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Representation Matters

How can we be more civically engaged? Why does representation matter? Join us for a series of conversations with scholars and leaders working in diverse fields–from journalism to law–about the importance of representation in our democracy. These  events are FREE and will include time for live Q&A with the community.

Representation Matters is made possible in part by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the A More Perfect Union Initiative. 

Register for Events Now!

LGBTQ+ Representation in the Media, Part 2 with David Boyles
December 7, 6:00pm AZ Time

Check back soon for registration details!

Missed the first conversation? Watch the recording below.

Watch Recordings of Past Events Now!

LGBTQ+ Representation in the Media, Then and Now with David Boyles

Across the country, battles are being fought about the exposure of young people to LGBTQ+ representation in schools. Some schools have Gay-Straight Alliance clubs and other activities, so that all young people are represented and engaged. Other schools argue that this is harmful to young people, and expressly ban books, topics and discussions that represent the LGBTQ+ community. Shouldn’t schools represent all types of young people and family structures? What happens when they do not? How is the health and welfare of young people impacted by identity politics? Join us for a talk with David Boyles as we examine together the history of the representation of the LGBTQ+ community from the 1970’s to the present in the media and popular culture, and consider the politization of conversations in the classroom. How can we learn to acknowledge the identity of LGBTQ+ youth and have meaningful conversations across political divides?

David Boyles (pronouns: he/they) teaches writing and rhetoric at Arizona State University, where they also developed the Discovery Seminar course, “Speaking OUT: LGBTQ+ Youth in Pop Culture and Politics.” They are co-founder and president of Drag Story Hour Arizona and were honored for their contributions to the Phoenix LGBTQ+ community with the 2022 Phoenix Pride John Bircumshaw Community Spirit Award. They are also the author of the recently published Young Adult novel Life is a Banquet.

The State of Democracy and The Pursuit of Justice with Masha Gessen
Watch the recording on ASU Live here.

This program was hosted by the ASU School of Social Transformation in partnership with the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and Arizona Humanities. 

History in Real Time: Asian Americans Fight Back in the Age of COVID with Renee Tajima-Peña

Join Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker and activist Renee Tajima-Peña as she connects the rise of anti-Asian violence with the history of Asians in the United States: facing hate, fighting for justice, and shaping the American story. Learn more about the untold stories of the Asian American experience with Renee and Arizona Humanities. 

Renee Tajima-Peña chronicles the American scene through documentary films that tell the story of immigrant communities, race, gender, and social justice. Her films include Who Killed Vincent Chin? My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha, Calavera Highway, Skate Manzanar, Labor Women, No Más Bebés. She is the series producer and showrunner of the PBS docuseries, Asian Americans, which explores the Asian American experience. Her work has screened at worldwide film festivals and venues such as Cannes, Hawaii, Hong Kong, London, New Directors/New Films, Sundance, and the Whitney Biennial. She has been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, USA Broad Fellowship, and the Alpert Award in the Arts, among many others. Renee also co-founded the May 19 Project, a social media campaign focusing on the legacy of AAPI solidarity with other communities. Renee is currently Professor of Asian American Studies at UCLA, where she is director of the Center for EthnoCommunications and holds an endowed chair in Japanese American studies.

Civic Participation in Our Democracy–Is Citizenship Required? with Angela Banks

The Representation Matters series promotes civic education and encourages program participants to be engaged citizens. But who gets to be a citizen? Millions of immigrants are woven into the fabric of increasingly diverse communities across our country. Although many lack citizenship status, they participate in the economic, political, and social life of our democracy. How should we define national membership during times of significant migration? What are the boundaries of citizenship? What does participation in our democracy look like beyond citizenship status? Join us for a conversation with ASU Law Professor Angela Banks about the history of citizenship and explore the variety of forms of membership in our democracy.

Angela Banks is the Charles J. Merriam Distinguished Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law at Arizona State University. Prior to joining ASU, she was Professor of Law at William & Mary School of Law. Professor Banks is an expert on immigration and citizenship. Her research focuses on membership and belonging in democratic societies, and her work has appeared in numerous law review journals. She is the author of Civic Education in the Age of Mass Migration: Implications for Theory and Practice, which offers educators an inclusive approach to teaching civic education in diverse classrooms and a new way to conceptualize membership in our democracy regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

Petitioning for Freedom: Habeas Corpus in the American West with Dr. Katrina Jagodinsky

Throughout history the U.S. legal system has controlled and regulated the lives of people in marginalized communities. Perhaps less known is that some people were able to successfully challenge these injustices using the very same legal system. Petitioners have opposed enslavement, deportation, federal Indian agents and much more, using the constitutional protection of habeas corpus. What is habeas corpus? How did Black, Indigenous, and immigrant petitioners in the American West, including Arizona, effectively use this legal right in the 19th and early 20th century? What impact does habeas corpus have today? Join us as Dr. Katrina Jagodinsky explores stories of people petitioning for freedom in the U.S.  


Katrina Jagodinsky is Associate Professor of History at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Her research examines the lives and legal history of marginalized people in the 19th– and 20th-century American West. She has published extensively on the history of Indigenous and mixed-raced women leveraging the American legal system to assert their freedom. Her first book, Legal Codes & Talking Trees: Indigenous Women’s Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946, tells the stories of Indigenous women’s fight to protect themselves and their land within an oppressive legal system. Most recently, Dr. Jagodinsky has received funding from the National Science Foundation for her research project: Petitioning for Freedom: Habeas Corpus in the American West.

Where Do You Live? How Did You Get There?: Housing Segregation in America with Dr. Rashad Shabazz

Everybody needs a place to live, but not everyone gets to live where they want to. Who lives in your neighborhood? Who doesn’t live in your neighborhood? For many decades American cities have been divided by race. This was not caused indirectly by individual or organizational actions or prejudices, but deliberately through laws and policies of local, state and federal governments. Today we can see how a long history of discriminatory housing policies has determined who can purchase and own homes, and where people can live. Beginning in the 1930s, color-coded maps drawn along racial lines, a practice known as redlining, became a tool to regulate who could qualify for home loans. More recently, subprime mortgage practices that targeted minority borrowers leading up to the 2008 housing crisis have continued to define access to homeownership by race. How do these policies impact our lives and communities? Join us for an interactive discussion on the history of housing segregation in the U.S. and its lasting impact on the geography of our cities.


Rashad Shabazz is Associate Professor in the School of Social Transformation and the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning at Arizona State University. His teaching and research include race relations, social justice movements, and the relationship of race and place. He is the expert on how race, sexuality, and gender are informed by geography. With an interdisciplinary approach, his academic work brings together human geography, Black cultural studies, gender studies, and critical prison studies. Dr. Shabazz’s most recent book publication, Spatializing Blackness (2015), examines the impact of carceral power on the geographies of African Americans in Chicago’s South Side.

Unpacking Critical Race Theory with Dr. Rashad Shabazz

The media and the public are abuzz on the topic of critical race theory (CRT). But why now? The concept known as critical race theory has been around for decades. Critics argue that CRT fosters divisions among groups of people. Proponents assert that CRT addresses racial inequalities. What exactly is critical race theory? How did this academic theory born in the 1970s become so widely known today? How does a critical race theory lens impact the way people learn and understand culture and history? Join us for a conversation with Dr. Rashad Shabazz as he unpacks terms, dispels misconceptions, and explains the origins and evolution of critical race theory. 


Rashad Shabazz is Associate Professor in the School of Social Transformation and the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning at Arizona State University. His teaching and research include race relations, social justice movements, and the relationship of race and place. He is the expert on how race, sexuality, and gender are informed by geography. With an interdisciplinary approach, his academic work brings together human geography, Black cultural studies, gender studies, and critical prison studies. Dr. Shabazz’s most recent book publication, Spatializing Blackness (2015), examines the impact of carceral power on the geographies of African Americans in Chicago’s South Side.

News Shift: Working Toward a More Informed Electorate

Never before has the nature of news changed so quickly and dramatically than now, driven by a crumbling economic model, “#FakeNews” attacks, “filter bubbles,” and declining public support. What is the state of journalism today? What is its impact on government and elections? Many forces can threaten or undermine an independent press. What are potential solutions for saving quality journalism for the good of citizens and civic engagement? How can we build a strong and sustainable civic information ecosystem for the sake of our communities and society as a whole? Join us for an important conversation about journalism today, and learn how to become a savvy and discerning media consumer.

About the Speaker:

David Cuillier, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism, president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, and a board member of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona. He is a former newspaper journalist from the Pacific Northwest and served as director of the UA School of Journalism for seven years. He was national president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013-14 and received the organization’s highest honor, the Wells Key, for his work in advocating for press freedom nationally. He has testified three times before Congress regarding the Freedom of Information Act, and is currently editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Civic Information.

Watch the recording here!

From Hollywood Stereotypes to Social Activism: Asian Americans in the Media

Perceptions of Asian Americans have long been shaped by stereotypes perpetuated by the media. We have seen the “model minority,” “asexual nerd,” “sexually submissive mistress,” “tongue-tied immigrant,” and “kung-fu master” portrayals in movies, cartoons, books, and news for decades. These stereotypes reflect historical inaccuracies, and embody racist, sexist and misogynist characterizations of Asian American women and men. How do these negative and reductive media portrayals impact the treatment of Asian people today? Have media stereotypes contributed to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes? How is the Asian American community responding? This virtual talk will examine the history of Asian American stereotypes in the media, from old Hollywood to the present, and explore Asian American activism today.

About the Speaker:

Karen Kuo, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. Her fields of interest include literary and cinematic studies and social and cultural theories of race, gender, and sexuality. Her book, East is West and West is East: Gender, Culture, and Interwar Encounters between Asia and America (Temple University Press, November, 2012) examines the geopolitical imaginaries of US orientalism in film and literature during the interwar period. Her two current projects include an edited anthology on Taiwanese Americans, Remembering the Beautiful Island: Critically Considering Transnational Taiwanese/America, and a monograph on representations and discourses of reproduction and mental illness through Asian/American women’s narratives. Dr. Kuo also actively works within the APA community in Arizona by giving presentations about the role of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in US history and culture.

Watch the recording here!

Who is American? The Story of Chinese Americans in the United States

Chinese Americans have a long and complex history in the United States. Chinese people first immigrated to the U.S. in 1815. Since then they have contributed to all aspects of American life, business, science, arts, culture and more. Despite over a century of contributions Chinese Americans are often still treated as outsiders. When do immigrants become Americans? What does it mean to be an American citizen? Who gets to decide? How has the question of who is American changed over time? Join us as we explore the story of Chinese immigrants and their path to citizenship and civil rights in the United States.

About the Speaker:

Karen J. Leong, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies and Asian Pacific American Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. She received her doctorate in US History from UC Berkeley, and has been at ASU since 1999. Her book, The China Mystique: Pearl S. Buck, Mayling Soong Chiang, Anna May Wong and the Transformation of American Orientalism was published by University of California Press in 2005. As with most of her research and teaching, it explores the intersections of gender, race, class, and nation by analyzing how these three very public women came to represent China to Americans during the 1930s and 40s. Her current research projects address Japanese American experiences in transnational Arizona, federal Japanese American and American Indian relocation policies, and Asian American and Pacific Islander women’s sexual health.

Watch the recording here!

Who Gets to Vote? A Discussion of Voting Rights Today

Dozens of new voting measures have been introduced this year in Arizona and across the country. Why do these voting bills matter? Do they protect or suppress the public’s access to vote in local and national elections? How exactly does the electoral process work, and what will it look like in the future? Join us for a comprehensive examination of voting rights and voting and election laws in the U.S. from the past to present day.

About the Speaker:

Joshua Sellers, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Law in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State UniversityHe received his J.D. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the ASU faculty, he was an Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and a Postdoctoral Fellow in Law and Politics at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. His principal areas of research and teaching are election law, legislation and regulation, constitutional law, and civil procedure. His scholarship has been published or is forthcoming in the NYU Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, and Stanford Law Review, among others.   

Watch the recording here!

Your Vote Counts

The right to vote is fundamental to democracy in the United States. So why is voting in the news every day? Why is voting in local and national elections important? How has the voting process changed over time? What is happening with voting in Arizona? What is the role of the County Recorder in the election process? Join us for a lively conversation with former Maricopa County Recorder, Adrian Fontes. Fontes will discuss the County Recorder’s duties, the registration and voting process, technological changes, and the experience of voters, young and old, from all backgrounds, across Arizona. Can the process be improved? Let’s talk about why voting matters.

About the Speaker:

Adrian Fontes was the 29th Maricopa County Recorder and is an attorney and an Honorably Discharged veteran of the United States Marine Corp. During his term as the Maricopa County Recorder, Fontes saw a half-million voter increase in the county’s voter registration rolls. His efforts to make improvements in the election system resulted in an increase of 600,000 voters in 2020. Fontes has been the recipient of national awards for innovation in technology from the National Association of County Officials and a Clearing House Award from the Federal Election Assistance Commission. Widely recognized for his bipartisanship and dedication to the fundamental rights of voters and ensuring access for all US citizens, Fontes now serves as the Chief Deputy Recorder in Tucson, Arizona.

Watch the recording here!

This program was funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Building Community in a Digital World: A Conversation with Danielle Allen

Moderated by Matthew Whitaker

Social media and the internet have fundamentally changed the way we consume news and interact with each other. Conversations once held face-to-face may now be conducted online, and reach audiences in our own communities, our nation, and the world. How has social media shaped the way we build communities? How has the digital age affected social activism and civic participation? To what degree are social media platforms influencing national dialogue? Some would argue that online movements have led to mainstream visibility and public demands for change, such as police and immigration reform. Others would argue that online movements have contributed to polarization and violence, such as the storming of the U.S. Capitol. Has social media strengthened or weakened democracy in the U.S.? What will civic participation and our democracy look like in the future? Join us for a timely conversation about civic participation in the digital age with Danielle Allen, Harvard University Professor and the Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

About the Speaker:

Danielle Allen is a brilliant and award-winning political theorist. She is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. Allen is widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in ancient Athens and modern America. Allen examines history with a uniquely modern lens. She underscores the historic connection between democracy in the United States and “civic agency,” the bridge to building and shaping communities today that embody diversity and equality. Allen is the 2020 recipient of the prestigious John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, and the author of many books including Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), and Education and Equality (2016). She is the co-editor of the award-winning Education, Justice, and Democracy (2013) and From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age (2015).

About the Moderator:

Matthew Whitaker is a celebrated educator, historian, social justice advocate, and founder of the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, where he taught for 16 years. Whitaker is an expert in U.S. and African American history, race relations, social movements, and cultural competency. Whitaker’s numerous awards for teaching/training excellence include the 2016 DLA Diversity and Inclusion Award, ASU’s 2015 Pioneer Award for work on African American life and culture, and 2014 DLA Inclusive Workplace Award. Whitaker speaks throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has been featured on CNN, NPR, and PBS. His books include Hurricane Katrina: America’s Unnatural Disaster, Race Work: The Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West, and his forthcoming memoir, The Undisputed Truth: A Revolutionary Journey to Black Manhood.

Recording not available for this event. 

This program was funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.