Ugly Freedoms - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

Ugly Freedoms

Event will take place 7pm on Thursday, Jan. 26. Event to be held at the Zarrow Center downtown.

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is thrilled to welcome Elisabeth Anker for a discussion of her recent book, Ugly Freedoms. In it, Anker explores the political rhetoric surrounding “freedom” and the instability of that term. “Freedom is the highest ideal in American politics,” Anker writes, “but its legacy is complex. Throughout American history, freedom has supported emancipation and individual liberty, but has also supported white supremacy, economic injustice, and misogyny. These ‘ugly freedoms’ legitimate the right to harm and subjugate others.” This talk will examine the ugliness of freedom, from the history of slavery to the January 6 insurrection. But it will also highlight visions of freedom that emphasize the flourishing of all people, not just a privileged few.

Over the course of the fall 2022 semester, the OCH hosted a variety of speakers, thinkers, and performers who consider the concept of “freedom” in divergent ways. We opened up this year with Victor Chen’s interrogation of the American Dream and the limits of freedom. From there, we welcomed Michael Madison and his discussion of “free” information and “knowledge commons.” Then, GerShun Avilez shared his research into Cold War politics and the Gay Rights/Queer activists who fought for equal freedom and rights for that community.

Like Anker, many of these speakers ask us to consider individual freedoms alongside social obligation and the limitations to individual freedoms that come with living in a larger community. Some of these thoughts, even, have emerged from the Freedom seminar with Prof. Josh Corngold discussing this issue in relation to education, Prof. Sara Beam in relation to accessibility and disability, and Prof. Travis Lowe in relation to opportunities and freedoms for lower income communities.

We’re excited to have Elisabeth Anker’s work contribute to an ongoing conversation that investigates the relationship between the individual, the community, and what “freedom” means with both in mind. From voting to reproductive rights, unionization efforts to (un)sustainable uses of natural resources, Anker will discuss how the concept of “freedom” is used and abused in political discourse in the US.

Elisabeth Anker is Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Science at the George Washington University, and Director of the Film Studies Program. Her research and teaching interests are at the intersection of political theory and cultural studies, with a focus on practices of freedom, violence, and power in US politics and culture. She is the author of Ugly Freedoms (Duke, 2022) and Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom (Duke 2014). Her articles have appeared in Political Theory, Social Research, Theory & Event, American Literary History, Politics and Gender, Contemporary Political Theory, Journal of Communication, and others. Anker currently serves as co-editor of the interdisciplinary journal Theory & Event.