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Good Reads

Ruha Benhamin, Race After Technology book cover.The Good Reads Initiative is a community book read program designed to stimulate healthy campus dialogue. This year’s book is Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, by Dr. Ruha Benjamin.

In addition to being our Good Reads author for the year, Dr. Benjamin is also our keynote speaker for the 3rd Annual Excellence in Teaching and Learning Summit that takes place on February 15, 2024. We are delighted to be able to bring Dr. Ruha to campus.

Books will be distributed in November 2023, with a session for discussion and reflection at the Summit. There is no cost to you—books are provided to anyone interested in participating in the Good Reads program. Sign up and indicate your preferred format (print or digital).

As in past years, we will seek to accommodate book requests into the new year. However, you are strongly encouraged to request and secure your book prior to December 1, 2023.

Participants who request a print version will be notified by email when their copy is ready for pickup in Green Hall Room 201, and a pick up schedule will be provided.

About the author:

Ruha Benjamin is the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, founding director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, and author of the award-winning book Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, among many other publications. Her work investigates the social dimensions of science, medicine, and technology with a focus on the relationship between innovation and inequity, health and justice, knowledge and power. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Marguerite Casey Foundation Freedom Scholar Award and the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton. Her most recent book, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want, winner of the 2023 Stowe Prize, was born out of the twin plagues of COVID-19 and police violence and offers a practical and principled approach to transforming our communities and helping us build a more just and joyful world. 

About the book (from the publisher):

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity.

Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, 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. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of technology, designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice in the architecture of everyday life.

This illuminating guide provides conceptual tools for decoding tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold but also the ones we ourselves manufacture.