Rise, Roar, Revolt

I’m so happy to share that my article “Calcutta 1908: Apocalypse Now” has been published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Democratic Communiqué as the featured critical commentary.

Can theatre and film help spark an armed revolt? I believe they can, and that they did, specifically Indian theatre artists and India’s first silent filmmakers, in the capital of British India in 1908, in response to the Partition of Bengal and the systemic sentencing of children to public floggings.

My article is, in my view, a timely exposé of crimes and human rights abuses committed by the British Empire that have largely gone unreported in the West, but which are increasingly coming to light in the news and in pop culture of late.

I’m really excited to share this slice of my research as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India. It is, I daresay, in-depth, yet it is only one part of a much larger story I’ve written.   

Democratic Communiqué focuses on “cultural artifacts, media and imperialism, media’s relatedness to social movements,  and the power of media to convey varying versions of the same event simultaneously.”  It’s housed on the ScholarWorks server at Umass Amherst

You can find it at the link below. I hope you’ll check it out. 

Continued at https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1196&context=democratic-communique

Kolkata Talks

The Fulbright Association conference schedule is live! Both of the talks I submitted were accepted, and I’ll be in attendance on behalf of Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. One talk is a formal 60-minute lecture entitled “Calcutta 1908: Apocalypse Now.”

On the lighter side, the other is a 10-minute talk for a storytelling session entitled “Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Lizard Roommates” about my adventures living in a flat in Kolkata.

The abstract for the first talk:

In this unavoidably incendiary romp, Stanley uses news coverage and advertisements from Calcutta newspapers to give an account of daily life for Indians under a heavily militarized police state in the capital of British India. After pro-Independence plays and their songs were banned, and newspaper editors and activist public speakers imprisoned, Indians’ boycott of British goods grew in popularity until–the last straw–the legalization of public floggings of Indian minors. The situation reached its boiling point in 1908 with the bombings of white officials. The Raj responded with increased martial law and intentionally inflaming Hindu-Muslim disunity while keeping the people of England in the dark about what was being done in their name half a world away.

War in Europe

US Department of Defense post-strike bomb damage assessment photo used by Joint Staff Vice Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Maj. Gen. Charles F. Wald, U.S. Air Force, during a press briefing on NATO Operation Allied Force in the Pentagon on May 5, 1999. Photo via https://www.defense.gov/Multimedia/Photos/igphoto/2001238761/

I keep hearing intelligent, well-informed journalists and commentators referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as some version of “the first war in Europe since the end of WW II.”  This is mindbogglingly false. Do we have collective amnesia?  I hope not.

Here are some trigger words to jar our memories: rape camps, ethnic cleansing, Srebrenica, Milosevic, Karadzic, Slovenian War, Croatian War, genocide, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatian paramilitaries massacring Serbian Orthodox Christian civilians, Serbian paramilitaries massacring Croatian Catholic civilians, Yugoslav Muslims being hit hard by all of them, UNPROFOR, Kosovo War, Balkans Conflict.

It culminated in the US, under the auspices of NATO, bombing Belgrade, the first time a European capital had been bombed by another country since the end of WW II, and Russian tanks rolling into Kosovo with the blessing of the US and NATO.  The circumstances at that time were very different than they are in the present conflict. During the entire period of the breakup of Yugoslavia, about 150,000 people died and the wars created millions of refugees.

I am not suggesting a question of whether we should or shouldn’t have bombed Yugoslavia. Opinions run wild on that and I’m not trying to spark a debate. I’ve had enough of those to last me a lifetime. I’m pointing out that to call Russia’s Ukraine invasion the first war in Europe since the end of WW II is to shamefully disregard the many thousands of civilians who suffered and died during what are now collectively called The Yugoslav Wars. Let’s not erase these victims from history.

I would have liked to see at least one news article these past five days that began with something like, “Not since the wars in Yugoslavia have we seen such a…” or “Not since the US-led NATO bombing of Serbia, albeit under markedly different circumstances, has there been a…”  But not one. The Associated Press’ description of the present horrific invasion of Ukraine is the only accurate one I’ve stumbled upon so far:  Putin’s invasion is “the largest land invasion in Europe since the end of WW II.”  That is true, even though it seems crafted to circumvent any mention of the US and NATO as being the first to bomb Europe since the end of WW II. Right or wrong, for or against, the Yugoslav Wars need to be acknowledged instead of wiped from our collective memories.

I am very opposed to Russia’s Ukraine invasion and proud that the world is standing up to Putin, much to his surprise, but I’m seeing that often our messaging is not accurate and erases this tremendous loss of  lives that only ended about 22 years ago.

Will we have forgotten about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 20 years from now? We might not think so right now but I fear we will forget. As an American, this saddens me.

I was in Serbia and Croatia just before the period of our 1999 bombing campaign, thanks to receiving an award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and was inspired to write the anti-war play Tesla’s Letters. I later returned to Croatia to teach at a summer film and theatre workshop sponsored by the Soros Foundation and Zagreb University. Tesla’s Letters premiered in New York in April of 1999 during the NATO bombing campaign. Here is the New York Times review of it for further context.