Professor Ralina Joseph to give UW Graduate School public lecture

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As part of the UW Graduate School’s Equity and Difference Series, Associate Professor Ralina Joseph will give a public lecture titled “What’s the Difference with ‘Difference’?” on January 14.

In partnership with the UW Alumni Association, the series presents “meaningful talks that expose and explain transgressions and struggles – both systematic and personal – experienced by too many in our communities today.” In her time at the UW, Joseph has been active in a variety of diversity-related issues on campus, including being the Director of the Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity; co-founding WIRED (Women Investigating Race, Ethnicity, and Difference); and chairing the Critical Ethnic Studies Committee of the American Studies Association.

When: Thursday, January 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Kane Hall, Room 120

Synopsis: What’s the Difference with “Difference”?

Language is power. The words we use and the names we say count, both individually and institutionally. This is particularly true when it comes to minoritized, identity-based nomenclature, such as the language of a racialized and gendered naming. The movement from “colored” to “negro” to “black” to “African-American” signifies important historical shifts in the state and community-naming processes. In other words, the words we use matter in terms of how we assess, frame, and ultimately understand difference.

But what about the naming of “difference” itself? Difference is a term that late 20th and early 21st century scholars of race, gender, and sexuality have claimed and yet left largely untheorized. We use the word difference almost reflexively. Difference replaces—or rather revises—diversity, multiculturalism, or a long-connected string of descriptors such as race, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and ability. But what does this shift in language mean and why is it significant for the ways in which we assess, inhabit, and perhaps even change our world? Does a change to “difference” lead to a change in identity and inequality?

Joseph’s lecture was preceded by Harry Belafonte in October and will be followed by Anita Sarkeesian on January 21. Learn more about the series >>