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Distinguished Professor of American History Robin D.G. Kelley to Speak on War, Race, and Democracy in Humanities Lecture Series

Monday, April 11, 2016

LAWRENCE — Robin D.G. Kelley, the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA and Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in the Lied Center Auditorium as the final installment of the Hall Center for the Humanities' 2015-2016 Humanities Lecture Series. “Mike Brown’s Body: A Meditation on War, Race and Democracy” is free and open to the public. A reception and book signing will occur after the lecture.

Kelley will open with the killing of Michael Brown and the wave of anti-police protests, and he will suggest that the struggle for justice for Brown and other victims is not new, nor is it merely a consequence of the militarization of police. Instead, Brown is a casualty of a war originating over 500 years ago, a war to colonize, dispossess, enslave and deny rights of citizenship to African-Americans. He examines the struggle between the consolidation and expansion of racial capitalism and empire, on the one hand, and alternative visions of democracy, peace and justice, on the other.

Kelley argues that during World War I, this social democratic vision erupted throughout the colonial and semi-colonial world. Its suppression required expansive militarization, intervention and escalation of colonial domination, and sophisticated forms of administration, surveillance and exclusion.

Kelley’s research has explored the history of social movements in the U.S., the African diaspora and Africa; black intellectuals; music; visual culture; contemporary urban studies; historiography and historical theory; poverty studies and ethnography; colonialism/imperialism; organized labor; constructions of race; Surrealism, Marxism and nationalism, among other things. He is the author of numerous books, including "Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America" (Beacon Press, 1988) and "Africa Speaks, America Answers!: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times" (Harvard University Press, 2012). His essays have appeared in a wide variety of professional journals as well as general publications, including the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Black Music Research Journal, African Studies Review, New York Times (Arts and Leisure), New York Times Magazine, The Crisis, The Nation, The Voice Literary Supplement, Utne Reader, New Labor Forum and Counterpunch, to name a few. 

Kelley will also participate in an informal conversation session the next day. “A Conversation with Robin D.G. Kelley” will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, April 15, in the Hall Center Conference Hall. Audience members are invited to pose questions to Kelley and advance topics that may not have been touched upon in the previous night’s session.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at KU. More than 150 eminent scholars from around the world have participated in the program, including author Salman Rushdie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Recent speakers have included Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Toobin, and Sarah Vowell. Shortly after the program’s inception, a lecture by one outstanding KU faculty member was added to the schedule. For information on the series, visit the Hall Center website.

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