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Spring Exhibit Explores Dissent during Crisis

The Libraries' spring exhibit, The War Within: Dissent during Crisis in America, explores issues of war and peace, dissent and dialogue, during critical eras in the 20th century when free speech and civil liberties were under threat in our nation. It is presented in collaboration with the UCI Difficult Dialogues Project, a Ford Foundation-funded program aimed at promoting productive dialogue about controversial political, racial, cultural, and religious issues.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of UCI's International Center for Writing and Translation, is the featured speaker at the May 31 opening event. An acclaimed novelist and playwright who champions the survival and empowerment of indigenous languages, Ngũgĩ was first imprisoned in and later exiled from his native Kenya due to his sharply critical, outspoken stance against the inequalities and injustices of Kenyan society. As a result of his experiences and the international renown he has earned as an advocate for human rights and freedoms, he speaks with authority of the critical roles that dissent and dialogue play in modern society.

Freedom of speech, embodied in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is a cornerstone of our existence as a free society, and to many Americans, it is the most valued of our freedoms. Yet despite the continuing strength of our democratic government, the right to free speech and other civil liberties have repeatedly been put to the test in times of war and other crises. During such times the line between dissent and disloyalty is not always clear, and those who speak against the government or majority opinion can find themselves under serious threat.

The War Within focuses on four moments in the 20th century when dissenters were criticized or punished, or when free speech and the civil liberties of American citizens were significantly affected:

  • McCarthyism during the Cold War
  • Conscientious objectors during WWII
  • Japanese-American internment during WWII
  • Protests during the Vietnam War, including at UCI

The exhibit presents the sometimes conflicting perspectives of artists, writers, students, radical groups, political and labor leaders, clergy, and others in the struggle against war, violence and tyranny. The items on display include books and pamphlets, handbills and flyers, posters and photographs.

The exhibit is curated by Stephen MacLeod, Public Services Coordinator in Special Collections & Archives (smacleod@uci.edu or x44967).



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