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3/27, “Studying Racist Activists: What Can Be Learned and What Cannot”

On Thursday, March 27 at 5:30 p.m., the Center for Humanities and the Public Sphere will present a lecture with Professor Kathleen Blee of the University of Pittsburgh, “Studying Racist Activists: What Can Be Learned and What Cannot” at 5:30 p.m. in the Ustler Hall Atrium.

Is there anything to be gained by talking to people in racist groups?   This talk wrestles with the dilemma of how we can find accurate information about the racist movements in our midst.  From the massive Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s to today’s small neo-Nazi groups, racist groups have fomented hatred and often violence against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.   Despite the danger that these movements pose to civil society, we know surprisingly little about how they work and how they recruit members.  Based on decades of direct observation and interviews with those who populate America’s racist underground, this talk explores what we know, what we don’t know, and what we may never know about organized racism.  It wrestles with moral and political dilemmas that occur when scholars work directly with violent political actors and raises questions about the advantages and perils of scholarship and dialogue with racist extremists.

Kathleen Blee is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of Pittsburgh. She has authored four award-winning books, most recently Making Democracy: How Activist Groups Form (2013 Charles Tilly Award for Best Book from the Collective Behavior & Social Movements Section, American Sociological Association and 2013 Best Book Award from the Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Associations). Her two books on racial hate groups, Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement (2002) and Women in the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s (1991) were featured in many media sources, including The New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Reporter,  and The Los Angeles Times. A 2000 book co-authored with Dwight Billings, The Road to Poverty: The Making of Wealth and Hardship in Appalachia won the Weatherly Best Book Award from the Appalachian Studies Association.

Visit the Center for Humanities and the Public Sphere event listing

  • Reception to follow.
  • This event is free and open to the public.
  • For more information, contact Humanities Center.