The Nazrul Commemorative Lecture aims to place poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) and his work within the context of broader literary, political, social and intellectual ideas and movements.
Following the success of the Nazrul Symposium held at the University of Connecticut in 2006, the Asian American Studies Institute and the Asian American Cultural Center at UConn formed a public-private partnership with the Nazrul Committee and key members of the Bangladeshi community in Connecticut and the New England region that jointly sponsors public educational programs.
Kazi Nazrul Islam was revolutionary in every sense of the word. He made his mark as poet, musician, artist, and political activist. A multifaceted, multidisciplinary artist, Nazrul’s work skillfully traversed a number of genre boundaries. From poetry to drama, from music to philosophy, the National Poet of Bangladesh was a pioneering artist, committed to exploring new forms, seeking out marginal voices, and using arts as a vehicle for anti-colonial action. Beloved and remembered for his life-long dedication to social justice and liberation in the face of orthodoxy and oppression, Kazi Nazrul Islam opposed bigotry in all its forms, a belief made clear in the major themes that undergird his artistic work: revolution, respect, freedom, love, and equality. Interested in a humanism that extended well beyond the perimeters of race, class and gender, Nazrul was not bound by traditional nation-state affiliations, asserting boldly that he and his work “belong[ed] to the world.”
In her essay Revolutionary Arts and Political Poetics written in 2010, Professor Cathy Schlund-Vials, who is also Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, contextualizes Nazrul’s work and situates him squarely within the contemporary global landscape, comparing Nazrul to poet-activists Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, and Maya Angelou.
The Nazrul Commemorative Lecture premiered with Winston E. Langley (2007), essay entitled The Voice of Poetry and the Direction of Civilizations.
Additional invited speakers include June McDaniel, who gave a presentation on March 22, 2010.
Professor and Chair of the Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures Department at Barnard College-Columbia University Rachel Fell McDermott, has given two (2008, 2013) presentations at UConn. In the most recent visit on April 11, 2013, Professor McDermott delivered the Keynote Address, and the program included a panel discussion focused on addressing Religious Tolerance. This event was co-sponsored by the Institute with the Asian American Cultural Center, India Studies, Bangladeshi Students Association and Delta Epsilon Psi at UConn.