Prof. Cathy Cohen to deliver 2022 Ryerson Lecture on race and vulnerability

Renowned scholar of politics, race, gender and sexuality to speak at May 3 event

Prof. Cathy J. Cohen, a leading political scientist and scholar of race, gender and sexuality, will deliver the 2022 Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture on May 3 at the Rubenstein Forum.

A UChicago tradition since 1972, the Ryerson Lecture is an opportunity for an eminent faculty member to deliver a talk to the University community that celebrates the speaker’s scholarship and its enduring value. The University community is invited to attend the 5 p.m. event in the Rubenstein Forum’s Friedman Hall, as well as a public reception that will follow. The lecture also will be webcast on UChicago digital channels.

The David and Mary Winton Green Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, Cohen is a renowned political scientist, advocate and the principal investigator on two major projects: the Black Youth Project and the GenForward Survey. Her work recognizes that some of the most pressing issues facing the country—including public education, gun violence, mass incarceration and immigration—disproportionately affect Black and Latinx youth.

At UChicago, she has previously served as chair of the Department of Political Science; director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture; and the inaugural deputy provost for Graduate Education.

Throughout her career, Cohen has produced groundbreaking scholarship at the intersection of race, class, politics and sexuality. She has sought to understand the challenges faced by young people and their social and political perspectives as a means of understanding the broader political situation in the United States.

Her Ryerson Lecture—titled “Democratic Futures?: Race, Resistance and Political Vulnerability”—will examine what political insights and possibilities might emerge when we center the ideas of race and vulnerability.

“I am interested in how a vulnerability that is perceived and/or lived has the ability to tie us to others collectively,” Cohen said. “I hope to investigate how such a vulnerability demands of us a shared accountability, and—under the best conditions—necessitates that we imagine new ways of being and new possibilities for political solidarity.”

Cohen is the author of the books The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics and Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics. She also co-edited the anthology Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto.

The recipient of numerous honors and grants, Cohen was recently awarded the 2021 Hanes Walton Jr. Career Award, presented by the American Political Science Association in recognition of distinguished scholarship that has made significant contributions to the understanding of racial and ethnic politics. The Marguerite Casey Foundation also selected Cohen as part of the 2021 class of Freedom Scholars. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Ryerson Lectures originated through a bequest from Nora and Edward Ryerson. Edward Ryerson was a former chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees. Other recent lecturers have included paleontologist Neil Shubin, Nobel-winning economist Richard Thaler, psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow, linguist and anthropologist Michael Silverstein, physicist Sidney Nagel and legal scholar Geoffrey Stone.