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January 10, 2005

Eight UCSC professors to participate in Jan. 13 public forum on the Bush presidency

By Scott Rappaport

UCSC’s Center for Cultural Studies will present a public forum on the Bush presidency, neoconservatism, and opposition on Thursday, January 13, at 7 p.m. in Classroom Unit 2.

It’s a response to the widespread feeling that there have been important changes in politics as a result of the election,”

-- moderator Chris Connery

Featuring presentations by eight faculty plus town hall-style audience participation, the event will focus on the consequences of the last presidential election, as well as the current political atmosphere in the country.

“It’s a response to the widespread feeling that there have been important changes in politics as a result of the election,” noted associate professor of literature Christopher Connery, codirector of the Center for Cultural Studies and moderator of the forum. “We want to take stock of these changes and of what we can do as citizens and as members of the university and community.”

The forum is designed to stimulate analysis and fresh thinking about such issues as the nature of political power, the new political role of evangelical Christianity, the meaning of the term "values," culture wars, the contestation over the Hispanic vote, the mounting assault on women's rights, the accelerated push toward privatization, the anti-gay/lesbian mobilization, and the political character of popular culture and the media.

“The main thing we’re hoping for is broad student, faculty, and community participation,” said Connery. “Things are at stake in a way that they haven’t been in years. The future of Social Security, for example, will have enormous consequences.”

“We also wanted to have an event that wasn’t just preaching to the converted,” Connery added. “ We’d like to come up with new analysis and new thinking. In Santa Cruz, the political spectrum is not wide; there is a lot of agreement. The will of the community is strong but it’s not clear what we all can do.”

The event will explore new elements in the political arena brought about by the rise of neoconservatism, such as the recent push by the party in power to teach Creationism in the schools and to brand dissenting academics as unpatriotic.

“Discussion that universities are not to be trusted, that their independence and communications should be monitored, and that they should be defunded, says something about the attitude of this administration,” said Connery. “Cuts to the National Science Foundation which funds science research--mostly at universities--are of great concern to many in our community.”

Connery noted that when neoconservatives look to “problem areas” where liberalism runs deep, they tend to look at universities, popular culture, and the entertainment industry. But a key distinction is that universities are dependent on federal and state support.

“People in universities have a sense of unease about what may be coming,” said Connery. “If America’s commitment to public education falters, it could silence areas of dissent and criticism.”

“We all recognize that slogans, repetition of familiar truths, and affirmations of our political virtues will not be enough,” he added. “We need serious discussion about mobilization and politics, and new thinking. I think our campus and town have a lot to offer to national politics, and we hope this event can help inspire them.”

The eight professors at the forum will give short presentations, followed by a panel discussion and audience participation. The speakers will include:

Angela Davis, professor of history of consciousness and one of the country's foremost activist-intellectuals. Trained as a philosopher, she has written on African American culture, politics, feminism, and music. Her latest book is Are Prisons Obsolete?

Susan Harding, professor of anthropology. She has done extensive fieldwork on evangelical Christianity. Her research, long referenced by a range of authors working in the field, culminated in the 2000 publication of The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics.

Ronnie Lipschutz, professor of politics. He is the author of many books on environmental and ethnic politics, and on political conflict. He also writes a weekly newspaper column on national politics.

George Lipsitz, professor of American studies. He is an activist and scholar who has written on popular culture, oppositional cultural movements, race, and urban culture. In 1998 he published The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics.

Robert Meister, professor of politics. He is a prominent political theorist. Since the 1990 publication of the groundbreaking Political Identity: Thinking Through Marx, he has written and spoken widely on human rights, victimization, and on the U.S. global posture since September 11.

Helene Moglen, professor of literature. In addition to authoring many publications on English and American Literatures, she has for many years been a feminist activist and organizer. Currently, she is director of UCSC's Institute for Advanced Feminist Research.

Manuel Pastor, professor of Latina/o and Latin American studies. He is a community activist and a scholar of political economy and community. He recently published Regions that Work: How Cities and Suburbs Can Grow Together.

Alan Richards, professor of environmental studies. He has published widely on environmental politics and economics, with particular expertise in the Middle East. Recently, he has been invited by the U.S. Army to share with its officers his dissenting views on the U.S. role in the region.


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