Anthropology Annual Public Lecture to focus on juvenile violence

Microphone on a stage

On March 23, the Anthropology Annual Lecture, presented by the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, returns to being in person for the first time since the pandemic started.

Laurence Ralph, professor of Anthropology at Princeton University
Laurence Ralph

This year’s keynote speaker is Laurence Ralph, a professor of anthropology at Princeton University, whose work as a researcher, writer and filmmaker explore how police abuse, mass incarceration and the drug trade make injury and premature death seem natural for people of color.

His upcoming keynote lecture, titled “Juvenile Murder, Vengeance, and Grief,” will examine two cases of juvenile murder in which teenage boys of color were killed by their peers, as well as consider complex questions about justice systems, violence, accountability and healing. By conducting in-depth life histories of young people who the juvenile justice system has harmed, he seeks to better understand the violence they encounter and the reasons they encounter it. Ralph argues that, as a society, our idea of accountability is incomplete. Those who the police have accused of crimes – and even those who have committed them – need to be humanized.

Ralph’s work has sought to humanize in publications like The New York Times, as well as his tenured appointments in the African & African American studies and anthropology departments at Harvard University. His first book, Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago, published by the University of Chicago Press, also explored gang violence, poverty and community resilience in a west-side Chicago neighborhood. His latest book, Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence, explores a decades-long scandal in which hundreds of Black men were tortured while in police custody.

“We are very excited to welcome Professor Ralph in person for this critically important public lecture. Professor Ralph’s scholarship exploring the central role violence and injury play in the daily lives of urban populations of color is brilliant, powerful, compassionate and necessary,” says Chair of the Department of Anthropology, Othon Alexandrakis.

All members of the York University community are welcome to attend this event, which runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on March 23. The lecture will be followed by brief commentary from Dan Yon, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology. Register here.