LAWRENCE – Professors at the University of Kansas who investigate contemporary social issues from varied perspectives will take part in a roundtable discussion at the Raven Book Store in downtown Lawrence.
At 7 p.m. Sept. 12, four faculty members will take part in “Race, Space and Gender: A Conversation with KU Faculty of African and African-American Studies and American Studies.” The panel members are Shawn Leigh Alexander, associate professor; Ben Chappell, assistant professor; Jennifer Hamer, professor; and Randal Maurice Jelks, associate professor. The event is free and open to the public.
The four faculty members will discuss regional and national social policy from the perspective of their various research interests, which range from civil rights history to Mexican-American culture to family life in urban areas to African-American religious history.
Jelks approached the Raven Book Store to host the event. He said that by bringing the conversation off campus and into the community, the goal is to demonstrate how the work taking place at KU is deeply concerned with issues that citizens encounter every day in Kansas and the Midwest.
“Certainly, I hope that attendees will leave our roundtable discussion thinking that what we do on KU's Mount Oread is important to their daily lives and practical concerns,” he said.
Jelks also wants the discussion to change the perception of social justice.
“I want people to walk away knowing that our concerns regarding issues of social justice in the United States is not framed in some weak-kneed sentimentalism or some vague understanding of being ‘politically correct,’“ he said.
All four faculty members have recently published books whose subject matter will inform the conversation. The books are “An Army of Lions: The Civil Rights Struggle before the NAACP” by Alexander, “Lowrider Space: Aesthetics and Politics of Mexican American Custom Cars” by Chappell, “Abandoned in the Heartland: Work, Family, and Living in East St. Louis” by Hamer, and “Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography” by Jelks.
In addition to the Raven Book Store, the event is sponsored by the Department of African and African-American Studies, the Department of American Studies and the Langston Hughes Center.
The presenters are all faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which is the largest and most diverse school at KU. The College enrolls nearly two-thirds of KU students and encompasses more than 55 departments, programs, centers, the School of Public Affairs and Administration and the School of the Arts. Courses in the College cover hundreds of subjects including history, literature, chemistry, biology, art history, mathematics, anthropology, psychology, foreign language and political science.