The Humanities Institute

Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute presents a thematic program each semester on a topic related to the humanities. As part of Scripps’ tradition of interdisciplinary education, this program includes lectures, conferences, exhibitions, performances, and film series bringing prominent and younger cutting-edge scholars to campus.

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Latest Program: Dangerous Conversations: Raced/Gendered/Classed Violence in the USA

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1967)

How shall we live in a Post-Charleston America? This is obviously not the post-racial America many envisioned with the election and re-election of Barack Obama. An apt observation has been made that Post-Charleston USA doesn’t look much different from a Pre-Charleston USA, so the difference must be found in us, in how we respond. More and more people have come out against racial profiling, systems of injustice, implicit bias, and the indiscriminate use of deadly force, which can no longer be characterized as “Black issues,” but as real world practices that affect friends, family, classmates, and co-workers. The legally condoned killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Rumain Bribon, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice have raised concerns to a new level of awareness — outrage that moves us to identify the connections between racial, class, and gendered violence. How and why does America the nation-state promote systems of violence against its own people?

We will begin by recognizing how difference really works within the dominant logics of white privilege. That intersectional forms of difference are embedded within such dominant structures is a “given,” but they remain very difficult to excavate — but if we are to have meaningful discussions about social change, then these excavations must happen before we can celebrate “diversity.” As some people have observed, benefiting from white (or male or hetero or class) privilege is axiomatic; defending such privileges is a choice. So in addition to focusing on the innumerable acts of violence (micro- and macro-aggressions) that people of color face in their daily lives (i.e., Black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than white teens), let’s talk about why our nation-state tolerates the results of gun violence in our streets, in our public spaces, in our homes, and in our schools; why the USA has 5 percent of the world population and 25 percent of world prisoners (and also how African Americans and Latinos comprise 58 percent of the prison population but only 25 percent of  the U.S. total population); why rape culture is promoted in popular media and youth culture, in video games and movies, and practiced in our prisons and even on our campuses; why 67 percent of transgender prisoners in California have been assaulted by fellow inmates as well as prison officials; why extra-legal violence against “illegal” immigrants has been consistently ignored or even tolerated by various federal and state officials; how women in the USA ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence, how more than 4 million women experience assault by partners each year, and  how 1 in 4 women reports experiencing domestic violence.

These statistics are not well-known, but even mainstream media cannot hide the devastating effects of these intersecting forms of violence in people’s lives in the contemporary United States. But as is the case in all conditions of crises, there are people who are doing tremendous work of excavation — and rebuilding; a work that is constant and simultaneous. The Humanities Institute will welcome scholars-artists-activists, writers, and musicians — all visionaries who use their brilliant skills and talents to further the discussions around difference by yoking them to the urgent and necessary work of dismantling inequality and social injustice.

Calendar of Events

The full calendar of public events for this semester is available here.

Coming Soon

Public Lecture: Beth E. Richie

October 15, 2015
7:30-9 p.m.

Garrison Theater
Scripps College Performing Arts Center

Gender Violence and Anti-Black Racism:  Reflections on the problem of Carceral Feminism and the possibilities of Prison Abolition

Beth E. Richie
Director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy
Professor of African American Studies and Criminology, Law and Justice
University of Illinois at Chicago

While the movement to end gender-based violence can claim many successes, this presentation will critique the ways that some anti-violence strategies have relied on approaches that leave Black women and other marginalized groups in dangerous positions in the face of state violence. It will provide evidence of the ways that anti-Black racism has limited the effectiveness of intervention programs and the ways that carceral feminism has undermined attempts to reform public policy leading to an increase, rather than a reduction in harm.  Qualitative and quantitative  data will be presented that support moving toward Prison abolition as a strategic and political commitment.

In her scholarly and activist work, Beth E. Richie has emphasized the ways that race/ethnicity and social position affect women's experience of violence and incarceration, focusing on the experiences of African American battered women and sexual assault survivors. Dr. Richie is the author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation (NYU Press, 2012), which chronicles the evolution of the contemporary anti-violence movement during the time of mass incarceration in the United States, and numerous articles concerning Black feminism and gender violence, race and criminal justice policy, and the social dynamics around issues of sexuality, prison abolition, and grassroots organizations in African American Communities. Her earlier book, Compelled to Crime: the Gender Entrapment of Black Battered Women, is taught in many college courses and is cited in the popular press for its original arguments concerning race, gender, and crime.  Dr. Richie is a qualitative researcher who is also working on an ethnographic project documenting the conditions of confinement in women's prisons. Her work has been supported by grants from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The National Institute for Justice, and The National Institute of Corrections. Among others, she has been awarded the Audre Lorde Legacy Award from the Union Institute, The Advocacy Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and The Visionary Award from the Violence Intervention Project. Dr. Richie is a board member of The Woods Fund of Chicago, The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African Community, The Center for Fathers’ Families and Public Policy, and a founding member of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. In 2013 she was awarded an honorary degree from the City University of New York Law School.