media release

Rethinking history’s leaders

October 02, 2013

Bidisha Ray (UniverCity resident), 604.366.0389,
Allison McMahon, history dept. communications, 778.782.5512,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


A new lecture series, organized by Simon Fraser University’s History Department, explores pundits’ and politicians’ propensity to label their opponents as villains and their allies as heroes.

Heroes & Villains: Rethinking Good and Evil in History, ending March 27, aims to reassess the highly polarized good-evil lens through which we often judge political leaders. It revisits the lives of some of history’s most notorious and celebrated figures.

On the heels of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday today, recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Non-Violence, SFU historian Bidisha Ray will explore conflicting views about the assassinated Indian leader.

Ray’s lecture Great Soul or Great Schemer? Exploring the Myth of Mahatma Gandhi takes place Thursday, Oct. 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Fletcher Challenge Theatre, SFU’s downtown campus, 515 West Hastings, St., Vancouver.

“Gandhi’s name is synonymous with peace and saintliness almost everywhere on the planet. Yet in parts of postcolonial South Asia, Gandhi's life, politics, ideologies, and legacy have been the subject of considerable controversy and even violent denigration,” says Ray.

“How, then, should we remember Gandhi? Misogynist tyrant or freethinking radical? Self-absorbed kingmaker or farsighted statesman? Economic genius or utopian fantasist?”

Ray holds degrees from the University of Delhi, York, and Manchester, and has worked with the British Cabinet Office. The South Asian history expert will explore some of the most popular myths surrounding Gandhi and his work.

The Nov. 28 lecture in this series will feature a panel discussion hosted by SFU historian Roxanne Panchasi about former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s legacy and his son Justin’s political future. The pope, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X are other leaders falling under historians’ analytical microscope in this lecture series.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.




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