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"Children in front of moving picture theater, Easter Sunday matinee, Black Belt, Chicago, Illinois" (Detail)
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The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture (CSRPC) at the University of Chicago is dedicated to promoting engaged scholarship and debate around the topics of race and ethnicity. As an interdisciplinary program, scholars affiliated with the CSRPC utilize a range of methods to investigate the material condition, the expressive culture and the meaning making of racialized groups. Fundamentally, the Center is committed to producing engaged scholarship that rejects the false dichotomy between rigorous intellectual work and community activism. The Center seeks, instead, to contribute intellectually challenging and innovative scholarship that can help people transform their thinking and their lives.
Exploring the ways in which various media (film, music, literature, visual art) shape and reflect issues of race and ethnicity is an important part of the work of the CSRPC. The Center provides a dynamic space for dialogue about race and mass culture, including forums such as its Workshop on Race and the Reproduction of Racial Ideologies in which faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars share work in progress.
The CSRPC also houses Artists-in-Residence, annual fellowships for outstanding Chicago artists whose work is relevant to the study of race and/or ethnicity. Each artist interacts closely with Chicago students and faculty, and presents a public program. Recent fellows include documentary filmmaker Yvonne Welbon, who taught “Sisters in Cinema,” a course on Black women filmmakers, and visual and installation artist Bibiana Suarez ( Associate Professor of Art and Art History at DePaul University), who presented a visiting artist lecture series, “Race, Politics and Culture in the Visual Arts.”
In 2004, the CSRPC co-sponsored “Race and Representation,” the fourth annual Kenwood Academy-University of Chicago Program of Academic Exploration for High School Juniors, in which local public high school students investigated, with University of Chicago faculty and graduate students, the dual notion of “representation”: as a political idea in the ways that racialized people and policies are represented in government, and as a cultural idea in the ways that racialized people are represented in art, film, music, and popular culture. At the conclusion of the program, the Kenwood students produced a collaborative documentary video, Blackness: A Representation, featuring interviews, music, photographs, mass media footage, skits and spoken word performances presenting multiple perspectives on the meaning of “Blackness.”
The CSRPC regularly sponsors Black film events that are open to the public, including the Doc Films series “Race Movies: Black Cinema Before 1950” (Winter 2002), “The Devil Finds Work: Sidney Poitier and Cinema of the Civil Rights Era” (Winter 2003), and “Spike Lee” (Spring 2004), in which CSRPC-affiliated faculty led post-screening conversations about Lee’s films. The Center also hosted the panel discussion "Where's Her Voice? Black Women Filmmakers and Hip-Hop Culture" (February 2004).