Prominent Scholars Talk Race, Science, Sexuality and the Politics of Black Women’s Bodies

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Evelynn Hammonds_is_2International scholars will lecture on the intersection of race, science, sexuality and the politics of Black women’s bodies during the 2013-2014 Spelman College Ida B. Wells-Barnett Distinguished Lecture Series. Organized by the Spelman College Teaching Resource and Research Center, this year’s theme, Black (W)holes and Geometry: The Politics of Black Women’s Bodies, will provide historical context and analysis on how social categories interact to create a system of oppression, leading to multiple forms of discrimination for Black women. Free to the public, each lecture will be followed by a book signing.

Supported by the Office of the President and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the theme is inspired by the article “Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality (1994)” written by Spelman alumna and opening lecturer, Evelynn Hammonds, Ph.D., Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of History of Science and African American Studies, Harvard University. The article was published in “differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6.2+3” (1994).

“This year’s multidisciplinary theme provides the intellectual framework for critical analysis of the images and discourse about Black women’s bodies,” said Mona Phillips, Ph.D., professor of sociology and director of the TRRC. “Evelynn Hammonds’ precisely creative language opens the door to all sorts of intellectual and political possibilities.”

Dr. Hammonds, who earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Spelman in 1976 and currently serves on the College’s board of trustees, is well-respected for her research on the history of scientific, medical, and sociopolitical concepts of race and sexuality.  Her work also explores the history of disease and public health, gender in science and medicine, and African-American history. Hammonds’ lecture will take place Sept. 16, in the NASA Auditorium at 6 p.m.

Deborah Willis

Deborah Willis

Also featured is Deborah Willis, Ph.D., chair and professor of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Her lecture “Reframing Black is Beautiful,” set for Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Cosby Auditorium, will examine the concept of beauty as informed through photographs. Named among the 100 Most Important People in Photography by American Photography Magazine, Dr. Willis is a 2000 MacArthur Fellow. She is a renowned photography historian and curator of the traveling exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture. Organized in partnership with Atlanta Celebrates Photography and the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, the exhibition will be on view at Spelman Sept. 5 through Dec. 7, 2013.

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Kimberlé Crenshaw

Race and gender scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, J.D., professor of law at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School will give the third lecture, Jan. 27,at 6 p.m. in the Cosby Auditorium. Crenshaw’s work has popularized the concept of “intersectionality,” which explores how social and cultural categories such as race, gender and class intersect to contribute to systematic injustice and social inequality. Her work was influential in drafting the equality clause in the South African Constitution, and in 2001, she wrote the background paper on race and gender discrimination for the United Nations World Conference on Racism.

Dorothy Roberts

Dorothy Roberts

The closing public lecture will be given by Dorothy Roberts, J.D., George A. Weiss University professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania.. Her most recent book Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century (2011) is one of the texts central to this year’s theme. A renowned social justice advocate, Roberts has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues. Her leadership in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare and bioethics is well-respected. Roberts’ lecture takes place Feb. 11, at 6 p.m. in the Cosby Auditorium.

The Ida B. Wells-Barnett Distinguished Lecture Series was established to promote interdisciplinarity, a core value of the College. The series is named for the intellectual, writer and activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett who used multiple analytical languages to confront the politics of the Black body as well as the complexities of full citizenship for Black women and men.  The 2012-2013 theme was “More than a Vote: Women’s Struggle for Full Citizenship.” The distinguished lecturers were activists and scholars Angela Davis and Melissa Harris-Perry. The annual theme provides an intellectual umbrella for lectures, readings, events, panels, and discussion groups throughout the academic year. – Terrilyn Simmons (@SpelmanMedia on Twitter)  is the integrated communications manager for the Office of Communications.

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