UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct. 10, 2002

Five Questions for Colin Campbell

By Michelle Cook

Think you can learn all you need to know about the United States from watching the West Wing? Think again says the head of UBC’s new U.S. Studies program in the Faculty of Arts.

How has the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 affected American Studies research?

It’s had a vast effect. If you back up, we had a period of uncertainty about whether Bush was going to be president. He took office amid very serious questions about the legitimacy of his mandate. Initially, the administration advanced very quickly in its core agenda items, but then it began to drift. Then Sept. 11 happened and that galvanized support for the president.

Because of concerns for homeland security, the U.S. is placing very serious challenges at the mat of its allies with regard to individual rights and protections. For Canada, where the Charter of Human Rights has only existed for 20 years, we’re under tremendous pressure to reverse course by the nation that provided us with the example of a Charter of Rights to begin with.

In addition, we’re dealing with an attitude toward trade which has become considerably more protectionist than anybody would have thought in such a small time frame. With the momentous shift in America’s view of external reality, we have to make myriad adjustments in our own perceptions of trade relations, national security and even human liberties.

It sounds like an ideal time to be starting an American Studies program.

I think most people realize that we can’t be ostriches in regard to the United States. Even before 9/11, people in the business community and anyone in a leadership position in Canadian society had to be aware of the U.S. UBC’s program has a strong rationale independent of the events of last year, but they have driven home more clearly the need for a program like this.

How is UBC’s U.S. Studies program unique?

It will be the only program of its size in Canada. We hope to provide a location for leading scholars to do cutting-edge research. Our objective is to fund seven research chairs in U.S. studies. This will provide the critical mass for more focused undergraduate and graduate training in U.S. Studies. For instance, we could offer undergraduates majoring in other fields but who have a strong interest in the U.S. the opportunity to do a minor concentration in U.S. Studies. I have begun consulting with interested Arts faculty departments about developing such a curriculum.

Recently, the U.S. has opted out of some high-profile international initiatives like the International Criminal Court and Kyoto Accord. Will our knowing more about the U.S. make a difference?

I think it has made a huge amount of difference already. The Canadian diplomatic core has proven to be historically very savvy about how to do business with the U.S. and how to negotiate and lobby on Capitol Hill. In Washington, the Canadian Embassy has an exceedingly good reputation for its effectiveness. In fact, senior British diplomats have always used the Canadian Embassy as a model. Now that other embassies are figuring out this type of diplomacy, Canada is going to have to understand the U.S. political system even better to be taken seriously.

The U.S. has been Canada’s neighbour for a long time. Why is this kind of program only appearing now at a Canadian university?

When I was teaching at York University during the ’70s, there was strong anti-Americanism due to the Vietnam War. Apart from the war, there was strong Canadian nationalism, and major concerns about U.S. ownership of Canadian industry and media, and so the mood was quite different.

Now, we’re formally integrated with the United States with respect to trade. However much you might object to free trade, it’s part of our institutional framework and that’s unlikely to change. With the current war on terrorism, we’re being asked to achieve a higher degree of military integration with the U.S. If it’s not managed properly by our leadership, it could very substantially reduce the sovereignty of our country. If people don’t mobilize some sort of interest, then they’re going to wake up one morning and see that if they didn’t like free trade, they certainly won’t like the new Northern Command.

A Calgary native, Colin Campbell comes to UBC from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. where he taught for 19 years. He holds a Canada Research Chair in American Studies with expertise on the U.S. presidency.

- - -  

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.