Reflections on African American Studies Lecture
This annual lecture offers an opportunity for the Princeton community to reflect on the current and future direction of the field of African American Studies. Its aim is to bring scholars who are thinking at the cutting edge of the discipline and who are taking up vexing questions about its past, current, and future trajectories. The lecture exemplifies the role of the department as a model for African American Studies for the 21st century.
Cathy J. Cohen is the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and chair of the department. She has served as the Deputy Provost for Graduate Education and is the former Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. Cohen is the author of two books: Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press 2010) and The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University of Chicago Press 1999) and co-editor with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (NYU, 1997). Her work has been published in numerous journals and edited volumes including the American Political Science Review, GLQ, NOMOS, and Social Text. Cohen is principal investigator of two major projects: The Black Youth Project and the Mobilization, Change and Political and Civic Engagement Project. Her general field of specialization is American politics, although her research interests include African-American politics, women and politics, lesbian and gay politics, and social movements.
Richard Powell, the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History at Duke University, delivered the third Reflections on African American American Studies Lecture. His talk introduced a captive audience to works of art that reflect a visual dimension to W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folks, and modeled new ways to weave African American art history and art into the teaching of African American Studies. Powell stated, "My involvement in African American Studies, as a student first, and later as a scholar, has coincided with the discipline's shift toward giving greater attention to African and African American art histories, to the material cultures of African peoples worldwide, and to visual matters within the African diaspora."
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham discusses the experiential effects of American racism--the continual lived experiences of racial insult, injustice, and the denial of equal citizenship-- and how this led to concerted efforts on the part of African American scholars to pursue the study of their people through multiple academic venues and disciplinary perspectives. Joined by sympathetic white scholars in the decades ahead, they developed a growing body of research that was, in turn, deployed in the real world as a weapon against Jim Crow. The reciprocal roles of academic work and on-the-ground activism appeared prominently on American campuses with the rise of Black Studies in the 1960s and 1970s. These roles remain conjoined in new ways in the twenty-first century.
Martha Biondi examines the explosive emergence of Black Studies from 1967 to 1975 when direct action protest by African American students led to the creation of over 250 African American Studies programs, departments and institutes. Black Studies became a critical battleground as the Black Liberation movement moved from "civil rights" to "Black power." This was the inaugural Reflections on African American Studies lecture. The annual lecture offers an opportunity for the Princeton community to reflect on the current and future direction of the field of African American Studies. Its aim is to bring scholars to our campus who are thinking at the cutting edge of the discipline and who are taking up vexing questions about its past, current, and future trajectories. The lecture exemplifies the role of the Center as a model for African American Studies for the 21st century.