Now! Social Justice and STEM
The time for social justice is now. In wide-ranging presentations from leading scholars, activists, journalists and artists, the 2016 Nelson Series explores contemporary issues of social justice and investigates how those with an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics may—and must—incorporate social justice work in both their daily practice and long-range goals.
Admission to this public lecture series is complimentary. Unless otherwise specified, events are held in the auditorium of the R. Michael Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvey Mudd College located at 320 E. Foothill Blvd., Claremont. A dessert reception follows each lecture.
Deepa Kumar – Wednesday, Oct. 5
“In Search of Monsters to Destroy: Racism, Empire and the Endless War on Terror”
Today, there is a taken-for-granted belief that terrorism is the key challenge facing Americans. The War on Terror has now raged on for 15 years with no end in sight. Every terrorist attack fuels racism and bigotry in the West, and every law against Muslims (such as the recent burkini ban in France) fuels the reactionary agenda of groups like ISIS. In this talk, Deepa Kumar debunks the logic of the war on terror and examines how racism has historically been useful for projects of empire.
Deepa Kumar is an associate professor of media studies at Rutgers University. She is affiliated with the Middle Eastern studies faculty and with graduate faculty in the Sociology Department. Her work is driven by an active engagement with the key issues that characterize our era—neoliberalism and imperialism. Her first book, Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization and the UPS Strike (University of Illinois Press, 2007), is about the power of collective struggle in effectively challenging the priorities of neoliberalism. Her second book, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire (Haymarket Books, 2012), looks at how the “Muslim enemy” has historically been mobilized to suit the goals of empire. Kumar’s next book will be on the cultural politics of the War on Terror. She has been active in various social movements for peace and justice and has written numerous articles in both scholarly journals and alternative media. Kumar also is a much sought-after speaker on a range of topics—Islamophobia, political Islam, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, the Arab Spring, women and Islam—and has shared her expertise on numerous media outlets, such as BBC, The New York Times, NPR, USA Today and Al Jazeera. Kumar earned her B.A. at Bangalore University (India) and an M.A. and PhD at the University of Pittsburgh.
Guillermo Gómez-Peña – Thursday, Nov. 3
“Gómez-Peña Unplugged: A brand new spoken-word monologue by el Mad Mex”
In his latest solo work, “El border brujo” draws from his 30-year-old “living archive” and combines new and classical performance material to present a unique perspective on the immediate future of the Americas. His self-styled “imaginary activism” invokes performance art as a form of radical democracy and citizenship. Combining spoken word poetry, activist theory, radical storytelling and language experimentation, Gómez-Peña will offer critical and humorous commentary about such topics as the art world, academia, new technologies, the culture of war and violence in the United States, and gender and race politics.
Raised in Mexico City, Guillermo Gómez-Peña came to the United States in 1978. His work, which includes performance art, video, audio, installations, poetry, journalism and cultural theory, explores cross-cultural issues, immigration, the politics of language, “extreme culture” and new technologies in the era of globalization. In his work, cultural borders have moved to the center while the alleged mainstream is pushed to the margins and treated as exotic and unfamiliar, placing the audience members in the position of “foreigners” or “minorities.” Through his organization La Pocha Nostra, Gómez-Peña has focused very intensely on the notion of collaboration across national borders, race, gender and generation as an act of citizen diplomacy and as a means to create “ephemeral communities.” Gómez-Peña’s performance and installation work has been presented at over 700 venues across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia, the Soviet Union, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil and Argentina. The author of five books, he is a regular contributor to the national radio news magazine All Things Considered (National Public Radio), a writer for newspapers and magazines in the United States and Mexico, and a contributing editor to The Drama Review (MIT). He is the first Chicano/Mexicano artist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship (1991–1996), which is among numerous other fellowships and prizes. Gómez-Peña earned his B.A. and M.A. from the California Institute of the Arts.
Dayna Matthew – Thursday, Nov. 17
Melina Abdullah – Tuesday, Sept. 27
“Black Lives Matter and the Building of a Mass Movement”
When Black Lives Matter was birthed three years ago, it was deliberately developed as “movement, not a moment,” recognizing that transformative change requires vision and endurance beyond episodic uprisings. The kind of movement required to end state-sanctioned violence against Black people must also extend to a critical mass of people willing to do the work to create the change. Melina Abdullah’s discussion will focus on the work that is being done to grow Black Lives Matter into a global movement that will ultimately usher in not only reform but transformative change.
Melina Abdullah is professor and chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles and is immediate past campus president and current Council for Affirmative Action chair for the California Faculty Association (the faculty union). She was appointed to the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission in 2014 and is a recognized expert on race relations. Abdullah is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, with subjects ranging from political coalition building to womanist mothering. What binds her research together is a focus on power allocation and societal transformation. Abdullah is a womanist scholar-activist, recognizing that the role that she plays in the academy is intrinsically linked to broader struggles for the liberation of oppressed people. Abdullah is a leader in the fight for ethnic studies in the K–12 and university systems and was a part of the historic victory that made ethnic studies a requirement in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She also was among the original group of organizers that convened to form #BlackLivesMatter and continues to serve as a Los Angeles chapter lead and a member of the national leadership core. Abdullah is the recipient of several awards, most recently the 2015 Freedom Now Award and the 2015 Communitas Award, both for her work in social justice. Abdullah earned her PhD from the University of Southern California in political science and her B.A. from Howard University in African-American studies.