At the second installment of the spring 2014 semester's Writers' Series with Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus, the American Academy was proud to present fiction fellow Jonathan Lethem reading from his latest novel Dissident Gardens, a hiliarious and moving multigenerational look at a family of aging political dissidents in the New York City Borough of Queens in the latter decades of the twentieth-century.
The failure of Lehman Brothers in 2008 triggered a global financial emergency, followed by a worldwide recession. The European sovereign debt crisis began in 2010, and, most recently, a few emerging markets have begun to encounter turbulence. The financial system has been at the center of each of these episodes, and in order to curb future crises and to secure financial stability, the world of finance needs to be reformed. While the tightening of financial regulation has been at the top of the global agenda, several issues continue to beg for resolution. Among these concerns is the “too-big-to-fail” problem, the close link between banks’ balance sheets and public finances, and the question of how far-reaching regulation should be. In his lecture, Andreas Dombret, Member of the Executive Board of Deutsche Bundesbank, will discuss these problems and potential solutions — and the regulatory actions already undertaken.
The abandonment of suburban industrial towns by local and state governments has not been visually documented or accurately covered by the American mass media. With the rise of the "creative class" or "urban pioneers" pitted against the displaced working class, much human suffering experienced by the newly dislocated is overlooked. For over a decade, LaToya Ruby Frazier has been documenting, through photography and video, the collapse of the steel mill industry, environmental negligence, and deindustrialization that has affected her family and community in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a thirteen-block industrial town in the eastern region of Allegheny County. In this lecture, Frazier discussed her work, the importance of documentary photography today, and focused particularly on the intersection of documentary art that represents invisible realities and the importance of cultural memory found in the industrial heritage of towns such as Braddock, Pennsylvania, Brandenburg an der Havel, and the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord.
Understanding why the Young Turk government decided in early 1915 to deport – and eventually massacre – its Armenian subjects requires attention both to strategic calculations of a government perceiving immediate dangers and to the emotional environment in which construction of enemies and allies were made. Rather than propose that the genocide was the planned first step in creating a Turkish nation-state (Kemalism avant la lettre), Ronald Suny proposes that the Young Turks were more empire-preservers than nation-makers, and that the genocide was a pathological response to a perceived existential threat. Distinct from earlier massacres (1894-1896, 1909), which had different etiologies, the mass murders of 1915 were a radical ethno-religious cleansing to reshape Anatolia and render the Armenians politically and culturally impotent. To explain why the Young Turks committed genocide, Suny investigates what he calls their “affective disposition:” the emotional environment and world view that led them to construct the Armenians as subversive to the empire and nation’s continued existence.
The founder of Human Rights Watch, Aryeh Neier, lends an overview of the history of surveillance in the United States and discuss challenges posed to the right to privacy by a state claiming to need vast quantities of data to protect public safety. In light of last year's NSA revelations, Neier asks if the surveillance programs disclosed by Edward Snowden have been successful in mitigating the threat of terrorism and examines whether or not those programs intrude excessively on individual privacy. How was the programs’ effectiveness compromised by public revelations? Could they have been disclosed in another way? Was Edward Snowden justified in unveiling them unilaterally? Neier considers these questions and describes the credibility issue the US now faces when promoting rights elsewhere.