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Guide to CWRU Common Reading 2023

Resources for the 2023 CWRU Common Reading


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Erin Smith
Subjects: SAGES

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Common Reading

 From Polity Press: "From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity.

Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs 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. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of technology, designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice in the architecture of everyday life."

About the Author

Ruha Benjamin is the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of African American studies at Princeton University where she specializes in the interdisciplinary study of science, medicine, and technology with a focus on the relationship between innovation and social inequity. She is author of three books, including Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want (Princeton University Press),  winner of the 2023 Stowe Prize,  Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code (Polity), winner of the 2020 Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award for antiracist scholarship and the 2020 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize for Nonfiction, People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press), and editor of Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life (Duke University Press). Her next book, Imagination: A Manifesto, is forthcoming with W. W. Norton & Company.


Professor Benjamin received her BA in sociology and anthropology from Spelman College, MA and PhD in sociology from UC Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics and Harvard University’s Science, Technology, and Society Program. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine,  and Institute for Advanced Study. In 2017, she received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton and, in 2020, the Marguerite Casey Foundation Inaugural Freedom Scholar Award.

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