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Award-Winning Author Claudia Rankine to Investigate Whiteness in ArtsEmerson Talk

Claudia Rankine Photo/John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” winner and acclaimed author Claudia Rankine will shine a light on the historically unquestioned role whiteness plays in race relations in On Whiteness, a conversation being held at Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theatre on Friday, March 24.

Rankine, Fresh Sound master artist in residence at Emerson College and author of the award-winning, bestselling poetry book Citizen: An American Lyric, will answer questions following the talk, which is presented by ArtsEmerson and begins at 6:00 pm.

“Given that the concept of racial hierarchy is a strategy employed to support white dominance, whiteness is an important aspect of any conversation about race,” Rankine said in a statement. “This talk will make visible that which has been intentionally presented as inevitable so that we can move forward into more revelatory conversations about race.”

As Fresh Sound master artist-in-residence at Emerson, Rankine is working with ArtsEmerson on a new play for the 2017–2018 season. The Fresh Sound Foundation “builds vibrant and viable communities through the arts, economic development, and stewardship of the environment.”

ArtsEmerson Co-Artistic Director David Dower said the conversation will be “exhilarating,” as well as give audiences a “peek at the preoccupations underlying” the new play she’s writing with ArtsEmerson.

“Claudia goes deeply into troubled waters, with a fearlessness that both illuminates and challenges notions of race in America,” Dower said in a statement.

Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays, including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations; and is the editor or several anthologies, among them The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind.

For Citizen, Rankine won both the PEN Open Book Award and the PEN Literary Award, the NAACP Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (it was the first book ever to be named a finalist in both the poetry and criticism categories). Citizen was a finalist for a National Book Award and holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.

Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.

“Claudia Rankine is one of the great artists of our time,” said ArtsEmerson Co-Artistic Director P. Carl in a statement. “Her voice is a critical contribution to our current political reality and her book Citizen: An American Lyric has changed the way we talk about race in America.”

On Whiteness is free and open to the public, but reservations are required and can be made at





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