People are asking what the Oxford conference was about. This was a multidisciplinary gathering but not in a bad way. The subject was testimony.
One speaker was a gentleman from India who works with dalits using therapeutic strategies to help them overcome trauma. That was a sensational talk.
There was a scholar from Egypt who gave such a poignant talk on Izzeldin Abuelaish that half of the audience was in tears.
There were three artists: a sculptor, a poet, and an installation artist.
There was a Latin Americanist who talked about the art created in response to the gynocide in Ciudad Juarez.
A philosopher talked about the play titled “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.”
There was an Italian woman who talked about Central Africa but she had such a thick accent that I understood pretty much nothing.
There were two great talks about Northern Ireland.
An American scholar talked about racism directed at welfare recipients.
A Canadian – Indian researcher analyzed the documentary “India ‘ s Daughter.”
An Argentinean professor talked about the legacy of the Dirty War.
I wanted to attend an event where every talk would be on a subject I’m not familiar with, and that’s precisely what I got. My way of intellectually stimulating myself is getting as far as possible out of my field.
And in spite of such seemingly different professions and research interests, we were such a homogenous group that we all finished each other’s sentences half of the time.
The international community of scholars consists of people who – in spite of different languages, passports, ages, etc – are as similar as very close siblings. It’s a very powerful experience when I say “Remember this bill in Kansas a couple months ago when welfare recipients. . .” and the whole group finishes it for me. Or an Australian colleague says, “Remember the anti-sexist speech our former Prime Minister made?” and everybody begins to recite their favorite parts.
Our political opinions were so similar that it was uncanny. And everybody feels alienated in the places where they live because people around them are so different. This was like meeting members of your own species all of a sudden.