Environmental activist Aileen Mioko Smith to give talks in Lawrence

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies will host environmental activist and writer Aileen Mioko Smith for a series of private and public events next week, including a film screening and artist talk.

Film screening poster for "Minamata," part of University of Kansas programming

Smith is founder and executive director of Kyoto-based Green Action, an anti-nuclear organization established 26 years ago. Before starting Green Action, Smith worked with her partner and spouse, Life magazine photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, photographing the plight and fight for justice of Minamata disease victims in southern Japan. As president of Aileen Archive, she is committed to disseminating her spouse’s photographic work on Minamata. She is also a 2014 recipient of the Nuclear-Free Future Award.

Smith will speak with environmental studies students at Haskell Indian Nations University and at KU during class visits and a library talk Oct. 30-31. Smith will also make two public appearances:

Minamata” film screening and Q&A

6 p.m. Nov. 1 at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.

“Minamata” is a biographical drama based on the book by the Smiths. Directed by Andrew Levitas, the film stars Johnny Depp as photographer Eugene Smith, who travels with Aileen Smith to Japan to document the devastating effects of mercury poisoning on the residents of a coastal community. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2020. Aileen Smith will host a Q&A at the end of the free film screening.

Global Asia Speaker Series: “Reminiscences: My Life with Eugene Smith”

6 p.m. Nov. 2, Lee Study Center, Spencer Museum of Art

Seating is limited for the free event, and attendees should RSVP. Aileen Smith’s discussion will include her spouse’s retrospective exhibition “Let the Truth Be the Prejudice” and his last photo essay on Minamata, including the controversial photo “Tomoko and Mother in the Bath."

CEAS has partnered with Haskell Indian Nations University, the KU Environmental Studies Program and the Spencer Museum of Art on the events, which are part of the center’s Title VI grant-funded activities, seeking to address diverse perspectives on nationally and internationally pressing issues.

“Aileen’s activism inspires us to think of global connectedness not only in the arena of the environment but also in the realms of political economy, corporate ethics and social justice,” said Akiko Takeyama, CEAS director. “Her work brings us together across different disciplines of environmental studies, history of capitalism, Asian studies, journalism, visual art, and science and technology, to name a few. Thus, the dialogue we will engage in with Aileen will be a manifestation of Global Asia, taking Asia as a window into transnational issues and global contexts that cut across disciplinary boundaries, national borders and even human and nonhuman separations. This kind of dialogue will be an important step toward sustainable futures.”

Fri, 10/27/2023


LaGretia Copp

Media Contacts

LaGretia Copp

Center for East Asian Studies