Inaugural Activist-in-Residence Shanelle Matthews Engages at The New School this Fall

Shanelle Matthews and Assistant Professor of Politics Deva Woodly lectured in the Race in the US Course on October 2, 2017. View the video at livestream.com/thenewschool.

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Shanelle Matthews joined the Black Lives Matter Global Network in January 2016, having spent seven years in journalism and public interest communications. As the network’s Director of Communications, she crafts messages for the organization that she called, “a co-creator of the 21st-century Black Freedom Movement.”

In a recent conversation, Matthews talked about how her diverse training and experience as an organizer, researcher, journalist, and communicator for numerous political and non-profit organizations came together to equip her for the position. “I believed everything that I had done up until that point prepared me for this role,” Matthews said. “And then it became clear that no experience could really prepare you for a job like this.”

This fall, Matthews has also joined The New School as the university’s inaugural Activist-in-Residence, a pilot program jointly conceived by NSSR Assistant Professor of Politics Deva Woodly and two members of The New School’s Board of Trustees, Fred Dust and Susan Foote. They worked to recruit Matthews to The New School.

“It feels important for me and for people who are committed to this position to close the gap between the movement and the academy,” Matthews said. She suggested that it represents an opportunity to align resources among academics and activists, build mutual trust, and facilitate innovative collaborations to produce social change.

According to Matthews, partnerships of this kind have the potential to break down barriers that can often separate scholarship from activism. “If we continue to work in siloes, it will take us much longer to make progress,” she said.

Just four weeks into her tenure as Activist-in-Residence, Matthews has big plans for her remaining time at The New School. She will deliver a lecture in the Race in the U.S. course alongside Professor Woodly. The class is a continuation of the “Post-Election America” series, and is Livestreamed on a weekly basis through The New School’s Facebook page. Matthews is contributing articles on race in America for Public Seminar and has made herself available to students across The New School for one-on-one discussions of activism and scholarship.

She will also continue to conduct research into the representation of under-represented voices in media. “I’m trying to deepen our understanding of how decision makers in media decide who to offer as experts,” she said. Matthews hypothesizes that to diversify the pool of individuals acting as experts would advance understanding. This dovetails with her work through Channel Black to provide training in improvisation, debate, and cognitive science to leaders in the movement, many of which identify as black, female, and LGBTQ. The goal is to share knowledge and communications best practices to empower a new generation of leaders to serve as experts and effective advocates in the media. “Increasing representation of black, LGBTQ, and female voices into the media will help us create more empathy and nuance, which we desperately need.” Matthews explained.

Having advocated on behalf of the black community, women, and LGBTQ individuals in several previous roles, Matthews was serving as Deputy Director of Communications at the Sierra Club—the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization—just before she joined the Black Lives Matter Global Network.

Matthews talked candidly about her decision to join the Network staff. “I had to do a lot of personal digging to decide whether this was the right role for me, and whether I could serve the black community in the way that we needed,” she said. With nearly two years behind her, she adds, “I’ve had to learn how to be more tender and more gentle in a fast-paced environment that can feel lonely and hard to navigate.”

Matthews finds it is hard to pinpoint her most difficult month as Director of Communications for BLM, and instead pointed to the intellectual, professional, and emotional challenges of having to respond so frequently to acts of violence on behalf of a global organization that contains many perspectives. “When you become the person who’s responsible for concisely and accurately messaging for a network that shares the same name as a broad moniker, it can be unhinging,” she said. Speaking of a weeks-long stretch last year in which she was called upon to respond to events in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas, Matthews added, “You become, in some ways, slightly confused about what you believe versus what makes sense to message at that moment, and what’s true for most people. And you need to reconcile yourself to the fact that you’re not going to make everybody happy.”

The New School strikes Matthews as an institution with a responsibility to lead conversations about how activism and scholarship can advance social justice. “It’s very exciting to be here, and I’m proud to be here,” she said. Observing some of the structural imbalances of representation in higher education, she added, “For a university to have integrity on these issues means having more people of color as decision makers—in addition to diversifying students and faculty.” Matthews expressed that she is looking forward to working with colleagues at The New School “to offer perspectives on how to double down on the institution’s commitment to better understand our world and improve conditions for local and global communities.”

“Whether we are talking about issues that impact the Black community, White community or any community, we will not be able to move forward and become a more empathetic and pluralistic country until we hear from more diverse voices,” she added. “Through my work at The New School and beyond, I’m committed to making that a reality.”

The lecture delivered by Shanelle Matthews and Deva Woodly as part of the 2017 Race in the U.S. class, broadcast live on October 2, 2017, will be archived and available on The New School‘s Facebook page and at livestream.com/thenewschool.

Deva Woodly interviews Danielle Allen at the NSSR’s annual Hans Maeder lecture

Deva Woodly, assistant professor of politics at The New School for Social Research (NSSR) recently sat down with Danielle Allen, a professor in Government Department and Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, to discuss notions of liberty and equality in the contemporary American political landscape.

Allen, a political philosopher renowned for her ability to connect us to complex ideas about democracy, citizenship, and justice, came to the New School for Social Research in March 2016 to deliver its annual Hans Maeder lecture, with the proposal that “this talk helps us recover our understanding of the relationship between liberty and equality so that we can reclaim the power latent in their connection. In showing the links between liberty and equality, the talk touches on political, social, and economic aspects of equality.” Allen is the author of four books: The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (2004), Why Plato Wrote (2010), and, most recently, Our Declaration (2014).


For more details about Deva Woodly’s publications, read the Research Matters profile and see a small selection from the NSSR Bookshelf below.

Bill Hirst Presents Inaugural Lecture as Newly Appointed Malcolm B. Smith Professor

Bill Hirst, recently appointed Malcolm B. Smith Professor of Psychology, delivered the NSSR general seminar in November 2015 on his research on collective memory. Hirst is a prominent scholar of memory, and in recent years, his research has focused on how people remember public events, how social interactions shape these memories, and how communities come to share memories. Hirst has been at the forefront of the effort to find a place for psychology in discussions of collective memory, and to underscore the relationship between memory and the ways in which societies address past grievances and actions.

Earlier this year, Hirst received an honorary doctorate from the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, for his contribution as one of the world leaders in the field of collective memory and social remembering, and for being the first cognitive psychologist to study the social aspects of memory.

Listen to Hirst’s general seminar lecture below.

Bio | Hirst received his PhD from Cornell University. Hirst has published over 140 scholarly articles and edited four books and four special journal issues. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, he was author or co-author on 46 articles; this included articles in Psychological Science, the most influential journal in psychology, The Journal of Trauma and Stress, Social Cognition, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. He recently published A Ten-Year Follow-Up of a Study of Memory for the Attack of September 11, 2001: Flashbulb Memories and Memories for Flashbulb Events” (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2015) andSocial Identity and Socially Shared Retrieval-Induced Forgetting: The Effects of Group Membership” (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2015). Additionally, his work on memory of 9/11 was featured in Time Magazine.

Choose a publication below to learn more.


 

Banu Bargu delivers keynote address at SOAS University of London

Banu Bargu, Associate Professor of Politics, presented a keynote lecture at SOAS University of London in October 2015 called “Why did Bouazizi Burn Himself? Fatal Politics and the Politics of Fate.”

Her book, Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2014), was awarded the 2015 First Book Award from the Foundations of Political Theory Section of the American Political Science Association, she has also recently published two articles: one on self-destructive protest (Angelaki: Journal of the Humanities, 2014) and another on enforced disappearances (Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences, 2014).

Listen to the keynote below.


Bio | Bargu received her PhD from Cornell University in 2008. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought, with a thematic focus on theories of sovereignty, resistance, and biopolitics. Since publishing the book Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons, Bargu is currently working on a book-length manuscript on rethinking the materialist tradition, especially in light of the posthumous publication of Louis Althusser’s work on the aleatory. 

Choose a publication to learn more.

Miriam Ticktin presents annual Elizabeth Colson lecture at Oxford University

Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor of Anthropology and co-director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, delivered the annual Elizabeth Colson lecture in June 2015 at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, England. In the talk titled “Innocence: Understanding a Political Concept,” Ticktin explored the idea of innocence in the context of humanitarianism, and the roles of “the child, the trafficked victim, the migrant, asylum seeker, the enemy combatant and the animal.” Ticktin has also been awarded a one-year fellowship at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study for this academic year.

Listen to Ticktin’s full lecture below.


Bio | Ticktin received her PhD in Anthropology at Stanford University and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, France, and an MA in English Literature from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.  Professor Ticktin works at the intersections of the anthropology of medicine and science, law, and transnational and postcolonial feminist theory. She is co-editor of the journal Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development. Her most recent book, Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France (University of California Press, 2011), was awarded one of two 2012 William A. Douglass Prizes in Europeanist Anthropology by Society for the Anthropology of Europe. Recent publications include “Transnational Humanitarianism“ (Annual Review of Anthropology, 2014), “Cross-species craziness: Animals, Anthropomorphism and Mental Illness” (Books Forum, Biosocieties, 2014) and “Humanitarianism as Planetary Politics” in At the Limits of Justice: Women of Colour on Terror (University of Toronto Press, 2014).