Keynote Speakers



Dr. Elisabeth Anker

“We Go Low”

How might aspirations to freedom that seem debased, inferior, or bad examples actually offer inspiring visions of free action? This talk will explore freedoms found outside expected places like organized social movements, heroic figures of courage, or vaunted revolutionary practices, and identify them with the phrase “We Go Low”. We Go Low is not (only) a challenge to aspirational visions encapsulated in the iconic phrase We Go High, visions of freedom positioned as politically righteous and morally superior to their opponents. We Go High is taken as shorthand for a democratic politics that imagines roads to equality and freedom unstained by the manipulative, sleazy, and norm-upending strategies of one’s opponents. Yet Going High is a block to real emancipatory visions and possibilities, as it refuses impure methods, stymies lived experiences of moral and political ambivalence, and remains within current narrow standards of acceptability that always benefit elites. We Go Low, by contrast, advocates for shared aspirations toward a free and democratic world that willingly traffic in the muck, in the uncivilized, or in spaces of ill repute. This talk will sketch a positive theory of Going Low and examine contemporary aspirations to freedom that take the low road.

Photo of Elisabeth Anker

Elisabeth Anker is Professor of American Studies and Political Science at George Washington University. She researches formations of power, violence, and freedom at the crossroads of political theory and American culture. She is the author of Ugly Freedoms (Duke, 2022), which won honorable mention for the John Hope Franklin Prize for the Best Book in American Studies, and Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom (Duke 2014). She currently serves as co-editor of the journal Theory & Event, and she frequently comments on current events for international television.



Dr. Julie Sze

“Climate Justice Now!”

photo of Julie Sze

Julie Sze is Professor of American Studies and the Founding Director of the Environmental Justice Project at UC Davis. She has authored 3 books (Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice, Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis and most recently in 2020, Environmental Justice in a Moment of Danger). She edited Sustainability: Approaches to Environmental Justice and Social Power (2018) and has written over 65 articles and book chapters and actively works in interdisciplinary collaborations and with community-based organizers in California and New York.