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This spring, Smith College will host
Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University, as the 2012-13 William Allan Neilson Professor.

Professor Williams will deliver three public lectures this semester, all take place at 5:00 in the Neilson Library Browsing Room. [Click on image at right to download a poster.]

Tuesday, February 26
Convergences:  Incidents of Unusual Coincidence
This lecture will look at the narratives that underwrite both unity and discord in recent elections, with particular emphasis on the relation between rhetoric and outcome, against the backdrop of the First Amendment. Much of our civic identity of late is inflected by language tending to herd polities into imaginary "teams"—race! class! gender!—and embattled formations of hype. By the same token, social networking is emerging as a force that frequently fragments dominant narratives. There will be a close reading of those repercussive and osmotic stories being told in law, in media, in public policy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rites of Return: Recuperating at Home in an Age of Disaster, Disease, and Diaspora
This second lecture will reflect upon media and political constructions of home and homelessness, longing and belonging, place and displacement. Particular attention will be paid to how such concepts have affected repair and return in the wake of the Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Pattern Recognition
This lecture will examine what it means to be a person in the eyes of the law. We will examine the rhetorical framing that infuses our conception of living subjects, legal persons, non-persons and things. The line between human and subhuman, or person and thing, is given new urgency in an era of "Citizens United"; as well as when the limits of incarceration, torture, human trafficking, medical experimentation, and the right to due process often turn on newly minted meanings of words like "enemy combatant," "IQ," "underclass," "market choice," "race," "terror" or "illegal immigration." If slavery is "unthinkable" to most people today, why? How do we keep bringing the unthinkable back into being? What connection do historical taxonomies have to the contemporary perpetuation of genocide, torture, disappearance, starvation? What disconnections? What about us is truly or essentially "inalienable"?

williamsWilliams holds a BA from Wellesley College and a JD from Harvard Law School. She was a fellow in the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth College and has been an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School Law School and its department of women's studies. Williams also worked as a consumer advocate in the office of the City Attorney in Los Angeles.

A member of the State Bar of California and the Federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Williams has served on the advisory council for the Medgar Evers Center for Law and Social Justice of the City University of New York and on the board of governors for the Society of American Law Teachers, among others. She has also served as a MacArthur fellow and is a member of the Board of Trustees at Wellesley College.

She has published widely in the areas of race, gender, and law, and on other issues of legal theory and legal writing. Her publications include Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave, On Being the Object of Property, The Electronic Transformation of Law and And We Are Not Married: A Journal of Musings on Legal Language and the Ideology of Style. In 1993, Harvard University Press published Williams's The Alchemy of Race & Rights to widespread critical acclaim. She is also author of The Rooster's Egg (Harvard, 1995), Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race (Reith Lectures, 1997) (Noonday Press, 1998) and, Open House: On Family Food, Friends, Piano Lessons and The Search for a Room of My Own (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2004). As is a regular contributor to The Nation, she writes the monthly “Diary of a Mad Law Professor.”  Her wry, witty columns cover broad issues of social justice, including the rhetoric of the war on terror, race, ethnicity, gender, all aspects of civil rights law, bioethics and eugenics, forensic uses of DNA, and comparative issues of class and culture in the US, France, and Britain.

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