NYAS Lecture 4/29: Torture Trees: Police Violence from Chicago to the War on Terror

On April 29th the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series returns when Dr. Laurence Ralph,  John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Departments of Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University, will present “Torture Trees: Police Violence from Chicago to the War on Terror”. Dr. Aimee Cox, Associate Professor in the departments of African American Studies and Anthropology at Yale University will act as discussant. The event will be held at 5:45 PM at the Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required.

The history of police torture that I will discuss in this talk begins with 125 Black men in Chicago who were suffocated and shocked at Area Two police precinct. The story ends, however, in a much different place—with the torture of terrorism suspects abroad. Many of these torture survivors were eventually exonerated. Some received multi-million dollar payouts as recompense for their torture and confinement. But their exoneration should not reaffirm our faith in the law—quite the contrary.  In this talk I will challenge my audience not to think of the innocent person as the quintessential torture victim. Rather, think about a person who committed a heinous crime. Imagine that person being bagged and suffocated and beaten within an inch of his life. Ask yourself: Can I see enough humanity in him to understand why it is just as wrong to torture him, as it is to torture an innocent man?

About the Speakers:

Laurence Ralph is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Departments of Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.  He is the author of Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago which received the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) in 2015.  His scholarly work explores how the historical circumstances of police abuse, mass incarceration, and the drug trade naturalize disease, disability, and premature death for urban residents, who are often seen as expendable. Theoretically, his research resides at the nexus of critical medical and political anthropology, African American studies, and the emerging scholarship on disability. He combines these literatures to show how violence and injury play a central role in the daily lives of black urbanites. Laurence Ralph explored these diverse themes through articles published in many journals, including Anthropological TheoryDisability Studies Quarterly, Transition, and Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power.

Aimee Cox is Associate Professor in the departments of African American Studies and Anthropology at Yale University. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of Anthropology, Black Studies, and Performance Studies. Cox’s first monograph, Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship (Duke 2015), won a 2016 Victor Turner Book Prize in Ethnographic Writing and Honorable Mention from the 2016 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize, given by the National Women’s Studies Association. She is the editor of the forthcoming volume, Gender: Space (MacMillan). Her next ethnographic project, Living Past Slow Death, explores the creative strategies individuals and communities enact to reclaim Black life in the urban United States. Cox is the recipient of the 2017-18 Virginia C. Gildersleeve Professorship awarded by Barnard College.  Cox is also a former professional dancer. She danced on scholarship with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and toured extensively with Ailey II.

All talks in this series take place at Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk: Buffet dinner at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).  Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required

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