The International Institute is pleased to welcome Professor Robert Fishman to give a talk on one of the most controversial presidents in American history: Richard Nixon. Nixon, who served as president of the U.S. from 1969-74, might seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but he is the key protagonist in John Adams’ 1987 opera, Nixon in China. This public talk by Professor Fishman is timed to coincide with the opening of the Teatro Real’s production of Nixon in China, which runs April 17 – May 2. The International Institute has offered a series of courses, events and concerts this winter and spring to add context to the Teatro Real’s production of this contemporary American opera.
Richard Nixon’s personality and actions deeply marked a long period of American and world history yet much of his personal story is a tale of failure: his career ended in disgrace. For most of his political life he was a deeply polarizing figure whose words often divided the country bitterly, but he aspired to be seen as a statesman, revered by all. This lecture will identify and place in context a series of deep contradictions in the political trajectory of Nixon and will explore ways in which much of his career – and his actions – can be seen as a performance aimed at his contemporaries and intended to shape his historical legacy. The deep contradictions of Nixon’s divisive and volatile career as well as his towering impact on the international arena and his grand sense of performance all help to explain why his paradigm-changing trip to China motivated the writing – and staging – of a major opera.
Robert M. Fishman, Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Carlos III University of Madrid, earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University where he also did his undergraduate work as a history major. Prior to moving to the Carlos III University in 2015, Fishman taught at the University of Notre Dame and previously at Harvard. His most recent book, Democratic Practice: Origins of the Iberian Divide in Political Inclusion, Oxford University Press, 2019, has been published in translation in both Spanish and Portuguese. Fishman’s articles have been published in World Politics, the American Sociological Review, the Annual Review of Political Science, Politics and Society, Theory and Society, Comparative Politics, Contributions to Political Economy, Studies in Comparative International Development, South European Society and Politics, and other scholarly journals as well as several newspapers including El País, The New York Times and La Vanguardia. He is an avid student of politics and has written extensively on democracy and democratization, culture and politics, inequality and a number of other themes.
Professor Fishman’s talk and the Q&A session will be in English, followed by a reception.
The event is free and open to the public.