Despite the snow in Chicago and the pollen in Charlotte, the Skype connection held for my interview of Patrick Bergemann, Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy at the University of Chicago. Patrick's research is really fascinating and while he hasn't looked directly at the early modern witch trials, he "examines the incidence of wrongdoing within organizations and polities, and what leads individuals to report such behavior to the authorities." (From his website.) To rephrase: why did people report their neighbors to the authorities during Nazi Germany and during the Spanish Inquisition? How are they similar, different, and what patterns emerge?
When I was an undergrad, I double-majored in Studio Art and German Studies. In the case of German Studies, I was primarily focused on contemporary German-Jewish relations. I wanted to know how events like the holocaust could even happen, it was too horrific to comprehend, but seemed to require - demand even - comprehension. The flip-side of that, was I wanted to know how Jews could live in Germany today, in the shadow of the holocaust. Okay, mind you, this was around 1996, and I was a kid, really. I still wonder about the darker tendancies of human behavior, but I'm much more focused and interested in fostering positive actions: kindness, slow thinking, empathy, compassion, honesty, bravery, gardening. Maybe that's the affect of age, or of having children, or of teaching. I'm still fascinating in the great tragedies of human history, in so far as the intense desire to prevent them from happening again (even as they continue to happen again) has settled into its own rhythm.
At any rate, Patrick's book will be forth-c0ming, and I can't wait to read it!