When Linfield English Professor Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt introduced the evening’s speaker Oct. 16 in the Austin Reading Room, she said that it was no easy task. Explaining the many accomplishments of Amitava Kumar would take at least 10 minutes.
Students of all interests attended the following lecture, which focused on literature after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
“Kumar paints a story for the listener,” freshman Ellen Massey said. “He uses social satire to show how we, as a society, judge and stereotype people.”
Born in India, Kumar has focused his career on writing and cultural studies. His goal of the night’s talk was to shed light on the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, as reflected in art and literature.
“Literature and art are always changing in response to global actions,” Kumar said.
An example that he brought up was the Feb. 2012 book by Daisy Rockwell, “The Little Book of Terror.” In this book, Rockwell paints portraits of well-known terrorists in order to give light to them as individuals.
“These are pictures of individuals who are individuals,” Kumar said in the forward to “The Little Book of Terror.”
A topic that Kumar covered in his lecture was interrogations, including the process and how the public views them, following the attacks of Sept. 11.
Kumar explained the difficulty surrounding interrogations, as well as the ethical dilemmas involved and why their use is growing.
“Why is so much being spent on the most gullible people, not going out and getting the people [who] are actually in the process of planning attacks?” Kumar asked. “In small ways, the war on terror has encircled itself on us. How may of us have met a terrorist?”
He stressed the changes that have occurred in the U.S. since the attacks of Sept. 11. Not only is it the inconvenience of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers making you take off your shoes, but that one race is more likely to be stopped, questioned and detained, has become apparent.
Kumar brought up the scenario in which a white person goes to a bar, gets drunk, gets into a bar fight and kills someone. This would not be seen the same if this person was Middle Eastern; in fact, it could be seen as an “act of terror.”
“Kumar’s discussion pointed out the struggles of those who could be associated with cultures connected to terrorism,” freshman Amy Dodge said. “If someone from those cultures did something wrong, it’d be seen as 10 times worse than it would if anyone else had done it.
“He also pointed out that the police are trying to search out anyone who could potentially be linked to terrorism to act as if they’re doing something productive to stop terrorism and make the population feel more at ease.”
Without question, the attacks of Sept. 11 and the War on Terror have made a mark on how people feel about different ethnic groups.
Kumar connected to his audience, shedding light on invalid stereotypes and prejudices.
Maddie Bergman/Staff writer