News

New TEDx talk: Courage can be almost as contagious as fear

Here is my 15-minute talk at a recent TEDx event in Göteborg.

 

New book: 101 historiska hjältar

101-historiska-hjaltar cover

Ola Larsmo and I have written 101 portraits of heroic individuals — 101 historiska hjältar.  Details at Historiska media, including sample chapters here and here and here.  The book is available in hardcover and now also in softcover from bookstores and these web shops.

Here is UNT’s book review.  Aftonbladet (Oct. 19) wrote: “En inspirerande bok med en gemensam nämnare: Alla dessa hjältemodiga människor har en förmåga till inlevelse, vilket präglar deras livshållning.”

 

Recent interviews

Here is Upsala Nya Tidning’s interview with me as well as Svenska Dagbladet’s piece on the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar and Uppsala Fria Tidningen’s article on the calendar and the show.  In English, there is an interview in The Local.  Ordfront #2/2013 (April) has an interview with me about civic courage.

 

New multimedia lecture:  Extreme Courage — How a Global Heroine Can Change Your Life

Extremt mod — hur en global hjältinna kan förändra ditt liv

From Sophie Scholl’s clandestine pamphlets opposing Hitler to 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s fateful words against the Taliban, countless individuals have risked everything for a more humane society. Anthropologist Brian Palmer portrays several of them and shows how civic courage is the indispensable basis for solidarity and human rights. In this illustrated multimedia lecture, he gathers wisdom from heroic lives and applies it to everyday questions of surviving as an idealist in an unforgiving world. What can our bravest contemporaries and fallen friends teach us about how to live?

 

Calendar now available

Raoul Wallenberg Calendar

The 2013 Raoul Wallenberg Calendar — with 365 portraits of civic courage — is available in Swedish for 39 kr.  There are also English and South Korean editions, and a four-language wall calendar, pictured here.  Thank you to friends who contributed ideas about whom to portray in the calendar.

 

New show:  Secret Conspiracy of Hope

Musician/performer Ida Lod and I have created a show about civic courage called ”Secret Conspiracy of Hope.” We use words and song to bring to life our bravest contemporaries and fallen friends, whose acts of courage touch the mystery of existence.

The show weaves together stories of seven remarkable individuals (including Anastasia Baburova, Anna Politkovskaya and Maximilian Kolbe) with powerful songs — as well as reflections that draw on Simone Weil, William James, a Buddhist nun and others.

The show is available in English or Swedish.  It runs one hour without an intermission; shorter versions are possible.  Ida Lod and I can lead discussions or workshops immediately following a performance.

The first performance was at Uppsala’s Regina Theater.  Here are related articles from Upsala Nya Tidning, Svenska Dagbladet, Uppsala Fria Tidningen, and The Local.  The show is based on the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar (details below).

 

Raoul Wallenberg Calendar

In memory of Raoul Wallenberg, Forum för Levande Historia commissioned me to create a calendar about civic courage. I had made memorial calendars twice before: as a college student I put on my wall the names of fallen champions of justice and peace; and since then I have gathered material so that I can begin my lectures with the life stories of individuals who did something beautiful and brave on a particular date: ”It was on this day in 1943 that Sophie Scholl set out to distribute her last leaflet against the Nazis…”

The 2013 calendar describes 365 persons who have risked/given their lives or made other sacrifices for human rights, democracy, and peace. A team of colleagues and I produced it. The print edition is being distributed for free to Swedish high-school students, paid for by government monies. Three publishing houses are printing and selling an English-language edition, a South Korean edition, and an illustrated global edition in four languages. Sveriges Radio/Radioteatern will run a five-minute piece about each day’s individual during every day of 2013.

See below for links to articles about the calendar.  There is additional information on the websites of Forum för Levande Historia and Concess.

 

Background to the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar

I remember when I first started to think about people who risk their lives for others. I was a college student then, and I was reading in the New York Times about a young man who had tried to defend the rights of indigenous people in the Brazilian rain forest. Two ranchers – who wanted to take over more land – arrived in a pickup truck and shot him dead.

Something about that man made me pause. Aware that others had been killed, he had kept going. I didn’t want to lose him, so I wrote down his name on a sheet of yellow paper and taped it to my wall.

Soon I noticed other stories of courage: a “disappeared” democracy activist whose body was found in a ditch, a mother who had drowned while swimming out to save someone else’s child. I added their names to the sheet of yellow paper.

What is it about unselfish bravery that makes us want to hold onto and cherish it? What is it that moves us? When someone risks her life for a stranger, we feel that she is ”our born superior,” the psychologist William James observed in 1902. The courageous person, James argued, dares to touch the world’s brutality and try to dissolve it. To suffer for others is part of what it means to be human. ”In heroism,” James wrote, ”life’s supreme mystery is hidden.”

That mystery was present one summer day in 1941 at Auschwitz, when Prisoner #16670, a Polish man named Maximilian Kolbe, saw another inmate on the way to being executed. The condemned man cried out, ”My wife! My children! Who will take care of them?” Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to be killed in place of the other prisoner.

The mystery was there, too, in the life and death of Anastasia Baburova. As a journalism student in Moscow, she began writing about violent extremist groups. Soon she realized that she had become their target. But she did not give up.

The calendar you have in your hands tells of 365 lives of courage. Together they form a counterweight to a world of violence and greed. They remind us of what we are capable of – that amidst the dark night of indifference, it is possible for our species to shine so magnificently.

 

New workshop:  Developing Moral Authority: Lessons from Our Bravest Contemporaries

A workshop for companies, government offices, NGOs and other organizations.

Details are here in PDF format.

 

Other news items

Svenska Dagbladet put the Raoul Wallenberg Calendar (Wallenbergkalendern) on the cover of the culture section: http://www.svd.se/kultur/arets-alla-dagar-har-sin-egen-hjalte_7083705.svd.  Here is Upsala Nya Tidning’s interview with me and Uppsala Fria Tidningen’s article about the calendar and the accompanying show.  In English, there is an interview in The Local.

Here is my brief comment for a news report about bystander passivity.

In the past several months, my work has been profiled in Arbetaren Zenit, Ergo, Länstidningen (Östersund), Helsingborgs Dagblad, Flamman, Uppsala Demokraten and Västerbottens Folkblad, and I was interviewed on Swedish Television’s Gomorron Sverige.

Nov.-Jan. — “The Craft of Moral Dramatization” course, Stockholm

FALL TERM 2014 — New university course at the Newman Institute, given in Stockholm:

Communicating with Heart and Soul: The Craft of Moral Dramatization

“The responsibility of the writer as a moral agent,” Noam Chomsky once observed, “is to try to bring the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them.” But what if the audience does not care about distant atrocities or gradual catastrophes? Through case studies and practical workshops, we investigate the creative methods that engaged citizens have used to communicate the ethical urgency of human predicaments.

To be given in Stockholm, 18.00-20.30 on November 4, 6, 11, 12, 18, 20; January 13, 15.  7.5 högskolepoäng.

Nov. 9 — Västra Frölunda kyrka, Göteborg

Nov. 10 — Frölunda kulturhus, Göteborg

Nov. 12 — Edelstam Prize Seminar, Stockholm

Nov. 13-15 — Mänskliga Rättighetsdagarna, Umeå

Courage to act

Torsdag 15.00 – 16.00 Studion

Civil society plays a major role in changes of the society and in the struggle for human rights. Human rights activists and cultural workers that challenge power and injustices around the world are often living under constant threat. What motivates them to keep on fighting for human rights even if it means risking their own lives? What gives them hope and the strength to carry on? We have gathered some bold and creative activists to take part in a personal and political conversation.
Participants: Nonhle Mbuthuma, anti-mining activist South Africa, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, film director Cameroon. Moderator: Brian Palmer, Co-author of the book 101 Historiska hjältar (101 Historical heroes)
This seminar will be held in English

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Why hate?

Fredag 16.30 – 17.30 Idun

Nationalism is spreading and gaining ground all over the world.

Front National is now the largest political party in France. Both UKIP in England and the Danish People’s Party in Denmark are gaining ground. In the U.S., racist organizations have increased dramatically since Obama became president.  Should we allow that nationalism is spreading? How does this effect us in Sweden and what role does the Sweden Democrats have in this?

Participants: Soraya Post, Member of the European parliament (Fi), Kitty Kurth, Kevin Lampe, Kurth Lampe, Chicago, Brian Palmer, Uppsala University and Anette Pettersson (Dalqvist), DemokratiAkademin.

Moderator: Anna-Lena Lodenius, journalist and author.

This seminar will be held in English.

Nov. 20 — Sjuksköterskedagarna, Folkets hus, Stockholm

Nov. 20 — Swedish Steel Prize/SSAB, Stockholm

Tentative — to be confirmed.

Nov. 20 — Riksförening för anestesi och intensivvård, Upplands-Väsby

Nov. 22-25 — American Academy of Religion, San Diego, California, USA

Dec. 5 — American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC, USA

Session on URBAN INFRASTRUCTURES

Friday, December 5, 2014
11:00 AM-12:45 PM in Marriott Roosevelt Room 5

11:15 AM Road Kill: The Moral Weightlessness of Cyclists in Washington, DC and Stockholm, Sweden
Brian Palmer (Uppsala University) and Cynthia Palmer (independent scholar)