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Distinguished professor to dissect, explore concepts of solidarity

Monday, February 15, 2016

LAWRENCE — Seekers of social change often employ solidarity to build awareness and further their cause.

University of Kansas Foundation Distinguished Professor David Roediger, an international expert on race, labor and class, will explore the scope of solidarity in his inaugural distinguished professor lecture. Roediger, who holds appointments in the departments of American Studies and History, will present “Making ‘Solidarity’ Uneasy: A Keyword and Its Discontents” at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 23 in Alderson Auditorium of the Kansas Union.

Scholars of solidarity among oppressed peoples often proceed from an assumption articulated by abolitionist Frederick Douglass: "All good causes are mutually helpful." But for large expanses of U.S. history, including Douglass' personal history, good causes have often been at odds with each other, Roediger said. To explore how people think and write about solidarity, Roediger will look at a number of aspects: the history of the word, the music at its core, and what public monuments to solidarity — including one in Lawrence — express and obscure. Reflections on solidarity and its limits in the recent Black Lives Matter movement will frame his presentation.

Roediger joined KU as its first Foundation Distinguished Professor in fall 2014. Over the course of his career, he has taught working-class history, Southern history, American studies and African-American studies at the University of Missouri, the University of Illinois and the University of Minnesota. He also worked as an editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers at Yale University. At Illinois he was the founding director of the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society.

A prolific author and editor, Roediger has produced a number of popular and scholarly articles. He has also written or co-authored a number of books, including “Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” published in 2014; “The Production of Difference,” co-written with Elizabeth Esch and published in 2012; “How Race Survived U.S. History,” published in 2008; “Working Toward  Whiteness,” 2005; and “The Wages of Whiteness,” 1991.

Roediger is currently the president of the American Studies Association and is a past president of the Working Class Studies Association and the Missouri Conference on History. His work grows out of involvement with social movements addressing inequality from the United Farm Workers grape boycott of the late 1960s to today’s Black Lives Matter.

Roediger earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University and a doctorate in history at Northwestern University in 1979.

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