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AU Community Focused on a More Equitable and Peaceful World

Faculty and students hard at work on research and action with real-world implications

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In these deeply divisive times, the American University community remains committed to working towards a more equitable and peaceful future — on campus, across the nation, and beyond. College of Arts and Sciences, faculty, students, departments, and centers are working on research and activism with real-life implications for democracy, equity, human rights, and more.

Read on for just a few examples, and for information on events and getting involved in this impactful work across campus.

Racial Justice: AU’s Antiracism Center

Sara Clarke Kaplan (center) and faculty affiliates at ARPC launch event. Photo by Dylan Singleton

Under the leadership of Executive Director Sara Clarke Kaplan, American University’s Antiracism Research and Policy Center (ARPC) serves as an interdisciplinary hub for the research and practice of racial justice and intersectional liberation. The center is focusing its work on nine issues that are critical areas of intervention for racial justice in the world right now: incarceration, health and reproductive justice, migration, climate justice, arts as social justice, education, Indigenous sovereignty, and gender-based violence.  

ARPC’s fall events have included Race and Reproduction in the Post-Roe World, a discussion that both acknowledged the national outrage over the repeal of Roe and focused on how Black and Indigenous women have not had full autonomy over their bodies or their reproductive rights for hundreds of years.  

On November 12 and 13, APRC sponsored The Invisible Made Visible, a musical program featuring the American University Chamber Singers performing the music of outstanding underrepresented choral creators of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Kaplan presented commentary providing context to the poetry and its choral settings. 

The Center’s Faculty Affiliate Group includes nearly 60 faculty affiliate members from across the university, says Kaplan. “While the Antiracist Research and Policy Center is located in the College of Arts and Sciences, we see in the Center a breadth of research approaches methodologies and fields of study ranging from finance and real estate, to education and media and markets and environmental studies, to geography and studio arts and performance…we are truly an interdisciplinary Center connected by a shared commitment to research and practice that pursues racial justice and leads towards intersectional liberation.” 

To learn more about the Center’s work, visit the ARPC website and follow it on Instagram @auantiracismctr and Twitter @AUAntiracismCtr.

Challenges to Democracy: Center for Israel Studies

This semester, AU’s Center for Israel Studies hosted a series of events exploring threats to democracy in Israel, the United States, and across the world. In October, Michael Brenner, the Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and CIS Director, joined Professors Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Chris Edelson for Is Democracy in the United States Endangered? Lessons from Weimar Germany, a discussion of serious threats to US democracy and what can be done about them.

On November 13 and 14, the Center is hosting How Many Elections Can Israel Handle? Challenges Facing Israel’s Democracy. The two-day conference, featuring keynote speaker Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn, addresses the state of Israeli democracy, the nation’s five national elections in three-and-a-half years, and the challenges ahead, as a right-wing coalition under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to form the next government. Experts from the US and the Middle East will discuss measures to preserve and to strengthen the country’s democracy.

The Center for Israel Studies is dedicated to research and teaching about Israel's history, society, and culture. In 2022 alone, the Center invited dozens of prominent thought leaders to share their expertise in public programs that were watched by thousands of people on campus and beyond. Among its recent programs were those on Being Black in Israel, Israel’s Arab Citizens, and Refugees and Asylums Seekers in Israel. The Center’s faculty members are frequently featured by national and international media.

For more information, visit the website of the Center for Israel Studies.

All Things Immigration: The Immigration Lab

A protest sign reading "We are all immigrants"

The United States is a nation of immigrants. “People move in and out everywhere; migration is all around us,” says Associate Professor of Sociology Ernesto Castañeda. “Nonetheless, there are many misunderstandings about immigration among the general public, and unfortunately, politicians often create panic around international migration for political gain.” 

To set the record straight on immigration and immigrants, Castañeda established AU’s Immigration Lab in 2020 with the mission of conducting rigorous empirical and theoretical research to inform academics, the public, and policymakers to make fact-based decisions. 

“Immigrants make great contributions to the economy, the arts, sciences, and popular culture, yet many people wrongly believe that immigrants and refugees depend on welfare and are likely to commit crimes,” says Castañeda. “Many people have framed the situation at the US-Mexico border as a security crisis. They have committed large sums of money to criminalize migration, while ignoring real crises such as affordable housing, the minimum wage, and climate change.”  

The lab researches “all things migration,” including forced migration, immigration, emigration, transnationalism, integration, categorical inequality, health disparities, demographics, social mobility, racism and exclusion, social movement and contentious politics, ethnicity, and space. It also focuses on the well-being and opportunities offered to immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and minorities. 

For more information about the work of the Immigration Lab, visit the Immigration Lab website or follow it on Twitter @Immigration_Lab.

Bringing Together Communities and Scholars: The Humanities Truck 

The humanities truck on site in the community

The AU Humanities Truck was built in 2018 as a high-tech mobile humanities lab — a way to democratize the production of knowledge by bringing together scholars and community residents across DC. Faculty members and students drive the truck around the DC region, collecting stories and oral histories from its diverse people and communities. The material is preserved, interpreted, and curated into traveling and virtual exhibitions that are then shared back across the region.

The bright truck has become a recognizable and much-loved fixture in DC neighborhoods. Before the pandemic, at the Adams Morgan Day Festival in northwest DC, for example, more than 7,500 people interacted with the truck, including 3,560 who lined up to crowd into the back of the truck to view its latest exhibition.

The DC Humanities Truck Fellows are a multi-disciplinary group of faculty and graduate students who conduct community-based research and engage communities in the DC metropolitan region. The current fellows are working on projects like The Power of Play, which highlights an intergenerational “playgroup” and brings awareness to the experiences of DC’s aging community; Remnant Reflections: Dress Codes and Hair Policies in DC Schools, a podcast series and documentary series that capture stories about the hyper-policing of Black girls and women in America schools; and Documenting Displacement: The Impacts of the CARE Pilot Program on DC’s Unhoused Communities, which is studying how a 2020 eviction of one homeless camp in DC has impacted its residents, both short-term and long-term. 

The Humanities Truck is made possible with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Follow Humanities Truck projects on the humanity truck's website, or follow it on Twitter @humanitiestruck.