Teach In

Students, faculty, and staff gathered to reflect on history and current events in Ukraine

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus (New Angel), monoprint, 1920.

On Monday, March 21, the MECA&D community gathered to hear from an expert panel on perspectives about the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

The dialogue introduced by Prof. Nico Jenkins framed the ongoing event in the philosophical terms that underscore the unsettled nature of our world and the repetition and monotony inherent to all war.

“A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.” Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, 1940.

While nothing will ever be the same again for the region, history will remember the remarkable bravery of Ukraine’s military and civilians, reflected Mike Eckel, Salt ’96 as he shared his experience from an on-the-ground documentary journalist’s perspective of the first days of the war.  

The community was also joined by historians Prof. Seth Rogoff and Catherine McKenna to explore, from Ukraine’s formation in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth through contemporary Russian/USSR history to now, some of the deeply rooted assumptions and rights at play in today’s conflict. However, as Prof. Rogoff carefully cautioned, “History is not an explanation. Nothing can justify or rationalize this war.” 

MECA&D also benefited from the perspectives of continuing studies student Jan Hunckel, who was stationed in Ukraine as a part of the Peace Corps in 1992, as well as Prof. Seth Goldstein and Liz Rhaney MFA ’20, who explored what to take from the coverage of Ukraine and other conflicts in this special event.

“This is an opportunity for us to explore what we can do as citizens of the world,” remarked President Laura Freid. “By starting with the questions, we are able to ponder the answers.”

Link to College’s statement on the war