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The Power of Judgment in US Racial Empowerment Movements

On February 17 at 12:30pm Asian/Asian American Studies Core Faculty Fred Lee will give a talk for the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute in which he addresses “The Power of Judgment in U.S. Racial Empowerment Movements” in light of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of judgment that appeals to a common sense of the world and guides this exploration of how specific black, Asian, and Amerindian activists decided upon their affiliations, conflicts, and demands.

Assistant Professor Fred Lee holds a joint appointment in the Department of Political Science and Asian American Studies. His research interests include modern to contemporary political theory, comparative ethnic studies, and U.S. political development. Prior to his arrival at UConn in 2013, Dr. Lee taught at the Claremont Colleges and held a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellowship at Denison University.

His current book project, The Racial Politics of the Extraordinary: Four Events in the Informal Constitution of the United States, aims to recover the extraordinary dimension of U.S. racial politics from the interdisciplinary standpoints of political theory and ethnic studies. Extraordinary politics are intense conflicts and crises that occur and are resolved outside of the channels of the routinized political process; racialized events of this variety, Lee claims, have the power to disrupt existing social terrains and historical trajectories as well as establish new ones for ordinary, institutionalized racial politics. The book identifies four cases of extraordinary racial politics in United States history: mid-19th c. Indian removals of southeastern Amerindians, the Japanese Internment of World War II, the civil rights movement, and selected late 20th c. racial power movements (Asian American, black power, and red power movements).

Lee also has an interest in establishing new connections and conjunctures between political theory and cultural studies. His essay on representing the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemmings relationship, “The Jefferson-Hemings Relationship Reconsidered,” was published in Political Research Quarterly. A forthcoming essay on Michael Kang’s film The Motel, “Fantasies of Asian American Kinship Disrupted,” will appear in Critical Philosophy of Race. He and Steven Manicastri are also co-authoring an essay on Joon-Ho Bong’s film Snowpiercer, which the authors claim is an allegory of decolonization in the vein of Frantz Fanon.

His second book project will deal with the challenges that contemporary transpacific cinema has faced in representing extraordinary politics and other kinds of radical transformations, especially after the exhaustion and/or collapse of various socialist and nationalist revolutionary projects.

Lee’s courses at the University of Connecticut are centered on social and political philosophy as well as critical and critical race theory. He teaches an Introduction to Political Theory, Modern Political Theory (17th-19th c.), Contemporary Political Theory (20th-21st century), Critical Race Theory, and a graduate seminar on Critical Theory.