Photos, videos and transcripts
from the conclave sessions
will be made available here shortly!
Welcome to the second Bengal Lights Literary Conclave, hosted by the University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh (ULAB)!
The conclave aims to occupy a discussion space between literary festivals and academic conferences. Last year, during our very first session, we hosted writers, journalists, critics and publishers from six different countries, who debated the topic: Beyond Identity Narratives: Defining a New World Fiction. Click here to check out last year’s programme and panellists.
This year’s distinguished panel of writers, journalists and publishers hail from four continents. They will spend the two days of the conclave exploring this year’s theme: Dissent, Reportage and Literature. There will be structured panel discussions that each address an essential and complementary aspect of the broader topic.
Thank you for joining us in setting a new standard of literary debate in Bangladesh!
HOSTED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF LIBERAL ARTS BANGLADESH
Welcome Address: Imran Rahman, Vice-Chancellor, ULAB
Editor’s Note: Khademul Islam, Editor, Bengal Lights
Introduction: Chris Heiser
Keynote: William Vollmann
Panel Details: Much reporting focuses on conflict, especially relating to terrorist and extremist violence. Recently, Islamist movements – the Taliban, Boko Haram, and ISIL – have captured world headlines. But there have been many other groups around the world –the German Red Army Faction, the Irish Republican Army, the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, the Basque ETA, and the LTTE in Sri Lanka – all with different goals, but similar approaches. And similar complexities in reporting.
What are the unique issues related to reporting on violent movements that seem, from the point of view of mainstream liberalism, to be without reason? That is, how can you report on something that you cannot reason with? Journalists court risks that many would consider extreme in order to report from conflict zones. What makes them take this kind of risk? What is it like to report from the edge – of safety, of reason?
Panel Details: Throughout history, power has always been contested. Every empire or petty kingdom was fraught with battles as new powers rose up from within or an outside force breached its territories. Only as recently as the end of the 17th century has the world established the principle of settled nation-states. But in reality, every modern state has been besieged with insurgencies: religious, ideological, political, ethnic and territorial. Nor are all insurgencies violent; one could say the US’s Tea Party movement is a kind of insurgency of its own.
Insurgencies tear at the very foundations of the republic as it is and as it has evolved. So then, why are insurgencies so persistent? Why are they so attractive? Often couched in the West in sociological or psychological terms like disenfranchisement, is it actually something more fundamental, like the Nietzschean “will to power”? Is there a fundamental need to agitate, especially for those who cannot avail mainstream circuits of power? This panel offers a broad view of world history and politics and provides deep context to the conclave.
Panel Details: Freedom of thought and expression is under threat throughout the world. There are many writers – like Liu Xiaobo, held captive by the Chinese government – who are writing under siege conditions. Many others are in exile. What is it like to be a writer in siege conditions? How does the condition affect the writing, the writer and the reception? The siege a writer might be under may not necessarily reflect the prevailing political situation of his state. It may even be something personal, psychological. If so, are all writers always under siege?