Spoken Word

“I’ve been in prison because of working in an African language. So how do I fight the state? How do I defy the state? By writing in an African language. My first novel in the Gikuyu language was written on toilet paper in a maximum-security prison with materials supplied for me by the state. With my teachers being the prison wardens and my fellow prisoners.”
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Kenyan novelist and critic1

“Producing knowledge is not neutral. Knowledge can be weaponized.”
Trevor Paglen, artist and experimental geographer2

“I am not an ‘animal lover’ in the sense that people love the company of dogs and cats. I have a strong contempt for abuse of power, and a strong empathy for the victims of this abuse.”
Peter Young, animal rights activist3

“Nations, like individuals, are capable of acting rationally after they have exhausted all other options.”
Avi Shlaim, scholar of the Arab-Israeli conflict4

“A key aspect of the American dream was the belief that each succeeding generation would be better off than the last. But the American dream is on life support. Without that dream there is nothing much that is truly special about America.”
Bob Herbert, New York Times columnist5

“Minstrelsy is a racist tradition, utterly so. But if we are honest, we have to admit that some of our highest cultural moments as americans were born of this strange and racist construction and identification with blacks: Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Elvis’ Sun Sessions, Jolson’s 20-year reign over Broadway, and maybe Eminem.”
Michael Alexander, author of Jazz Age Jews6

“Virginia Woolf’s relationship with her cook, Nellie, was one of the most enduring and painful of her life. Woolf was a feminist who wrote powerfully about the working woman, but she could, in her private writing, express the most visceral feelings of loathing and disgust for the woman working in her house.”
Alison Light, author of Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury7

  1. “Writing, Language and the State: Readings from Wizard of the Crow,” October 14, 2008. An exiled Kenyan native, Ngugi wa Thiong’o is director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine. Sponsored by the Linda Ashear Fund for Visiting Poets and the Elaine Oakley Behr Visiting Writers Fund.
  2. “Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights,” November 17, 2008. Paglen’s book by the same name documents the CIA’s use of modified commercial aircraft for extraordinary rendition. Part of the Environmental Studies/Science, Technology, and Society colloquium series.
  3. “Peter Young, former Animal Liberation Prisoner,” November 5, 2008. Young was imprisoned after releasing mink from fur farms. Hosted by Students Promoting Awareness of Animal Rights.
  4. “The United States and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process: Challenges Facing the Next US President,” September 23, 2008. Sponsored by the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Chair in Middle Eastern Studies and Inter-national Affairs.
  5. “Wounded Colossus: The Threat to America as We’ve Known It,” November 18, 2008. Sponsored by the Donald C. Samuel Fund for Economics and Politics.
  6. “After Jolson Sang ‘Swanee’: Jewish Minstrelsy and its Implications for Today,” October 28, 2008.
  7. Part of the Women’s History Lecture Series, December 2, 2008. Sponsored by the Graduate Program in Women’s History.

Watch the complete talks by Herbert, Alexander, and Ngugi wa’ Thiongo at here.