Paul Butler at University of Trash

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Date/Time: 25/07/2009 12:00 am

Keynote Speaker: Paul Butler
Saturday, July 25, 2009, 12-2PM
Sculpture Center, University of Trash
44-19 Purves Street, Queens, NY
The University of Trash at the Sculpture Center is an experiment in alternative architecture, urbanism, and pedagogy. An art exhibit made completely out of recycled and reused trash, it also functions as a temporary University, catalyzing an art space into a site of alternative pedagogy, hosting lectures, presentations and performances, from Marxist Reading Groups to discussions of the Situationist Internationale.
On July 25, the University of Trash will be hosting “Foucault Lab: Subjugated Knowledges.” Foucault’s “subjugated knowledges” are ways of thinking and doing that have been eclipsed, devalued, or rendered invisible within the dominant apparatus of power/knowledge. Foucault jettisons Enlightenment or liberal humanist platitudes such as “truth” “justice” or “liberty,” as well as the belief in a one-size-fits-all foundational universal basis for truth. Coming out of a Nietzschean genealogy, Foucault contends that truth is that which contending interests claim in order to effect stratagems toward the amassing of power. Truth is produced by a power/knowledge apparatus, that applies norms, controls, exclusions, and renders true/false discourse possible.
We will look at Critical Race Theory as one of the few concrete applications of Foucault’s theory of subjugated knowledge. A more radical offshoot of Critical Legal Studies, Critical Race Theory is a counter-hegemonic legal movement that critiques the Constitution and the civil rights movement, and Pollyanna ideals such as “the rule of law” and “equal protection,” to be responsible for the legitimization of racial discrimination against African Americans. It argues that the traditional liberal image of law as a neutral, impersonal mediator of group conflict masks its function in producing and insulating white supremacy in the United States. Critical Race Theorists argue that by constructing “discrimination” as isolated, irrational deviations from an otherwise legitimate selection process (rather than systemic, endemic longstanding conditions), “liberal” race reform upholds the bogus myth of American “meritocracy.” A type of adversarial scholarship aimed at producing what Edward Said calls “antithetical knowledge,” Critical Race Theory uncovered how law was a constructive element of race itself: in other words, how law constructed race.
We will look at Paul Butler’s concept of jury nullification. A practice that began during Civil War times times whereby white jurors would acquit abolitionists for the “crime” of helping slaves escape as a way to nullify the legality of slavery, Professor Butler is the pioneer of a grassroots movement that advocates that African American jurors today acquit African Americans defendants of non-violent drug offenses as a way to counteract the criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates African Americans. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but a staggering 25% of its prisoners. The state of California alone has more prisoners than do France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the Netherlands combined. Almost 75% of people incarcerated for drug offenses are African American, although blacks constitute only 13% of drug users nationwide. Professor Butler has gained national acclaim for work on jury nullification.
Keynote Speaker: Paul Butler
Paul Butler is the Carville Dickinson Benson Research Professor at George Washington University Law School, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and a member of the American Law Institute. He was a former federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice. His work has been published in the Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, UCLA Law Review, Legal Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and in the anthology Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge. He has appeared on WNYC, 60 Minutes, Politically Incorrect, Brian Lehrer Show, Donahue, and has spoken at the NAACP, Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. He is a cum laude graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School and the author of Let’s Get Free! A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice (Free Press 2009).
Copies of this book will be available at the event, and Professor Butler will be available to sign them.
Foucault Lab is conceived and organized by Andrea Liu, moderated by Jarrod Shanahan.
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