Shakespeare, Race, & Conduct

Nov 09, 2017 | 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

300 Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley
Location is wheelchair accessible

Patricia Akhimie, Rutgers University-Newark

Talk: “Shakespeare, Race, and Conduct”
Thursday, November 9, 2017, 5-6:30pm
300 Wheeler

Reading Shakespeare’s plays alongside contemporaneous conduct literature—how-to books on self-improvement—demonstrates the ways that the pursuit of personal improvement was accomplished by the simultaneous stigmatization of particular kinds of difference. The widespread belief that one could better, or cultivate oneself through proper conduct was coupled with an equally widespread belief that certain markers, including but not limited to “blackness,” indicated an inability to conduct oneself properly, laying the foundation for what we now call “racism.” A careful reading of Shakespeare’s plays reveals a recurring critique of the conduct system voiced, for example, by malcontents and social climbers like Iago and Caliban, and embodied in the struggles of earnest strivers like Othello, Bottom, and Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse, whose bodies are bruised, pinched, blackened and otherwise indelibly marked as un-cultivatable. Approaching race through the discourse of conduct exposes the epistemic violence toward stigmatized others that lies at the heart of self-cultivation.

Lunch Chat with Graduate Students (RSVP required; email aileen.liu@berkeley.edu)
Thursday, November 9, 2017, 12:30-1:30pm
306 Wheeler

Patricia Akhimie is Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, and early modern women’s travel writing. She is the author of Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference: Race and Conduct in the Early Modern World (Routledge, forthcoming 2018). She is co-editor, with Bernadette Andrea of Traveling/Travailing Women: Early Modern England and the Wider World (U of Nebraska, forthcoming 2018).  Her research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, and the National Sporting Library.

Co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, the English Department, the Ethnic Studies Department, and the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley.

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