Associate Professor of Government and Director of the Public Affairs Center Sarah Wiliarty specializes in Western European Politics. She most recently published a book in 2010 titled “The CDU and the Politics of Gender in Germany: Bringing Women to the Party” and is in the conceptualization phase of writing another book. The working title of this new book is “Gender and the Media in Europe and the United States.” Professor Wiliarty sat down with The Argus to talk about her recent and past literary interests, her shift from physics to political science, and her personal experiences of the year 1989.
A: What book on political science have you read recently?
Sarah Wiliarty: Recently, I have been reading more articles than books, but for my Women and Politics class we read “Cracking the High Glass Ceiling.” What’s nice about this particular book is that its topic correlates to the work that I am doing for my next book.
A: What is your favorite political science book?
SW: My favorite political science book is Barrington Moore’s “The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.” I actually majored in physics as an undergraduate, but this was the book that helped me decide to become a political scientist. This particular book has a lot of historical analysis, and I really like how Moore uses history to come up with general insights. He makes you think how some countries became fascist and how others became democratic in the period leading up to World War II. Not only that, he goes really far back into class analysis and makes the reader think about the way that various classes throughout history have influenced political systems.
A: What made you interested in political science?
SW: As I said, I majored in physics. But toward the end of my college career, three factors influenced my shift of academic interests from physics to political science. The year was 1989, so as you know that was an important year on a global and social scale. So, number one: Tiananmen Square. Number two: the deconstruction of the Berlin Wall. Number three: over the summer I got a job at the Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University). While working there, I also worked with a lot of mid-career international students who came to the Kennedy School of Government to get their masters [degrees]. I was able to hear a lot of stories from them, and their experiences interested me and helped solidify my interest in political science.
A: What is your favorite country to study and why?
SW: My favorite country to study is Germany. I took German in junior high school and actually traveled to Germany when I was in high school, so I had a very early connection to Germany. Furthermore, at the same time that I began to get interested in political science, German unification happened, most notably with the fall of the Berlin Wall. After working in D.C. for a year after I graduated college, I was able to live in Germany for two years. During the first year, I had a Rotary Scholarship, so I attended a university on that, but for my second year I supported myself with a job as a translator and attended a different university in Berlin.
A: What non-political science books have you read recently that you particularly enjoyed?
SW: I just finished this novel called “The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey. This is a beautiful book that takes place in the ’20s Alaskan wilderness. It is about a couple that moves to the Alaskan wilderness to get away from the hustle and the bustle of the Roaring Twenties. This particular couple, while living in Alaska, don’t have a child and really wish that they did. So, they decide to build a snow child and after they build this snow child, they encounter a young girl living in the wilderness.
Her appearance is definitely connected to their creation of the snow child. Either
way, this young girl has a positive influence on this estranged couple, and her presence helps the man and the woman to become more connected to each other and the various people that they encounter.
A: What is your favorite book from childhood?
SW: The Secret Garden. I would read this book every spring, and I grew up in Michigan so I would eagerly wait for some type of spring to come.
A: What books are next on your list?
SW: A lot of my friends are reading this one novel titled “Gone Girl” so I’m going to give that a read. Also my nine-year-old son is reading a book called “Nory Ryan’s Song,” and it is about the Irish potato famine. I’m thinking about reading it because when I look over his homework, it seems like a pretty interesting book. Now, in terms of academic books, I was actually listening to the radio and heard about this new book titled “Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan.” [It] seemed really interesting on the radio, so I’m looking into that as well.