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Patricia J. Williams


Patricia J. Williams is a graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard Law School. She began her career practicing law as a consumer advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Los Angeles. Upon leaving practice, she served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin School of Law, Harvard University Women’s Studies Program, and CUNY Law School at Queen’s College. Since 1992, she has been the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law.

She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Northeastern University School of Law, John Jay College of the City University of New York, the College of Wooster, Smith College, and Old Dominion University. She has received numerous awards, including from from her alma maters—an Outstanding Alumna Award from Latin School in Boston, an Alumnae Achievement Award from Wellesley College, and a Graduate Society Medal from Harvard.

Her book The Alchemy of Race and Rights was named one of the twenty-five best books of 1991 by the Voice Literary Supplement; one of the “feminist classics of the last twenty years” that “literally changed women’s lives” by Ms. magazine; and one of the ten best non-fiction books of the decade by Other books include The Rooster’s Egg (Harvard Press, 1995), Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1998), and Open House: On Family, Food, Piano Lessons, and The Search for a Room of My Own (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2004).

Professor Williams has appeared on radio and television shows around the world, and in 1997 delivered the annual Reith Lectures for the BBC, Radio Four. She has appeared in a number of documentary films, including “That Rush!” which she wrote and narrated. Directed by British film-maker Isaac Julien, this short study of American talk show hosts was featured as part of an installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London.

She has held fellowships at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth, the Humanities Research Institute of the University of California at Irvine, the Institute for Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In 2000, she was named a MacArthur fellow.

  • Internet and New Media March 31, 2006

    Jeu de Vivre

    The real world is becoming more like a computer game every day. I worry that the computer itself is breeding little cyberhumans who will wander among us, sucking the humanity out of our ears.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Higher Education March 16, 2006

    Truth or Consequences

    OK, kids: With conservatives on the hunt for dangerous left-wing academics, take this SAT (Save America from Treachery) test. See if you can tell the difference between a terrorist and a truth-teller. First prize: A three-day getaway in Baghdad. Fail and go to jail.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Globalization March 2, 2006

    Perfect Knowledge, Perfect Ignorance

    The Dubai flap is no surprise, considering Bush always promised to run America like a corporation--even if the corporation is Enron.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • History February 16, 2006

    Emotional Truth

    In a DNA-driven search for biological roots, it behooves us to be less romantic about connecting with our ancestors. If we biologize our history, we will be forever less than we could be.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Covert Ops February 2, 2006

    All the King’s Horses…

    Worry about the CIA's new Open Source Center, which aims to piece together all sorts of unclassified information to create a broad picture of where trouble is likely to arise.

    Patricia J. Williams

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  • Journalists and Journalism January 19, 2006

    Foggy Bottom

    If we are suspending the law in deference to Bush's unchecked impulses, let's call it by its proper name: Benign lawlessness? Gitmo Governance? Fear Factor?

    Patricia J. Williams

  • National Security January 5, 2006

    Pandora’s Box

    A deep planetary insecurity has fostered a rush to build boundaries around ourselves--psychic green zones--no matter how irrational, separating white from black or brown, Christian from Muslim, European from Arab.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Journalists and Journalism December 1, 2005

    Killing the Messenger

    It's one thing for our State Department to plant phony stories in the media or jam broadcasts in Cuba. It's quite another for conservative policy analyst Frank Gaffney bolster's George Bush's grudge against Al Jazeera by arguing that it was "imperative that enemy media be taken down."

    Patricia J. Williams

  • November 17, 2005

    Unholy Wars

    The conduct of the war in Iraq has embarrassed us, lowered us, endangered us and betrayed our best ideals. The debasement of our soldiers and the lawlessness of our leaders is shocking, merciless and infinitely destabilizing.

    Patricia J. Williams

  • Education November 3, 2005

    Genes, Genius, Genies

    The right has ushered in a moment of cult celebrity for the pre-born. But let's not be seduced by this idea of personhood. Remember the poor and not-so-perfect post-born children of America? Aren't they persons, too?

    Patricia J. Williams