NELSON — Historian and author Mark Bray will be a featured speaker at Selkirk College’s Mir Centre for Peace Lecture Series in Nelson next month.
His talk will focus on the history of anti-fascism in Europe and North America over the past century, particularly as it pertains to recent citizen organization against the far-right movement of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Bray was thrust onto the international academia stage this past August when images from the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia encapsulated the tinderbox tension south of the border.
A historian of human rights, terrorism and political radicalism in modern Europe, Bray is the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook that was released in early 2017. Bray’s scholarly work makes him a coveted guest on American political talk shows and a valued source for media attempting to explain a movement that few understand.
“Most historians want what we write to matter,” says Bray, who is an associated visiting scholar at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. “The study of the past should influence how we live the present. So in that sense, it’s gratifying to see this level of interest in the work about the relevance of the history to current politics. On the other hand, a lot of the interest happened because someone died. If Heather Heyer hadn’t been murdered in Charlottesville (last year), then Charlottesville as a moment would not have risen to the level of public conversation that it did.”
Bray’s book traces the history of Antifa dating back to the early 20th Century and offers a roadmap for putting the movement’s principles into practice. Much of what the average observer has seen in media coverage over the last few months in regards to Antifa has been the opposite of peace, but Bray asserts that the movement is misunderstood.
“It brings up a lot of interesting questions,” he says. “Does a peaceful world include police and prisons and militaries? Do you have to be an absolutist pacifist who condemns physical force under any context in order to qualify as a peaceful person? If there is a threat of a violent white supremacist movement or a neo-Nazi movement that is intimidating people, then is self-defence contrary to the notions of peace? These are the very questions at the heart of it.”
Bray has presented his work in Toronto and Montreal, but the stop in Nelson will be his first visit to a rural Canadian community.
Bray’s lecture, The History and Politics of Anti-Fascism, will take place on Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at the Civic Theatre in Nelson. Tickets are available online at selkirk.ca/mir or at the door ($17 general public and $15 student/senior). For more information call 250.365.1261.