Ruha Benjamin, Princeton Sociologist and Leading Thinker on Race and Technology, Will Be 2020 Graduation Speaker

May 9, 2020 @ 1:38 am

The Columbia School of Social Work has announced that Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of a body of work that addresses the racial biases embedded in technology, will serve as speaker for its 2020 graduation ceremony.

“Ruha Benjamin’s scholarship on the intersection of race and technology resonates strongly with our School’s mission and commitment to social justice and equity,” said Dean Melissa Begg. “In her new book, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, she explores the ways in which technology can reproduce and reinforce racial hierarchies and social divisions, and advocates for a more socially conscious approach to tech development.”

As a rare scholar who combines a sophisticated understanding of science and technology with a deep knowledge of race and racialization, Benjamin has blazed a trail in Department of African American Studies at Princeton University with her research on the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine, race and citizenship, knowledge and power. In 2018 she founded the Just Data Lab to bring together activists, artists, educators, and researchers to develop a humanistic approach to data conception, production, and circulation, with the aim of rethinking and retooling data for justice.

Her new book, Race After Technology, has garnered praise for showing how technology 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. Michelle Alexander, legal scholar and author of the seminal The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has called Race After Technology “essential reading, decoding as it does the ever-expanding and morphing technologies that have infiltrated our everyday lives and our most powerful institutions. These digital tools predictably replicate and deepen racial hierarchies—all too often strengthening rather than undermining pervasive systems of racial and social control.”

In addition to Race After Technology, Benjamin is the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press, 2013) and editor of Captivating Technology: Race, Carceral Technoscience, and Liberatory Imagination in Everyday Life (Duke University Press, 2019).

Born in Wai, India, to a Persian-Indian mother and African-American father, Benjamin received her International Baccalaureate at the Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa. She received her BA in sociology and anthropology from Spelman College, her 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.

The 2020 graduation ceremony will take place on Wednesday, May 20, at 2:30 p.m. via an online graduation portal.