Race and Public Space

June Jordan’s “Skyrise for Harlem,” Esquire magazine, April 1965.

Seven years ago, when U.S. citizens elected Barack Obama as the first African American president, many pundits and scholars predicted the imminent rise of a post-racial era in politics and popular culture. Today, however, concerns about racial discrimination and violence are growing, with heated debates over everything from immigration reform to disproportionate criminal sentencing to the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians. Still, deep insights into the social dynamics driving these issues are hard to come by, and innovative policy proposals about how to address them are especially lacking.

The workshop on Race and Public Space investigates social difference through explorations of how people experience, narrate, critique, and experiment with social practices and policies that yield racial disparities and produce political fault lines. We will examine historical, ethnographic, theoretical, and literary texts that investigate how racial differences are produced in diverse social contexts. And we will pay special attention to the ways public space shapes the context of racial domination and differentiation, or, more hopefully, social change.

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