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Maggie Paxson: “A French Village, Its Legacy of Rescue, and Lessons for Troubled Times”
October 21, 2020 at 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
During the Second World War, in a remote pocket of Nazi-held France, ordinary people risked their lives to rescue many hundreds of strangers, mostly Jewish children. The same place offers refuge to migrants today. Why? With the tools of historical research, anthropological fieldwork, and personal narrative, Maggie Paxson set out to explore the habits of helpfulness and rescue that the villagers of the Plateau Vivarais-Lignon have demonstrated for centuries. But it was the story of a distant relative, Daniel Trocmé, that set her on a new and unexpected course. Restless and idealistic, Trocmé had found a life of meaning and purpose—or it found him—sheltering a group of children on the Plateau, until the Holocaust came for him, too. Paxson’s journey into past and present turns up new answers, new questions, and a renewed faith in the possibilities for us all.
Maggie Paxson is the author of the critically acclaimed The Plateau (Riverhead Books, 2019), which was named a Best Book of the Year by Bookpage and described by The Washington Post as “a loving combination of personal memoir, historical investigation and philosophical meditation.” A writer, anthropologist, and performer, she is also the author of Solovyovo (Woodrow Wilson Center/Indiana University Press, 2005), a study of magic, ritual, and social memory in a remote Russian village. Her essays have appeared in Time, The Washington Post Magazine, Wilson Quarterly, and Aeon. Fluent in Russian and French, she has worked in rural communities in northern Russia, the Caucasus, and upland France. Paxson holds a B.A. in Anthropology from McGill University, and a MSc and Ph.D. in Anthropology, both from the University of Montreal.
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UMBC is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Closed captioning will be provided.
The Webb Lecture is sponsored by the Department of History and the Dresher Center for the Humanities.
Photo by Matt Mendolsohn.