We were honoured to hear Professor Angela Davis give a public lecture in Whitla Hall on her reflections on the theme of International Women’s Day 2017: Be Bold for Change.
A distinguished scholar, activist and writer, Angela Davis has championed social justice around the world. She studied with the famous philosopher Herbert Marcuse and obtained a doctorate in philosophy from the Humboldt University in 1969. Her first academic appointment was in the University of California Santa Cruz. From the beginning of her career, Angela Davis has been outspoken on issues of social justice, feminism, and prison reform, and she is a lifelong member of the Communist Party. She has held positions at prestigious American universities such as Rutgers University, Brown University and Syracuse University and is now Distinguished Professor Emerita at UC Santa Cruz. She has combined scholarship and activism throughout her career, advocating for economic, racial, and gender justice. She was honorary co-chair of the Jan 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington in protest at the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Angela Davis is a central figure in the modern and contemporary struggles for social justice.
Professor Davis spoke of how we inhabit our histories and, even if we do not recognise it, our histories inhabit us. She spoke of how impressed she was by the movement that secured her freedom in 1972. She said that movements which move people emotionally and politically are incredibly powerful. It is important to recognise that change can happen if we organise and create forces which are capable of moving vast numbers of people. Professor Davis analysed the logic of racism which conflates the individual and the generic and which insists on deploying the universal in order to render problems invisible. She stressed the importance of conquering the linguistic and conceptual limits of racism. She said that she has learned that often times the greatest insights come from addressing the issues that appear to be most marginal. She said that as researchers we need to be aware that minoritised issues give us great insight into larger problems. She talked about work with trans prisoners which examines the violence trans prisoners experience and also reveals the gendering and ideological work that prisons do in larger society. She finished by reminding us of the work we must do for change and that freedom is a constant struggle. Full video available below.