Four Dead in Ohio: Reverberations of Singular Deaths
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In 1989, Naeem Mohaiemen arrived from Bangladesh to the United States to attend college at Oberlin, Ohio. He was previously an undergraduate at Dhaka University in Bangladesh but left for the US when the university was closed “sine die” (indefinitely) after a student was shot dead during protests against the Bangladeshi military dictator. Arriving at Oberlin, he encountered a different protest landscape. When students gathered on the President’s lawn for a “March Against Bigotry,” a combination of decision errors led to the police force of a nearby town being called in, instead of campus security. In a moment of misrecognition emblematic of American politics, the working-class police force resented “elite” Oberlin students and a melee ensued. For the next four years, protests around the trial of “The Oberlin Six” students for “disorderly conduct” roiled the campus, leading to calls for the resignation of the President. In a full-page cartoon for The Nation magazine about Oberlin, Edward Sorel ended with the caption “The Sixties are Back.” Throughout this period, the memory of Kent State 1970 loomed over Oberlin, a signifier evoked and debated.
In this lecture, filmmaker Mohaiemen speaks about the role of memories of the “pivot event” in the long arc of history.
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Meet the Artist:
Naeem Mohaiemen (Oberlin ‘93) combines films, drawings, sculpture, and essays to research the many forms of utopia-dystopia (families, borders, architecture, and uprisings). He is a Mellon Teaching Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, where he also received his Ph.D. His films were nominated for the Herb Alpert Award (2019) and the Turner Prize (2018) and received awards from Andy Warhol Foundation (2021), Lunder Institute of American Art (2020), Ford Foundation (2017), and Guggenheim Foundation (2014). At Oberlin, he founded the Muslim Student Group, was elected Oberlin Class President ‘93 and Class Trustee ‘94-96. In the latter role, he helped organize the College Board of Trustees’ approval of the “DP” Resolution (passed by a one-vote margin), which extended benefits to domestic partners of LGBT faculty and administration, becoming the seventh college to do so in the United States.