James Blight holds the CIGI chair in foreign policy development at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. He was born and grew up in Flint, Michigan. Following a nasty and brutish, but mercifully short three-year career as a minor league baseball player (pitcher, Detroit Tigers organization), Jim got serious, went back to college, earned a trio of academic degrees and began a career as a cognitive psychologist.
Finding psychology largely disconnected from important social issues of the day, especially the threat of nuclear war, he enrolled at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he earned another degree, and remained for seven years as a researcher and director of the Avoiding Nuclear War project. While at Harvard, he developed a research method called critical oral history, which involves the simultaneous interaction of decision makers, scholars and information in declassified documentation on targeted historical episodes.
The first episode Jim investigated was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, initially in studies carried out while at the Kennedy School and then, from 1990 to 2009, while based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. He often worked in collaboration with David Welch, and always in collaboration with janet Lang. While at Brown, Jim, janet and their many collaborators employed critical oral history to investigate the Vietnam War, the collapse of US-Soviet relations in the late 1970s and several other seminal episodes in US foreign policy. In addition to more traditional research and writing, Jim and janet have been heavily involved in the making of two recent award-winning films — The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2004) and Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived (2008). A recent focus of their research is US-Iran relations since the Islamic Revolution, undertaken with colleagues at MIT and George Washington University. Jim is currently working on a transmedia project that explores the Cuban missile crisis: The Armageddon Letters.
Jim enjoys cooking, playing golf, hiking and watching the Boston Celtics with his spouse and colleague, janet Lang.
In the News
- Kennedy’s death shattered a hopeful nation, Luisa D'Amato, The Waterloo Region Record, November 22, 2013
- Kennedy assassination fascinates amid question of what if he had lived, George Hoff, W5, CTV News, November 19, 2013
- Remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis, George Hoff, W5, CTV News, October 20, 2012