2020-2021: Witnesses to History


The theme of the Department of History's 2020-2021 Annual Public Lecture Series was Witnesses to History. Witnesses to History focused on eye witness accounts and testimonies, and their importance to telling the stories of the past. Due to Covid-19, all the 2020-2021 lectures took place entirely online. You can find recordings of each lecture below.

May 27th, 2021

The Evolution of Liu Xiaobo: From Tiananmen Hunger Striker to Grassroots Rights Defender

Perry Link in conversation with Jeremy Brown

Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and died in 2017 while serving an eleven-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power,” may be China’s most important political thinker of the last half century.

The public has viewed Liu as moving from brilliant intellectual beginnings straight into the famous 1989 student Democracy Movement, when he was part of a hunger strike at Tiananmen Square, and from there into heroic defiance of a government that harassed him inveterately and sent him to prison four times.  The truth is more complex.  Liu’s greatest immediate contribution to China was his leadership, in both theory and practice, of the Citizens Movement of 2002–2008, when idealistic journalists, lawyers, NGO leaders and others worked from the bottom up to bring change.  

In conversation with host Jeremy Brown (SFU History), Perry Link (University of California, Riverside) discusses his forthcoming biography of Liu Xiaobo.  Link and coauthor Wu Dazhi argue that Liu Xiaobo’s place in history ought to be on a par with those of Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Andrei Sakharov and others who endured prison in their attempts to bring political liberation to their nations.  

Speaker Bio

Perry Link is Professor emeritus of East Asian Studies at Princeton University and Chancellorial Chair for Teaching Across Disciplines at the University of California, Riverside.  He is author of many books and articles on modern Chinese language, literature, popular culture, and dissident politics, including: The Tiananmen Papers (Public Affairs, 2001, co-edited with Andrew Nathan); Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics (Harvard, 2013); Liu Xiaobo’s Empty Chair: Chronicling the Reform Movement Beijing Fears Most (New York Review of Books, 2011); and The Uses of Literature: Life in the Socialist Chinese Literary System (Princeton, 2000).  He is winner of David Brooks’ 2016 Sidney Award for “the best long-form essay of the year.”

Jeremy Brown is Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University.  

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November 5th, 2020:

I, the Witness; From Memory to Reality

Mariette Rozen Doduck in conversation with Lauren Faulkner Rossi

“Time didn’t really mean anything to me. Time meant only to survive that one day. I can’t explain. It’s not like I knew that next month I’m going away, there’s no such thing as next month. It was to survive this one day from starvation, from freezing, from being sold, from being caught, from being killed on the street.” - Mariette Rozen Doduck

Mariette Rozen Doduck was born in Brussels, Belgium, in May 1935, the youngest of eleven children. After Belgium fell to the Germans in 1940, she was hidden in many places, including an orphanage, a convent, and in Christian homes. She survived the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jews but her family was shattered: her mother, three brothers, and countless extended family members – aunts, uncles, cousins across Europe – were killed. Mariette emigrated to Canada in 1947 with three surviving siblings, where she experienced continued (if less overt) antisemitism, and was placed on her own with a foster family in Vancouver. Because she was not used to having a “normal life,” she ran away twelve times during her first year there. Gradually she accepted her new family and community and attended Maple Grove, Point Grey, and Magee High Schools and the University of British Columbia, where she met her husband, Sidney Doduck. She went on to become actively and deeply involved in her community through numerous organizations and programs, including outreach work with at-risk youth in the Vancouver area, the co-founding of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and her participation in its powerful high school symposium program as a survivor speaker.

In conversation with Lauren Faulkner Rossi (SFU Department of History), Mariette talks about her childhood in hiding and in silence, what it means to survive a trauma like the Holocaust, the struggles she faced as a young immigrant in Vancouver, the challenge of working with a child’s memories, and the emotional journey of researching and writing her memoirs.

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September 24th, 2020:

Witnesses to History: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz

Omer Bartov in conversation with Lauren Faulkner Rossi

For more than four hundred years, the Eastern European border town of Buczacz – today part of Ukraine – was home to a highly diverse citizenry. It was here that Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews all lived side by side in relative harmony. Then came World War II, and three years later the entire Jewish population had been murdered by German and Ukrainian police, while Ukrainian nationalists eradicated Polish residents.

In conversation with Lauren Rossi (SFU History), Omer Bartov (Brown University) discusses his most recent works, including Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz (2019) and Voices on War and Genocide (2020), and illuminates how significant individual witnesses are to the writing of history, particularly of conflict and war. Using primarily diaries and personal letters from eyewitnesses in and around Buczacz – perpetrators, victims, and survivors - he explains how ethnic cleansing doesn’t occur as is so often portrayed in popular history, with the quick ascent of a vitriolic political leader and the unleashing of military might. It begins in seeming peace, slowly and often unnoticed, as the culmination of pent-up slights and grudges and indignities. The perpetrators aren’t only sociopathic soldiers. They are neighbours and friends and family. They are also middle-aged men who come from elsewhere, often with their wives and children and parents, and settle into a life of bourgeois comfort peppered with bouts of mass murder.

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