Agora Speaker Series: Politics, Social Movements, and the Law

September 29, 2017 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Location and Address

208B Cathedral of Learning

Directions and Parking Information

Garage and street parking available

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Schedule of Events

“Bound by Heredity: Disability and Reproductive Justice in Buck v. Bell”

"One decision that I wrote gave me pleasure, establishing the constitutionality of a law permitting the sterilization of imbeciles," wrote Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in a letter to a friend after the Supreme Court ruling of Buck v. Bell. In 1927, Holmes penned the majority opinion in the 8-1 ruling that legalized forced sterilization of those with disabilities across the United States. At the heart of Buck v. Bell is Carrie Buck, a poor girl who became pregnant after being sexually assaulted and was institutionalized at the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded on the grounds of disability. After the ruling, Buck would become the first person legally sterilized under the new Virginia law. Given Buck v. Bell's historical significance as a legal precedent referenced during the Nuremberg Trials and Roe v. Wade, this project demonstrates that Buck v. Bell is a legal case in which gender becomes tied to disability to strip women of their reproductive rights and redefine who is worthy of citizenship. To forward this argument, I claim that dueling dramas appear in Holmes' opinion, one focused on dehumanizing Buck and the other focused on Holmes, whose good citizenship and role as arbiter of Justice allows him to condemn the likes of Carrie Buck. In the present moment where politicians consistently challenge women's reproductive freedom, Buck v. Bell offers insight into parallel conversations of the past.


Hillary Ash
“Youth Sexting, Child Pornography Law, and the First Amendment: Toward an Alternative Media Production and Distribution Model for Evaluating Youth Sexual Expression”

The transmission of sexually explicit images via digital communication devices, or "sexting," has become a common mode of sexual expression in the United States. Youths who sext with their peers are sometimes charged for the crime of producing and distributing child pornography. Such charges are inconsistent with the intent of child pornography law, which is to protect children from abuse and exploitation. This essay identifies three ways in which the production and distribution of youths' sext messages may differ from the production and distribution of child pornography, and offers an alternative standard for assessing the potential harm of youth sexting.


Alvin Primack
“Why Do Social Movements Fail? An Analysis of Occupy Cal and Robert Reich’s Mario Savio Memorial Lecture”

This paper seeks to use the Derridean idea of the trace to explain why so many social movements fail at altering meaning in the way that Michael Calvin McGee argues is necessary. I analyze an address by Robert Reich to Occupy Cal and the greater student body at the general strike to show that Occupy Cal understood itself through association to already assimilated meaning rather than radically seeking to alter it.