Patrick Kingsley on the Challenges of Reporting on the 2015 Migration Crisis

Dear friends, I’m Homi
Bhabha, and I’m greatly privileged to introduce
to you this evening our speaker, Patrick Kingsley,
and our discussants, Tobias Garnett and Parul Sehgal. Patrick Kingsley is an
international correspondent for The New York
Times based in Berlin. He previously covered
migration in the Middle East for The Guardian, and is
the author of two books, How To Be Danish– An Exploration Of
Contemporary Danish Culture, and the remarkable work that I
know better, The New Odyssey– A Portrait Of the
European Refugee Crisis. Tobias Garnett is a
human rights lawyer. He moved to Istanbul in 2015
to work on the refugee crisis, before representing Turkish
journalists imprisoned following the 2016 failed
coup, for which he was named the youngest ever human
rights lawyer of the year by the UK Law Society. So now the challenge is on. If anybody in the
audience would now like to be the even younger
recipient of this award, please rush. He is currently a Gleitsman
Social Activism Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy
School of Government. Parul Sehgal is a book
critic at The New York Times. She was previously a
senior editor and columnist of The New York
Times Book Review where she wrote extensively
about language, literature and translation, race,
memory, trauma, and identity. Her work has appeared in The
Atlantic, Slate, Bookforum, The New Yorker, and
The Literary Review, amongst other publications. And she was awarded
the Nona Balakian award for the National
Book Critics Circle for her criticism. It is indeed a privilege
to host three speakers who so courageously
and clearly address issues at the very core
of the Mahindra Center’s seminar on Migration
and the Humanities. But this privilege
is shadowed by pain, for at the very
core of our topic beats the heart of darkness. And Patrick, Tobias, and
Parul, in different ways, have kept a steadfast
finger on the pulse of the precarious and desperate
conditions of migrants in distress, refugees
on the march, and the stateless in
limbo, together amounting to a global population
of over 67 million people who represent a country larger
than the United Kingdom, although they are, of course,
a people without a nation. Our seminar, Migration
and The Humanities, has been exemplary in exploring
how migration as text, topic, trope, and fact
requires a pedagogy that moves across the intersection
of disciplines and demands a political understanding
of human rights, legal regulations, ethical
choices, and psychic affects engage with
people on the move. I want to thank Andrea Volpe
for her excellent curation of tonight’s events as well as
other programs in connection with this seminar. The right to movement,
a central tenet of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights– and this is, of course,
not the only moment in the history of refugees
because there is also the moment of settlement. There is the moment of not
being appropriated and yet being integrated. There are all these several
moments of states and movement. And I want to make
that clear, that I believe that movement
is not simply a smooth form of movement or
even a jagged form of movement. It’s always a kind
of stop and start. It’s a kind of fibrillation
of a historical experience. The right to movement, a
central tenet of the Universal Declaration, has cultural
and humanistic implications beyond or beside the
legal construal of rights. Poor and stricken populations
on the move in fear and flight activate the anxieties
and antagonisms of the privileged and powerful,
whose sense of security and sociality is based
on territorial stability and the dreams of
sovereign citizenship. It is as if the nation-centered
imagined community cannot allow itself to think and feel beyond
national borders that are, in many cases, as we know,
politically expedient constructions steeped in
colonial violence and imperial usurpation. As people on the move into the
domains of political expulsion and legal exclusion,
they also enter the discursive entropic domains
of cultural misrepresentation and political misrecognition. In the jaundiced eyes
of the White House and white supremacists or
populists the world over, once Mexicans arrive
at the US borders, they are nothing more than
criminals and rapists. And Honduran asylum seekers
in fear of their lives are arbitrarily
accused of harboring in their midst terrorists. This reminds me of a line from
Hannah Arendt’s very early essay, “We Refugees,” where she
observes that our enemies put us in concentration
camps and our friends put us in detention camps. Our invitation to
Patrick Kingsley originated in my rapt
reading of his stunning book, The new Odyssey. As a witness to the
refugee crisis in Europe, as a day by day participant
in the perilous migrant search for security and citizenship,
as a friend to those whose lives he observes
and whose stories he tells, Patrick has no equal. In a narrative that is as
subtle as it is straightforward, Patrick narrates the
aspirations and the agonies, the danger and the daring
of life worlds of migration. The dire necessity
to move, to flee, to settle, to enter the great
labyrinth of forms of deceit and invisibility in order
to live or to take flight is reason enough for recognizing
the rights of migration. To create a status
hierarchy amongst migrants, economic and political, might
be expedient, even necessary at times, but such distinctions
have often little moral merit. Patrick’s narrative
redraws the map of Europe from the perspective
of migrations. Territorial sovereignty
is diminished in the face of human necessity. Welcome, Patrick. [APPLAUSE] I have known– relax, Patrick. Your moment will come. I have known Tobias
Garnett in a seminar where his fine legal
mind and forensic talent kept humanists like me in check. Outside the seminar, I greatly
enjoyed Tobias’s company and conversation on a range
of social and cultural issues. My enduring admiration
and respect for him is grounded in his
remarkable engagement with Syrian refugees in Istanbul
and his political and legal advocacy. We are indebted to
Parul Sehgal’s art of critical judgment
and observation. Parul has altered
the cultural vision, in my view of The
New York Times, to delve deeply and range widely
in the writings of migrants, the displaced,
and the diasporic. We are in her debt for ever so
subtly shifting the emphasis from the talented
individual writer who emerged from such a
historical provenance to a more concerted attention
to the collective power of the oeuvre of such
writers who now provide a new, distinctive, at
sometimes agonizing, at other times ecstatic
framework for engaging with what we experience as
20th century contemporaneity. Welcome, Parul. So welcome to all three of you. Patrick will now speak. And after he does that, we’ll
have a panel of discussants, and then we’ll open
out to the audience. Thank you for being here today. [APPLAUSE] Thank you very
much, Homi, for such a undeservedly
generous introduction and to Andrea for organizing the
logistics of our travel here, and to Tobias and Parul for
joining this discussion, and of course, to
you all for coming. It’s great to see
so many people here. I’m going to be talking today,
as it says on the poster, about the 2015 migration
crisis in Europe and my experiences
reporting on it. And I want to use that
crisis as a springboard for discussing the ethical
and linguistic challenges of reporting on
migration in general. And in the process, I’m going
to try to pose four questions, roughly in sequence. To what extent can one report
objectively about migration? Can one report about
migration without objectifying one’s subjects? Is it possible to use
a neutral vocabulary when describing migration? And finally, to what extent
should migration reporters attempt to encourage
empathy in their readers? And to what extent would
that even be possible? And I wanted to
start this discussion by remembering a fairly minor
moment towards the beginning of the 2015 crisis,
before anyone had really noticed it was happening. It was around 1:30 in the early
hours of April the 28th, 2015, and the Syrian
civil servant called Hashem Alsouki was limping
across the main hall at Copenhagen Central
Station, trying to find the money for the last
stage of his journey to safety. It was three years
since Hashem was jailed tortured and
electrocuted in Damascus. It was two years since
he’d managed to flee Syria with his family for Egypt. It was six months
since they’d all nearly drowned trying to cross
the Mediterranean, two weeks since he had tried
the crossing again alone, and six days since he had
arrived safely in Italy. And since then, Hashem
had evaded the police on the French border, made his
way through France, Germany, and half of Denmark. Now he was within just a half
hour train ride to Sweden, where the government
had promised asylum to any Syrians who crossed
the Swedish borders. And it was in Sweden,
where Hashem hoped he and his wife and
their three sons could spend the
rest of their lives. But first he needed
to buy a ticket, and to do so before the random
border checks began again in the morning. And that was proving difficult.
At the first ticket booth, he needed a credit card. And like most refugees,
he didn’t have one. The second booth,
which took cash, revealed a bigger problem. He was now outside the
eurozone, so the euros that he’d picked up in Italy
were no longer of any use. And at 1:30 in
the morning, there weren’t any money
exchanges open that could swap his euros
for Danish kroner. So Hashem limped around the red
brick concourse of the station, trying to find any
shop that would let him pay for
something in euros and then give him
change in kroner. McDonald’s was the only option. But even as he entered
it, another customer was already being told that
no, McDonald’s will not accept euros. And there was no other
shop open in the station. It was a painful moment. Hashem was exhausted physically,
mentally, and emotionally. The past three years had been
defined by constant trauma and frequent humiliation. The past two weeks had seen
him risk arrest, death, and starvation to cross
the sea and a continent. He was thirsty, hungry,
smelly, and sleep deprived. His face was
strained with worry. Every step he walked, he felt
a pang in his infected foot. His knees wobbled in the cold. He had come so close
to safety and yet remained so far from it. And if I had wanted to, I
could have ended his problems within seconds
because I was there. I got to know Hashem
in Egypt and I had accompanied him since
his arrival in Italy two weeks earlier. I was with him on the French,
German, and Danish borders. And I was with him during these
moments at Copenhagen Central Station. If I had wanted to, I could
have taken my debit card from my wallet and
paid for his ticket. He could have been on the train
within minutes and in Sweden within half an hour. But I wasn’t sure I should. As a human being, I
felt the moral thing was to buy the ticket. But as a reporter, the ethical
choice wasn’t so obvious. And in moments like
this, it’s not clear whether a reporter is
allowed to be a human. The point of accompanying
Hashem on this journey was to write about it, and
the point of writing about it was to humanize a situation
that might otherwise seem alienating to
residents of Europe. We were in the middle of a
historic migration of people, a phenomenon that some European
journalists and politicians had presented as an invasion. By focusing just on
Hashem’s individual life, and in particular on
his individual journey, I was trying to help shift
the conversation away from the anonymizing and
alienating discourses of a foreign swarm, to use
the language of the then British prime minister. I wanted to convey the idea
that every boatload arriving on the shores of the
northern Mediterranean was full of individuals
with their own personalities and flaws and dreams
and histories. The human in me felt
it would be very much in keeping with
that journalistic mission to just pay for Hashem’s ticket. If the point of my journalism
was to foster compassion in others, I wondered if
I shouldn’t just short circuit the compassion
justice once, and provide an immediate version of
the support and kindness that I hoped my subsequent
article might eventually engender in others. But the journalist in me
worked with a different and almost paradoxical logic. Essential goal of journalism
is often a humane one, to provide accurate
information and thereby improve public understanding,
and perhaps in the process to change the way
that people react to a certain subject, which
in this case was migration. But that humane goal is
only considered achievable, at least in traditional
journalistic circles, if journalists are trusted to
be objective, dispassionate, and even cold vessels
for that information, in other words, if
journalists serve as witnesses rather than participants. If I intervened in
Hashem’s journey that cold night in
Copenhagen, I felt I would be doing
right as a human. But I would have been
blurring the boundary between participant and witness. And would that, I
wondered that night, had been the right thing
to do as a journalist. These are the kinds of
questions and dilemmas that I find myself facing
throughout 2015 and 2016 when more than a million people
landed in irregular fashion on the shores of Europe. Today I work for
The New York Times, but back then I worked
for The Guardian as the paper’s first
migration correspondent. It was my job to cover
the European migration crisis, a role
that took me to 17 countries along the
migration trail, from as far south as
Niger and Libya to as far north as Sweden,
from the shores of turkey to the mountains of the
Balkans, via several trips to the Mediterranean. To an extent, the ethical and
practical and linguistic and emotional challenges
that this job provided were not particularly
different to those I’ve encountered in other
journalistic arenas, or perhaps to those tackled
by Harvard academics throughout your own research. The relationship
between a researcher and his or her source is often a
vexed one, whatever one’s beat. The act of mining a source
for details about their lives, then presenting those
details to a foreign public, packaging them in a fashion
over which the source has no control, and
finally, framing them in a context that is more
recognizable to a foreign audience than to your
subject, all this often runs the risk
of exploitation, whether you’re writing
about migration or not. And when a foreigner,
particularly a white male foreigner, simplifies things
for an international audience, that reporting will,
often by default, objectify its subjects, , again
whether you’re writing about migration or not. The gap in privilege
and opportunity between a reporter
and their source, and the power to intervene
both positively and negatively in a source’s life, is one
experienced by journalists in many kinds of situations. But by reporting
on migration I did feel I encountered these
quandaries and imbalances more often than usual, and that
these dynamics were both more complex and more consequential. This was partly because the
structural imbalance between me and my sources was
that much greater. When reporting on the aftermath
of the Egyptian uprising two years earlier, for
example, my passport offered me
considerable protection on the occasions when I
was detained by the police. And that was a privilege
unavailable to any Egyptian. However, when I was in the
streets with protesters, we at least occasionally
face similar dangers– bullets, tear gas,
and petrol bombs. Two years later, however,
reporting on Europe’s migration crisis, there was
no similar leveling. You were either allowed to reach
Europe and to travel through it, or you weren’t. To get from Turkey
to Greece, I could have taken a ferry and then
watched hundreds of Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans
risk their lives to make the same journey in
deflating rubber dinghies. When walking over the Hungarian
border with a group of Syrians, I wasn’t doing anything that
would get me into trouble. But if those Syrians were
caught by border guards, they might be beaten,
deported, or forced to apply for asylum
in Hungary instead of, for example, Sweden. When Hashem, the man
I mentioned earlier, went a second time
by boat to Europe, I considered going
with him on the boat. I even bought a wetsuit
and spoke to smugglers about joining his ship. But in the end, I didn’t go. I just flew directly to Italy. The sea was a danger
that, unlike Hashem, I didn’t have to risk. And so in the time
that it took him to cross one border
illegally, I was allowed to legally cross
seven borders, moving, for various reasons, from
Egypt to Turkey to Jordan, through government held Libya,
rebel-held Libya, Tunisia, Malta, before finally
joining Hashem in Milan. The social impact,
meanwhile, that one might have while reporting
on this particular crisis was also, at least in theory,
much greater than anything one might achieve in
many other forms of foreign correspondents. As an international
news reporter, you are generally
reporting on events that unravel far from the lived
experiences of the majority of your readers or viewers. That process has its
own profound problems, some of which I
mentioned earlier, and its own capacity
to cause harm. But it rarely directly
affects how your readers behave personally towards the
subjects of your journalism, essentially because your
readers and your sources will almost never meet. There is a feedback loop between
your reporting and the biases and even political decisions
to which your reporting can contribute, but it is usually
a fairly long feedback loop. Covering the 2015 crisis,
however, was different. It was a story that began in
Syria, in Turkey, and in Libya, but which ended
all across Europe. The subjects of
my reporting were often either already
in Europe or at least trying to get there. And their arrival would
have, and continues to have, political cultural, social,
and economic ramifications for years to come. And for a reporter, that
created several challenges. As a journalist
specializing on the subject, I felt a responsibility to
dispel myths about migration. But I also had to avoid
the resulting temptation to dispel those myths with
ideological frameworks of my own. When it was alleged that
a perpetrator of the Paris attacks in November,
2015, had possibly entered Europe on
a refugee boat, I had to balance
an initial impulse to scoff at that claim,
given that it sounded so similar to far
right propaganda, with the acknowledgment that
such a claim was entirely plausible and indeed
turned out to be true. I also needed to recognize
that the structural problems incumbent within
foreign correspondency had not simply disappeared
because I was reporting closer to home. My journalism could
still endanger the people I was writing
about, even though they had now reached Europe. They had families that they
had left behind in war zones or in dictatorships
and asylum applications that they had still
to make, all of which might be prejudiced by
things that they said to me and which I
subsequently published. And every time I
wrote an article, I was still exploiting
and harnessing someone else’s
experiences and stories, even if my intention
was to frame them in an empathetic
light to my readers. In the process, my
work still ran the risk of Orientalism and
objectification, even though it was being
produced from inside Europe. Even the attempt to
humanize a man like Hashem and to present him as an
individual, rather than a caricature, instead
ran the risk of doing the opposite, of treating
him like a cipher, a symbol, or a parable. Explaining the
geography of migration in a way that made sense
to European readers also risked misrepresenting
how a migrant had actually experienced their journey. To the uninitiated
migrant, Europe could be a confusing blur. It was filled with places
and even countries they often hadn’t heard of and borders
they sometimes couldn’t see. They navigated it not with a
rough guide or TripAdvisor, but with scraps of
advice and hearsay gleaned from Facebook
groups and WhatsApp during fleeting
connections to Wi-Fi. In the process, their journey
constituted a reimagining of Europe’s geographic space. In one way, the
continent was no longer conceptualized as a neat map
of 50 individual countries with separate jurisdictions,
but a continuous tunnel of largely indistinguishable
Balkan states that surfaced eventually
in Germany or Scandinavia. Yet when framing these
journeys for a reader, I tended to describe them in
a textual equivalent of a neat map, a bird’s-eye view
journey from A to B to C, rather than as the messy and
reimagined space that a migrant might have experienced. Even basic linguistic choices
oriented towards my readers could misrepresent
migrants themselves or pool their
experiences in ways that ran counter to my aims. In a review of my book about the
refugee crisis for the magazine Bookforum, Atossa Abrahamian
noted that he, i.e. me, doesn’t quite shake the
deadline-driven urgency of the Daily News
reporter, occasionally succumbing to tired cliches. The lexicon of
the refugee crises is full of imprecise
watery metaphors– waves, wakes, flows, floods,
influxes, floodgates, tides. This sort of language, even
when employed inadvertently, has a dehumanizing effect. And Atossa was,
of course, right. If you describe
migration, as I often did, in terms of
flows and floods, you implicitly obscure the
individual circumstances of individual migrants. It also isn’t even a
particularly accurate metaphor. The word ‘flow’ suggests a
long and continuous movement from origin to destination, from
Syria, for example, to Sweden, or from the Ivory
Coast to France. But in reality,
many of the people who arrived in
Europe in 2015 had moved, as Homi said in
his introduction, in fits and starts, and often
had never intended to make for Europe when
they first left home. Syrians often tried
to find safety within calmer parts of Syria. If that failed, they settled
in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, or in Hashem’s case, Egypt. It was only two or three years
later that so many people then tried to get to Europe. Similarly, some of the
Afghans who arrived in 2015 had in fact spent years in Iran,
and a significant proportion of the West African migrants
who arrived in Italy from Libya had initially intended
for Libya itself to be their final destination. The word ‘flow,’ meanwhile,
implies that migration to Europe was inevitable,
whereas in reality it happened in stages and involved as
much status as movement. And by presenting the 2015
crisis as something inevitable, flow also perhaps implicitly
absolved the West not only of its role in the
complex that caused so much initial
displacement, but also of exacerbating
the dynamics that encouraged many of the
displaced to subsequently make for Europe. It ignored how the European
and North American failure to create a viable resettlement
program for refugees who had fled to Turkey
or Lebanon had, in turn, contributed to
their increased desire to reach the West by
more irregular means. The word ‘flood’
was also inaccurate because it presented the crisis
[AUDIO OUT] and unmanageable. As is often noted, if
a country like Lebanon with a country with a population
of between 4 and 5 million can take in 2 million refugees,
then the European Union with a population of 500
million should have easily been able to welcome the
comparatively small number that arrived in Europe in 2015. Yet the overuse of
a word like ‘flood’ and even the word
‘crisis’ itself subtly contributed to the
sense of a continent being overwhelmed. These were ideas I did
write about at the time, but to some extent I
undermined my own analysis with my choice of
language and my failure to find alternative
vocabularies. And this wasn’t the
only linguistic decision that I struggled with. When I began reporting
on migration, I figured it was best
to describe people on the move as migrants. It seemed like a
perfectly neutral word. But as 2015 developed,
‘migrant,’ like other initially neutral descriptors before
it, such as asylum seeker and immigrant, was increasingly
used by news outlets in a more negative sense. In certain quarters,
‘migrant’ came implicitly to mean someone undeserving
of empathy, someone traveling for economic reasons
rather than for as yet undetermined ones, let
alone for reasons of safety. In response, there was a
drive by the UN Refugee Agency and by news groups, such as
Al Jazeera and The Guardian to use less pejorative language
to describe people on the move. As an alternative default,
they suggested the word ‘refugee,’ an epithet that even
today still just about means something positive. For advocates like
the UN Refugee Agency, this made a lot of sense. The crisis was
overwhelmingly propelled by people who would qualify
for protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention. In the short term, it
therefore made sense to use language that highlighted
their right to protection since it might remind
politicians of their duty to provide it. But for journalists, I
felt the use of ‘refugee’ as a default was
problematic, even if I sympathized with the intention. By describing
people as refugees, you suggest that
you already know both why they began their
journey and the outcome of their asylum application
at the end of it. But when you’re describing a
large group of people whom you don’t know, it makes sense
to define them by what they’re doing, which is
something you can be reasonably sure of, rather than why they’re
doing it, which you can’t. The word ‘migrant’ is
the most efficient way of achieving this. In the purest sense, it simply
means someone on the move, and it casts no aspersions
positive or negative about why they set out
in the first place. And by using migrant
as a default, you also resist defining
migrants in opposition to refugees, whereas
by describing people as refugees in a bid to increase
public sympathy for them, you implicitly accept that a
migrant is someone undeserving of the same sympathy, that
refugees had good reason to leave home, whereas
migrants did not. But for me, this is a
problematic differentiation. In reality, all refugees are,
by definition, also migrants. And in an era in which migration
will be increasingly driven by climate change, it
is unhelpful to imply that those migrants who are not
refugees, i.e. who are broadly not at risk of
persecution or violence in their countries of
origin, do not also have legitimate reasons to migrate. Reporting on the 2015 crisis
was therefore not just a battle between advocacy
and documentation, or between witnessing something
and participating in it, it was also a battle between
different kinds of advocacy and different kinds
of documentation. The choice of the word ‘migrant’
over the word ‘refugee’ was not simply a choice
between neutral documentation and partisan advocacy. It was also itself an implicit
form of advocacy in the way that it essentially advocated
for migrants as well as a narrower group of refugees. There was a comparable
tension between two of the main ways in which I
attempted to frame the crisis. The first was to zoom in
on particular flashpoints in Europe, on the Greek
islands, for instance, or on the Hungarian border
or the camps at Calais. The second was to
zoom out, to show that Europe was just one
small part of wider migratory patterns and to highlight the
much larger mass movements of people to places like
Turkey, Libya, and Jordan. They were both
reflections of reality and yet they both,
to some extent, contradicted each other. The latter downplayed
Europe’s problems as a minor subset
of a larger issue. The former, conversely,
created a sense of urgency about what was specifically
going on in Europe. In one sense, this was a tension
between two different forms of documentation that has always
been present in journalism. The news industry’s
reflex is to highlight the exceptional
quality of an event, yet good journalism often
involves highlighting its unexceptional quality. It’s hard to do both of these
things at the same time. And yet, if you
don’t marry the two, you end up oscillating between
two different and problematic forms of advocacy. By focusing on the chaos at
a particular beach or train station in a well-meant attempt
to speed awareness of a tragedy unraveling within
Europe’s borders, one instead risked
unintentionally mimicking the
xenophobic argument that this migration amounted
to a violent and unmanageable invasion. By contrast, if you
zoom out too far in an effort to highlight the
eminently manageable nature of the situation, you risked
diverting humanitarian aid and public outcry away from
an event that nevertheless still required urgent political
and humanitarian attention. My mandate as a
migration correspondent, rather than, say, an immigration
correspondent or an integration correspondent, risks
also fetishizing the drama of the
journeys migrants were making at the expense
of asking harder questions and undertaking less glamorous
reporting about the logistics of how so many people would
be received and welcomed at their final destinations. Later in the crisis, after the
European Union agreed a deal to deport asylum seekers
in Greece back to Turkey, I spent time reporting
how Turkey was not a safe place for
migrants to return to. But privately, I
occasionally wondered whether this line of reporting
did more harm than good. I wondered whether
returning to Turkey was really any worse than being
marooned in a squalid refugee camp in Greece and whether,
by scrutinizing EU policies like this, a reporter
might be, in fact, undermining Europe’s best
chance of managing an impossible situation, and also
making it harder for moderate European leaders
to demonstrate to anxious voters that they had regained
control of European borders. Later still, I
feared that my work went too far the other way. After far-right
leaders did indeed claim that Europe’s centrist
leadership had failed to solve the crisis,
I reported on how migration numbers
had, in fact, returned to their pre-2015 levels, and
that this drop was largely thanks to the work of
centrists like Angela Merkel, rather than far-right populists
such as Matteo Salvini. And in the process, I
wondered if the framing of this reporting implicitly
validated policies that had left
thousands of migrants trapped in slavery-like
conditions in Libya. On a separate note,
I even questioned the logic of attempting
to humanize migration in the first place. I wondered if, by trying to
encourage empathy in readers, one instead ended
up exhausting what remaining reserves of empathy
that people still had. Reading the comments
under some of my articles about shipwrecks or about
individual people like Hashem, I would often find deeply
unsympathetic responses from readers who thought
these migrants should have been left to drown at sea. That led me to question whether
the simple documentation of a tragedy is enough to induce
long-term empathy in one’s audience, or whether
one needs to provide an audience with a
means of channeling that empathy in order to
ensure that it doesn’t ebb into indifference. The horror a reader derives
from reading about tragedy can quickly morph into a sense
of powerlessness if they, as an ordinary citizen, cannot
see a means in which they can personally help to
ease that horror. And as newspapers,
websites, and news feeds became saturated with
documentations of hardship in 2015, I suspect
that, for many readers, this combination of
horror on the one hand and powerlessness
on the other became an increasingly exhausting set
of emotions to contend with. So I wonder if
instead of weathering that low level emotional
trauma, article after article, TV report after TV
report, it eventually became more practical for some
readers to convince themselves that the subjects of
all this reportage were simply not
worthy of empathy. If you don’t empathize
with something, you consequently feel no
obligation to do anything about it, and you
thereby free yourself of the emotional burden
you might otherwise take on by reading
about and empathizing with someone like Hashem. Are people instinctively cruel? Personally, I don’t think so. But I wonder when it becomes
exhausting to constantly feel empathy for a situation
beyond your control, cruelty nevertheless becomes
an excellent defense mechanism. And in that context,
I’ve sometimes wondered if an
excess of reportage can destroy empathy as
much as encourage it. I began this talk by suggesting
that reporting on the migration crisis in Europe was a
wrestle between observation and participation. I want to end it
by suggesting that, in fact, one way or
another, as Homi mentioned in the introduction, it was,
in fact, almost impossible to avoid participating. That night in Copenhagen
Central Station, I didn’t end up paying
for Hashem’s ticket. We stumbled about in the cold
until he found a newsagent that was still open. He paid for some chewing
gum with a 20 euro note and got the change
in Danish kroner. He used that change
to buy a ticket, and an hour later
he was in Sweden. In the past, I’ve
often cited this scene as an example of how I was able
to remain a witness instead of a participant in
Hashem’s journey. And perhaps literally,
that is true. But as time has
gone on, I’ve also come to recognize that I
was indirectly participating all along, even if I chose
not to directly participate in specific moments
such as this one. Thank you for listening. [APPLAUSE] Wonderful. [INAUDIBLE] Patrick, thank you for a really
exquisite yet incisive speech which allowed you to
interrogate yourself and your own practices
with great integrity. And for those of us who read
you or read other newspapers and are interested
in these issues, it gave me a sense of what
the work of journalism is, whatever in a way
its object happens to be, in this case, of
course, migration, which adds of a particular charge. So as you said, you
started very beautifully looking at the question of
participation and witnessing. Either you participate
or you witness, and you want to
maintain that tension. And it’s a very human
and humane tension. And then we had this
remarkable journey through the effects
of language on policy and how the journalist tries
to balance these things. And then eventually,
the question of empathy and how much empathy can we
show, and how often can we show it? And is there empathy exhaustion? And it struck me that maybe the
better thing is just to say, whatever my empathetic
affect is or isn’t, I’m going to think of the law. I’m going to think
of the rights. I’m going to think
of the moral issue. Whether I’m [INAUDIBLE],,
I know that refugees should be protected. I’m going to hold onto
the principle rather than the affect. I’m not saying this is possible. I’m just saying this
is a way of dealing with empathy exhaustion. This is why many of the people
who you agree with politically are the last people you want to
necessarily have a cup of tea with or just have a chat with
quite often, because they are not empathetic people and
yet they’re very principled. Do you see the
distinction I’m making? So with all that in mind, I
want to turn to you, Parul, because this is such
a writerly talk, while being at the same
time politically urgent. And you have worked
consistently on fictions that are based on this narrow
edge between both participating and critiquing or witnessing. And so I just wanted your
response to Patrick’s. You can you hear me? Or do I need to use this? I can use this. No, I’m– whoa. Sorry. Not too much of this,
judicious amounts of this. No, I was very
grateful for your talk, and I love your book because
I think one of the things that you do in your book is
you’re constantly interrogating language. And I think if
there’s anything that connects what the four of
us do and our relationship with this issue, is that we’re
all wary of the language. We’re all a little
skeptical of the language. The language feels suspect. The language calls
contaminated in ways. And in your book, you sort
of draw the difference between migrant versus refugee. I mean, even the term– I find myself very
reluctant to use the word the
‘migrant’ these days also, in a way that I
never did five years ago. It feels so bizarre to talk
about an individual identity based on an action. Who else do we do this to? And I think in the last–
to your question, Homi– I mean, all of
the sort of things you were just talking
about right now and that sort of
animate your book have been a really exciting
development in fiction in the last couple of years. And it feels like it’s getting
more sophisticated in thinking about some of these issues. For so long, there were
some very, very sort of shopworn inherited
narratives of immigration and books stayed
relatively the same. And about seven years ago,
something started to change. We started to get
a little bit more– I described it in
a piece I wrote. These were not narratives
of arrival anymore. These were narratives of
amputation, of spiritual death, of recursion, people coming
and going back, or coming and saying, but what’s left? What really arrived? What’s going to survive this? And in the last, I think,
two or three years, we’ve started to see
a lot of Western– not a lot, but a good number
of some of our more significant Western novelists try to write
about the migration crisis, and to write in a way that
sort of unravels a lot of the narratives
that we’ve inherited, and really sort of grapple
with a lot of the things that Patrick was talking
about– positionality, framing. How do even situate
myself in this story? Is bringing it up
somehow self-serving? How do I ask these questions? How do I frame these
questions, but at the same time keep my attention on
this person’s story? And so these books
that I’m referring to in this very nebulous
way, some of them are Jenny Erpenbeck’s
Go, Went, Gone. Valeria Luiselli had a book
that came out this year called Lost Children Archive. Lisa Halliday has a
book called Asymmetry. And these are very
different books and they all tell very
different stories. But the heart of it, there
is a Western person sort of coming into contact with
the figure of the migrant. And we both get a
sense of the story, we get a sense of the
stakes, but we also see somebody really, really
grappling with storytelling in general, and
trying to fit a way to stuff some of their
anxieties and questions and broader philosophical
questions in there without hijacking this story. So in my sort of
long-winded, circuitous way, that’s some of the
things that I’m seeing. And fiction is very
well suited to it because fiction is a
self-questioning genre. It can comment on itself. It can change forms. It can be very subtle. And to the point that
you had that I really– and when you said this, I
was like, this is such a– that idea of empathy exhaustion. What is the reporter
supposed to do, not report? Report less? Scrub out details? But then I was thinking
that, no, what you are doing exists alongside art. What you’re doing exists
alongside novels and plays and music. And when we think about the
narratives and the stories and the texts that make
some of these things feel real, what is it? It’s Manto on Partition. It’s Jacob Lawrence on
the Great Migration. It’s The Jungle, the play
that was just in New York. So there are these
things that exist alongside what you’re doing. And I think that
we don’t often get to talk about these two
worlds existing together. So thank you for that chance. Parul, thank you. Thank you very much. And I think you make
a very important, one that I encounter when
I write about this life world of migration, which is
that the archive of migration now is vast because there’s
the journalistic mode, there’s the art mode,
there’s the literary mode. There is, of course, the
legal discourse, too, which often bears the
weight of witnessing, in a very different
way, but it happens. And then there is the
iPhone, there is the text, there is Facebook. All these issues become part
of the archive of migration. And how do we track it? And how do we store it? And where do we keep it? And I think– I was reading a testimony
by a migrant who said, my iPhone is my entire
familial memory. I have photographs of the homes. Reading another one,
said, on the night I knew I was leaving– or the
week I knew I was leaving, I embroidered my skirt. Is that from your book
or somewhere else? Where I embroidered
my skirt with scenes from the town which I came from. So I just think the
archive is massive. Its text and textile and
vinyl and all kinds of things. To us, what is the witness
of the activist lawyer, both in court and as a
participant in a larger movement? Making the opinion and
then the legal opinion, making the public opinion
and then the legal opinion. Yeah. I think that much of this
talk– and thank you very much for Patrick– was about kind of categories. And as Parul says,
the law is obviously very interested in words as well
and the kind of legal status that they infer. And you set up this kind of idea
of observer and participant, and, I think, at
times seem to try to want to escape, both in your
talk and perhaps in your work, into a kind of role of advocate,
this sort of third place between two of
these two binaries. And I think that’s sort of
what the Refugee Convention 1951 tries to do with
regards to refugees. It took a situation kind
of before the war, where you were either a
citizen or a non-citizen, and it recognized
that, actually, between those binaries,
there was this escape perhaps into a another
status which should have the kind of legal rights. And I suppose what’s going
on at the moment seems to me is that these important,
precarious middle statuses are kind of under attack. And so the refugee, as
both of you have mentioned, has a certain kind
of legal status with rights attached to it. The economic migrant does not. And this kind of conflation
that is constantly at work between
the two, I think, serves to undermine the kind
of legal status of the refugee as this intermediate. And as an advocate, as an escape
from the binary of observer or participant, my work
as a lawyer in Turkey, the advocate has
started to be associated with those they are
seeking to represent and the allegations against
those they seek to represent. So lawyers are being put in jail
for representing journalists or politicians with
whose positions the government doesn’t like. And then on migration,
specifically, those working on refugee
boats, trying to save migrants in the sea, have
increasingly been arrested for people smuggling– people trafficking. And so I wonder kind
of what’s going on here a little bit is a reassertion
of these binaries. You are legal or
you are illegal. You are a citizen
or a non-citizen. And these kind of
middle places which reflect the complexity
of the world as it is that we work very
hard legally to create are now kind of
being diminished. That’s really
interesting, the refugee in a way as a
category in between, as sort of a liminal
category, is an important way in which we could talk
about law, literature, and journalism, as a
kind of a conjunction. Because if you think about
the 1951 Refugee Convention, it strikes me– and when I talk to lawyers
like this they sort of slightly guffaw or they’re a
little bit more polite and laugh into
their handkerchiefs. But it strikes me that
there are two moments here. There is the moment of
crossing the border, which then puts you in a
place of making a claim– am I right– making a claim. So that’s more the
jurisdictional issue, the international issue– crossing the border,
being in a place to claim a certain legal
identity and protection. But then the second part of it– and I split that
two conditions– is the narrativity,
which is where you have to prove that you have
a real fear of persecution. You don’t have to individual– just let me see if
I can get it right. You don’t have to individually
have experienced that, but others in your
position or like you may have experienced it. But now, before the officer,
whoever he or she is, you have to prove that there
is a real fear of persecution in the future. So this is almost there are
two different temporalities– the time of crossing and
then this whole narrativity. And in fact, in the great book
on the Refugee Convention by– help me– the lawyer with the– huh? Goodwin-Gill, that’s right. Thank you. In Goodwin-Gil’s
book, he says, the law can’t deal with these
temporal disjunctions. That’s why, he says,
[INAUDIBLE] legally [INAUDIBLE] it’s difficult.
That why, he says, we depend on a
case-by-case approach. I think the narrative problem
and the jurisdictional problem are rather like Proust. I often think the same
question of entangled time on which you’ve got
to tell the story, convince somebody that in the
future something is happening, where you have the
fear of something that you knew in the past. So it seems to me
that narrative, which all three of you deal
with in different ways, is so much part of the status
of the law on migration as well as the literature, and
then, of course, the journal. And your talk was so
much about narrativity. So I want to take
a narrative term from what you said,
zooming in and zooming out. And I’d like you to say a
little bit more about that because for you it was not
simply a problem in writing. It was also an ethical problem. It’s also a knowledge– an
epistemological problem. Do I give the big picture? Do I give the small? How do I balance the two? And that question of scale
is as much an ethical issue as indeed it is an issue of
information and reportage. How do you work with that scale? Well, on a practical
level, as a journalist, it’s very difficult because
to focus on that wider narrative, the logistics
of getting to Niger or getting to a remote part
of Libya, it’s very tricky. And that takes weeks, sometimes,
to prepare and to travel. In the meantime, there
are many different events happening on a day-by-day
basis in Europe on borders. And so that creates two
different time scales as a reporter and a
witness or an advocate of what’s going on
because you have to be working on two
very different time frames at the same time. You have to have your short-term
reportage, where you’re quickly going in European countries, and
your long-term planning, where you’re trying to
get a visa or trying to find a driver or a
translator for a more distant part of the world. And so in the process of
trying to create these two different narratives,
you’re also working on two different
very practical time frames. That wasn’t necessarily
what you were asking for, but it is another element
of temporality, too. And then putting
this the zooming in on a specific thing and then
putting it in a larger, say, global framework, that tension– how does that tension work? Well, if you zoom out and
you try to show these much longer-term forms of
migration that have been going on for decades rather
than just months or weeks, that is a very
different timescale to– suddenly, a new border
becomes a new flashpoint in Eastern Europe. The summer of 2015 was one
of something new happening every day, every week. And it felt
momentous and it felt like you were in the middle
of this extraordinary moment, and that migration had
never happened before and that it was
suddenly happening here in Europe, whereas
if you zoom out, you realize people
are often on the move in many different places
in equally dramatic ways. But it doesn’t have the lens
of the Western reporter on it. And those are a quite clearly
two very different forms of time and interaction. So Parul, this framing
of time is, of course, so central to fiction in so many– and even the fictions
you mentioned. Time is such a category of
both historical representation and the representation
of the inner landscape of the characters,
and also the writer. Can you– I can. Can I do something else instead? Yeah. OK. So I just wanted to– because
my mind is moving this other direction, which is– as it will. And you mentioned that
the narrative problems and the narrative
challenges that face the journalist or the
narrative problems that face the novelist. And I was also just thinking
that the narrative problem that faces the refugee
or the migrant. Having to force your
experience into narrative can feel like an absolutely
abnormal, violent, strange act. In the book that I
mentioned before, Lost Children Archive,
by Valeria Luiselli, who’s a Mexican American– I think that’s how
she ID’s– novelist, came out of her work working
with unaccompanied minors and she was working
as a translator. But she was also working on
almost editing their stories, trying to help them
prove their case, and taking it to the
lawyers and saying, well, does this prove enough threat? Isn’t that a book,
Tell Me Where It Ends? Yes, that’s right. That’s right. So it was a nonfiction
book, and then she went and she sort of wrote this
large, big, sprawling novel that’s based on it. So I was thinking about that
and I was thinking about– again, I’d mentioned this also
before, the Jacob Lawrence– people know the Jacob Lawrence
Great Migration Series? It’s a series of
paintings that he did, 60 paintings that he did in
1941 about the Great Migration. And there are these
beautiful, haunting images. There was a big show at
MOMA a few years ago. And I was looking at
them the other day and I was noticing that– and I was trying to find
the source of their power because they’re very
simple, primary colors. There are no faces
in those paintings. They’re completely faceless, and
nobody mentions that, really. Nobody talks about
it, that they’re essentially almost these
block paintings of gestures and families together. And everybody is very beautiful,
bearing beautiful posture, but they’re clearly on the move. Clearly, there’s distress. Once or twice, there’ll be the
figure of a child isolated. But I was thinking
about that facelessness, and I was thinking
about some of what happens during this process
of migration and being refugee and I’m a child of Partition. I come from a Partition
sort of inheritance, and thinking about the
changes that are happening, the changes to
identity, the changes to all forms of sense of self. And then to have to create
a narrative in that moment is something that
does not get, I feel, talked about
and something that, I think, a lot of the
fictions I mentioned, through the sort of
character of the Westerner interested in migration,
interested in these people in flux, is sort of
trying to tease out and trying to say,
well, then who do you become when you’re
sort of being forced to conform to these
particular kinds of bureaucratic
definitions of self? [INAUDIBLE] jump in on that. I mean, yes, the
narrative that migrants have to create for
themselves to get legal status at various points
is obviously very salient. But I also wanted to sort
of talk about the narratives that they create for their
own understanding and the ways in which their understanding is
broadened by the kind of group of people– friends, neighbors, et cetera–
who are there on a journey and whose boundaries
are expanding with them. My wife and I used to teach some
Syrian kids in Istanbul English to try and get into universities
in this country and then, after the Muslim ban, into
Canadian universities. And for many of them,
their conception of the world outside
Syria didn’t include them. They imagined lives,
obviously, in their country. And what changed is, after the
war began and people started leaving, is that
they then started posting on their
Facebook mini feeds or whatever pictures of
them in front the Eiffel Tower or pictures of them in
front of Brandenburg Gate. And suddenly the
understanding that individuals had of the potential
parameters of their world and the narrative in which they
could conceive of themselves massively expanded. And therefore, for these
kids sitting in Istanbul the idea of suddenly
trying to get to Sweden, or trying to get to Denmark
or Berlin or anywhere, was suddenly a thing that was
conceivable and imaginable and something they
might actually do, whereas before it
hadn’t been at all. And on this point
as well, I just wanted to ask Patrick about– at one point, you basically gave
Hashem a notebook and a camera, and there’s this
wonderful Guardian article where he documents himself. And I wonder if you could
talk about that process and the thinking or
the complexity behind– here he is a participant,
observer of a real kind. I mean, you brought your
wet suit, but he had to go. And giving him a
camera and so on, I wonder if you could
talk about that. Definitely. I mean, it’s a really
vexing ethical question. You’re essentially
asking someone to commit a form of
journalism for you, unpaid, and to risk their
lives while doing it. You can frame it another way. You can you can frame
it as a choice, but– How did he frame it? I think, in his mind, this
was this was a worthy thing to be involved in. I framed it as something
that could achieve empathy within a European
population that was confused about
what was happening, and that this could
increase awareness. But yes, because I
wasn’t on the boat, because he was
writing his diary, which then I would use to
recreate the story of what he experienced on the
boat, and because he did use a little
camera I gave him, he was the journalist
in that situation. Which in one sense
is, as I said, very problematic because he’s
doing the work of journalism for you, the journalist who is
actually getting paid for it. But at the same time, it’s
actually a still very rare form of self-narrative,
self-description, self-assessment. It was interesting that the
novels that you mentioned earlier are all about
a Western protagonist come to terms with a migrant
that they previously– a migration or
groups of migrants. I haven’t read those books. I apologize. But that’s what it sounded like. They were not novels about
a migrant’s experience. And it’s the same in journalism
and many other fields. I think Lena Dunham
has been given the role of writing a screenplay
about migration from Syria, and that’s another example of– The internet was
thrilled by that. Fully support it. I don’t want to just
jump on her when I’m doing exactly the same
thing, and that’s problematic. It’s problematic that
it’s people like me who are not from Syria, who are
narrating the Syrian migration. I’m going to ask you one final
question before we open up. We all say, in our different
ways, it’s problematic. It’s problematic. And people have been
saying it’s problematic, the treachery of the clerks. There have been a
participant, observer. It’s problematic,
it’s problematic. Should we have a way of taking
responsibility for the fact that it’s problematic, as
we all try and do, and say, because it’s problematic,
we’re trying to do x or y, or this is the way
we are functioning? And maybe it is problematic, but
there is also a way out of it. This problematic-ness is
necessary in some ways in the world in which
we live, and it’s just confronting the
inequalities of the world, confronting the different
historical fates in the world. The question I wanted to ask
you before we open up is, again, about the word ‘crisis.’ I wanted to ask each of you. Many of these novels
have a critical moment, a moment of specific
kinds of crisis or crises. You, Patrick,
experienced something, and in your talk here you said,
at one level, it’s a crisis. But maybe there’s
a longer narrative. It’s the zoom in, zoom out
problem in a different way. And Tobias, I often
think that people talk about the
crisis in order then to let policy
wonks come in on it or certain NGOs come in
on it, and they do so with some passion. But then if things
don’t work out, then they say, well, of course
we couldn’t work it out. It’s. A crisis look, we’ve got to
deal with this huge problem. So how can we get a
satisfactory thing? It’s all a crisis. Well, we need crisis management. So I just want, from
different aspects, just to have a
conversation about crises, and then we can open
up to our audience. So I think– we talked
about empathy fatigue and I think crisis breeds
legal fatigue as well, or fatigue of the
institutions of law that were a protective
regime that was set up after Second World War, the
Refugee Convention 1951, then in the EU, these Dublin
treaties to try and share as migrants arrived on the
border countries of Europe to share them amongst
different countries. And that kind of
legal protection, I think what this
crisis showed is it’s sort of inversely
related to its need. At the moment it
was most required, it kind of rolled over
and basically everyone reneged on their commitments
under the Dublin treaties. This deal with Turkey was
signed instead of continuing to accept migrants into the EU. So I think these kind
of legal statuses also get kind of
fatigued and rights that were thought to be kind of
universal become quite clearly contingent, politicized. And I think as [INAUDIBLE] said
in the [INAUDIBLE] lectures a couple of weeks ago, it
starts to become a question of, if there are too many
legals, we better start calling them illegals. And so the system kind
of gets overwhelmed. So I think that’s sort of part
of my sense of [INAUDIBLE].. Just a footnote to
that, [? Penny ?] Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone– the deep structural crisis
is the Dublin treaty. That’s the main plot,
in a way, of the book. Patrick, crisis. You experienced a crisis. I still use my word–
expression, ‘migration crisis’ as a shorthand. I feel it’s not the
worst expression, but it isn’t really
a migration crisis. More people arrive as
tourists on summer days in Italy and Greece
than would arrive by leaking boat from Turkey. But I think it is a crisis
in the sense of it’s a crisis of identity for
both the refugees, because they are leaving
behind their homelands and going somewhere new. It’s a crisis for liberal
Europeans or liberal Americans, or leftist Americans
and leftists Europeans, like, who are we? Is this continent,
Europe, really the place that we imagine it to be? It’s also a crisis for
identity for the right. Is this still Christian Europe? Are we losing our sense
of centuries old Christian heritage? And the second thing
it’s a crisis about is of border management. There is still a crisis in that
sense because all the problems that we find out about
the Dublin treaty and the legal mechanisms that
would redistribute people and the political will
to redistribute people among European countries,
that still hasn’t been solved. That was, in essence,
the problem– the reason why it appeared so
chaotic in the first place, was because none of these
legal systems were working. And today we still
don’t have a new system. We have Manuel Macron
who wants to create a pan-European migration
and asylum system, and we have a bunch of other
countries that don’t want that. So they’re still at loggerheads. They still can’t agree, and that
is still a political crisis. But it is a border
management crisis. It’s not necessarily
a migration crisis. That’s very well. So it’s a crisis of
how you receive people, and what mechanisms and
instruments you have for that. And some– I think, in
terms of fiction’s response to the crisis, what I think
is interesting in some of the books I mentioned and
just more broadly is sort of suspicion of empathy,
which I think is very welcome, sort of looking at
this thing about– a lot of these books are, like,
it’s not enough to sort of just show us the story of objection. James Wood has a
very smart phrase– we just don’t want to
be the moral [INAUDIBLE] touring other people’s trauma. We don’t want that
story anymore. And I think a lot of
the wave of these books are interesting to me,
not because they’re Westerners reporting or
talking about their– like, a Driving
Miss Daisy scenario, like, tell me how it is for you. No, I think it’s because these
books, in a very structural way and a very
language-based way, are trying to ask for something
more than the satisfaction of feeling the right
feeling and feeling moved or having all sorts
of [INAUDIBLE].. No, they’re trying to say, well,
what information don’t we have? What is our complicity? What are the histories
we don’t know? And actually, when it’s shame,
an absolutely appropriate response. And maybe that’s
another– so I think that I think that these
kinds of emotional registers, these kinds of sorts
of ways of pushing back on our expected emotional
responses to these stories, feels very useful to me. And I think you made a very
important distinction there. The language, very
often, of the observer or the writer in
relation to these issues, people always think it’s guilt.
As a witness, you’re guilty. Maybe it’s shame, and
they’re not the same thing. But that’s for
another conversation. Now I want to open
up to the audience. Please show your hands
and introduce yourselves. Is there mic? Thank you so much. Yeah. I’m Irv [? Plotkin. ?]
I’m a member of the community and the ART. I want to go back to
Patrick’s first problem that you put out, that you were
worrying as a reporter you were observing, but are you
changing what’s happening, and should you intervene
with your debit card. And you’re clearly conflicted
and troubled by it, and then the idea that misery
loves company. Let’s think about something. We’re now in the
philosophy building, and not inappropriately
for this discussion, but if we went a little
further north on campus, we’d be in the Science Center. And if our hearing
were cute, we’d hear Heisenberg talking
about the observation effect, that the observer impacts
the very experiment that he’s observing. If we went further north, we’d
be in the Anthropology Museum and we could hear Margaret
Mead complaining about, how do you look at
a tribe that has not had contact with the rest of
the world without changing it? So it’s not a unique
problem to reportage, although maybe it’s
more common now in that. I don’t know if this
will be comforting or not discomforting to
you, but I think you’re doing a wonderful job
in carrying out your profession with the natural
impediments that beset any kind of scholarly endeavor. Can I answer? Yes, please. I think that’s a very
perceptive point in that just by being there, even if I
didn’t intervene at that moment or in other moments,
obviously, I was impacting the way that
people looked at me and Hashem as a duo. If it had just been
him sitting on his own in an empty carriage, he
might have looked more shifty than because I was accompanying
him with my laptop, asking questions about
how he was feeling at the last border crossing. And obviously, that changes
how people interact with us and perhaps provides
him a certain cover, even if, for example on, the
French-Italian border when he actually
encountered the police, we were apart from each
other by several meters. That’s kind of irrelevant. I was still participating
in his journey. And even though,
as a journalist, I don’t like to admit that. It’s kind of true. Thank you. Two hands. Hello. So I’m also a member
of the community, but I’m originally Canadian. And there, there’s a lot
of talk happening right now around how we integrate
indigenous perspectives into research and decision
making and other parts of life. And one big piece of this is
recognizing our relationships with other people in the
research we’re doing, not anonymizing people, as well
as in the conversations we have and how we make decisions, is
putting those relationships first. And so I’m interested
in how this relates to this question of
witness versus participant and whether, within
journalism, there’s conversations happening
about how we maybe place more importance on these
relationships, including and reflecting on
them in the way we’re writing. So can you just clarify– relationships between
journalists and who? Your relationship
with Hashem, and you recognize yourself that
you are a participant. You said this at the end,
that even in these instances where you were trying
to act as a witness, you were still a participant. And so I’m wandering around how
you integrate this realization into your writing. I’m not sure I do, to be honest. I think you– as a
reporter, at least, you’re always trying to distance
yourself from the action. If you refer to
yourself, sometimes it’s a Guardian reporter or a
New York Times reporter. And to an extent,
you’re always trying to obscure the relationship
between yourself and the person that I was
trailing in that moment or that I’m quoting
in another moment. And maybe the relationship
is actually quite thin and it was only formed in the
light in a couple of minutes at a protest, and then
you’re on to the next person. Or maybe it’s like
Hashem or someone that I’ve been getting
to know for months. But perhaps there isn’t enough
honesty about the background to your relationship
with that person. That said, accompanying
that particular article was a blog post by me explaining
that relationship. Maybe the place for that
explanation was in the article itself, maybe it wasn’t. I’m conflicted and unsure
of what the right answer [? would be. ?] So Parul, I wanted
to ask you this. I want to just ask a follow-up
question because I think that it feels now– just from where you and I
work, it feels like there’s so much commentary
on our journalism, whether it’s the podcast or the
notebooks that reporters write, there does seem to be a hunger
on the part of the reader to understand more about these
relationships and more about how people like you do your job. Is that something you welcome? Is that something you think
is good for the profession? Yes, because I think we
need it to be a bit more honest about the fact
that we aren’t just the view from nowhere. And what’s hiding behind that
neutral language [INAUDIBLE].. Exactly. I think we try to
imagine that we don’t have a complex series of
biases, whether personally or institutionally. But inevitably, there
is a certain framework in which you’re operating. And I think it’s good that
there are more notebooks on page two of The Times
kind of explaining how a certain
moment works or what I think our colleague,
Declan Walsh, wrote a piece about what
it’s like to be in Yemen when there’s a famine and you have
literally thousands of dollars that you’re bringing to
pay translators or drivers or fixers or for visas or
hotels, or anything like that. How do you navigate
that moral space? I think it’s good that
we’re talking about it. But that moral space is
also an institutional space. Surely The Times doesn’t say,
do this or don’t do this. But when you write
for a paper like that, it’s not just your anonymity. It’s also that the
paper prescribes a kind of institutional–
not maybe neutrality, in some cases, or kind of more
ecumenical thing [INAUDIBLE].. So what is that? How does that work? No editor tells you,
don’t put yourself in it. Oh, they will. Oh, do they? Yeah. They say to you, don’t
put yourself in it? Well, I mean, in The
Times, for example, you notice maybe two
years ago, they’re starting to put ‘I’ in a
few different news stories to show to readers that
the reporters are actually in the places that
they’re writing about. And then there was a
feeling that maybe that wasn’t necessary. So there is a discussion
about the extent to which we put ourselves
in these pieces, but it is nevertheless not– I wouldn’t say it’s
a personal choice. I mean, this is an
institutional [INAUDIBLE].. It’s an institution. In the broader
convention, that’s where the trust comes from. But as a reviewer, as a
literary and cultural reviewer, again, there’s a different
kind of distance there. Right, right. I think it is loosening
a little bit more. And I think my contract
with the reader is very different, especially
because I write every week, so there is a little
bit more familiarity. If I were writing
something as before– I sort of was writing
for the daily section, there was a little bit
more in personality. But now I feel very comfortable
to [? wheel the ?] adjectives and pronouns around. That’s great. Thank you. Thank you for a really wonderful
talk and, actually, also very thoughtful comments. Patrick, you talked about
various tensions, I think, very forcefully. And you talked about–
and Tobias picked this up, about the problem of
kind of empathy creep or empathy waning. What about attention
you didn’t talk about, which I imagine you
must have confronted and must confront
again and again, is the tension between
deeply immersing yourself in the unwinding of a narrative,
like Hashem’s narrative, and picking very
powerful, iconic moments– we can think of several
in the migration crisis– which really then,
however much fatigue there is, suddenly give
a new boost to empathy. So going from the really
careful, cumulative reporting of a life unfolding in many
different contexts to what you might call sensationalism
or even some sort of humanitarian pornography,
of looking at death, particularly death of a child,
the death of a pregnant woman or a fetus, the kind of thing
which really forces people into a visceral reaction. So I wondered if you could
talk a little bit about how you make those choices because,
after all, your time is also– and your newsprint is a
scarce commodity in something as urgent as a issue like this. You’re making a choice. The choice by which– Your choice to spend your
time, for example, following a person and
gradually documenting him kind of stumbling
along in the late night contexts and so on, as
opposed to really chasing after ambulances, chasing after
kind of real sensational crises which, presumably,
you could also do. So if you make that
choice or if you always will take the crisis, the
sensational thing when it happens. When there isn’t, then you
do the more cumulative– I think it has to be a
discussion with your editor. And I was lucky
that year to have an editor who also saw of
value not just of flinging me or others at the
latest flash point, but also saw the value in
spending time and investing in longer narratives. If it’s a large news
organization, you can do both. You can have people that
are spending that week going to the Macedonian border
because suddenly it’s become a flashpoint,
and you can have me spending that same week
following Hashem around. It doesn’t have to– I would love it if it was
sort of a particularly subtle calculation. But really, if you
have enough reporters, you can do all these
things at the same time. But what you also
do in the book– and then I know we have
two questions here. But what you do in
the book is, when you talked about Alan Kurdi, for
instance, you talk about that. You talk about the
crisis it provoked, the way in which the European
Council, they pre-poned, as they say in
India, [INAUDIBLE] pre-poned their meeting to
deal with this and so on and so forth. And then you pull back
and you say the same week, is it outside
Amsterdam, there was a truck full of dead bodies. Outside Austria. Oh, in Austria, there was a
truck full of dead bodies. People didn’t even know
where this truck was doing until these kind of
fetid smells and leaked fluid started coming out of it. And they found there were all
these suffocated migrants. So in fact, you do that. There’s the long
story that you give, and you look at the Alan
Kurdi at the same time. So I think it’s possible
to do it in one narrative, and it’s not just
two journalists. It’s sort of making
a juxtaposition. But then that’s just
quite a simple reading of the news that year,
is noticing that, OK, this particular
moment was something that drew a lot of public
attention and sympathy or empathy. But that wasn’t to do with me. That wasn’t to do
with me saying, right, we’re going to focus
on Alan Kurdi today. That was just the fact
that, for some reason, for reasons well beyond
my control or insight, those became media flashpoints. Yeah, but Patrick, you said,
everybody focused on this, but that other event was not
as well reported, as I recall, the Austrian– and that’s what I’m saying, is
that you give something that is does catch the world’s
eye and you shadowed it, juxtaposed it very
nicely with something that didn’t, and
which was you know equally horrific, people
dying of suffocation. Anyway, but I’m just
saying that it’s this idea of long
distance, short distance, day-to-day reporting
and crisis reporting, you can do it in the same
narrative as, I think, your book does many, many times. Yes, question. There are two questions
here, two people here. This is kind of more of
a technical rather than philosophical question,
but could you just kind of outline the
different experience a refugee would have coming in
2015 when everyone just walked, how that changed up to now,
like what the legal situation and how it changed? Because I know there
was the EU-Turkey deal, and that said people
could go back to Turkey, but very few people
did go back to Turkey. Yet it seemed to
have really changed the experience on the ground. Why? And if you could just
briefly outline it. I will try and do that. Maybe Tobias can also
bring his insights of researching life for refugees
in Turkey after the deal. So until 2015,
people kind of came in quite a haphazard way from
across the Greek-Turkish border and to the Greek
islands by boat. But they kind of
did that and then made the subsequent
journey through the Balkans by themselves, and they were
given a sort of nod and a wink by the Greek
authorities to do so. And then once just the sheer
mass of people became so large and events like the death
of Alan Kurdi happened, then there was a desire
to kind of streamline this movement of people. So you still had to cross
the Aegean Sea, the three miles of the Aegean to the
Greek islands, but then the Greek government
basically busing people to the Macedonian border. The Macedonians were
busing people to Serbia. The Serbian government were
busing people to Hungary at one point. And then when Hungary put
up their fence to Croatia, there was actually
a sort of two- a three-day journey
that you could make that was basically all
controlled by the governments of the Balkans. And basically, it wouldn’t have
happened if Merkel hadn’t just acknowledged that this thing
needed some coordination, while in tandem and they
were having negotiations with the Turkish government,
which basically involve paying the Turkish
government to stop people from getting to the Turkish
shore to get on the boats to Greece in the first place. Then, long story
short, in March, 2016, the Turks finally stopped it,
and simultaneously, the sort of route through the Balkans
that was previously organized backed by the governments of
the Balkans, that also stopped. So basically overnight,
you had far fewer people being able to leave Turkey
and far fewer people being able to leave Greece. And the result is that you still
have people autonomously moving from Turkey to Greece,
but far lower numbers, and you still have people
moving through the Balkans, but again, far lower numbers. And you have tens of thousands
of people stuck in Greece in very difficult
conditions on the islands, and you have around
3 million Syrians and many more non-Syrian
refugees stuck in Turkey. And it might be interesting
to hear from you, Tobias, about what the life is like
for those people who are now stuck in Turkey. Yeah. I mean I want to also talk
about intermediate stage, go through it. I was at the Macedonian-Greek
border at a time, I think, in probably early 2016 where– and I think this is a reflection
on how reporting can change the narrative in certain
ways, that clearly there was this sense of
needing to deal with the crisis at the border. But there was also a recognition
that certain nationalities were experiencing conditions
in their home countries and Europe couldn’t
just shut them out. So we witnessed
this kind of absurd, kind of perverse application
of the law where at the border there was now a large fence
and there were border guards. And if you had an
Iraqi or an Afghan or a Syrian or maybe
a Libyan passport, you were allowed through. And if you didn’t, it didn’t
matter where you came from or what your situation was–
if you’re Eritrean, Nigerian, wherever– you weren’t allowed through. And so there was this sort
of middle kind of stage where, as you say,
they were streamlined. I think the money that
was paid to Turkey was intended to
kind of formalize the existence of many
refugees who were there, kind of in a permanent
impermanence, that many of them had come at the
beginning of the war or soon after it started,
thinking that it would finish within six months or so,
and therefore never learned Turkish, enrolled their
children in schools, sought proper accommodation,
got proper jobs, et cetera. They were making
do, and that making do was then stretching for five
years, six years, seven years. So I think what the deal
did a little bit was, one, as you say,
stopped people leaving. It also gave people
legal status to work, although the number of
permits was extremely small. And from my experience,
and I imagine this is what your
experience was as well, most of the three million
refugees who were in Turkey didn’t somehow transform into
these legal workers overnight. But I think, in general,
this process of integration into formalized and permanent
existence has been ongoing. So people have
been slowly trying to find better
proper jobs slowly, integrating back sending
their kids to school, learning the language. These kind of things
are going on slowly. But I think, first, always
with a mind to going home. And now for many people,
I wonder what they think there is to go home to. I mean, speaking to
many people in Turkey, they think, there’s no water,
there’s no electricity, there’s no internet, there’s
no family, there’s no home. So I think, for many people, the
decision not to go into Europe, and now that decision
has you know that option has been foreclosed and
decision to return home doesn’t really exist. So many people are just trying
to live their lives in Turkey, I suppose. So they didn’t– you
had a question, did you? Yes. So my question– I am not sure
if that’s even relevant to you, but my question would have
been whether you’re positioning yourself in these two sites
of crises between the left and the right and whether– so that would be one
question, and you have partly answered that question,
I think, in your talk. But the other would be,
is there a similarity in reaction on these two sides
or in perception of this crisis that you observe? Or is cruelty as a result
of exhaustion something that unites them, I wonder? Well, just taking
that last point, personally, I don’t
necessarily feel that a response to
dwindling empathy is just to stop reporting. But it is nevertheless
something that concerned me and it was
something I thought about. I don’t think, actually,
cruelty is something that unites left and right. I think, in fact, what a lot
of the reporting did was maybe it grew too much for some
pockets of the public, and those are the
people that are writing underneath
articles saying, I wish these people would die. But I think it also
really bolstered a sense among another
section of population that we have to
go down to Calais and bring all our spare laundry
for these people to wear. Or we have to go to
the islands of Greece and help rescue refugees from
their boats as they arrive. And so I think it basically
polarized reactions, but it didn’t necessarily
stop some people from becoming much
more empathetic, to the extent that
they were really going down to the
flashpoints and trying to organize themselves. And the difference between
being on the Greek islands in June 2015 and being there in
November was there was, like, one family that
was helping people once they arrived on the north
shores of Lesbos in June. By November,
December, suddenly you had seven or eight
new NGOs that had just been founded in
the last two months to deal with all these people
arriving from Turkey by boat. And then just on
that point did I consider myself in the
middle of left and right. I think, as a
journalist, there’s enormous pressure to be in
the middle and to be balance. But I think if you go
back and read my reporting from that time, I think it’s
pretty clear the sympathies that I had at that time. Yeah. Now the last question
here, please. Oh, two. Three. 1, 2, and 3. Then we just have
to close, yeah. Yes, thank you. Hello. I’m Venezuelan. Venezuela is probably outside of
your geographic area of focus, but I’m very interested
if you have any views or what is your
perspective on what is happening in Venezuela
right now in terms of the massive migration
[INAUDIBLE] since 2016. And they expect that
by the end of this year we’ll have 5 million
Venezuelans leaving Venezuela. What I have seen
in the news, what is being covered by
The New York Times and some other
European newspapers is really more about what
has happened in Venezuela. I don’t see much about
the migrant experience or what is happening
to those who have left. So I wonder what
your perspective on the Venezuelan situation
is and the migration part. Can I ask a clarification? Are most Venezuelans–
there’s a very large migration to Colombia. Is that right? Yes. Is that the main– That’s the main– Numerically? Yeah. Yeah. About 6,000 Venezuelans
are leaving daily, and they mostly to
[INAUDIBLE] Colombia. It’s just that, because
the Venezuelan government closes the Cucuta Bridge. It’s on and off, but they
find ways to walk out. We find ways to walk out. I just wanted to clarify where
the main migration flow is. Venezuela. I feel like this is going to
be a question for [INAUDIBLE] as a consumer of– I agree. I feel like, yeah. I haven’t seen much. I think it was [INAUDIBLE] I
think it was today or yesterday or something. Was it? About Venezuelan
refugees in Colombia. I mean, we saw it before the
midterms being instrumentalized by Trump. And I think that reminds me a
lot of the Brexit referendum we had in the UK where people
were told that Turkey shares a border with Syria and Iraq,
and that 70 million, 80 million Turks were going to turn up. So these I think there
are obvious parallels in the ways in which this kind
of vague fear of being overrun, of crisis, of these things
we’ve been talking about is clearly operationalized
by the right for electoral benefit. But I haven’t seen much
reporting on it otherwise. But there is another
issue about borders that I think we should
just touch on before we go, and something that Hannah Arendt
wrote about in the Origins Of Totalitarianism,
where she says, when you start having these flows– sorry to use that word–
or these stop and start fibrillations, or whatever
you want to call it, suddenly the police play
the role of governments. Somehow the police forces get
a kind of almost autonomy, so it’s like a police– at the borders, the police
make up their own rules. There’s a kind of– they generate customs and
all kinds of things that would otherwise not be allowed. And I just think that policing– this is not the police
state, but at the borders it can often be
local police state. And I just think
that that’s worth– that’s a point just worth– I agree that the police
are sort of sometimes acting outside of the law, often
when they’re pushing people back, whether it’s on the Greek
border or the Hungarian border. But I would question
whether that is nevertheless outside of the awareness
of the central government. At the very least, there
is a sort of don’t ask, don’t tell of what’s
going on at the border. No, I agree. It’s not outside. But I’m saying it is a practice
that develops its own dynamism to some extent. It’s not as if the central
government doesn’t want it. Or I’m sure they want
it, but it’s worth thinking about it as a
particular political form that develops on the border. So yes, and then, finally, here. Yeah. Hi. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I am from Turkey. So actually, I don’t
know if it’s a question, but I was thinking about
Jacob Lawrence and then your reporting Hashem,
and then the immigrants that you presented,
they are all faceless and they don’t how kind of
[INAUDIBLE],, although we see Hashem’s face. Since this long temporality
that you have been there is squished or condense
in a narrative, it becomes a different
temporality for the reader, for the people who
look at that images, for the people who
read that literature. Or like in Turkey right
now, [INAUDIBLE],, we are just reading the end
reports because it becomes very like the time that you
lived and you experienced with them is very
long, but as opposed to other readers or the
[INAUDIBLE] observance, it’s very short. And then we are trying to
create empathy, in a way, and that means we are
asking the question, what’s our responsibility? But then I am thinking, how can
we hear the voice of the people that you are representing
and narrating? And what are their
rights as a human? I don’t want to say human rights
because our country doesn’t care about human rights. And then since are stuck in
particular countries, what are your rights as opposed
to a citizen’s rights? Like, you want to work,
but you can’t work. But then as a human, your
rights is to be safe. Is that it? So what am I trying
to say is, like– Just ask the
question, [INAUDIBLE].. I know. It’s like a comment. I was just thinking
about my experience. How can I make my voice heard? And these stories doesn’t
create empathy for me, but it creates
action for me which I can’t act on it because I
don’t have the kind of rights or the tools, or I had my
own self-censorship because of the particular reasons. That’s what I’m asking. And it’s like, how is your– not responsibility,
but how could you contribute in changing
that narration, rather than not being maybe– it’s not the
question of, I think, being a witness or
participant, but actually we really need to be participants. And we need to at
least acknowledge that we are participants
in that situation, and we need to acknowledge
who are our comrades like in that situation. [INAUDIBLE] There’s lots of grapple
within your statement, which is very interesting. I agreed. And as I tried to
get at in my talk, focusing on someone like
Hashem is a compromised process because in one
sense you are trying to show what’s in his head. I spent months with him,
maybe a dozen interviews, trying to understand
at that moment, what are you thinking right now? What do you think as
you sit on the train? And you’re trying
to show his voice. But obviously, it is all
construed through me, my interpretation of him. And that’s really problematic. How do we move beyond,
as you said earlier, it being problematic? I think, ultimately,
it involves less people like me doing this
kind of journalism and more people from Syria
writing about migration. That process is going to
take time, and to extend it. I think if you look
to the people who are foreign correspondents
for international newspapers right now, it’s
probably more diverse than maybe it ever has been. But ultimately,
it’s still far too many people like me doing
it and interpreting someone like Hashem, rather
than someone like Hashem writing on his own behalf. Hashem can’t– I
am coming to you. Sorry. I think we’ve got to go
ahead and grasp the problem. And Hashem doesn’t want to
necessarily sit and write about his life all the time
for The New York Times. He doesn’t want to do that. That’s your job. You’re a reporter. You do it the best you can. You talk to him. You say when something happened,
you ask for his interpretation. I think there’s a real danger– and I’m going to be provocative
here– with always emphasizing voice, as if anybody’s
voice is unmediated, whether it’s the victim’s voice,
whether it’s the participant’s voice. I think we can’t– voice is not simply expressive. Voice comes out of writing. Maybe I should just– what I want to do is I
want to bring my child and put my child in school. I don’t want to
sit here and write about the experience of what– that’s your job. And I think there’s always
a kind of moral problem. Am I representing? Am I taking the burden
of representation? I think some of us, at certain
times and certain places, have to take the burden
of representation. If we get it wrong,
we get it wrong. If we get it right, then
Hashem says, that’s a very– thank you. You managed to say something
that I couldn’t have said. Maybe in this particular
instance that makes sense. I’m not sure. Maybe it does, maybe doesn’t. But in a wider sense,
obviously, there needs to be less
mediation by white men. Oh, sure. Well, yes, of course I’m
all for less mediation– Homi and I are not
going to disagree. [INTERPOSING VOICES] That’s not our problem. But I’m saying even
nonwhite men can’t mediate various situations without
understanding that they’re constructing something. And I think it’s– what I liked about
your talk is you were very responsible
in how you saw yourself, how you positioned yourself. You were not letting
yourself off the hook. But writers could say,
we don’t want critics. Or we don’t want theories. Any they frequently do. And they frequently do. And yet they don’t
necessarily– or artists don’t necessarily just want to
sit and talk about their work. They don’t mind that mediation. I’m just saying there
are kinds of mediation, and mediation is an
old and hoary problem. And you catch it,
it’s problematic, but it won’t go away. I think it’s also OK to say
there are, nevertheless, better forms of mediation. Of course. That’s what I’m saying. You get it and you’ve got
to say, I got it wrong. I mediated badly this time. And indeed, even
a native informant might say, writing about
my next door neighbor, I didn’t get it right. My next door neighbor
thinks although I share the house with him,
or my roommate somehow was writing about that
and didn’t come right. So I just think it’s you
judge it when it’s done, and then you’re big enough
to say I screwed up. But there’s also a middle
ground in the sense that there is now a
convention of writing some of these anxieties and
questions into the text, and in a way that doesn’t hijack
it, but does sort of explore what it means to represent the
other and what it represents. So I think that these are
things that are happening in their ways to sort of– Yeah. But I want to tend to the
more subtle point that you’re asking, which is just
the challenge of doing this kind of work and the
challenge of writing something that is going to arrest
people in this particular way. And I think of
something that Sontag said, which is that compassion
is an unstable emotion. If it doesn’t
translate into action, it withers, and people can
become cynical and bored. And that’s the
challenge of writing. That’s the challenge of prose. That’s the challenge of– and it’s very hard to
generalize, for me to say, well, this is the kind of this
is the kind of way to do it– everybody should do it. But my only response
to this is to always be very attentive to what
has engendered that feeling of action in you as a writer. What has made you feel
like something is capable, something can be done, versus
the kinds of writing that make you feel like, gosh, this is– somebody else has to
take care of this. What can I do? So just to stay
close to those texts and to those writers that
produce that feeling in you, and to sort of keep
interrogating what are they doing? What is happening? Because we all have
had that feeling. [INAUDIBLE]– yeah. Sorry. And I’d also like to address
the question of what we can do. And I think what we’ve seen
in 2016, for example, Turkey after the failed coup became the
biggest jailer of journalists in the world. And at that time,
in late 2016, there were reports in all
international papers about that fact. It was heavily reported
on, and my clients were regularly in news
that came out of Turkey. And I think the
story has moved on. As you say, people re-categorize
a country like Turkey as perhaps not this
European influence kind of bridge between East and
West, as the old cliche goes. And maybe it’s
actually just East. Maybe it’s Middle East. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised
that there are journalists in jail and that
there aren’t any, as you say, human rights there. But I think that
our obligation is to remember that
that isn’t true, remember that there are
people like us who say, [INAUDIBLE],, a great man
of civil society in jail at the moment, that
these people exist, that many people in
the country continue to hold these ideals
very strongly. And just because the
stories have moved on or it’s not so much like
in the Western press now, our job is to remember
that this exists and try and hold
onto that, I think. The grand finale. Hi. My name is [INAUDIBLE] Ramirez. I’m a post-doctoral Fellow
in the Mahindra [INAUDIBLE] Center, and I also research
and write about immigration. Thank you for the talk and
the stimulating questions and comments. And I want to end
with a question that builds on the discussion
that the panel just had. Coming back to the
idea of objectivity, I think in different
fields, including academia and
journalism and the law, in numerous fields
would we think about or we train to be objective,
to write about immigration, for instance, from a
distance, as if we’re not involved in the process. But at the same time, our
training and the expectation of our publications expects
us to be very bold, especially under this political
moment, that we have to find creative ways
to investigate and write, whether it be to follow
a person for months or to create methodologies
like oral history and being in the community that
you’re writing about. So my question is,
is objectivity now the [? training of ?]
objectivity that is so central to
many of our fields, is it becoming an illusion now? Should we rethink
how we write or how we research to be able
to include ourselves in that writing as much
as we include ourselves in the process of researching
what we write about? And how do we move forward? Why don’t you take
that, because– I don’t have to be objective. Neither do I. Not that point. Your question about
there are ways in which that whole sense
of anxiety, the conflict, becomes part of
the writing itself. Part of the writing. That was what you were saying. Yeah, but I don’t
think it’s in the forms of writing you’re talking about. I don’t think that you’re
going to be– like, Patrick in the
middle of his article is going to suddenly
start wrestling with these particular issues. But you can fleck at this– I feel like a lot of different
kinds of journalistic outlets are trying to find out ways
of flecking at subjectivity, flecking at personal agency
of the writer, for example, that example I
mentioned half an hour ago about New York
Times reporters putting ‘I’ now in
what were previously quite sort of staged articles. I agree there is there
is a process of kind of acknowledging a lack
of complete objectivity, but I don’t think,
in journalism, I don’t think anyone’s quite
[INAUDIBLE] how to do that, not least because
also there is this– right now in this
political moment in America there is this great desire to
emphasize truth and the search for truth. And there is this
conflict between the idea that, no, we are all
actually individuals with our own foibles,
and we’re all researchers with our own biases and a
competing insistence that, no, that there are
facts and we should be able to find
them out, and that’s the great thing about reporters
and in the modern age. And that’s the kind
of contradiction that I don’t think we
are able to reconcile. Great last statement. Patrick, thank you very much. Parul, you too, and Tobias. Wonderful to have you
all here together again. Thank you, Homi. Thank you so much. [APPLAUSE] Parul, you go home and write. OK. And I will [INAUDIBLE].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *