Next up in Assembly Series: Focus on race, culture and identity

Roderick Ferguson, Patricia J. Williams to speak on campus next week

Next week, the Washington University in St. Louis Assembly Series will feature speakers who explore issues of race, culture and identity — in two distinct ways.

At 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, race and gender scholar Roderick Ferguson, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), will deliver the annual James E. McLeod Lecture on Higher Education, “The University and the Combinations of Heart and Mind,” in Umrath Lounge.

At noon Tuesday, Sept. 30, legal and literary scholar Patricia J. Williams, JD, will give the first of three presentations, “Love in the Time of Identity Wars: Anatomy of Short Lives,” for the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities’ annual lecture series. The event takes place in Anheuser-Busch Hall’s Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom.

Both are free and open to the public.


Roderick Ferguson

In his 2012 book, “The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference,” Ferguson examines the experience of the university from the perspectives of diverse and different voices, such as his grandfather’s, who never went to college but nevertheless provided wise counsel about retaining the “heart” while advancing the “mind.”

It is a philosophy Ferguson shares with the lecture’s namesake, the late Jim McLeod, the beloved dean of students who embraced the concept of teaching the human being, not just the student.

His presentation also will address what he believes is the most egregious problem in higher education today: the growing financial cost that will restrict the ability of diverse populations to receive a college education.

Ferguson is professor of African-American and of gender and women’s studies at UIC, where he also co-directs the Racialized Body research cluster. Prior to this appointment, he taught race and critical theory in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

With Grace Hong, Ferguson has co-edited the book series, “Difference Incorporated,” as well as the anthology, “Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization” (2011). In addition to “The Reorder of Things,” he has published “Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique.”

The McLeod Lecture is sponsored by the Center for the Humanities. An interview with Ferguson conducted by the center is available here.


Patricia J. Williams

In publications and in her regular column for The Nation, Williams, the great-granddaughter of a slave and a white southern lawyer, fights against racial injustice with a literary sword. In the classroom, the Columbia University law professor passes on her knowledge to the next generation of fighters in the courts.

From affirmative action to gender and professionalism, from biological and cultural identities to forensic uses of DNA, Williams’ expert opinions often lead the national conversation. In her autobiographical essay, “The Alchemy of Race and Rights,” she uses the metaphor of alchemical transformation to indicate how we might find ourselves as communal agents of racial justice.

Her presentation for the Assembly Series is the first in the 2014 Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities Lecture Series.

“Category, Calamity, Convergence” follows with the second lecture in the series at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Umrath Lounge (which will include a book-signing and reception following her talk); and the third, “Pattern Recognition and the Properties of Hope” at noon Thursday, Oct. 2, in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom.

Co-sponsors include the School of Law’s Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series; Law, Identity and Culture Initiative; Black Law Students Association; and the Women’s Law Caucus; the Center for the Humanities in Arts & Sciences; and the Office of the Provost.

For more information on these and future Assembly Series programs, visit