Violent Means

February 14, 2014 (Friday) / 9:00 am4:45 pm

Nevil Classroom, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

Violent Means

Herman Bennett

Professor of History, City University of New York

Ravit Reichman

Associate Professor of English, Brown University

Dorothy Roberts

George A. Weiss Professor of Law and Sociology and inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania

Caleb Smith

Professor of English and American Studies, Yale University

We lack consensus on what it means to limit, control, reduce, or redress violence. “Combating crime” or “protesting the state’s use of force” introduces violence by other means. An end to violence is thus difficult to conceptualize as well as to practice.

In this symposium, four distinguished scholars—Herman Bennett, Ravit Reichman, Dorothy Roberts, and Caleb Smith—examine ways in which violence is institutionalized, legitimized, and rendered permissible, including in attempts to manage harm. At the same time, we ask what it looks like to alter a violent form, habit, or system. How have historical injuries been addressed through reparations, pedagogy, activism, and the reform of institutions? How are actions named and recognized as violent—both at a social, temporal, or geographical distance, and in the moment? When transphobic, racist, classist, sexist, and homophobic forms of social and material violence are narrated—by media, or by “victims” and “perpetrators”—what acts and inactions are seen as damaging, and what goes unrecognized as violence?


9:00-9:20am | Coffee and breakfast

9:20-10:20am | Opening Roundtable: Positions on Violence
Welcome: Kate Aid (Graduate Humanities Forum Chair & Mellon Fellow)
Introductions: Robert Hoffman (GHF Mellon Fellow)
Moderator: Emily Merrill (GHF Mellon Fellow)

Herman Bennett (Professor of History, CUNY)

Ravit Reichman (Associate Professor of English, Brown)

Dorothy Roberts (George A. Weiss Professor of Law and Scoiology and inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, Penn)

Caleb Smith (Professor of English and American Studies, Yale)

10:20-10:30am | Break

10:30am-12:30pm | Panel 1
Discussants and Moderator: Kelly Rich, James Ryan, and Elizaveta Strakhov (GHF Mellon Fellows)

Slavery & Governance as Violence: Thinking through the Early Modern Legal Turn (Herman Bennett)
Too Much Property (Ravit Reichman)

12:30-1:30pm | Lunch

1:30-3:30pm | Panel 2
Discussants and Moderator: Seth Harvey, Thomas Dichter, and Laura Finch (GHF Mellon Fellows)

Race and the Paradox of State Violence (Dorothy Roberts) 
Imprisonment Without Justice (Caleb Smith)

3:30-3:45pm | Break

3:45-4:45pm | Closing Roundtable: Reflections on Violence
Discussant and Moderator: Sarah Nicolazzo (GHF Mellon Fellow)
Herman Bennett, Ravit Reichman, Dorothy Roberts, Caleb Smith, and symposium participants