Philosopher and public intellectual Susan Neiman’s international eminence is attested by her large scholarly contributions and public engagement on issues of race, racism, and the memory of the Holocaust in Germany, as well as other works about good and evil. She became director of the Einstein Forum, a think tank in the former East Germany, in 2000 where she became a major public intellectual in the lively civic culture of post-Cold-War Berlin. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman studied philosophy at Harvard University and the Freie Universität-Berlin, Germany. Neiman was a protégé of John Rawls at Harvard. Prior to assuming directorship of the Einstein Forum, she was professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv University.
What I learned since I wrote Learning from the Germans
My most recent book argued that Americans--and other peoples--have much to learn from Germany about historical reckoning. Historically, nations cultivate heroic narratives; failing that, they seek narratives of victimhood. Germany was the first nation to confront its vast crimes during World War II, and acknowledge that it had been neither hero nor victim but perpetrator.
This may seem obvious to outside observers, but this process was a long and hard one; in the first four decades after the war, West Germany considered itself the war’s worst victim. Dedicated grassroots work, along with foreign policy considerations, forced far-reaching changes in attitude. In the past two years, however, German historical reckoning has gone awry in many ways. I will discuss this, along with parallels to current developments in the U.S.
The William T. Patten Foundation
The William T. Patten Foundation provides funds to bring distinguished scholars or practitioners in the sciences, the humanities and the arts to the Bloomington campus for a week. The foundation has brought over 150 scholars of extraordinary national and international distinction since 1937, making it the oldest lecture series at Indiana University. Lecturers are chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee.
William T. Patten graduated in 1893 with a Bachelor of Arts in history from IU. He then moved to Indianapolis and led a successful career in real estate and politics. He created an endowment for the university in 1931, with the purpose of bringing renowned leaders to the Bloomington campus.