I skidded into Taylor 203, huffing and puffing. To my shock, students, faculty
Even though the EPI emails leading up to the event emphasized that any level of participation was welcomed, I felt obligated to commit to all the film screenings and discussions occurring throughout the week. The mini-seminar kicked off on Monday with Miki Dezaki’s “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue.” Dezaki’s film guided viewers through the arguments denying and acknowledging the existence of comfort women during World War II, as well as Imperial Japan’s involvement with comfort stations. The film relied on logical argumentation but also included scenes that caused reactions ranging from gasps of
If you were to walk past the Rose Parlor last Thursday, Oct. 26th, you would’ve seen an eclectic circle of people: students from all grade levels, professors, alumnae/
Being surrounded by knowledgeable professors, alumnae/
The inclusivity of the week’s conversations extended beyond its participants. Within the mini-seminar, big questions did not demand immediate answers nor neat conclusions. The messiness of trauma and complexities of being human were acknowledged in the breadth of the topics touched on. The benefits of empirical evidence and storytelling were debated. While some feared
Friday, Sept. 27th, marked the final day of the mini-seminar. The conversation continued throughout the day-long workshop in the President’s Conference Room, where people were allowed to come and go as necessary. Topics
Reshan Selvavelautham ‘23 and Githu Krishanakumar ‘21 can attest to a similar sentiment. Considering the volume of events constantly happening on campus, it came as no surprise when Selvavelautham learned about Ratham’s “Demons in Paradise” screening mere hours before the event. Immediately, he cleared his schedule for that evening. Selvavelautham remarked, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to learn about my family’s history.” As Tamils, Selvavelautham’s parents were forced to flee during the Sri Lankan Civil War. The family moved to America where Selvavelautham grew up. Selvavelautham admitted, “I don’t know other South Asians, don’t know other Sri Lankans like me. So I never got to learn— besides my parents’ perspective—I never got to learn in an informative environment like a school environment.” When Selvavelautham spoke with his mom, he said she didn’t like that the film talked about how Tamils fought other Tamils. The film screening gave him an alternative perspective that his parents couldn’t provide.
Krishanakumar described how she felt after Thursday’s discussion: “I think I learned a lot, and it definitely gave me a lot to reflect on. Like, last night…I was supposed to go out with some friends, and I ended up just staying in my room on my laptop. My laptop screen was open, but I wasn’t really doing anything—I was just thinking about the conversation we’ve been having.” In the same way, I found myself drifting back in time to think about our conversations.
During the mini-seminar, countless topics were analyzed. Out of curiosity, I asked Ratham what his favorite topic we discussed was. He reflected: “In a pedagogical institution we’ve been talking about ghosts. Ghosts and demons. We become like kids.” He then burst into laughter. For such a high-brow institution, we spent hours earnestly talking about ghosts and demons. Despite the heavy topic of trauma, the mini-seminar was fun. We were kids being playful and learning from each other.
When I was watching the films, it puzzled me to have kernels of joy amongst the stories of sorrow. Throughout the week’s conversations, I experienced something similar. Moments of gravity intertwined with moments of merriment. It seems like a contradiction to feel both in the face of tragedy. Though, if I’ve learned anything, it is that nothing is black and white. The easier explanation is that humans are complex; the harder explanation would require another mini-seminar.