Changing the Narrative

In the 2015-2016 academic year, the CCSRE celebrated its 10th Anniversary, for which we (co)hosted over 30 events and programs across the year!

Among the highlights were: Bryan Stevenson’s keynote for the One Book One Region event; the “Capitalism Works for Me” public art installation by Steve Lambert; the all-campus Critical Conversations event; and Cornel West’s keynote for the closing of the 10th Anniversary commemorations.

As much as last year was about marking the Center’s outward presence, this academic year will be devoted to an inward facing project of self-study and re-visioning. Specifically, we will be considering how to recapture the original intent of the Center (to serve as an “intellectual home” for the study of race and ethnicity) as well as meet the needs of the emerging curriculum and intensifying social context. In order to focus on our infrastructure, we are putting somewhat of a moratorium on public programming this year.

That said, we are still offering grants through our regular Call for Proposals. This years’ CCSRE theme is “Changing the Narrative.” Last year in his keynote address, Bryan Stevenson outlined his four-point plan for changing the world, inviting all of us to play our part by:

  1. getting proximate (to others);
  2. changing the narrative (of racial inequality);
  3. doing uncomfortable things; and
  4. staying hopeful.

As a way of building continuity, we carry this theme over into this year. Through the CFP we aim to support intellectual and artistic endeavors that help forward efforts to “change the world” by "changing the narrative." For inspiration, here is a clip of Stevenson’s talk, "Changing the American Racial Narrative," at the Ella Baker Child Policy Institute where he talks about the need to change the narrative.

Toward this end, we will buy books and support up to 5 groups of students, staff and/or faculty interested in engaging in a common reading with one of the books from our “CCSRE Changing the Narrative Bookshelf” (see below). Books can be purchased this fall, with group discussions planned for the spring. Interested groups should submit a proposal through the CFP process.

CCSRE “Changing the Narrative” Bookshelf

1. Berg, Maggie & Barbara Seeber (2016). "Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy"
The corporatization of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency from faculty regardless of the consequences for education and scholarship. In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber discuss how adopting the principles of the “slow movement” in academic life can counter this erosion of humanistic education.

2. Magolda, Peter M (2016). "The Lives of Campus Custodians: Insights Into Corporatization and Civic Disengagement in the Academy"
This unique study uncovers the lives and working conditions of custodians who are usually rendered invisible on college campuses. In doing so it also reveals universities’ practices that frequently contradict their espoused values of inclusion and equity and claims that those on the margins are important members of the campus community.

3. Rankine, Claudia (2014). "Citizen: An American Lyric"
Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Rankine argues that our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary society.

4. Katznelson, Ira (2005). "When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America"
In this penetrating new analysis Ira Katznelson fundamentally recasts our understanding of twentieth-century American history and demonstrates that all the key programs passed during the New Deal and Fair Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s were created in a deeply discriminatory manner. Through mechanisms designed by Southern Democrats that specifically excluded maids and farm workers, the gap between blacks and whites actually widened despite postwar prosperity.

5. Simpson, Audra (2014). "Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States"
Mohawk Interruptus is a bold challenge to dominant thinking in the fields of Native Studies and Anthropology. Combining political theory with ethnographic research among the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke, a reserve community in what is now southwestern Quebec, Audra Simpson examines their struggles to articulate and maintain political sovereignty through centuries of settler colonialism. Like many Iroquois peoples, they insist on the integrity of Haudenosaunee governance and refuse American or Canadian citizenship. Audra Simpson thinks through this politics of refusal, which stands in stark contrast to the politics of cultural recognition.

6. Manion, Jen (2015). "Liberty's Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America"
Liberty's Prisoners examines how changing attitudes about work, freedom, property, and family shaped the creation of the penitentiary system in the United States. The first penitentiary was founded in Philadelphia in 1790, in the Revolution's wake. Those who were previously dependents with no legal standing—women, enslaved people, and indentured servants—increasingly claimed their own right to liberty and struggled to make a living. Vagrancy laws were used to crack down on those who visibly challenged longstanding social hierarchies while criminal convictions carried severe sentences for even the most trivial property crimes.

7. Thompson, Nato (2015). "Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Twenty-first Century"
A fog of images and information permeates the world nowadays: from advertising, television, radio, and film to the glut produced by the new economy and the rise of social media . . . where even our friends suddenly seem to be selling us the ultimate product: themselves. Nato Thompson—one of the country’s most celebrated young curators and critics—investigates what this deluge means for those dedicated to socially engaged art and activism. How can anyone find a voice and make change in a world flooded with such pseudo-art? How are we supposed to discern what’s true in the product emanating from the ceaseless machine of consumer capitalism, a machine that appropriates from art history, and now from the methods of grassroots political organizing and even social networking?

8. Skloot, Rebecca (2011). "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"
Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

9. Roy, Arundhati (2014). "Capitalism: A Ghost Story"
From the poisoned rivers, barren wells, and clear-cut forests, to the hundreds of thousands of farmers who have committed suicide to escape punishing debt, to the hundreds of millions of people who live on less than two dollars a day, there are ghosts nearly everywhere you look in India. Capitalism: A Ghost Story examines the dark side of democracy in contemporary India, and shows how the demands of globalized capitalism has subjugated billions of people to the highest and most intense forms of racism and exploitation.

10. Shetterly, Margot Lee (2016). "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race."
The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA at the leading edge of the feminist and civil rights movement, whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. This book is a powerful, revelatory contribution that is essential to our understanding of race, discrimination, and achievement in modern America.