22 Feb 2024 07:00

Peter Hessler, live at Duke University's Nasher Museum

This week on Sinica I'm delighted to bring you a live conversation with writer Peter Hessler, recorded at Duke University's Nasher Auditorium in Durham, North Carolina on November 10, 2023. The event was sponsored by the Duke Middle East Studies Center and the Asian Pacific Studies Institute, and was titled "Modern Revolutions in Ancient Civilizations."

Peter, known for both his trilogy of books written in China — Rivertown, Oracle Bones, and Country Driving — as well as for his reporting for The New Yorker, talks about how his years in China gave him perspective when living in Cairo and writing about Egypt during the Arab Spring. His book on Egypt, The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution, was made richer for me by the comparisons and contrasts with China threading throughout.

Special thanks to Griffin Orlando of the Middle East Study Center and Alex Nickley from the Asia Pacific Studies Institute, and Ralph Litzinger from Duke Anthropology.

6:27 – What Peter’s China experience brought to his writing on China — and vice-versa

9:45 – Contrasting the Chinese and Egyptian revolutions

18:37 – Revolution in thinking in Egypt and China

35:49 – Peter on his approach to the craft of reporting and writing

51:47 – Peter’s work in China as a longitudinal cohort study — and what it reveals so far

58:03 – A preview of Peter’s forthcoming book, Other Rivers


Peter: Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals is one of the books

Kaiser: Kenneth W. Harl’s book Empires of the Steppes: A History of the Nomadic Tribes Who Shaped Civilization.

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