Oct. 17: Ruha Benjamin - The New Jim Code?

Ruha Benjamin's head shotPart of: Haas Institute's Research to Impact Series

Co-Organized with Citris Policy Lab and Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society CSTMS

Date: October 17, 2019
Time: 2:30pm - 5:30pm
Location: Sutardja Dai Hall, Banatao Auditorium, UC Berkeley

About the Talk: 

The New Jim Code?
Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, technology has the potential to hide, speed, and even deepen discrimination, while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to racist practices of a previous era. In this talk, I present the concept of the “New Jim Code” to explore a range of discriminatory designs that encode inequity: by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies, by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions, or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. 

We will also consider how race itself is a kind of tool designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice and discuss how technology is and can be used toward liberatory ends. This presentation takes us into the world of biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements, and provides conceptual tools to decode tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold, but also the ones we manufacture ourselves.

About the Speaker:

Ruha Benjamin is Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Her work investigates the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine, with a focus on the tension between innovation and inequity. Ruha is the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press), and is at work on three new projects—Race After Technology (Polity), a book about machine bias,  discriminatory design, and liberatory approaches to technoscience; an edited volume, Captivating Technology (Duke University Press), which examines how carceral logics shape social life well beyond prisons and police; and finally, The Emperor’s New Genes, a project that explores how population genomics reflects and redraws socio-political classifications such as race, caste, and citizenship. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Institute for Advanced Study and most recently the 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.