The question of evil: A humanistic inquiry

Friday, May 5, 2017

Stepping into 'the theaters of modern evil'

In week one of Gikandi's course, students were transported to a small Southern town through the pages of Flannery O'Connor's short story "The Displaced Person."

"Evil becomes most apparent when bad things happen to good people," Gikandi said. "A Polish refugee arrives in town and begins the difficult task of remaking his life. He is a good person. He is hardworking. He gets along well with others. But he generates a crisis because he does not understand the racial laws governing the community. When a tractor slides on his back, none of the people around him are willing to help. And they are actually good people."

Gikandi wants students "to think about the role of language and the imagination in the theaters of modern evil. I'm challenging them to think about evil, not as something that happens in remote corners of the world but in our own cultures and civilizations," he said.

The way to do that, Gikandi explained, is to start small and then go big.