Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Confessions of a Former History Student: A Lecture By Norm Finklestein

I've been neglecting this blog the last two weeks. And I'm sorry, dear friends. Truthfully, I've been swamped. Ever have those weeks where you feel like you need more hours in the day to complete everything you need to do? That's the thing. I have too much to do. And come this Thursday, I'll have stacks of essays to mark on top of all my work.

Boo. I need sleep. And perhaps a day off.

But, my friends. Despite this bleak introduction to a long-overdue blog post, I have some news that has the history fanatic in me hopping around in excitement.

It all started this morning. I rolled out of bed at 5:30 am, sighing over the fact that I would be in class from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm today. And so, exhausted, I walked to school. And I trudged up the stairs of Mackintosh-Corry Hall, wondering blearily whether I should have eaten more for breakfast. The most important meal of the day, you know? I went through class, walked to my next class, the usual.

Until, of course, I walked down the hall to purchase a snack. And I noticed a poster hanging by the 3rd floor hallway. Walking by, I did a double take.

The poster announced a lecture being given next week, February 15, at an auditorium on campus. The speaker? Norman Finklestein.

Oh. my. gosh. Be still my beating academic heart.

Friends, at that moment, I completely forgot about my exhaustion and stress. Norman Finklestein is coming to Kingston?!? Wow. I cannot believe I get to hear him lecture. I can't even begin to explain my excitement. Really, to put it bluntly, it's that can't-control-my-bladder excitement. You know what I mean.

Now, I know how unpopular Norman Finklestein is. The controversy? It isn't pretty. For a brief overview on who Norm Finklestein is, click here. Essentially, Finklestein is known in most circles as a major critic of what he calls the "Holocaust industry." In his book, he accuses the industry of manipulating the memory of the Holocaust for financial gain. He also believes that constant discussion of the Holocaust does nothing but promote a biased agenda based on Israeli interests.

Now, in my former life as an undergraduate student, my second major (aside from Political Science) was History. And I loved it. A few years ago, while taking Doris Bergen's phenomenal course on the history of the Holocaust at UofT, I decided to write a paper on Holocaust retribution efforts. It was here that I stumbled across Finklestein's well-known book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. It's an extremely controversial book and has been the subject of extensive criticism. But it was also an extremely interesting read, and I remember spending months researching that topic, specifically looking at a lot of Finklestein's other work. It's absolutely fascinating from an academic perspective. To this day, that paper is still one of my favourite undergraduate projects.

Since his publication, Finklestein has been denied tenure at DePaul University, criticized extensively, denied entry into Israel, and received numerous death threats. He's an interesting academic. Controversial content but also a great speaker. Ingredients for an interesting lecture, yes?

Despite his controversial work and stance, I'm still pretty excited to see him lecture next week for the sheer interest of watching and listening to an academic I've had to read and study about extensively. As I said, I absolutely loved Doris Bergen's Holocaust course at UofT and, truthfully, I miss taking history courses. This will be such a refreshing change from my usual classes!

Have nothing to do on Tuesday, February 15? Check this event out!

WHO: Dr. Norm Finklestein
PRESENTING ON: Israel and Palestine: Past, Present and Future
WHERE: Queen's University - Etherington Auditorium
WHEN: February 15, 7:30 pm
COST: $10.00 with your Student ID (I can give up my Starbucks fix next week for this)

“In all things it is better to hope than to despair.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Life can be wildly tragic at times, and I've had my share. But whatever happens to you, you have to keep a slightly comic attitude. In the final analysis, you must not forget to laugh."
- Katharine Hepburn

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