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2021 Distinguished Lecture by Dr. Faye V. Harrison

Wednesday, November 17 – 6:30 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. ET

(Streamed Live from Baltimore)

Reckoning with Dread: Dilemmas of Democracy When All Lives Don’t Matter

Faye Harrison - professor of African American Studies

Dr. Faye V. Harrison

Professor of African American Studies and  Anthropology
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

With people dying from the pandemic, police and vigilante terror, and other pathologies of power, it is imperative that we accept the responsibilities of living during these times of dread. Toni Morrison recognized an earlier moment of this difficult conjuncture in her 2015 call for artists—and, I add, courageously creative intellectuals—to “go to work.” She wrote that there is no time for silence because it is our job to “speak, write, do language. That is how civilizations heal.” How can anthropologists concerned with the dilemmas of democracy, a political system purportedly devoted to promoting the common good and public well-being, respond to Morrison’s call? What can we offer, especially if our analyses rely on interventions from intellectuals who problematize the established terms of order in which Euromodernity and liberalism have invested their onto-epistemological authority—an authority implicated in the undemocratic tendencies within racial capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy, and (neo)imperialism’s civilizing missions? The lecture will venture a partial answer by drawing on overlapping perspectives from political anthropology, critical and decolonial approaches in the humanities and social sciences, and a number of public intellectuals around the world whose platforms for speaking and writing hard truths have been largely outside the canons of U.S. and other North Atlantic anthropologies. In their worldmaking, they seek to redesign democracy so that all lives matter.