Death penalty researcher speaks

Brackette F. Williams, an anthropologist, author and 1997 recipient of the MacArthur “genius” grant, offers a lecture exploring the role of religion in the American system of capital punishment at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, in Chase Hall Lounge, 56 Campus Avenue. The lecture, titled Killing in My Name, Poison in Their Veins: Religious Struggle and the Death Penalty, is open to the public at no charge.

Williams’ lecture will consider the predicament of the concept of religion in the process of death penalty classification. It will examine this predicament through an ethnographic view of the practical logics and practices fashioned by members of “faith communities,” as they seek secular allies in the cause of supporting or opposing the executions as a contemporary form of human sacrifice.

“Can a state that has appropriated and assimilated a particular view of religion in the legitimization of its right to kill be expected to guard and protect religious freedom?” Williams asks. “Such an expectation is rather like asking a wolf to guard the henhouse believing that it has consumed a lasting supper and has no further appetite.”

Williams earned her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University and received advanced degrees from the University of Arizona, where she has taught and where she directed the African American studies program, and Johns Hopkins. She is the author of Stains on My Name, War in My Veins: Guyana and the Politics of Cultural Struggle (Duke, 1991), as well as a number of articles and short stories.

An independent scholar, Williams has done field research on capital punishment since 1996 and on homelessness since 1985. In 1997 she received an award supporting her work from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. A Tucson resident, she is active in the Coalition of Arizonans for the Abolition of the Death Penalty and the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

For more information about her lecture, please call 207-786-6255.

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