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New York, Feb. 28, 2013—Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law will celebrate the work of Professor Patricia Williams at an all-day symposium on Friday, March 1. Patricia Williams is James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where she has served on the faculty since 1992.
Each year Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law holds a symposium honoring a senior scholar in feminist, gender or sexuality theory whose work has had a significant influence on the legal scholarship in these areas. Past honorees have included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and theorist Judith Butler. “Williams’ work established a new genre of academic and popular scholarship, weaving law, memoir, literary theory, popular culture, story-telling and the biology of the body in ways that have revolutionized how we teach law and understand law to regulate our lives,” said Katherine Franke the Director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, the sponsor of the day-long symposium.“In her scholarly work and as a columnist for The Nation Magazine Patricia Williams’ has transformed how we think about questions of identity, the body, ethics, and the permeable boundaries of academic discipline,” said Franke. Patricia Williams’ unique voice earned her the recognition of the MacArthur Foundation, which awarded her a “genius” fellowship in 2000.
The year 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of one of her most influential essays: “On Being the Object of Property.” “This essay shattered received wisdom on what it meant to do legal scholarship, how we talked about race, and both the limits and possibilities of gaining greater justice through rights,” Franke said. “The cold game of equality staring makes me feel like a thin sheet of glass: white people see all the worlds beyond me but not me,” Williams wrote. “I teach this essay every year to first year law students,” said Franke. “Through the use of personal memoir Williams challenges all of us to reconsider the very nature of law itself, particularly what it means to both have and be property.”
The symposium will include three panels that will cover a wide range of topics from race, gender and the law, to ethics and the body, with Williams delivering a keynote address at the end of the day. Panelists include: Anita Hill, Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Studies at Brandeis University; Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; and Anna Deavere Smith, Professor of Performance Studies at New York University.
Williams is a graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard Law School. She began her career practicing law as a consumer advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Los Angeles. Upon leaving practice, she served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin School of Law, Harvard University Women’s Studies Program, and CUNY Law School at Queens College. Her book, The Alchemy of Race and Rights was named one of the twenty-five best books of 1991 by the Voice Literary Supplement; one of the “feminist classics of the last twenty years” that “literally changed women’s lives” by Ms. Magazine; and one of the ten best non-fiction books of the decade by Amazon.com. Other books include The Rooster’s Egg (Harvard Press, 1995), Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1998), and Open House: On Family, Food, Piano Lessons, and The Search for a Room of My Own (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2004). She is also a regular contributor to The Nation, where she writes the monthly column “Diary of a Mad Law Professor.”
She has held fellowships at the School of Criticism and Theory, the Humanities Research Institute of the University of California at Irvine, the Institute for Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. At present, she serves on the Boards of Wellesley College, the Council for Responsible Genetics, and the Alliance for Justice. This semester she is in residence at Smith College as the 2012-13 William Allan Neilson Professor.
She is the recipient of Honorary Doctorates from Northeastern University School of Law, John Jay College of the City University of New York, the College of Wooster, Smith College, and Old Dominion University. She has received numerous awards including from the National Organization for Women, the American Educational Studies Association and from her alma maters–an Outstanding Alumna Award from Latin School in Boston, an Alumnae Achievement Award from Wellesley College, and a Graduate Society Medal from Harvard.
The conference is being organized and hosted by the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, which offers law students a unique opportunity to study and specialize in the practice, theory, and politics of gender and sexuality.
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