PULLMAN, Wash.—The social force of racial difference from 1900-1950 and the history of race and science will be explained by Washington State University Professor C. Richard King as he presents the year’s first Common Reading Tuesdays lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, in Todd 116. The public is welcome.

The year-long lecture series features faculty and guest experts who share information on topics raised in the common book in use by thousands of WSU freshmen in dozens of first-year classes across campus. The 2012-13 Common Reading book is the award-winning “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” written by non-fiction science writer Rebecca Skloot.  It is about Lacks and her “immortal cell line” known as HeLa, derived from the first letters of her names.

Cervical cancer cells were taken from her without her knowledge prior to her death at 31 in 1951 for use in scientific research. HeLa cells were used to test the first polio vaccine in the 1950s, and since have been used worldwide for research into cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, gene mapping, and much more. The book was published in 2010 and also covers the lives of Lacks’ five children and raises issues about racism, scientific ethics, poverty, and cancer, among others.

“My presentation seeks to put Henrietta Lacks in context and places a special emphasis on issues of race and racism,” says King. “Ultimately, the presentation will deepen understandings of Lacks and her lingering relevance for us.”

A professor of comparative ethnic studies, King researches the racial politics of culture with special interests in the theories of race and racism, white supremacist movements and ideologies, and the forms of memory, representation, identity, and power animating race relations. He teaches many core courses in his department, and has teaching interests that involve the intersections of race, culture, and power. He regularly offers courses in the area of Native American studies and cultural studies, and is developing new courses on race and racism in a global context and race/culture/power in the Pacific Northwest.

King has been on faculty at WSU since 2002 and has served in numerous leadership positions; he recently completed a term as chair of the Dept. of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to WSU he was on faculty at Drake University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Kansas. His bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from Kansas and his doctoral degree from Illinois; all are in anthropology.

The Common Reading Program is a program in the University College at WSU. For more information and upcoming events and speakers, visit http://CommonReading.wsu.edu .


 

SOURCE: Karen Weathermon, Co-Director, WSU Common Reading Program in the University College at WSU, 509-335-5448, kweathermon@wsu.edu

MEDIA: Beverly Makhani, Communications, University College at WSU, 509-335-6679, Makhani@wsu.edu