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A Conversation with Award-Winning South African Writer & Scholar Jonny Steinberg

April 26, 2018 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
300-300, 450 Serra Mall, Building 300
Jonny Steinberg

Free and open to the public.

Join us for an evening with best-selling author and Oxford University Professor of African Studies Jonny Steinberg. Professor Steinberg will discuss and read from his forthcoming book One Day in Bethlehem, which tells a story that raises questions about the ethics of memory. Associate Professor of Classics Grant Parker will moderate the Q&A discussion.

One Day in Bethlehem begins late in the evening of April 2, 1992, when, on the brink of apartheid's end, the South African security police bashed down the door of a young black man, Fusi Mofokeng, and locked him in prison. At a subsequent trial, he was convicted of murder. Six years later, apartheid now over, the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission accepted that Mofokeng was innocent. It also told him that it could not give him amnesty because he had committed no crime. And so he was to spend another 12 years in prison for a murder the world had come to accept he did not commit. Jonny Steinberg began working with Mofokeng after his release in 2011. It soon became apparent to Steinberg that what exactly happened back in 1992 was uncertain and that the memories of all involved were unreliable. What began as a simple tale of injustice became an investigation into the moral implications of what we remember and what we forget.

Professor Steinberg was born and raised in South Africa. He is the author of A Man of Good Hope, the critically acclaimed Sizwe’s Test (also published under the title Three Letter Plague), as well as Midlands and The Number, both of which won South Africa’s premier nonfiction literary award, the Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize. Steinberg was also a recipient of one of the inaugural Windham Campbell Prizes. He was educated at Wits University in Johannesburg, and at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and earned a doctorate in political theory. He has worked as a journalist at a South African national daily newspaper, written scripts for television drama, and has been a consultant to the South African government on criminal justice policy.

Steinberg’s work explores South Africa in the wake of the country's transition to democracy. The institutions he has written about include the prison, the farm, the police and the clinic. The common thread between these projects has been an investigation into how political transition has changed the filigrees of unwritten rules through which individuals understand their lives and relate to others. He has also written on Liberia’s recent civil war and some of the questions it has raised about migration, exile and transitional justice, and on the Somali diaspora.

View a list of Steinberg’s recent publications here.

Event Sponsor: 
Residential Education, McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Center for African Studies, Stanford Global Studies Division, Creative Writing Program
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