Acclaimed scholar of race, gender, and law, Dr. Dorothy Roberts delivered the 2022 Howard B. Schonberger Peace and Justice Lecture this past spring.
Roberts’s lecture — introduced and facilitated by Bruce King, co-executive director of Maine Inside Out — was titled “Family Surveillance” and drew from Roberts’ forthcoming book, “Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families — and “How Abolition Can Build a Safer World” (Basic Books, 2022). Roberts’ talk argued that the U.S. child welfare system is a state apparatus that investigates, supervises and terrorizes Black families to control them, not to protect their children, describing how warrantless home investigations, monitoring of families by state agents, civilians deputized to report on parents and coerced compliance with agency dictates reflect a carceral logic with parallels in the criminal punishment system. State Child Protective Services authorities increasingly use modern surveillance technologies and coordinate with law enforcement agencies to manage regulated populations more efficiently. Family policing should therefore be a focus of critiques of the prison industrial complex and part of the movement to abolish it.
Dorothy Roberts’ pathbreaking work in law and public policy focuses on urgent social justice issues in policing, family regulation, science, medicine and bioethics. Her major books include “Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century” (New Press, 2011); “Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare” (Basic Books, 2002), and “Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty” (Pantheon, 1997). She is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as a co-editor of six books on such topics as constitutional law and women and the law.
The annual Howard B. Schonberger Peace and Social Justice Lecture honors Schonberger’s legacy as a UMaine professor of history and an activist scholar before his death in 1991. At UMaine, his interests included U.S. foreign policy during war and periods of colonialism and imperialism, and the struggles for democracy and democratic socialism at home and abroad.
This event was part of the Spring 2022 History Symposium Series and was co-sponsored by the Maine Scholars Strategy Network; the Center for the Arts and Humanities at Colby College; UMaine’s Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies; the UMaine School of Social Work; the UMaine Department of Sociology; the UMaine Socialist and Marxist Studies Lecture Series; and the University of Maine School of Law.
Watch the Lecture