Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, has become a leading figure in narrative nonfiction, an interpreter of the human condition, and an impassioned voice for demonstrating how history can help us understand ourselves, our country, and our current era of upheaval. Through her writing, Wilkerson brings the invisible and the marginalized into the light and into our hearts. She is a native of Washington, D.C., and a daughter of the Great Migration, the mass movement that she would go on to write about in her debut work, The Warmth of Other Suns which has won, among other awards and honors, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the Lynton History Prize from Harvard and Columbia universities, and the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1994, as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times, making her the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. She then devoted fifteen years and interviewed more than 1,200 people to tell the story of the six million people, among them her parents, who defected from the Jim Crow South. Her newest book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents was published in 2020.
Isabel Wilkerson will give a lecture on the topic of her latest book Caste, followed by a moderated discussion and audience Q&A. Of Caste, Penguin Random House writes: “Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced on a daily basis.”
Cosponsored by the Winston Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Jesuit Institute, the Law School, and the Boston College Forum on Racial Justice in America.
Please note this is a virtual event. Registration will open on August 25th, 2021.
Beth Lew-Williams is Associate Professor of History at Princeton University. Her teaching and research examines race and migration in the United States, specializing in Asian American history. Her book, The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), won the Ray Allen Billington Prize and the Ellis W. Halley Prize from the Organization of American Historians. With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, her next book project, John Doe Chinaman, will consider the policing of Chinese migrants in the American West.
Beth Lew-Williams will give a lecture on the topic of The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America. The American West erupted in anti-Chinese violence in 1885. Following the massacre of Chinese miners in Wyoming Territory, more than 165 communities throughout California and the Pacific Northwest harassed, assaulted, and expelled thousands of Chinese migrants. She will discuss this unprecedented outbreak of violence, place it within the broader history of anti-Asian violence, and reflect on the implications for the present day. As we confront a new surge of anti-Asian hate crimes amid the pandemic, how should history help to inform our response? This lecture will be followed by a moderated conversation and audience Q&A.
Cosponsored by the Asian American Studies Program and the History Department.
Please note this is a virtual event. Registration will open on 09/15/21.
Dina Nayeri is the author of The Ungrateful Refugee, a finalist for the 2019 Kirkus Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her essay of the same name was one of the most widely shared 2017 Long Reads in The Guardian. A 2019 Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination Fellow, winner of the 2018 UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts literature grant (2015), O. Henry Prize (2015), Best American Short Stories (2018), and fellowships from the McDowell Colony, Bogliasco Foundation, and Yaddo, her stories and essays have been published by The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker, Granta New Voices, Wall Street Journal, and many others. Her debut novel, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea (2013) was translated to 14 languages. Her second novel, Refuge (2017) was a New York Times editor’s choice. She holds a BA from Princeton, an MBA from Harvard, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow and Teaching Writing Fellow. She lives in Paris.
Dina Nayeri will give a reading from The Ungrateful Refugee, followed by a moderated conversation and audience Q&A. In The Ungrateful Refugee, Nayeri asks what it is to be a refugee, to grapple with your place in society, attempting to reconcile the life you have known with a new, unfamiliar home. All this while bearing the burden of gratitude in your host nation: the expectation that you should be forever thankful for the space you have been allowed. Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother, and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel-turned–refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America. She settled in Oklahoma, then made her way to Princeton. In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the different stages of their journeys, from escape to asylum to resettlement.
Cosponsored by the Fiction Days Series and the English Department.
Please note this is a virtual event. Registration will open on 10/06/2021.
Boston College Alum Bryce Pinkham is a Grammy and Tony nominated American stage and screen actor. He is perhaps best known for originating the role of Monty Navarro in the Broadway production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The performance earned him a Grammy Award nomination as well as a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Pinkham went on to star in the Broadway revival of The Heidi Chronicles as Peter Patrone, for which he was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award, as well as the Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance in 2015. Recent film and television appearances include performances in the Robert DeNiro comedy The Comedian and Baz Lurman’s Netflix drama, The Get Down as well as a regular role in the PBS series Mercy Street. In 2012, Pinkham was awarded the prestigious Leonore Annenberg Fellowship, which is given to “a limited number of exceptionally talented young dancers, musicians, actors and visual artists as they complete their training and begin their professional life.” In the same year, Pinkham and fellow actor Lucas Caleb Rooney co-founded Zara Aina, a non-profit organization devoted to helping at-risk children expand their capacity for achievement through theatrical performance and storytelling. Pinkham also performs regularly with the theatre company Outside the Wire, which takes performances of Greek tragedy to American-military audiences around the world to foster discussion about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and soldier suicide. Pinkham is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Boston College.
Bryce Pinkham will give a lecture based on his latest project, followed by a moderated conversation and audience Q&A. Details to follow.
Cosponsored by the Theatre Department.
Please note this is a virtual event. Registration will open on 10/20/2021
Samuel Moyn is Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and Professor of History at Yale University. He received a doctorate in modern European history from the University of California-Berkeley in 2000 and a law degree from Harvard University in 2001. His areas of interest in legal scholarship include international law, human rights, the law of war, and legal thought, in both historical and current perspective. In intellectual history, he has worked on a diverse range of subjects, especially twentieth-century European moral and political theory. He has written several books, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010), and edited or co-edited a number of others. His most recent books are Christian Human Rights (2015) and Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018). He is currently working on a new book called Humane: How the US Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War on the origins and significance of humane war.
Samuel Moyn wil give a lecture based on his latest book, Humane followed by a moderated conversation and audience Q&A. Of Humane, Macmillan writes: “In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, Samuel Moyn asks a troubling but urgent question: What if efforts to make war more ethical—to ban torture and limit civilian casualties—have only shored up the military enterprise and made it sturdier? To advance this case, Moyn looks back at a century and a half of passionate arguments about the ethics of using force...Humane is the story of how America went off to fight and never came back, and how armed combat was transformed from an imperfect tool for resolving disputes into an integral component of the modern condition. As American wars have become more humane, they have also become endless. This provocative book argues that this development might not represent progress at all.”
Cosponsored by the International Studies Program.
Please note this is a virtual event. Registration will open on 10/27/2021
Robin Wall Kimmerer: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. Kimmerer lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. As a writer and a scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She holds a BS in Botany from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, an MS and PhD in Botany from the University of Wisconsin and is the author of scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge and restoration ecology. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild.
Robin Wall Kimmerer will give a lecture based on Braiding Sweetgrass, followed by a moderated conversation and audience Q&A. Of Braiding Sweetgrass, Milkweed Editions writes: “Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.”
Cosponsored by the Environmental Studies Program and the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department.
Please note this is a virtual event. Registration will open on 11/17/2021
Gasson Hall, 100
The Very Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas was named Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Theology at Union College in September 2017. She was named the Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology in November 2019. She also serves as the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral and Theologian in Residence at Trinity Church Wall Street. Her groundbreaking and widely taught book Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective (1999) was the first to address the issue of homophobia within the Black church community. Her latest book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (2015), examines the challenges of a “Stand Your Ground” culture for the Black church. Dean Douglas is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Denison University where she earned a bachelor of science summa cum laude in psychology. She went on to earn a master of divinity and a doctoral degree in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary under James Cone, Ph.D., the premier Black theologian. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Dean Douglas was ordained at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in 1983 — the first Black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest in the Southern Ohio Diocese, and one of only five nationwide at the time. She also was the first to receive the Anna Julia Cooper Award by the Union of Black Episcopalians (July 2012) for “her literary boldness and leadership in the development of a womanist theology and discussing the complexities of Christian faith in African-American contexts.”
Kelly Brown Douglas will give a lecture on her upcoming book Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter, followed by an audience Q&A.
Cosponsored by the Theology Department and the PULSE Program.
Gasson Hall, 100
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage for The Washington Post, Eli Saslow, who has been called “one of the great young journalists in America,” reveals the human stories behind the most divisive issues of our time. From racism and poverty to addiction and school shootings, Saslow’s work uncovers the manifold impacts of major national issues on individuals and families. Saslow’s book, Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, charts the rise of white nationalism through the experiences of one person who abandoned everything he was taught to believe. Saslow won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a yearlong series of stories about food stamps and hunger in the United States. Saslow was also a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. He is a longtime staff writer for The Washington Post, where he was initially a sportswriter. He covered the 2008 presidential campaign as well as President Obama’s life in the White House. Four of his stories have been anthologized in Best American Sportswriting, and he is an occasional contributor to ESPN The Magazine. A graduate of Syracuse University, Saslow is the winner of two George Polk Awards, a PEN Literary Award, a James Beard Award, and other honors. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and children. Saslow’s next book is Voices from the Pandemic, drawn from his ongoing oral history project for The Washington Post of the same name.
Eli Saslow will give a lecture based upon his reporting in Rising Out of Hatred, followed by an audience Q&A. Born out of his Washington Post feature “The White Flight of Derek Black,” Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how the one-time heir to America’s white nationalist movement came to question the ideology he helped spread. Derek Black might be termed white nationalist royalty: his father, Don Black, launched Stormfront, the first major white supremacist website; his mother was once married to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who was Derek’s godfather and mentor from birth. Built on extensive, wide-ranging interviews with Derek, his father Don Black, and many other people, Rising Out of Hatred traces Derek’s evolution, and explores the ramifications of his decision to publicly denounce white nationalism in an open letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2013.
Cosponsored by the Journalism Program, the American Studies Program, and the Communications Department.
Gasson Hall, 100
Claudia Rankine is the author of six collections of poetry, including Just Us: An American Conversation, Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; three plays including HELP, which premiered in March of 2020 at The Shed, NYC, The White Card, which premiered in February 2018 and was published by Graywolf Press in 2019, and Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; as well as numerous video collaborations. She is also the co-editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Rankine teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Claudia Rankine will give a reading from Citizen, followed by an audience Q&A. From Rankine’s website: In Citizen, Rankine recounts “mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV—everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen interrogates the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.”
Cosponsored by the American Studies Program, the African and African Diaspora Studies Program, the English Department, the History Department, the Sociology Department, the PULSE Program, and with the support of an Institute for the Liberal Arts Major Grant Award.
Gasson Hall, 100
Ruha Benjamin is Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, Founding Director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, and author of the award-winning book Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code among many other publications. Her work investigates the social dimensions of science, medicine, and technology with a focus on the relationship between innovation and inequity, health and justice, knowledge and power. Benjamin earned a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College, MA and PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Society & Genetics and Harvard’s Science, Technology & Society Program. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation 2020 Freedom Scholar Award, and the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.
Ruha Benjamin will give a lecture based on her book Race After Technology, which will be followed by an audience Q&A. Of Race After Technology, Wiley writes: “From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity. Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite.”
Presented by the Park Street Corporation Speaker Series and cosponsored by the Lowell Humanities Series and the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society.
Kevin Barry: Writing the West: The Influence of Place, Dialect, and Hauntedness in the Fiction of Kevin Barry
Gasson Hall, 100
Kevin Barry is the author of the novels City of Bohane, Beatlebone, and Night Boat to Tangier and the story collections Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. His awards include the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize, the Lannan Foundation Literary Award, and the Rooney Prize. For City of Bohane, he was short-listed for the Costa First Novel Award and the Irish Book Award, and won the Author’s Club Best First Novel Prize, the European Union Prize for Literature, and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2019, Night Boat to Tangier was longlisted for the Booker Prize. His stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta and elsewhere. He also works as a playwright and screenwriter, and he lives in County Sligo, Ireland.
Kevin Barry will give a lecture on the topic of place, dialect and hauntedness in his novels, followed by an audience Q&A. This event coincides with the 6th Biannual Conference of the International Flann O’Brien Association.
Gasson Hall, 100
Ada Limón is the author of five books of poetry, including The Carrying (2018), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was named one of the top 5 poetry books of the year by The Washington Post. Her fourth book Bright Dead Things (2015) was named a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A. program, and the online and summer programs for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center.
Ada Limón will give a reading from her book The Carrying, followed by an audience Q&A. Of The Carrying, Milkweed Editions writes: “Vulnerable, tender, acute, these are serious poems, brave poems, exploring with honesty the ambiguous moment between the rapture of youth and the grace of acceptance. A daughter tends to aging parents. A woman struggles with infertility, and a body seized by pain and vertigo as well as ecstasy. A nation convulses. And still Limón shows us, as ever, the persistence of hunger, love, and joy, the dizzying fullness of our too-short lives.”
Cosponsored by the Poetry Days Series and the English Department.