This past week the Anna Julia Cooper Project hosted its first speaker: Professor Karla Holloway of Duke University. Professor Holloway spoke about her latest work concerning how privacy of bodies has begun to spill into the public sphere. She spoke at length about latest book, Private Bodies, Public Texts: Race, Gender and a Cultural Bioethics, which centers around an ideas that challenge mainstream notions of professionalism and privacy in the fields of law, medicine, and political discourse. I had a chance to interview Professor Holloway to discuss her thought on recent developments in the Tulane Community and in the broader American culture. If you would like more information on Professor Holloway or her books, click here.
What attracted you to the Anna Julia Cooper Project: I knew Professor Harris Perry from her time at Duke and have admired the development of her career and interests. The project’s naming reflects attention to a woman who was very important to African American feminisms, before this word was used. The project’s potential and its historical grounding in an extraordinarily accomplished scholar is an elegant bond, and I couldn’t help but be attracted to this synergy.
What is your hope for the AJC Project: That it discovers its own way and claims it. There is so much creative potential in forming and reformulating African American intellectual work, and I think this project’s newness doesn’t bind it to past models but instead liberates it to consider the scholarly project in ways that will certainly follow the substance of intellectual histories, rather than the personalities. It certainly has the opportunity to begin with a fresh appreciation of the ways in which women’s academic project have rich cultural formations.
How do you view the future perception of location in academics: The locations for cultural studies have extraordinary intersections. An institute like AJC allows those to emerge.
Your new book discusses the double-edged sword of privacy, what does this dichotomy mean for the future of women: That we have to understand the complications of privacy and make mindful choices regarding our bodies and we must take note of the ways in which women’s bodies become negotiated public/political commodities. The bioethics principle of autonomy is critical here, but we also have to understand how the “body politic” can place our autonomy at risk.
On campus right now there is a movement advocating for better public safety in the Tulane area. There has been a rising rate of muggings, rapes, and sexual assaults and students are taking action. However, there has been backlash against the idea of allocating more resources to make this area of New Orleans safer. Do you have any thoughts on the issue: Allocate the resources. Societies place resources alongside things it values. Long standing and/or institutionalized disparities emerge from intentional negligence and produce disorders of spirit and act.
We should not tolerate this kind of indifference. It is bad public policy. Public policies that produce engaged, more productive, and ethically responsible citizens, are committed to providing resources that ameliorate institutionalized neglect. It’s a short-term trade off for a long-term benefit. We must be willing to make this investment, and to make apparent our determinations that all of a city’s citizens are a valued part of the body politic. We become what we do.
If you could give one piece of advice to young, aspiring women, what would it be: Be consistently mindful. Have the courage of your convictions and when you take the course that is difficult and challenging do so with a mix of humility and confidence. Understand that ease is non productive. Do not live by comparison, but by example.
One thing that would make America stronger: Appreciating the responsibilities of a global citizenship. Respecting the foundational principles of our nation and using these to shape a country that matches its extraordinary potential.
One thing that would make women stronger: Teaching our girls to be independent, thoughtful, and authoritative. Respecting our bodies and our selves.
Any other thoughts: I’ve had lots of opportunity, through some years of personal crises and professional challenges and accomplishments to want to be helpful to young women and girls. I’ve had to learn by doing, and what seems to have mattered most–especially when I have needed the most courage–is to find a humane and respectful center for my actions. Mindfulness is the word I keep coming back to. It’s become a necessary touchstone.