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In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman joins us to impart her unique perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings.
In her book Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, Neiman works from her perspective as a white woman who came of age in the civil rights-era South and as a Jewish woman who has spent much of her adult life in Berlin to ask what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past. She joins us to share from her book, combining philosophical reflection, personal stories, and interviews with both Americans and Germans who are grappling with their own national histories. She relates discussions with Germans, telling the story of the long and difficult path Germans faced in their effort to atone for the crimes of the Holocaust. She also discusses conversations with Americans, including with James Meredith about his battle for equality in Mississippi, with Bryan Stevenson about his monument to the victims of lynching, as well as with lesser-known social justice activistis in the South. In this vital presentation, Neiman urges us to consider the nuanced forms that evil can assume, so that we can recognize and avoid them in the future.
Susan Neiman is the director of the Einstein Forum. Her previous books, which have been translated into many languages, include Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists; Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy; The Unity of Reason; and Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin. She also writes cultural and political commentary for diverse media in the United States, Germany, and Great Britain. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman studied philosophy at Harvard and the Free University of Berlin, and was a professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv Universities.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.