Author to discuss how America can learn from Germany—and Hollywood

Susan NeimanIt’s been 150 years since Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in southern states, but some would argue the cycles of oppression slavery created still exist today. To better understand how the U.S. can learn from and deal with its past, we should turn to Germany—as well as Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino, according to Susan Neiman, a prominent author who will present the second biennial Beamer-Schneider Lecture in Ethics and Civics.

Neiman is the director of the Einstein Forum in Berlin and author of Moral Clarity, Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy and Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin. She will present the lecture “Learning from the Germans: Tarantino, Spielberg, and American Crimes” April 11 in Clark Hall 309 at 5:30 p.m. A reception will precede the event.

During her free, public talk, Neiman will examine how German attempts to deal with its Nazi past have produced a template for confronting national evils. In American culture, such confrontations have been rare, but recent films such as Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Spielberg’s Lincoln proved to be exceptions.

Neiman will discuss the German experience and how Germany and the United States reacted differently to both films. She also will reflect on how Americans can forge an identity in the face of the past.

Neiman’s talk reverses directions from her first book, Slow Fire, in which she explored Germans’ ambivalence in facing their connection with the Nazi movement, explained Jeremy Bendik-Keymer, the Beamer-Schneider Professor of Ethics, who selected Neiman for the lecture.

“Now she is coming here and showing us some ways in which we might learn to face our own past by looking at what has worked and hasn’t worked in German experience,” he said.

Bendik-Keymer said he selected Neiman for the lecture because she has proven both accessible and insightful when tackling multifaceted ethical issues such as this. For example, the issue does not revolve just around dealing with the history of slavery; it encompasses ethnic cleansing, genocide, oppression and many more issues that continue today throughout the world, he noted.

“Any conscientious American is aware—even if only dimly—of the morally compromised status of being American,” Bendik-Keymer said. “To be truly moral means forging an identity in the face of this morally compromising history and present. Neiman can help us do that.”

For more information on the Beamer-Schneider Lecture in Ethics and Civics, visit the program’s website.