BEYOND IDENTITY: REIMAGINING THE AMERICAN NARRATIVE

Three images: Martin Luther King Jr.; Two Flag-Raisings at the Battle of Iwo Jima; Fearless Girl facing the Wall Street Bull

Posted in Announcements Symposia

The Lannan Seminars at Georgetown University

The United States is suffering from an identity crisis. Americans are raised to believe that democracy, freedom, and opportunity are the values deeply embedded in the nation’s character and practice. Yet, millions of Americans who have spent centuries striving towards equality under the historic burden of racism, dealing with poverty or the absence of opportunity, might beg to disagree. To use a peacemaking approach is to focus on interests rather than positions, to refocus opposing groups on shared goals. But those goals must be grounded in a truer understanding of the past as the anchor to a vision for the future. The U.S. is at a reckoning point, in need of reappraisal. The standard response to what constitutes American identity has been: ‘the principles of liberty, equality, individualism, representative government, and private property.’ But how does this character composition comport with the demons of her past and present? What is to become our  new narrative? Of our new, more truthful, identity born of both pride and pain?

The Lannan Center, in affiliation with the conflict mediators Beyond Borders Scotland and Beyond Conflict, will bring together experts in conflict resolution, scientists, writers, and creative artists whose work addresses the themes of conflict and identity in a series of seminars held over the course of one year.


Past Events

March 22-23, 2022 | Lannan Symposium

In Search of an Inclusive America: Culture, Politics, and the Narratives That Define Us
Keynote Speech by Melody C. Barnes

Who Are We & Where Are We Coming From? : America’s Narrative Battle
Mark Muller, Elizabeth Rule, and Clint Smith. Chaired by Adam Rothman

Writing in a Time of Crisis
Rabih Alameddine, Aleksandar Hemon, and Patricia Smith. Chaired by Jacki Lyden

Can America Survive Capitalism
Sarah Anderson, Amy Goldstein, and John Freeman. Chaired by Tope Folarin

Does America Need a TRC?
Eldridge Adolfo, Elham Atashi, Tope Folarin, and Tim Phillips. Chaired by David Smith

Reimagining the American Narrative
Rabih Alameddine, Aleksandar Hemon, Fathali Moghaddam, and Patricia Smith. Chaired by John Freeman

The Laboratory for Global Performance & Politics Presents: “In Your Shoes: Reckoning with Our Past/Imagining Our Future

February 2, 2022
The View from Abroad: “Contested Histories: Memory and Repair

August 29, 2021
Beyond Borders Scotland: “Is There Such a Thing as American Exceptionalism?”

March 18, 2021
The View From Abroad: “What Can America Learn from the Experience of Other Nations at a Time of Crisis?”

Responding Across Disciplines Assignment

We invited faculty to use the “Responding Across the Disciplines” assignment as a useful tool for engaging students with the theme and questions posed by “Beyond Identity: Reimagining the American Narrative.”

War in Ukraine: What’s Next?
“The idea of agency first came up in the discussion on Ukraine, where the panelist Katie Collin spoke about delivering agency to Ukraine rather than just humanitarian aid… I believe that a lot of what the medical humanities is doing is returning agency to patients, as well as providers, in the past and present to tell their truth.”
–Ella, Course: Literature and Medicine

Melody Barnes’ Keynote
“[E]motion does not always rationally consider the past, or take the time to consider what this particular narrative may be excluding or the ways in which its thinking may be outdated.”
–Sveva, Course: Rewriting the American Narrative

“In the keynote address for this symposium, Melody Barnes set the tone by stating that “culture sets the table for politics.”… Since “culture sets the table for politics,” and our policies are born out of national conversations that have their debut on the individual level, I would like to suggest that if we are to heal our national narrative, we must embrace an ethics of writing that is founded in the practice of empathy.”
–Elise, Course: Rewriting the American Narrative

Who Are We and Where Are We Coming From?: America’s Narrative Battle
“My native friends and I often talk about how it can feel like we’re living in two worlds. It is difficult to bring distinctively Native American thought into classrooms because we are working from an understanding of the world that is so different it feels mutually exclusive.”
–Alanna, Course: Rewriting the American Narrative

Writing in a Time of Crisis
“As I think about the panel, my mind always returns to the image of Patricia Smith’s mother cutting out Emmett Till’s photo, folding it to fit in her wallet, and using it as a warning, a real-life boogey man, the white men who lynched him.”
–Margaret, Rewriting the American Narrative

“I really loved the theory about literature that Aleksandar Hemon brought up, this idea that books do not make change on their own and we should not expect them to, but they are part of some larger “field of energy” that changes society slowly as books are read and written, and the old converses with the new.”
–Mary, Course: Rewriting the American Narrative

Does America Need a TRC?
“[A] TRC led by an oppressive group can cause similarly destructive incidents on purpose for their own gains rather than by accident, and America is in a position where it is too partisan divided for this to not happen.”
–Joshua, Course: Rewriting the American Narrative

“Panelists seemed to agree that this question of the whether or not America needs a truth commission is important because regardless of the answer it recognizes the “historical pain”, segregation, slavery, and mistreatment of citizens by the U.S. government. They also noted that the process of renewal in America may include any combination of a truth commission, accountability, acknowledgement, justice, or a sense of understanding.”
–Naomi, Course: Literature and Medicine

Reimagining the American Narrative
“Patricia Smith said something that really stuck with me: “You go to the news for news and poems for the truth.” This reflected the points made by the panel that the dominant narrative is not necessarily the news or American canons, but the proxies that can reach people’s feelings.”
–Lily, Course: Literature in Medicine

“I left believing that narrative truth is found by those who question the foundations of their culture and systems, by people willing to update the canon rather than be defined by it. Distrusting is the first step of truth-seeking.”
–Christina, Course: Rewriting the American Narrative

In Your Shoes
“One thing that struck me was the intention and focus that each actor brought to depicting the experience of the other. The compassion, empathy, and love among the group were visible and palpable and made me wonder if a similar technique could be employed to invoke similar methods of understanding among individuals in other settings.”
–Ursula, Course: Literature in Medicine

“I think being able to truly listen to patients is vital to being a clinical practitioner. This symposium showed that listening is not only the act of hearing someone, but it is also being present in that moment to absorb what the person is saying and how they are saying it.”
–Alaina, Course: Literature in Medicine


Spring Symposium: March 22-23, 2022

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Tuesday March 22, 2022

Ukraine Flag (Blue and Yellow)

5:00PM | Special Event: War in Ukraine: What Next?
Four international conflict negotiators with experience in promoting dialogue in conflict situations the world over, including Ukraine, bring first hand knowledge to this discussion about Ukraine’s future. Chaired by Lannan Center Director, Aminatta Forna.
Location: Copley Formal Lounge and Livestreamed

Melody Barnes headshot

7:00PM | Keynote Speech by Melody C. Barnes: In Search of an Inclusive America: Culture, Politics, and the Narratives That Define Us
Location: Copley Formal Lounge and Livestreamed

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Location: All panels will be held in Copley Formal Lounge and Livestreamed

9:30am | Who Are We & Where Are We Coming From? : America’s Narrative Battle 
Mark Muller, Elizabeth Rule, and Clint Smith. Chaired by Adam Rothman

If the lion does not tell his story, the hunter will. The history of the United States, as it is currently taught, is being contested like never before. Is it possible to reconcile differing perspectives on America’s national narrative?

11:00am | Writing in a Time of Crisis
Rabih Alameddine, Aleksandar Hemon, and Patricia Smith. Chaired by Jacki Lyden

We write to make sense of the world around us. From war and political violence to natural disasters and pandemics – how have writers of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction responded to crises in their nation’s history? 

2:00pm | Can America Survive Capitalism?
Sarah Anderson, Amy Goldstein, and John Freeman. Chaired by Tope Folarin

Wage inequality in the United States is approaching the extreme level that prevailed prior to the Great Depression, creating new social classes: the precariat (those on short term or zero hours contracts without benefits) and the one percent. With disparity widening––and anger building among some of the dispossessed––can the American Dream endure?

3:30pm | Does America Need a TRC?
Eldridge Adolfo, Elham Atashi, Tope Folarin, and Tim Phillips. Chaired by David Smith

As the calls for social and racial justice grow, could the United States follow the example of South Africa and other conflict-affected nations and engage in a national, formal reconciliation process? 

5:00pm | Reimagining the American Narrative 
Rabih Alameddine, Aleksandar Hemon, Fathali Moghaddam, and Patricia Smith. Chaired by John Freeman

The United States: exceptional, individual, shining city on the hill, home of democracy, land of the free, of the “American Dream” and the pursuit of happiness. A national narrative is composed of ideas made into stories. And these stories are powerful. In a time of division can Americans agree on a common story or make space for multiple narratives?

7:00pm | The Laboratory for Global Performance & Politics Presents “In Your Shoes: Reckoning with Our Past/Imagining Our Future
Location: Lohrfink Auditorium (Hariri Building) and Livestreamed

Employing the Lab’s award-winning IN YOUR SHOES methodology, created and developed around the world by Prof.  Derek Goldman, in which participants have deep, open conversations around a topic and then perform one another’s perspectives, this special program brings together students and members of the Georgetown community to explore American identity, in particular the gulf between professed values of democracy, freedom, and opportunity and the realities and reckonings that characterize our past and present.  Engaging the story of Melisande Colomb, a direct descendant of the GU272 who came to Georgetown as an undergraduate student and using her celebrated multimedia performance HERE I AM as a catalyst, these performative dialogues engage questions of race, memory, justice, institutional legacy, what young people are inheriting from the past, and how they can reimagine the future and contribute to reshaping a new American narrative.

The 2022 Lannan Symposium is sponsored by:

Beyond Borders Scotland

Beyond Conflict

The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics

Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service

Institute for Policy Studies

Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security 

The Department of Government

The Conflict Resolution Program