Professor Ruha Benjamin presented at Future Perfect, a conference sponsored by the New York City based research group, Data & Society.
Full conference summary.
Future Perfect resumed with a presentation by Ruha Benjamin, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Benjamin used speculative ethnographic field notes to deliver her talk, entitled “Designer and discarded genomes: Experimenting with sociological imagination through speculative methods.” In order to “explore the antecedents and implications of the current era of genetic engineering,” Benjamin read a series of field notes from the Human Genome Project-Write initiative, a 2016 convening at Harvard for discussing the implications and logistics of producing synthetic human genomes. Benjamin subsequently read fictional field notes from 1816 and 2216 — 200 years into the past and future, respectively.
Benjamin drew attention to the changing standards of what constitutes “human life,” using her notes from 1816 to explore ideas of “humanity” as applied to enslaved peoples during the Middle Passage. Her 2216 notes explored speculative divisions between beings modified so that they no longer have to eat, and unmodified beings which still used food as an energy source. By doing so, Benjamin had the audience consider what part of “humanity” was discarded in the context of slavery. In the future, she asked, when we have the power to design “‘ideal’ genomes, what versions of humanity are discarded?” Benjamin concluded by observing that “fictions are not falsehoods, but re-fashionings.”
Welcome & Introduction
Ruha Benjamin, Moya Bailey, and Ayana Jamieson
Opening Plenary: Sociological Imagination 2.0
Alondra Nelson and Dorothy Roberts
Facilitated by Sofia Samatar
Panel 2 of ‘Ferguson is the Future’
Filming the Future
Invisible Universe, M. Asli Dukan
Octavia: Elegy for a Vampire Talk, Dennis Leroy Kangalee and Numa Perrier
Black Radical Imagination, Erin Christovale and Amir George
Vow of Silence, Be Steadwell
Facilitated by Lisa Bolekaja
Recorded at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the AAR in Atlanta, GA. The 2015 annual meeting focused on “Valuing the Study of Religion,” which includes pondering how religion has been valued—and devalued—in public spaces. Addressing a variety of social spaces from the legislature to the streets, this panel analyzes religious responses to racial injustice.
In 2015, the fiftieth anniversary of the historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, attending to injustice seems more morally urgent than ever. Considering both the historical trajectory that led us to this painful moment and the religious resources activists have employed, this conversation brings together notable voices to offer their assessments of the contemporary situation.
Ruby Sales, the human rights activist and public theologian who joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s and later founded a non-profit organization dedicated to “racial, economic, and social justice,” joins Cornel West, distinguished religion scholar and democratic intellectual, in a conversation with Professor Imani Perry, a celebrated scholar of African American Studies and Law who has written eloquently about racial injustice and “pathways to freedom, equality, and enriched democracy.”
Imani Perry, Princeton University
Cornel West, Union Theological Seminary
Ruby Nell Sales, SpiritHouse Project, Atlanta, GA
Thomas A. Tweed, University of Notre Dame, Presiding
Panel 1: “Foundations”
Marcellus Blount, Columbia University; Co-Director of IRAAS (Opening Remarks)
Joshua Guild, Princeton University
Mary Pattilo, Northwestern University
Jonathan Rieder, Barnard College
Samuel Roberts, Columbia University (Moderator)
In October 2013, the Department of Africana Studies and the Center for Africana Studies co-sponsored an interdisciplinary conference, “Africana Studies: Future of the Field.” The conference was held to commemorate the July 2012 founding of Penn’s new Department of Africana Studies.