Slain journalist Foley to be honored at UMass Amherst

The HBO movie
The HBO movie "Jim: The James Foley Story" will be screened at 7 p.m. on Monday. | Contributed photo
University of Massachusetts Amherst alumnus and slain journalist James Foley will be the subject of "The Task of Witnessing: A Symposium in Honor of James W. Foley" on Sept. 19-20.

“This symposium is offered in memory of Jim, to pay tribute to him by considering a range of issues that not only affected his life but have also impacted the lives of many around the world,” Stephen Clingman, UMass Amherst director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute, said. “We live in a context of both seemingly perpetual war and shifting boundaries, large-scale movements of people, strange mixtures of enmity and belief, the unnerving event and its instant reproduction.”

Foley, who was reporting on the front lines in Libya and Syria, was kidnapped  in 2014 and publicly executed. 

Foley previously worked as an embedded journalist with the Indiana National Guard and the U.S. Army before becoming a freelance journalist. He reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. While studying at the UM Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers and later, when he was with Teach for America in Arizona and Chicago, Foley worked with marginalized communities. He also volunteered at a center for unwed mothers.

The HBO movie "Jim: The James Foley Story" will be screened at 7 p.m. on Monday and panels will be held on Tuesday. Writers, journalists, student colleagues and teachers will pay tribute while they address the questions that many journalists face.

"What are the obligations of witnessing — and what are the dangers?" Clingman said. "How do we give voice to the otherwise unreported, to the unknown and to those whose voices would otherwise go unheard? How do we, as readers and viewers, witness atrocity? What, in short, are the tasks and perils of witnessing in our current world?”

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