when I was about two years old, they wanted to get away from the US art world and Abstract Expressionism and move to Europe, so we got on a boat, and left. We lived in Italy for a year, then we moved to Spain and then France, so in total, about four years, and by the time we moved back to New York City, I had as much of the Mediterranean as the US in my head.


After living in Europe, how did you find life in the US?

My first impression of being in New York was this fantastic feeling of freedom. We lived in an old industrial loft for a while, very bohemian, and then we moved to an apartment because my parents thought that raising three kids in that particular loft wasn’t absolutely perfect. I stayed in New York for a while, did a couple of years of undergraduate work at the Sorbonne, came back to the States, and then back to Paris.


What made you decide to come to AUP?

Once back in France, I worked at the Center for the Study of Conflict Strategy at Paris IV, then I taught at the Institute for European Studies and Sciences-Po, before I met Susan Perry, who invited me to teach in AUP’s graduate program in 2006. I found it very congenial here: I liked teaching in English, I thought the liberal arts system provided an ideal environment for interactive learning, and I liked how the classes were small, unlike those in the French university system.


How did you become involved in journalism, along with politics?

I was a co-founder of the daily newspaper the Asia Times until 1997, and then a contributing editor of the monthly Le Monde Diplomatique. I was invited to participate in journalism as an intellectual, writing longer analyses and opinion pieces. I’d never studied journalism, I had to learn the trade on the ground, which was exciting! With the Asia Times, I ended up running, in collaboration with other people, a team of about 100 journalists from all over the world and I was living between Europe and East Asia, which gave me the opportunity to develop new knowledge, including empirical grounding for some of the theory that I was working on. The long-term result of the engagement was the book I published in 2016, East Asia's Reemergence. With Le Monde Diplomatique, it was a different kind of exercise because it involved providing collaborative intellectual input into discussions about the contents of the magazine. Generally speaking, I think the back and forth between quality journalism, commentary, and academia can be enriching and mutually reinforcing.


What inspired the decision to base the Asia Times in Bangkok?

Bangkok was one of the few spaces in Asia at the time where you actually had freedom of the press. The initial idea was to move away from the dominance of global Anglo-American or Euro-Atlantic media and to create something that would reflect a little bit more closely the views, understandings, and readings of the world of Asia actors. This also reflected the idea that Asia was changing, as many countries became major actors in the world political economy or gradually renewed the positions in the world system that they had held in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The editorial line of the Asia Times was quite varied and that was the idea: to give Asians a voice and to offer differentiated views of how Asians saw the emerging world.


What first sparked your interest in East Asia as an area of study and research?

If you want to dig deep, I think the roots of that interest started from when I was a kid. My parents were very much involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the US and later, I became increasingly interested and started to work academically on subjects like the Indian independence movement and the history of Vietnam during and after the colonial era. Once I began traveling to Asia more regularly and for longer periods of time, I could observe, first-hand, the radical and fundamental changes that have become an object of enormous interest to me. East Asia in particular has been thoroughly transformed over the last 40 years and that transformation has world historical significance in the sense that it is altering—slowly, gradually, and in complex and uneven ways—the hierarchies that have been in place in the world system since the Industrial Revolution and 19th century imperial globalization. I’m fascinated by those transformations, which I think interrogate us on how we understand modernity and East-West relations, and change our understandings of the meanings of the concepts that we’ve used over the past 150 years.


Does your research and scholarship inform what and how you teach at AUP?

Yes, it does. The more I research, the better I teach. I think that’s true of all professors, in the sense that it renews the teaching, gives it more substance, new angles, new orientations, new understandings, new nuances. And you also learn during the process of teaching, because you have interactions with students, which enrich thinking and lead to new ideas. So, I think it works in both ways: the teaching can and does lead to the formulation of new research agendas and the research feeds into the teaching. If you’re always teaching the same thing, without ever progressing in your research, I think you’d probably get bored with yourself.


Do you ever collaborate with your students on projects?

With my last book, I worked with a graduate student, Anna Wiersma, who helped me edit it, which was really productive and useful, we had a good collaborative relationship. I’m now working with an undergraduate student on AUP’s student social sciences magazine, the Lutetian.