Can’t get enough Leslie Jamison? The Chicago Humanities Festival video of her October 20 talk with Jac Jemc is available here. They cover a lot of ground in this hourlong Q &A, including a much more involved exploration of “wounded women” and the problem of trying to distinguish between “actual” pain and “performed” pain. But I particularly responded to this bit (around 17:00) in which Jamison (talking again about her recent trip to Sri Lanka) tries to unpack the basic point of witnessing.
“I think that there can be a value to the simple fact of exposure, when it’s exposing people to a history or a story that they haven’t encountered before,” she says, “but I think it’s also so important to think about the conditions under which knowing or being asked to imagine someone else’s experience should just be a catalyst rather than a destination. It should be the first step in an ongoing process rather than a closed circuit where it’s like, OK you felt the thing now we’re all done.”
Good words for any reporter, and I think anyone mining personal experience in the hope of creating some meaning that reaches beyond the self.