University Unveils Long-Awaited Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration

by Arturo Pineda

On February 16th, President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak announced the establishment of a Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration (RITM). The new center will continue the work of the Ethnicity, Race, & Migration Program by focusing on the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality but aim to further the research of Native and diasporic communities across the world.

This announcement is the realization of Salovey’s November 17th promise of such a center in his response email to demands from students and pressure from faculty.

Professor Pitti will serve as the inaugural director of the center and chair the center’s implementation committee. Other universities have similar centers for the study of specific “ethnic and racialized populations,” Pitti said, but Yale’s center is distinctly organized to take on the many intersections across groups.

“Many of them don’t have a concern about gender or sexuality written into their primary mission and most of them are quite national in their focus, which is to say they are almost exclusively the United States,” he wrote in an email. “I think we have an opportunity to do something very different.”

Through not a direct acquiescence to Next Yale’s demand for the establishment of an ethnic studies department, many are optimistic for the potential influence the center could have, as a point of reference on Yale’s campus is the well funded Whitney Humanities Center.

The committee will be comprised of a team of professors across departments including American Studies, Sociology, African American Studies, and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Professor Hazel Carby, a member of the implementation committee, also emphasized the importance of student activism in this achievement.

“We have been making the argument for a center like this for many, many years,” she said. “This center is evidence of the power of the students…it wasn’t until the student protests that our claims were taken seriously.”

She said she hopes the administration will supply the center with a firm endowment and commitment to it’s success, as Brown University did to demonstrate the university’s acknowledgement and respect for these historically devalued fields.

The center will begin its major programming in the Fall of 2016.

The implementation committee is comprised of: Elijah Anderson (Professor of Sociology), Ned Blackhawk (Professor of American Studies and History), David Blight (Professor of American History and Director of Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale), Hazel Carby (Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies, African Studies, and Director of the Initiative on Race Gender and Globalization), Inderpal Grewal (Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; of American Studies; and of Anthropology), Mary Lui (Professor of American Studies, History, and Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Master of Timothy Dwight College), and Jock Reynolds (Director of the Yale University Art Gallery).