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Dissident critics living in exile speak out on Sept. 23

The near-fatal stabbing of author Salman Rushdie on August 12 shocked readers, writers and defenders of free speech everywhere. Yet around the world, writers, journalists, visual artists, filmmakers, musicians, actors and other creatives are censored, harassed, imprisoned or killed for speaking their minds or exercising their imaginations.

Four dissidents who have faced these dangers first-hand will share their experiences at Dissidence: Exiled Writers on Resistance and Risk, a reading and reception on Friday, September 23, at noon in G64 Goldwin Smith Hall. The event is a collaboration between Migrations: A Global Grand Challenge and Ithaca City of Asylum.

Two of the critics – Russian writer Dmitry Bykov and Nicaraguan cartoonist Pedro X. Molina – have settled in Ithaca with support from Global Cornell, which leads and organizes Cornell’s advocacy for scholars under threat, and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.

Bykov is one of Russia’s best-known public intellectuals. He spent five days in a coma after falling ill during a speaking tour in 2019. An independent investigation blamed Russian security forces for poisoning him with the nerve agent Novichok. In addition to prohibiting him from teaching at the university level, the government has also barred him from appearing on state radio or TV.

The author of more than 80 books, Bykov is currently a visiting critic at the Einaudi Center’s Institute for European Studies and a fellow of the Open Society University Network.

Molina is a political cartoonist who fled Nicaragua during a government crackdown in 2018. He was an Artist Protection Fund Fellow and visiting critic at the Einaudi Center’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program in 2021–22. His work was recognized in October 2021 with the 2021 Gabo Award for Excellence, one of the most prestigious journalism prizes in Latin America. Molina was a visiting scholar at Ithaca College from 2019 until 2021.

Their appearance is part of a three-city tour organized by City of Asylum programs in Ithaca, Pittsburgh and Detroit to mark Banned Books Week. Also joining the Solidarity Tour are Algerian novelist Anouar Rahmani and Nigerian essayist Pwaangulongii Dauod.

In addition to the Cornell event, the four will speak at Ithaca College on Thursday, September 22, at 5:30 and take part in a public program and celebration at the Community School of Music and Arts on Friday, September 23, at 7:00.

The tour is sponsored by Migrations: A Global Grand Challenge, with grant support from the Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures. The Migrations initiative, part of Global Cornell, studies the movement of all living things through an interdisciplinary, multispecies lens, with a special focus on racism and dispossession.

Jonathan Miller is a freelance writer for Global Cornell and a member of Ithaca City Of Asylum’s board of directors.

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