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International Guests to Explore How Outside World Views America

Dinaw Mengestu (C

Novelist and MacArthur "Genius Grant" winner Dinaw Mengestu (C'00), Lannan Chair of Poetics at Georgetown, will participate in a panel discussion April 3 as part of this year's Lannan Spring Symposium and Literary Festival.

March 26, 2013 – Authors, artists and activists – including novelist and MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner Dinaw Mengestu (C’00) – will be at Georgetown April 2-3 for this year’s Lannan Spring Symposium and Literary Festival.

The theme of this year’s symposium, run by the English department’s Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, is “America from the Outside: How the World Sees US.”

Symposium participants will look at poetry, photography, film, journalism and literature that question what America means as a concept, country and culture.

Spirit of Justice

Henry Schwarz, an English professor, interim director of Lannan Center and sole director of the symposium, says the theme “merges the spirit of justice in Georgetown’s Jesuit mission with the critical internationalism of its English department.”

Schwarz says the idea for the theme came to him after realizing he was teaching undergraduates who have been shaped by a war environment for half of their lives, including 9/11 and the war on terror.

“We frequently hear of torture, rendition, ‘preemptive strikes’ and remote control assassination via drones, things that were unheard of ten years ago,” Schwarz says. “…ten years ago each of these actions would have been considered an outrageous assault on both domestic and international morality.”

He notes that, “It’s time to measure that distance,” and says the image of America has declined in opinion polls and the world “has grown more suspicious and resentful of American leadership.”

Event Schedule

Also on campus for the symposium will be author-activist Naomi Klein, originally from Montreal; Canadian documentary filmmaker Avi Lewis; poet Naomi Ayala, a native of Puerto Rico; Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal; novelist and poet Abdourahman Waberi of Djibouti; film writer, director and producer Heidi Ewing (F’94); artist, geographer and writer Trevor Paglen; and Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Chris Hedges.

Mengestu, who will participate in an April 3 event, is Georgetown’s Lannan Chair in Poetics.

The schedule of events begins today at 2 p.m. with a screening of Ewing and Rachel Grady’s film, Detropia, winner of the U.S. Documentary Editing Award and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

Klein and Lewis will talk about “The (R)evolutionary Power of Climate Change” on April 2. They will be introduced and have their session moderated by Andria Wisler, executive director at Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service.

The rest of the events take place on April 3 and include:

  • A conversation with Bilal, Ewing and Paglen on “America the Beautiful.” Bernard Cook (C’90, G’91), associate dean and director of Georgetown’s Film and Media Studies Program, will introduce the speakers and moderate the discussion.
  • A series of readings called “Of Thee, We Write,” with Ayala, Mengestu and Waberi. Maurice Jackson (G’95, G’01), Georgetown professor of history and African-American studies as well as an affiliated professor of performing arts, will introduce and moderate the panel.
  • “E Pluribus Plures,” a roundtable discussion with all symposium participants, moderated by Matthew Tinkcom, Georgetown’s associate dean of academic affairs for the graduate program in Communication, Culture, and Technology and associated faculty member, Department of English.
  • A Tribute to Medea Benjamin and Code Pink, presented jointly with an Honorary Peacemakers and Gender Justice Award by our programs on justice and peace and women's and gender studies.
  • A talk by Hedges, followed by a reception and book-signing. Barbara Feinman Todd, Georgetown’s journalism director, will introduce the author. Feinman Todd co-directed the Pearl Project, an investigation of the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

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