Intellectuals: Who Needs Them?

A public gathering
sponsored by

The Center for Public Intellectuals
the University of Illinois-Chicago

April 19th-20th, 2002

Chicago Illini Union

828 S. Wolcott


This conference is part of the Center's mission of helping to create a more engaged civil society, working towards social change, fostering coalitions between theorists and activists, and combating anti-intellectualism in contemporary culture. It will be both a celebration of ideas and a rigorous examination of the roles and responsibilities that intellectuals play in society.

We will engage the public in the following ways:

  • Lively panel discussions that encourage public discussions and debates

  • Breakout sessions that include activist tours of the Chicago area and innovative collaborative projects in diverse Chicago neighborhoods

  • A working breakfast session that will be a chance to learn about exciting scholar-activist projects in Chicago and network with one another for future collaborations

  • A "mini-conference" on the ways that intellectuals intervene in the critically important topic of genetic ethics.

The participants will draw from many different kinds of intellectual work, including journalism, activism, academics, public policy, business, and the arts.

The Center for Public Intellectuals is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) educational organization that fosters intellectual curiosity in the Chicago area. We build bridges between the city's intellectuals and the general public and facilitate collaborative partnerships between people that might otherwise not meet in order to work towards social change. One particular focus is on strengthening the ties between the city's higher education institutions and its surrounding communities.

Please click here to register.

For further information, please call 312.413.2518.

Dr. Patricia Williams

Keynote Speaker

Friday, April 19th, 6:00

Harold Washington Library Center (Wintergarden)

400 S. State St.

Free and open to the public!

Co-sponsored by the Chicago Public Library.

Interdisciplinary legal scholar, public intellectual, and MacArthur "genius" award-winner, Williams is the author of Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race.

Conference Schedule

April 19th

2:00-3:30 p.m., Chicago Illini Union, 828 S. Wolcott
Conference Registration

3:30-5:00 p.m.
I. Why Do Ideas Matter? (a keynote panel)
We introduce the “meta” theme of the conference by hearing “success stories” from diverse voices discussing their experiences intervening intellectually.

Timuel Black, Chicago activist; Prof. Emeritus, City Colleges of Chicago
Lonnie Bunch
, President, Chicago Historical Society
Bernardine Dohrn, Northwestern University Law School, Children and Family Justice Center
Gerald Graff, UIC, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Richard Rorty, Stanford University, Philosophy

6:00 p.m. Patricia Williams (Columbia University Law School) Harold Washington Library Center

7:30 p.m. Dinner for Patricia Williams and Conference Presenters

Saturday, April 20th 9:00-11:00 a.m.
I. Working Breakfast

This session brings together people taking on important social problems in theory and in practice. They will gather according to interest, such as "housing," "poverty," "human rights," and "education," to teach each other to create new collaborative networks. All are invited to participate.

Guest participants will include:
Arvis Averette (housing issues)
Jim Duignan (DePaul, Stockyard Institute)
Stevan Weine (UIC Psychiatry, refugees and survivors of terrorism)
and others

11:15-2:00 p.m.
Lunch and Public Encounters
Alternative breakout tours led by Chicago activists. Tours of Bronzeville and other communities, and visits to organizations that are working on partnering theorists with activists.

2:15-3:45 p.m.
IV. Intellectuals in Times of Crisis

Experiences and applications of intellectual work in urgent situations.

William Ayers, UIC, College of Education; author of Fugitive Days
Douglass Cassel, Northwestern University, Center for International Human Rights
Cathy Cohen, University of Chicago, Political Science
Salim Muwakkil, Chicago Tribune; In These Times
Barack Obama, Illinois State Senator
Barbara Ransby, UIC, African-American Studies (moderator)

4:00-6:00 p.m.
V. “Mini-Conference” on Genetics and Ethics:
a special topic panel that acts like a test case of public intellectual work.

Lori Andrews, Chicago-Kent College of Law
Rex Chisholm, Northwestern University, Center for Genetic Medicine
Eduardo Kac, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago, Law and Philosophy
Dorothy Roberts, Northwestern University, Law
Arnold Eiser, University of Illinois at Chicago, General Internal Medicine (moderator)

6:00-6:45 p.m. End of conference reception.


Partially funded by the Illinois Humanities Council