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Distinguished Lectures

2021-2022 Faculty Fellows:
Professor José Amador and Professor Stefanie Dunning

“The problem of the twentieth century,” W. E. B.Du Bois famously declared in 1903, “is the problem of the color-line.” In the context of American history, these prophetic words now seem a terrible understatement. The color-line has been the problem of every American century, including our own, and institutional racism haunts societies around the globe. From its origins in colonialism and enslavement to its modern consequences in cycles of poverty and social segregation, racism has persisted in the face of efforts to end it. It is woven today into systems of law and criminal justice, medicine and health, housing, education, media representation, and more. As recent protests in the United States demonstrate, racism is neither past nor elsewhere; it is part of the historical terrain we inhabit, a system that continues to shape our thinking, our work, and our lives. And yet, despite the glaring inequities it produces, racism’s origins, legacies, and structural logics are often obscured by institutional complexities and tangled in values such as merit, citizenship, freedom, and law.

The 2021-2022 AltmanProgram invites the Miami University community to explore the persistence of racism in its cultural, political, and institutional forms. What is the history of race as an idea and a social category? How did it transform systems of law, administration, and representation into vehicles for subjugating entire groups of people? How does racism work today? What is its relation to systems of caste and meritocracy? To citizenship and mobility? How can emerging humanities scholarship help us interrogate its evolution and frustrating persistence? And what measures can we take to create a more inclusive and equitable society?
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