The Writer as Witness

Why We Need Literature to Document Atrocities—at Home and Abroad

For a long time, I cringed whenever I heard someone talk about a novel or a poem bearing witness. The word “witness” bothered me. It felt hollow and privileged. It felt like something an entitled American writer would say, a writer who could author a book and walk away. I was not that person, or at least I didn’t want to be.

And I was not the only one who had reservations. The poet Natalie Diaz observed in an interview that “bearing witness” is a curious phrase. “Most people don’t …

When a Violent Mob Stormed Rome’s Capitol | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

When a Violent Mob Stormed Rome’s Capitol

Over 2,000 Years Ago, a Losing Politician Incited His Followers to Riot. It Ended in Death, Destruction, and Civil War

A politician-incited, post-election riot at a Capitol, seeking to block the result of a peculiar voting system, is not news. Ancient Romans witnessed something very similar.

On December 9, 100 B.C., …

A New Wave of Anti-Asian Violence Demands New Answers | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A New Wave of Anti-Asian Violence Demands New Answers

Fighting COVID-Inspired Racism Requires Solidarity, Legislation, and Protest

From smashed windows and racist graffiti to outright physical violence, approximately 2,700 incidents of hate have been documented against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the World Health Organization declared …

What Would Cicero See in American Governance Today? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

What Would Cicero See in American Governance Today?

Before the Rise of Caesar, the Roman Statesman Predicted How the Spread of Lawlessness Could Destroy a Republic

At some point in the early summer of 54 BC, the Roman statesman Cicero set to work on his most consequential work of political philosophy: De Re publica (On the …

Can L.A. Finally Forget the Fatalism of Chinatown? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Can L.A. Finally Forget the Fatalism of Chinatown?

A UCLA Historian Offers a New Narrative for a City That’s Defined Itself by Its Injustice, Violence, and Corruption

A mother, seeking to protect her daughter and herself, fires a gunshot toward her abusive father, and then flees by car. Los Angeles police, on the scene but in no …