Impact — Summer 2018
In the weeks and months following August 12, 2017, members of the Boston University community struggled—like Americans everywhere—to comprehend the series of troubling, and tragic, events which would come, almost immediately, to be denoted in the national imagination by the metonym “Charlottesville.” This special issue of Impact: The Journal of the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching & Learning comprises a series of responses to these events and their aftermath, as well as the conditions which enabled them, by faculty members from across the BU campus.
A range of disciplines and fields of study are represented in the contributions which follow: African American studies, theology, rhetoric, political science, American studies, humanities. What all share, however, is a deep concern with history; each insists, in its own way, on the vital importance of contextualizing Charlottesville by making connections with the past. (For many, the events of last summer are only the most recent reminder of the essential truth of Faulkner’s often-quoted aphorism: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”)
These responses take different forms as well, from dialogue to essay. The first piece, “A Historian’s Take on Charlottesville,” derives from Joelle Renstrom’s wide-ranging interview with Ashley Farmer. The next three contributions grow from the “Lessons from Charlottesville” event which took place on September 19, 2017 in the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom at BU’s Charles River campus. This event, organized by Dr. Virginia Sapiro (Professor of Political Science, CAS), was the first of the BU Dean of Students Office’s newly-launched Student-Faculty Forum, a series that aims to bring together the BU community around the discussion of current topics of particular interest and importance. Three participants in this conversation—Walter Fluker, Nina Silber, and Spencer Piston—have contributed modified versions of their remarks here, which historicize the events of Charlottesville from different disciplinary perspectives (the brevity and informality of these pieces reflects their origin as oral remarks). Finally, a longer essay by Cheryl Boots juxtaposes two sets of events separated by half a century, the Danville demonstrations of 1963 and the “Unite the Right” rally of 2017, contrasting the role played by singing and chanting, respectively, in each. I am grateful to my colleagues across BU for sharing their timely and insightful reflections with Impact.
Aaron Worth, Editor