Maaza Mengiste to Deliver 8th Annual Pluralism Lecture

“The Moment of Encounter: History, Disruptions, and Transformations” by Maaza Mengiste

Presented in partnership with the University of British Columbia

On May 19th, the Global Centre for Pluralism and the University of British Columbia presented a livestream of the 2021 Annual Pluralism Lecture 

Ethiopian novelist and 2020 Booker Prize finalist, Maaza Mengiste, delivered the 8th Annual Pluralism Lecture, “The Moment of Encounter: History, Disruptions, and Transformations” on May 19, 2021 from New York’s Center for Fiction, followed by a conversation with Nahlah Ayed, host of CBC Radio’s Ideas. 

Inspired by archival photographs from the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia, in this Lecture Ms. Mengiste talks about her journey into historical research while writing her critically acclaimed novel, The Shadow King. She discusses the surprising and revelatory discoveries she made about collective memory and official archives, and what history can teach us about the future. 

Did you miss it? You can watch the broadcast below or here:

About the Speaker

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Maaza Mengiste is a critically acclaimed novelist and essayist whose work examines the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile. Mengiste’s debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (2010), was named one of The Guardian’s Ten Best Contemporary African Books. Her latest novel, The Shadow King (2019), was called “one of the most beautiful novels of the year” by NPR and was a 2020 Booker Prize finalist. The winner of the 2020 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Mengiste’s honours include the Creative Capital Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Puterbaugh Festival of International Literature & Culture. 

Related Listening

CBC Ideas broadcasted an episode featured 2021 Annual Pluralism Lecture with an additional interview with Maaza Mengiste. Listen to the episode here. (Episode only available in English)

Related Events 

Maaza Mengiste also discussed her book, The Shadow King, at a UBC Connects Masterclass on May 18, 2021. For more information, visit:   

Read the press release.

Read the full text of Maaza Mengiste’s Lecture here.

Maaza Mengiste

Author and Essayist


We have been taught for so long that an answer must always follow a question – that if we cannot point to a resolution then we have failed. But what if, in that space between knowing and confusion, is an entire landscape where something else, beyond answers but equally vital, exists? What if, cradled within each moment of encounter, is a force that can lead us towards real transformation? What if to be disturbed is just one step towards that journey? What if every step forward takes us not into the territory of comfort and certainty, but towards new disruptions and greater leaps?

Maaza Mengiste, 2021 Annual Pluralism Lecture

We often count history through wars… World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War; those are the markers that tell us where we were at certain moments as nations. That’s masculine. That is a way to think about a national identity that is completely based on aggression. What if, instead of valuing those moments, we actually looked at moments of community building, moments of continuity, moments when societies that might have been or should have been wiped out by epidemics or by wars continued because the work of women was to sustain those communities? What would a nation’s history look like if we eliminated war as a marker and looked at continuity?

Maaza Mengiste, 2021 Annual Pluralism Lecture