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Ruha Benjamin          

Sociology & African American Studies Scholar; Author of "People's Science" and "Race After Technology"

Ruha Benjamin is a professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of "People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier" (Stanford University Press). She has studied the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine for over fifteen years and speaks widely on issues of innovation, equity, health, and justice in the U.S. and globally. She is also a Faculty Associate in the Center for Information Technology Policy; Program on History of Science; Center for Health and Wellbeing; Program on Gender and Sexuality Studies; Department of Sociology; and serves on the Executive Committees for the Program in Global Health and Health Policy and Center for Digital Humanities. Benjamin is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2017 President's Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.

Her second book, "Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code," examines the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism, analyzing specific cases of “discriminatory design” and offering tools for a socially-conscious approach to tech development. She is also the editor of Captivating Technology. Race After Technology was awarded Brooklyn Public Library’s 2020 Nonfiction Prize.

Benjamin received her PhD in sociology from UC Berkeley, completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Genetics and Society and Harvard University's Science, Technology, and Society Program, and has received grants and fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, American Council for Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, among others. Her work is published in numerous journals, including Science, Technology, and Human Values; Policy & Society; Ethnicity & Health; and the Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science and reported on in national and international news outlets, including The Guardian, National Geographic, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Nature.

She is currently working on her next book, "Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want," born out of the twin plagues of COVID-19 and police violence—a double crisis that has since created a portal for rethinking all that we’ve taken for granted about the social order and life on this planet.

Speech Topics


Bio-Politics in the 21st Century

Designer Babies. Regenerative Medicine. DNA forensics. Genetic discrimination. Newborn Screening. Genetic Ancestry Testing. High-Tech Eugenics. Gender Testing. Cryopreservation. These and more comprise the landscape of the 21st century in which we are all ethical pioneers and biopolitical citizens. Using stem cell research as a window in to this exciting and disconcerting Brave New World, in this talk Ruha Benjamin moves us beyond the debates that devolve in to simple judgments—good or bad, life-saving medicine or bioethical nightmare, symbol of human ingenuity or our fall from grace—that too often ignore the people affected. Instead, Ruha moves the terms of discussion to focus on the shifting relationship between science and society, to the people who benefit—or don’t—from scientific innovation and what this says about our democratic commitments to an equitable society.

Citizen Science 2.0

Are science and technology neutral? Or do they reflect and foster particular social values? What role, if any, should citizens have in shaping science and technology?Grounded in the heated battle over stem cell research in the United States, in this talk Ruha Benjamin highlights the voices of those who are typically “on the table, but not at the table”—people with disabilities, racial-ethnic minorities, members of the working class, and women—and asks us to consider whether citizens should have the power to influence science and technology as much as science and technology influence society.

Race Unplugged: Moving Beyond Media Sound Bytes

College campuses are ground zero for racial misunderstanding, alienation, resentment, and violence—a place where many people are surprised to learn that hate crimes are common—alerting us to the fact that we urgently need new conceptual tools to understand and intervene upon the racial status quo. In her eye-opening lecture, Ruha Benjamin challenges contemporary race talk that often traffics in sound bytes, by showing how many of our relationships and institutions actually depend upon racial inequities, from healthcare to education, crime and punishment to entertainment. In so doing, she unpacks the “inconvenient facts” about racism in the United States with passion, candor, and reason. She also draws on firsthand experience in over twenty Asian, African, European, and Central American countries, to discuss how practices in the U.S. compare and contrast to other regions of the world.

News


How emerging technologies amplify racism—even when they're ...
Ruha Benjamin's book, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, explains how even attempts to address racial bias can actually amplify ...
In video chats, familiar forms of online harassment make a comeback
Ruha Benjamin and her husband, Shawn, were reading books to children stuck at home using Zoom's videoconferencing tool last week when a racist troll ...
Ruha Benjamin on deep learning: Computational depth without ...
Alongside deep learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio, Benjamin was a keynote speaker this week at the all-digital International Conference on Learning ...
The power of prejudice -- and why you should speak up - CNN.com
... say about the person's willingness to sacrifice something in order to change a situation, observes Ruha Benjamin, professor of sociology at Boston University.

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