The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Kristin Bumiller

Kristin BumillerKristin Bumiller is Professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at Amherst College. Her scholarship has been centrally focused on issues of social exclusion, whether through the process of gender and racial discrimination, poverty, or violence. A common theme of her work is uncovering the incongruity between legal and social policies designed to protect the interests of disadvantaged people and their own desires for meaningful lives, empowerment, and greater personal freedom. Her first book, The Civil Rights Society, analyzed how anti-discrimination law may serve to reinforce the victimization of women and racial minorities. Her more recent work has focused on women's experiences with rape and domestic violence. She argues in her book forthcoming from Duke University Press, Criminalizing Sex, that the feminist movement became a partner in the unforeseen growth of a criminalized society; a phenomenon with negative consequences not only on minority and immigrant groups of men, but for women who are subject to scrutiny within the welfare state. Her course, Regulating Citizenship, is taught inside the Hampshire County House of Corrections and is composed of an equal number of Amherst and incarcerated students.

Reentry Revisited: The Academic and the Ex-Prisoner

My reflections follow from Bob Meager’s insights into the melancholy that besets academics at this time of the year. I share his dismay about re-entry into a world that is often distracted by a war of words, where victory is often measured by the promotion of one camp over another. Clearly, in this war of words damage is done, directly to faculty members and students and less tangibly but no less critically to our intellectual lives and entrepreneurial spirits.


Racial Profiling in a Post-Race Conscious Society?

When the media focused attention on the Cambridge Massachusetts police department this summer it briefly put a spotlight on the practice known as “racial profiling.” Little of that discussion served to inform the broader public about its prevalence or its function in policing. I suppose this is not unexpected—reporting of controversial events of this sort rarely leads to serious consideration of social policy.


Recession and the Deepening of Poverty

The current economic downturn has forced a generation of Americans, many for the first time, to make hard choices and revise their expectations about the taken-for-granted prosperity of this nation. This recession has already caused many people, and we anticipate the numbers to grow substantially, to lose jobs and become unable to provide for their families’ basic needs. Many of these people considered themselves middle class or held union jobs with good wages and benefits and thought they were immune to economic adversity. Although both the media and politicians have focused much attention of the effects of the recession on “ordinary Americans” this examination rarely sheds light on the impact on the poor.Portrayals focused exclusively on the plight of ordinary Americans serve to erase both the persistence of poverty and the extraordinary affect of this recession on the over 37 million people with incomes below the official poverty line. Yet economists have


Vulnerable Communities

Julie Mallozi’s “Storytelling as a Path Toward Justice” wonderfully evokes a critically important issue for me as I begin a new research project, and more broadly, in regards to working with marginalized communities. As she clearly recognizes, authentic connections with groups or communities arises through the building of relationships. As outsiders, we can achieve these relationships only through the often slow process of gaining trust and engaging in meaningful participation.


Neither Leaders Nor Heroes

At this time in the academic year, as my energy wanes and I become more encumbered by bureaucratic responsibilities, I find myself reflecting about the social utility of professors. As a political science professor, such reflections always draw me back to Max Weber’s speech “Politics as a Vocation” in which he sought to define the calling for leadership inits most genuine sense.


Education, Prisons, and Battling Misperceptions

In Massachusetts and across the nation the formerly incarcerated are faced with often-insurmountable obstacles in finding jobs, rebuilding relationships and rejoining communities. The surest way to improve their chances for success is indisputably providing opportunities to pursue a college degree. A college education provides not only skills and credentials, but more importantly, it helps to repair the psychic damage caused by social exclusion.