Discover more from From the Editors at Public Seminar
From Cambodia to Russia to Iraq, what lessons have we learned?
March 23, 2022
This week’s issue of Public Seminar is dedicated to the stories we tell about war—and whether our narratives can change.
“My father always voiced that he wanted to tell his story, but it took many years for him to actually sit down and have the courage to sit down with his son and tell it. It is very different when you’re from an honor-shame culture to show your emotions—raw nerves—and tell something like that to your son.” In a conversation with Tobias Lentz, author James Taing discusses the process of helping his father, Mae Bunseng Taing, write Under the Naga Tail: A True Story of Survival, Bravery, and Escape from the Cambodian Genocide, recently published with Greenleaf Book Group. (March 22, 2023)
In an excerpt of Under the Naga Tail courtesy of the authors and Greenleaf Book Group, Mae Bunseng Taing recounts the refugee crisis on Preah Vihear Mountain, situated at the Cambodia-Thailand border. “The Thai soldiers pointed us toward the downward incline. We headed in that direction, until more Thai soldiers stopped us and one of them said, ‘If you have any gold, currency, or valuable possessions, drop it in the buckets for us. You won’t be needing it down there.’” (March 22, 2023)
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“An absence of collective memory, or even of a view of our own history that is shared by the majority, is one of the features of Russian reality, and it has been like this for decades.” Maria Stepanova reflects on changing iterations of identity, guilt, and responsibility in Russia prompted by Putin’s war in Ukraine. (March 20, 2023)
Occupied Territory on TV
“From its first season, Fauda has been an apology for Israel’s relentless war on the Palestinians—a war made palatable in the series by the omission of politics from the equation.” Mitchell Abidor considers the paradoxes of Fauda, his favorite TV show to hate-watch—and why Arab audiences are also addicted to the series. (March 20, 2023)
Frontlines in Fiction
On the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Claire Potter asks if our narratives about war can change, and looks to fiction for possibilities. “In war, all officials lie, and human beings don’t wear uniforms—they fill them, empty them, and fill them again.”