June 6, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 19

current issue
archive / search

    New center established for study of race

    Inaugural conference June 7-8 at Chicago Humanities Institute A new center to study race in America has been established at the University.

    The interdisciplinary Center for Race, Politics & Culture, which intends to draw faculty from the Humanities Division, the Social Sciences Division and the professional schools, will study the ways in which race divides Americans, said Michael Dawson, Associate Professor in Political Science and director of the center. It will also consider gender and its connection to race, as well as other issues not generally studied at other academic centers on race, he added.

    "Race continues to provide the critical line of cleavage in U.S. society," Dawson said. "This area of research is also exploding within the academy. It is an area of invigorating intellectual debate about the future of society."

    In addition to Dawson, the center is being organized by Thomas Holt, the James Westfall Thompson Professor in History; Lynn Sanders, Assistant Professor in Political Science; Julie Saville, Associate Professor in History; and Kenneth Warren, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature.

    An inaugural two-day conference on Friday, June 7, and Saturday, June 8, will open with remarks by Dawson at 9 a.m. on Friday. At 1 p.m., Larry Bobo, professor of sociology at UCLA, will present the keynote address, "Race and Voice: Challenges for the 21st Century." Panel discussions will be held on both days and will feature such scholars as Holt; Homi Bhabha, Professor in English Language & Literature; and David Scott, Assistant Professor in Anthropology. The conference will be held in the Chicago Humanities Institute in Regenstein Library. For a complete conference schedule or more information, call 702-8462.

    Scholars at Chicago have explored a wide range of topics related to race while conducting research in demography, history, labor-market economics, critical theory, survey research and institutional analysis, Dawson said. The issue has become an international one, with scholars from other countries depending on research done in the United States to help them understand racial conflict elsewhere. Research done abroad on the topic has also drawn the interest of American scholars, he said.

    Dawson is one of the nation's leading scholars on race. As the author of "Black Discontent: The Preliminary Report of the 1993-94 National Black Politics Study," Dawson identified a trend toward increasing fragmentation along racial lines in the country. After decades in which African Americans sought to become more closely involved in integrated groups and institutions, an increasing number of blacks told interviewers that they favored joining black-only organizations, with half of all African Americans backing the formation of a separate black political party and 55 percent supporting participation in black-only institutions.