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The Forum for the Academy and the Public is pleased to announce our 2016 conference, Freedom of Expression in a Changing World: What Cannot Be Said, which will take place on January 22nd, 23rd, and 24th at the UCI and USC campuses.

Timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, this conference will look at the changing parameters of freedom of expression in a rapidly shifting world. We’ll be talking about freedom of expression on campus, and about the digital era, the law, and freedom of expression. Another panel will address problems of freedom of expression and journalism in conditions of repression. A further panel will address the conflicts and possible concords between freedom of expression and religious belief. Edward Snowden will appear via the web in conversation with his biographer, the prize-winning American journalist and author Barton Gellman. The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan, NPR’s Krista Tippett, and Zunar, the embattled Malaysian cartoonist, will be among the many brilliant and insightful participants. Steve Mumford, whose outstanding paintings of secure locations off-limits to photojournalists have broken the boundaries of repression, will be speaking and presenting his work. There will be a roundtable of notable political cartoonists discussing their drawings, censorship, and self-censorship.  Sandra Tsing Loh and Azhar Usman will perform stand-up with Q&A after their performances about the extent of comedians’ freedom of expression. The conference will end with a rap performance by well known artists, and a discussion of the limits of lyrics.

The event is open to students and the public.

Sponsors include:

School of Law, UCI
School of Humanities, UCI
Humanities Commons, UCI
Literary Journalism Program, UCI
The Los Angeles Review of Books
The USC Office of the Provost
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Center for Asian Studies, UCI
Institute for International, Global and Regional Studies, UCI
Newkirk Center for Science and Society, UCI
Center for Law, History and Culture’s Program on Religious Accommodation, USC
Annenberg Knight Program for Media & Religion, USC
The Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, USC
Center for Islamic Thought, Culture and Practice, USC
English Department, USC
Center for the Study of Religion, UCLA
Department of English, UCLA
Department of History, UCLA
The Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History, UCLA


Lalo Alcaraz, political cartoonist

Matt Bors, political cartoonist

Steve Brodner, political cartoonist

Rabbi Sharon Brous

Richard Burt, professor, University of Florida

William J. Dobson, political editor, Slate

Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic

Barton Gellman, author

Barry Glassner, president, Lewis & Clark College

Sherman Jackson, King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, USC

David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur/Freedom of Expression

Nina Khrushcheva, author, professor, The New School

Laila Lalami, author, professor UC Riverside

Louisa Lim, author, former NPR Beijing bureau chief

Rebecca Mackinnon, Global Voices, Internet freedom advocate

Saree Makdisi, author, professor, UCLA Comparative Literature

Steve Mumford, artist

David Myers, author, professor, UCLA History

Brendan O’Neill, editor, Spiked Online

David Palumbo-Liu, author, professor, Stanford Comparative Literature

Barry Siegel, author, UCI Literary Journalism Program

Paul Smith, attorney

Edward Snowden

Nadine Strossen, professor, New York Law School

Ann Telnaes, political cartoonist

Krista Tippet, NPR, On Being

Sandra Tsing Loh, author, radio commentator, playwright, actress, comedian

Azhar Usman, comedian

Jeff Wasserstrom, author, professor, UCI History

Amy Wilentz, author, professor, UCI Literary Journalism Program

Zunar, political cartoonist


UCI sponsors/participants:

Erwin Chemerinsky, Erika Hayasaki, David Kaye, Arlene Keizer, Barry Siegel, Georges van den Abbeele, Amy Wilentz (awilentz@uci.edu), Jeff Wasserstrom

Los Angeles Review of Books sponsor/participant:

Tom Lutz

UCLA sponsor/participant:

David Myers

USC sponsors/participants:

Jody Armour

Sherman Jackson

Nomi Stolzenberg

The Forum for the Academy & the Public presents:

“Can Mexico Save Itself?” with Francisco Goldman

4 PM
Humanities Instructional Building 135

Death Sentences Flyer

The Forum for the Academy and the Public, the Department of History, the Literary Journalism Program, and the Newkirk Center for Science and Society present “Death Sentences: The Art and Science of Writing about Disease and Disaster”:  a public conversation between epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani and Erika Hayasaki (UCI Literary Journalism), moderated by Amy Wilentz (UCI Literary Journalism).  This conversation is part of the Newkirk Center’s Communicating Science Series.

Free and open to the public; no reservations required.  For more information or for disability accommodations, please contact Patricia Pierson ay (949) 824-6876 or piersonp@uci.edu.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
5-6:30 PM
Humanities Gateway 1010
(first floor, Humanities Gateway building)

Recommended parking location:  Mesa Parking Structure.  Visit www.parking.uci.edu for maps and directions.

About Elizabeth Pisani:

Elizabeth Pisani has worked as a correspondent (for Reuters, the Economist and the Asia Times) in Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, China, Indochina, Brussels (EU) and Kenya, where she covered everything from stock market meltdowns and cholera epidemics to the arrival of troops in Tiananmen Square. She has run or advised on research studies — mostly related to HIV and conducted among transgender and female sex workers, gay men and drug injectors — in Indonesia, East Timor, China, the Philippines and elsewhere. She’s advised the WHO, UNAIDS, the World Bank and several governments on HIV surveillance and prevention. She’s a visiting Senior Fellow at the Policy Institute at Kings College London, and at KITLV in Leuven. She’s currently working on studies of corruption, health policy diffusion and anti-microbial resistance.

About Erika Hayasaki:

Erika Hayasaki is an assistant professor in the Literary Journalism Program at the University of California, Irvine, where she teaches workshops in narrative nonfiction writing, as well as classes in digital storytelling.  She is the author of The Death Class: A True Story About Life (published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster), which has been featured in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, on NPR, MSNBC, USA Today, and many others.  Hayasaki is a contributing health and science writer for The Atlantic and Newsweek, and has been a Los Angeles editor for Narratively, a digital publication devoted to in-depth feature stories. Erika spent nearly a decade as a reporter covering breaking news and writing feature stories for the Los Angeles Times, where she was a staff metro reporter, education writer, and New York-based national correspondent. She has published more than 900 articles for the LA Times and various other publications including The Wall Street Journal, Time, Los Angeles and Glamour magazines, and The Big Roundtable. She has published two Kindle Singles, Dead or Alive (2012), and Drowned by Corn (2014), both Amazon bestsellers.

About Amy Wilentz:

Amy Wilentz is the author of Farewell Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti (2013), The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier (1989), Martyrs’ Crossing (2000), and I Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen: Coming to California in the Age of Schwarzenegger (2006). She is the winner of the Whiting Writers Award, the PEN Martha Albrand Non-Fiction Award, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award, and also was a 1990 nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2014, she won the National Book Critics Circle Award (Autobiography) for Farewell, Fred Voodoo. Wilentz has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, The New Republic, Mother Jones, Harper’s, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, The San Francisco Chronicle, More, The Village Voice, The London Review of Books and many other publications. She is the former Jerusalem correspondent for The New Yorker and a long-time contributing editor at The Nation. She teaches in the Literary Journalism program at the University of California at Irvine, and lives in Los Angeles.


Join the Forum for the Academy & the Public for a talk by Michael Meyer.

March 3, 2015

5-6:30 PM

Humanities Gateway 1030

With an introduction by Amy Wilentz, followed by a Q and A with the author and a book sale and signing.  Co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Illuminations series, and the Center for Asian Studies.  Free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Patricia Pierson at piersonp@uci.edu.

Michael Meyer is the author of the acclaimed nonfiction book “The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed.” He first came to China in 1995 with the Peace Corps, and for over a decade has contributed from there to The New York Times, Time, the Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Architectural Record, Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian and many other outlets. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, as well as residencies at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. He recently taught Literary Journalism at Hong Kong University’s Journalism and Media Studies Center, and wrote the foreword to The Inmost Shrine: A Photographic Odyssey of China, 1873, a collection of Scottish explorer John Thomson’s early images. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches nonfiction writing.



Justice Flyer


Join the Forum for a two-day conference on storytelling and law.

When: Friday and Saturday, January 23 and 24, 2015
Where: The UCI School of Law

Free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Patricia Pierson at piersonp@uci.edu or call (949) 824-6876.

Reservations are encouraged as seating is limited.  Click here to reserve a seat.

Schedule of Panels and Talks:

Justice and Injustice:The Consequences of Storytelling in the Courtroom


January 23 and 24, 2015
UC Irvine School of Law

EDU 1111, Seminar Room 101, 401 East Peltason Drive


Friday, January 23

3:00 PM Welcome coffee

3:45 PM Introductory remarks: Amy Wilentz

Author and co-founder of the Forum for the Academy and the Public

4:00 PM Kickoff Panel: “Controlling the Narrative”

Jeff Robinson, speaker

Bobby Grace, Linda Deutsch, Barry Siegel

Moderator: Miles Corwin

Jurors listen to storytellers, who each try to control the narrative, to impose their narrative line, or take, on the messy, ambiguous pile of evidence. Jurors must then reduce that messy ambiguity to a clear black-and-white verdict (the “truth”). They do this, essentially, by deciding whose narrative to believe, whose subjective take is the true story. All narrative is argument. Recent events to consider, perhaps: the non-indictments in Ferguson and the Staten Island choke-hold; the problems in rape prosecutions and the Rolling Stone/University of Virginia story.

5:00 PM Book sale of Just Mercy in the lobby of the School of Law
Keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson will be signing his books directly after the keynote at 7 PM.

5:45 PM Introduction of Keynote Speaker: Henry Weinstein, UC Irvine School of Law

6:00 PM Keynote Speech by Bryan Stevenson
Author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative

Saturday,January 24

8:00 AM Coffee and light refreshments

8:30 AM “Death Penalty Narratives: High Stakes and the Need for an Ending”

Erwin Chemerinsky, speaker

Michael Connelly, Mike Farrell, Celeste Fremon,

Moderator: Barry Siegel

In death penalty cases there is even more pressure than usual on prosecutors to resolve things – not only to fix on a story but to identify an “ending” to that story. The defense is trying to look beyond the facts to the human being – to create empathy for the defendant, while the prosecutor works hard to portray the defendant as the “other,” an other for whom there is no further chance for redemption. As Bryan Stevenson puts it in his new book, Just Mercy, the prosecutor wants jurors to “hate not just the sin but the sinner.” Thus, part of the narrative here involves the high-stakes development of a biography of a protagonist or villain, or what we call in literary journalism “the art of the profile.” As dramatically discussed in Sarah Koenig’s Serial report on NPR, is it fair to say that the role of police and prosecutors in capital cases is to “build a case” against a defendant, rather than to unearth the truth?

10:00 AM Coffee Break

10:30 AM “The Role of Science in Courtroom Narratives”

Elizabeth Loftus, speaker

James McGaugh, Jon Eisenberg, Michael Grossberg

Moderator: Erika Hayasaki

Often, what jurors are led to believe is hard evidence is anything but that. According to the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report, evidence regularly used in the courtroom (fingerprints, ballistic traces, teethmarks, etc.) can be convincingly challenged. Forensic science, the NAS argues, is more art than science. What is more, in 2014 the NAS issued a report that also questioned the reliability of eyewitness testimony. As has been established, eyewitness testimony accounts for 72 percent of wrongful convictions. Memory, on which eyewitness testimony relies in part, is complicated, but narrative reconstruction in the courtroom as well as in creative nonfiction relies on memory. So it is worth considering just how memory works, and how it can be deleted, altered, and invented – unknowingly.

12:30 PM LUNCH

Luncheon speaker: Philip Meyer, author of Storytelling for Lawyers
Introduction by Henry Weinstein, UC Irvine School of Law

1:30 PM “Turning a Villain into a Victim (and vice versa)”

Linda Edwards, speaker

Gloria Killian, Howard Weitzman, Gary Bostwick

Moderator: Henry Weinstein

The best story line is the one that naturally makes sense to people, and by extension, to jurors. Here’s one that may sound familiar: An evil villain wreaks havoc on innocent and helpless people; a brave hero fights the villain, facing great danger. In the end, the hero kills the villain, thus restoring order. But this is not a recipe for a movie script; as Linda Edwards has argued, it is “the foundation for nearly every brief” filed by prosecutors in criminal appeals. Meanwhile defense attorneys like to play up the victimhood of their clients. Proving that for our species, character is central. But what exactly, in the collection of mythic stories humans recognize, constitutes a villain, what a victim? What special narrative “tricks” and “ploys” do lawyers use to lead jurors into accepting their version of character?

3:00 PM Coffee Break

3:30 PM “Creating a Coherent Narrative: What Happened and Whodunit?”

Paul Barrett, speaker

Brook Thomas, Hector Villagra, Philip Meyer

Moderator: Amy Wilentz

Competing narratives can befuddle a jury, and often come into play, also, when dollar judgments are awarded. What happens when a prosecutor goes too far — sometimes way too far — in working to develop a sensible or a dramatic or a simple, coherent narrative? Sometimes it can be a case like the Central Park Five, in which confessions are coerced and evidence made to support a narrative that never happened. Sometimes it’s a case like Steve Donziger’s against Chevron in the Amazon, in which the ostensible “good guy” politicks and manipulates evidence against an almost universally acknowledged “bad guy.” There are very real risks to both sides in the overzealous development of a single and pure narrative of a case. Yet how else do we go about proving what really happened and who actually done it? 

5:00 PM Closing Comments from Barry Siegel
Author of Manifest Injustice and Director of UCI’s Literary Journalism Program



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