Chomsky Coming to Campus

Noam Chomsky will discuss historian Howard Zinn.

MIT linguist, political scholar and activist Noam Chomsky will be coming to campus on Sunday, Dec. 4 to give a lecture in honor of social historian Howard Zinn.

Zinn, who passed away in January 2010, was well-known for his influential book, “A People’s History of the United States.” It told an alternative history about the United States, giving voice to marginalized populations including the poor and immigrants that aren’t usually taught in schools.

Social and political activist and member of the Programming Committee for the Rosendale Theatre Collective Mark Rausher joined forces with assistant professor of anthropology Benjamin Junge to create an event commemorating Zinn.

“Zinn had an enormous impact on the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, and his ideas about peace and social justice are just as valid in today’s world,” said Rausher. “His ‘People’s History’ teaches that America’s past is different from the abridged and censored version taught in our schools. The story of Zinn’s life, as teacher, leader and ‘truth-teller,’ should help to counteract the cynicism and passivity we’re all suffering from, and encourage others to follow his example.”

Rausher contacted people who had worked with Zinn. Chomsky and author/filmmaker/activist Anthony Arnove were both close to Zinn and are leaders in the same field. Arnove will be speaking at the event as well and has edited several of both Zinn’s and Chomsky’s books. He has  also made a documentary about Zinn called “The People Speak.”

“I think [Chomsky is] arguably one of the most important public intellectuals alive in the U.S. today,” said Junge. “Part of Zinn’s project was to critique U.S. foreign policy. That’s a point where Zinn and Chomsky have a point of resonance. Chomsky is super provocative. Some people bow to his alter but he has been called pro-Palestine and people tend to have a strong feeling about Chomsky one way or the other.”

The free event, exact time and place still to be announced, is open to the public. It will have a lecture by both Arnove and Chomsky and a question and answer dialogue.

Junge recommends everyone to go to the event, not just history and political science majors.

“More generally, people who have a special interest in U.S. foreign policy, globalization and debates about those things,” said Junge. “This is a little bit sentimental, but I think anyone who wants to be an informed citizen about where the U.S. has been and is going in this ever-globalizing world.”

The event is financed by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

“Noam Chomsky is one of the greatest thinkers of our time, the father of modern linguistics and an important critic of American foreign policy,” said James Schiffer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Even those who disagree with his political views appreciate his commitment to the free and open exchange of ideas.”