Catalyzing Knowledge in Dangerous Times

On April 14, 2011, the Center for Race & Gender, in collaboration with the Multicultural Community Center, the Women of Color Initiative, and many other campus partners, hosted an exciting multimedia, interdisciplinary conference marking the ten-year anniversary of CRG’s inception stemming from the 1999 student mobilizations at UC Berkeley. Throughout the day, scholars, artists, and organizers examined the ways in which knowledge is politicized, embodied, and imagined within a volatile political climate that targets education as a racialized and gendered battleground for defining legitimacy, visibility, and access.

The conference included four thematic panels that explored the political tension and opportunities present in the process of knowledge production. In the opening panel, Media, Maps, and Motion, speakers mapped the ways in which media technologies can contribute to survival strategies across geopolitical boundaries while subverting policed pathways of communication. Speakers on the panel, Women of Color Feminist Knowledge, discussed how race, gender, and nation informs the representation and transformation of knowledge in and out of the classroom. The panelists for Educators Organizing Across Borders explored the legacy, perils, and promise of educators organizing across prison borders and in the context of Islamophobic and colonial pressures within and throughout the university. Finally, the closing panel, Sparking, Defending, and Envisioning Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, featured UC Berkeley faculty, alumni, and current students who explored the inception and political imagination of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, particularly in the context of critical student mobilizations in 1969, 1999, and current organizing.

The conference was woven together with powerful and beautiful spoken word poetry between panel discussions, and an exhibition of Ethnic Studies and Third World College graphic posters from 1999 to the present, curated by Elisa Diana Huerta. The performances and exhibit reflected the integral role of art within education justice movements.

The conference closed with a keynote lecture from Prof. Andrea Smith, UC Riverside, entitled “From Academic Freedom to Academic Abolitionism.” Smith argued that a radical ethnic studies should be imagined as a practice that can exist outside of the boundaries of a university system that can be more responsive to corporate interests than student demands. She urged audience members to create alternative structures within, outside of, and between the interstices of the university that embody the principles of a transformative ethnic studies praxis.

Click Here for Video of the Conference

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