In the Shadows of Whiteness: Race, Religion, and Radicalization in the Time of Pandemics
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Terence Keel, Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies and Institute for Society and Genetics, UCLA, and Osagie K. Obasogie, Haas Distinguished Chair and Professor of Bioethics in the Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health, UC Berkeley
While the recent January 6th insurrection at the Capitol can be seen as a culmination of a longer history of racialized violence and white nationalism in the United States, the failure to unilaterally condemn it at the top levels of government exposes a critical turning point in the state of U.S. politics and society today. Moreover, in the ensuing examinations of the event, there has yet to be an account for the role of race and religion in giving coherence to the broader political claims and grievances propelling the insurrection. For this event in the Berkeley Forum on Religion and Pandemic series, we bring together Prof. Osagie K. Obasogie (UC Berkeley, Joint Medical Program & School of Public Health) and Prof. Terence Keel (UCLA, African American Studies & Institute for Society and Genetics) to discuss the relationship between Christianity, white nationalism, and white supremacy that fuels the discourse during these unprecedented times. How has religion shaped modern racial thinking, and how does it manifest in today’s world? In a moment of multiple, overlapping pandemics — COVID-19, racialized police violence, white nationalism — how does whiteness and religion sustain regressive, anti-science, and racist politics that create pandemic synergies toxic to democracy and deadly for communities of color?
Terence Keel is an Associate Professor with a split appointment in the Department of African American Studies, and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. He is also the Founding Director of the Lab for Biocritical Studies and currently serves as Associate Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. Keel has written extensively about race, religion, law, and modern science. His widely acclaimed first book, Divine Variations explains how religion helped produce scientific racism. Keel argues that modern biology has undergone an uneven process of secularization, leaving contemporary scientific theories of race haunted by a religious past that cannot be fully transcended.
Keel is currently writing a second book on the American medical examiner system that details how forensic pathology, law enforcement, and autopsy science suffer from a climate of social and ethical nihilism that produce practices of state violence and biomedical racism that target communities of color and erase police accountability for death while under custody. Keel is also currently a co-editor of the forthcoming book Critical Approaches to Science and Religion, with Myrna Perez-Sheldon and Ahmed Ragab. Bringing together scholars from the humanities, law, biology, and the social sciences, this book features a new generation of scholars offering insights into the changing relations between science, religion, critical race theory and social justice. Keel has a B.A. in Theology from Xavier University of Louisiana, a M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is currently a Research Fellow at the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy for his collaborative work on the American medical examiner system.
Osagie K. Obasogie is the Haas Distinguished Chair and Professor of Bioethics at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Joint Medical Program and School of Public Health. Obasogie’s scholarly interests include Constitutional law, policing and police use of force, sociology of law, bioethics, race and inequality in law and medicine, and reproductive and genetic technologies. His writings have spanned both academic and public audiences, with journal articles in venues such as Cornell Law Review, California Law Review (forthcoming), Law & Society Review, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Stanford Technology Law Review, and the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics along with commentaries in outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Slate, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and New Scientist. His first book, Blinded By Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind (Stanford University Press) was awarded the Herbert Jacob Book Prize by the Law and Society Association. His second book, Beyond Bioethics: Toward a New Biopolitics (co-edited with Marcy Darnovsky, University of California Press) is an edited volume that examines the past, present, and future of bioethics. Obasogie received his B.A. in Sociology and Political Science (with distinction in both majors) from Yale University, his J.D. from Columbia Law School where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley where he was a fellow with the National Science Foundation.
As part of the Berkeley Democracy and Public Theology Program BCSR’s Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic brings together scholars and the public to address the current pandemic and its commensurate crises, exploring the intersection between religion and timely topics such as the environment, public health, elections and democracy, religious freedom, and nationalism in order to foster dialogue and reflection.
Presented by the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion with generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.