Making a Just Society | Research + Insight
 


Melissa Nobles; photo by Justin Knight

"Whatever our background, a fair and viable justice system must be one of the bedrocks of American democracy."

Melissa Nobles, Professor of Political Science; Kenan Sahin Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences


JUST SOCIETY HOMEPAGE


 

Where do we go from here?

 

Melissa Nobles, Tracey Meares | On the legacy of segregation 
Police brutalities and the Black Lives Matter movement are illuminating the differences that white Americans and Americans of color experience in their everyday lives. Melissa Nobles, Professor of Political Science, and Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, speaks with Yale Professor of Law Tracey Meares about the historical and structural forces at work.
Story + Video

Sandy Alexandre, Literature  | MIT Vigil
Insight, analysis, and inspiration from Professsor Alexandre speaking at the MIT Vigil responding to racism and systemic injustice in the US.
Alexandre remarks begin at 47:46
| Alexandre webpage

Malick Ghachem, History | MIT Vigil
Insight and guidance for movement success from Professor Ghachem, speaking at the MIT Vigil responding to racism and systemic injustice in the U.S.
Ghachem remarks begin at 40:41 | Ghachem webpage

Ariel White, Political Science | With ten leading scholars of race and policing
An extraordinary conversation among ten leading scholars of race, policing, and the U.S. criminal justice system — convened and led by Hakeen Jefferson, of Stanford, and including Ariel White, MIT Assistant Professor of Political Science (speaking at 25.49 & 1:08:07).
Conversation on Justice | Ariel White website | Hakeen Jefferson website (Stanford)

SEII, Economics | Studying school quality to increase equality
Education has long been perceived as a great leveler in the United States, but in time of growing economic inequality, millions now wonder if schools can still be a platform for success. Via the School Efficiency and Inequality Initiative (SEII), MIT economists conduct research that informs education policy in major U.S. cities.  
Story at MIT News  |  SEII website
 

Melissa Nobles, Dean and Professor of Political Science at MIT

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY | RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

Unearthing the stories of yesterday’s George Floyds
 

"When we call the victims’ descendants to share our findings, they tell us ‘I never thought I’d get this call.’ The scars remain, and luckily, because we have found documents, so does proof." — Melissa Nobles, MIT Kenan Sahin Dean and Professor of Political Science, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Portrait of Helen Elaine Lee

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Everyone's work
 

Professor of Writing Helen Elaine Lee calls for more engagement in creating racial justice.

portrait of Professor Eric Klopfer

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

The mask is a badge of honor | Eric Klopfer
Comparative Media Studies
 

"In this pandemic era, what a mask really says is, ‘I care about YOU.’ The mask indicates that you are protecting the health of others during a crisis."

Protest Mask: I Can't Breathe

THE MEANINGS OF MASKS

A collective cry for justice | Graham M. Jones
Anthropology
 

"The mask is one of the most important human artifacts in all of anthropology. It is a tool of transformation that allows its wearers to transcend themselves, taking on timeless roles in ritual dramas, and as actors in a broader social drama."

CMSW emblem

RACIAL EQUITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

A Path Forward
 

Statement from the faculty of the MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing program

Portrait of Professor of History Malick Ghachem

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Voices from the MIT Community Vigil
 

Historian Malick Ghachem delivers remarks on a divided moment.

portrait of Professor Sandy Alexandre

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Words + Words + Words
 

Sandy Alexandre, Associate Professor of Literature, honors and thanks all of the justice-seeking words that came before our 2020 ones.

Portrait of anthropologist Manduhai Buhandelger

EDUCATION

An ethnology of disruptions in Cambridge, MA
 

At American Ethnologist, MIT anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger tracks racism, virtual realities, and world building in Cambridge during the Covid-19 pandemic

MIT political scientist Ariel White

VOTING AND DEMOCRACY

3Q: Ariel White on the impact of incarceration on voting
 

"The story here is not just about whether people are legally allowed to vote, but about whether they are practically able to vote, whether they know they're allowed to vote, and whether they think they have any reason to do so."

Marc Aidinoff

VOICES OF MIT SHASS GRADUATE STUDENTS

Meet Marc Aidinoff, PhD candidate
 

"What does it mean when civil rights become about access to computers and the Internet? When lack of Internet access is considered a form of poverty? These questions were getting under my skin. I wanted to know how social and economic policy were tied to changing ideas about technology."

21ST CENTURY CITIZENSHIP

The world as we think the world should be | Meet theater director Charlotte Brathwaite
 

Charlotte Brathwaite's theater works in response to today's culture of violence violence is inspired by James Baldwin's message of universal love: "If I love you," he said, "I have to make you conscious of the things you do not see."

D. Fox Harrell, MIT Professor of Digital Media and Artificial Intelligence

ETHICS, COMPUTING, AND AI | PERSPECTIVES FROM MIT

A Dream of Computing | D. Fox Harrell

"We must be vigilant stewards of the future of computing at MIT. We must reimagine our shared dreams for computing technologies as ones where their potential social and cultural impacts are considered intrinsic to the engineering practices of inventing them."

Young women at the Women's March in Washington DC

ELECTION INSIGHTS 2018

Helen Elaine Lee | On Women Candidates of Color

"A record number of women have filed as candidates this year, and a record number have won primaries in House and Senate races. Even if these milestones don’t result in a slew of wins in November, these candidates have changed established notions of what is possible."

Thomas Piketty

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

At MIT, Thomas Piketty calls for policies to reduce worldwide inequalities
 

Globalization and the expanding ranks of the educational elite have contributed to the rise in inequality worldwide, but political policy changes can impact these trends, French economist Thomas Piketty told a packed house at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium on Tuesday, July 31.

21st C. CITIZENSHIP | LEGACY OF SLAVERY

The Task of History

MIT historians discuss the power of historical knowledge to help make a better world.

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

MIT and the Legacy of Slavery Project
Stories, Videos, Community Dialogue
 

“I believe the work of this class is important to the present — and to the future. Something I have always loved about the MIT community is that we seek, and we face, facts. What can history teach us now, as we work to invent the future? How can we make sure that the technologies we invent will contribute to making a better world for all?"   — L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT

Q&A with economic historian Anne McCants
On the link between innovation and opportunity
 

"Economic history viewed on a very long timescale tells us that innovation and population size/density are highly correlated. A shorter time horizon tells us that population size alone is not enough. Rather, it is in populations where lots of people are both permitted and capable of 'having a go,' where innovation thrives best."

photo of Jamelle Bouie, Slate editor

21ST CENTURY CITIZENSHIP

Race and Racism in the 2016 Election

Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie joins MIT’s Seth Mnookin to explore how race and ethnicity framed the election.

3 Questions with historian Malick Ghachen
On finding root causes: how history helps us solve today's issues
 

"One of the principal ways historians contribute to problem-solving work at MIT and elsewhere is by helping to identify what the real problem is in the first place. When we understand and articulate the roots and sources of a problem, we have a much better chance of actually solving it." 

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Racism, Violence, and Democracy
 

Video of a panel discussion on November 16, 2016,​ sponsored by the MIT SHASS Center for International Studies.

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Screening of the film "13th"
 

America makes up 5% of the world's population, yet locks up 25% of the world's prisoners. Ava DuVernay's acclaimed film "13th" explores how we got here. Screening sponsored by MIT SHASS Program in Women and Gender Studies

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Election Insights 2016 | John Tirman on Immigration

 

"Negative attitudes toward immigrants have many roots. The economy and 'job stealing' have often ranked high on the list of grievances, but several studies — including one just released by the National Academy of Sciences — demonstrate that immigrants of all kinds boost the U.S. economy overall and hurt few if any native-born Americans. So, what really mobilizes anti-immigrant attitudes?"

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Election Insights: Ariel White on Racial Attitudes and Bias
 

"There's evidence that government is less responsive to people of color. In my work with Julie Faller and Noah Nathan, we have found that election officials are less likely to respond to informational questions about voting eligibility when they're sent from Hispanic-sounding names than when they're sent by non-Hispanic white names. These officials didn't respond rudely to Hispanic questioners; they simply didn't write back as often, and didn't answer their questions as well." 

BUILDING COMMUNITY

My Sister's Keeper builds community for black women at MIT
 

"Being a black woman at MIT is a very particular experience. To compare that with others going through that is very powerful and uplifting," said Itoro Atakpa, a senior in mechanical engineering. My Sister's Keeper supports black women students with social, professional, and mentoring relationships.

HEALTH CARE | EQUITY

3 Questions with political scientist Andrea Campbell
Healthcare is both a political and a technical issue
 

"Any initiative to address health and health care goals must wrestle with and address the enormous disparities that exist in health coverage, access, and outcomes across racial and income groups in the United States. It’s as if poor or black Americans are living in a different country, and in terms of poverty, health insurance, and health care access, effectively they are. This is a political and social problem as much as a technical one." 

RESEARCH TO POLICY | ADVANCING JUSTICE

3 Questions | Melissa Nobles on advancing racial and restorative justice
 

Melissa Nobles, Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and Professor of Political Science, researches historical injustices in democracies. MIT SHASS Communications spoke with Nobles in 2015 about the ongoing aftermath of shooting deaths in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland, and what her research suggests about the current efforts to advance civil rights in America.

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates dazzles during two years as Visiting Scholar
 

“What I tell my students is that you here at MIT have access to great knowledge—more knowledge than 99.9 percent of people who have ever been on planet Earth, and I think you have some sort of moral duty to learn how to communicate that. Knowledge is power; power shouldn’t be hoarded.”

MAKING A JUST SOCIETY

Q&A with Philosopher Sally Haslanger: What is "natural," and what is "social?"
 

Professor of philosophy and Director of Women's and Gender Studies at MIT, Sally Haslanger recently published Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (Oxford University Press), a collection of essays on gender and race. We caught up with her to talk about the rich ideas in her most recent book.