March 22, 2004

Soyinka to deliver BBC lecture on 'Climate of Fear'

By Deb Hammacher

Wole Soyinka, 1986 Nobel laureate for literature and Woodruff Professor of the Arts emeritus, will give the final lecture in his five-part BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures at Emory at 7 p.m., Monday, March 29, in Harland Cinema.

The Emory lecture will be the only Reith installment given in the United States. The theme for the series is "Climate of Fear," and Soyinka will discuss how religious fundamentalism is playing out worldwide in an address titled, "I Am Right; You Are Dead."

According to Soyinka, the world today is living in a new climate of fear. "Its special quality is anonymity, a secret knowledge of power over the destiny of others," he said. "Fear is a weapon in the hands of the dictator, the state or the individual fanatic or fundamentalist."

Soyinka will ask, how does democracy counter those who see themselves as "chosen ones?" He argues that people must be clear-thinking and not be blind to the true nature of terror.

"The eruption of terror anywhere does not remain localized for long," Soyinka said. "It is territorially rapacious and once unleashed develops and travels on a momentum all its own. We must be ruthless and not allow our own self-appointed 'Chosen Ones' to grow and be nurtured in our midst."

The series will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in April and May and streamed on its website:

A native of Abeokuta in western Nigeria, Soyinka has been a lifelong activist for democracy in his homeland. His writings always have been closely tied to his political activism; his most acclaimed works are the memoirs Ake and The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka--the latter based on Soyinka's 27 months in solitary confinement following his 1967 arrest by the Nigerian government--and the play Death and the King's Horseman.

Some of his more recent works include the forthcoming essay "Salutation to the Gut" (Bookcraft, May 2004), the plays King Baabu and The Beatification of Area Boy, and an essay, "Open Sore of a Continent," which chronicles Nigeria's plight. Additional publications include The Burden of Memory, a book based on lectures delivered at Harvard in 1997, and Arms and the Arts: A Continent's Unequal Dialogue, based on Soyinka's 1999 Davie Memorial Lecture at the University of Cape Town.

During his tenure at Emory, Soyinka worked with Theater Emory to stage readings and productions of his works and hosted fellow Nobel laureates Elie Wiesel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the University's Nobel Conversations lecture series. He has served as an adviser to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for several years.

The Reith Lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John (later Lord) Reith, the corporation's first director-general. The first Reith lecturer was the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who spoke on "Authority and the Individual." Among his successors were Arnold Toynbee ("The World and the West," 1952), Robert Oppenheimer ("Science and the Common Understanding," 1953) and John Kenneth Galbraith ("The New Industrial State," 1966).

More recently, Reith lectures have been delivered by the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ("The Persistence of Faith," 1990), Patricia Williams ("Race and Race Relations," 1997), John Keegan ("War and Our World," 1998) and Anthony Giddens ("Runaway World," 1999). Tom Kirkwood examined "The End Of Age" in 2001, and Onora O'Neill lectured on "A Question of Trust" in 2002. Last year, neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran dealt with "The Emerging Mind."

Soyinka's lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call