Ethics in Your World with Deva Woodly


Friday, November 12, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Harvard Book Store Virtual Events

Deva Woodly portraitCover of the book Reckoning

Deva Woodly, PhD will discuss her new book, Reckoning: Black Lives Matter and the Democratic Necessity of Social Movements (10/29/21). This event is co-sponsored by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Deva Woodly is an Associate Professor of Politics at the New School. She is the author of The Politics of Common Sense: How Social Movements Use Public Discourse to Change Politics and Win Acceptance (Oxford 2015). She has also held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton as well as the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. Her research covers a variety of topics, from media & communication, to political understandings of economics, to race & imagination, & social movements. In each case, she focuses on the impacts of public discourse on the political understandings of social and economic issues as well as how those common understandings change democratic practice and public policy. Her process of inquiry is inductive, moving from concrete, real-world conditions to the conceptual implications of those realities. In all cases, she centers the perspective of ordinary citizens and political challengers with an eye toward how the demos impacts political action and shapes political possibilities. Her forthcoming book Reckoning: #BlackLivesMatter and the Democratic Necessity of Social Movements, an examination of the ways that social movements re-politicize public life in times of political despair, will be published by Oxford University Press in December 2021.

About Reckoning

Barack Obama famously said that the purpose of social movements is to get a seat at the table. However, as Deva Woodly argues in Reckoning—a sweeping account of the meaning and purpose of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL)—the value of such movements is something much more profound: they are necessary for the health and survival of democracy.

Drawing from on-the-ground interviews with activists in the movement, Woodly analyzes the emergence of the M4BL, its organizational structure and culture, and its strategies and tactics. She also shows how a unique political philosophy—Radical Black Feminist Pragmatism—served as an intellectual foundation of the movement and documents the role it played in transforming public meanings, public opinion, and policy. Interweaving theoretical and empirical observations throughout, Woodly provides both a unique portrait of the movement and a powerful explanation of the labor social movements do in democracy. A major work that speaks to both scholars and activists, Woodly's account of the rise and spread of M4BL will reshape our understanding of why the movement is so important—and so necessary—for democracy.

Praise for Reckoning

"Deva Woodly's Reckoning identifies a distinct political theory within the Movement for Black Lives: radical Black feminist pragmatism. Her explication of that philosophy is brilliant, sure to be ground-shifting in democratic theory. Reckoning is methodologically innovative, lyrically written, and politically wise." —Jack Turner, co-editor of African American Political Thought: A Collected History.

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