University News

DWDI 2009

April 20, 2009


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MACOMB, IL – The recent election of President Barack Obama challenged the notion of race and the reality of racism. Western Illinois University's 16th Annual Dealing with Difference Institute (DWDI), set for Tuesday-Wednesday, May 19-20 at Spoon River College's Macomb campus, will examine the longstanding and inaccurate notions of race, which persist in society.

According to Janice Welsch, WIU English professor emeritus and co-coordinator of the institute, Pre-K-12 teachers, as well as higher education faculty, are invited to explore race from the perspectives of political science and social ethics, media, anthropology, genetics and brain research.

"We will also discuss new Internet resources that can lead to our own and our students' greater understanding of the concept and its implications," Welsch added.

Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana studies at California State University, Long Beach, will present the opening keynote address, "Uprooting Racism, Rethinking Multiculturalism: Toward an Ethics of Sharing," at 10 a.m. May 19. Karenga will distinguish between "racial prejudice as negative attitudes about difference and racism as the imposition of those attitudes in public policy and social practice." Grounded in Africana studies, political science and social ethics, he will also examine the recent premature announcements of "the end of race" and the enduring reality of racism itself, before proposing a "reconceived and vibrant multiculturalism rooted in and reflective of an ethics of sharing" that encompasses shared status, knowledge, space and power.

Welsch added that Karenga, who has played a major role in African American political and intellectual culture since the 1960s on campuses throughout the world, has proven to be a powerful, insightful and challenging presenter. In addition to his many scholarly publications on Africana ethics and sacred wisdom, he has written "Introduction to Black Studies" and "Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture," based on the pan-African cultural holiday Kwanzaa, which he created.

Sut Jhally, professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will present "Race and the American Dream in the Age of Obama" at 8:30 a.m. May 20, and "The Joyless Economy: Happiness, Satisfaction and the Market," at 10:30 a.m. In the first multimedia presentation, Jhally will look at how the success of Obama and other highly visible affluent African Americans impacts how society thinks about racial inequality and stratification. Approaching the issue from his studies in communication and media, Jhally will challenge the notion we have moved beyond race and will explore the possibility that Obama's victory may lead to apathy and a denial of the realities of race as they play out in the world.

In his second presentation, Jhally will examine the "paradox of affluence" and illustrate the central contradiction of advertising and media in producing the phenomenon of a joyless economy.

"Until the recent economic crisis we have grown objectively richer as a society while satisfaction and subjective happiness have remained frustratingly level," Welsch explained. "How is it that a market system that delivers vast material bounty appears to be so ill-equipped to deliver a corresponding level of subjective well being? This is the central question Dr. Jhally will address."

Jhally is known as the founder of the Media Education Foundation and as the producer and director of videos and DVDs that deal with the media representation of sexuality, gender and violence, race/ethnicity and personal happiness. Among his best known works are "Dreamworlds: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video" and "Advertising and the End of the World." His latest book is "The Spectacle of Accumulation: Essays in Culture, Media, & Politics."

Ripan Malhi and Charles Roseman, both anthropology professors at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will discuss "Human Biological Diversity, History and the Concept of Race." Drawing from their research in genetics, they will show that race is not a product of the distribution of biological similarities and differences that we see among humans, but a product of social and historical factors.

Other presentations will focus on how individuals develop answers about others before knowing the right questions, the role of critical thinking in analyzing and modifying unconscious judgments and new Internet resources for exploring issues of race in classrooms.

In the final session, "Learning to See Humans First: Ideas on Reducing 'Otherness,'" J.Q. Adams, WIU professor of educational and interdisciplinary studies and DWDI co-coordinator, will synthesize the multiple components of the institute and add his own understanding of how individuals can integrate accurate information about common identity as human beings into interaction with students, colleagues and communities.

For more information, contact Adams at JQ-Adams@wiu.edu, or (309) 298-3698, or Welsch at JR-Welsch@wiu.edu or (309) 298-2057. Registration forms are available at wiu.edu/iacd/conferences.shtml. Due to Western's annual steam shutdown in late May, institute presentations will be held at Spoon River College, 208 S. Johnson St., Macomb.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (DR-Shinberger@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations