Noliwe Rooks

Part of our SNF Agora Seminars, Spring 2021 Series
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  • Noliwe Rooks
  • Africana Studies and American Studies, Cornell University
  • “‘They Tried to Kill Us With Their Democracy, So We Fought Them With Ours’: A Story of Segrenomics, Racism, and Health in the Battle for Education in Detroit”

The heart of this talk is a question about what social policy would look like if it were crafted with a view toward ensuring the social, mental, emotional, and physical health of those most deeply impacted by it. It is organized around a construct Rooks is developing called “Killing Cures,” or policies that can harm citizens as often as they fix what is broken in democratic societies, and focuses on an 84-year-old civil rights activist, Helen Moore, whose quote is in the title of this talk, her relationships with a group of teenage education equity activists, and their long running battle against state and local government officials who abolished their school board and took control of the school district in Detroit. It argues that at almost every turn of the decades long battle, if officials had seen inclusion and health as key elements of their policy proscriptions, things would have turned out very differently. It ends by asking that we consider the intersections of segrenomics, racism, and health as we envision an inclusive future.


Visit the SNF Agora Seminars, Spring 2021 page to see the full schedule.


Noliwe Rooks headshotAn interdisciplinary scholar, Noliwe Rooks is the W.E.B Du Bois Professor at Cornell University. Her work explores how race and gender both impact and are impacted by popular culture, social history and political life in the United States. She works on the cultural and racial implications of beauty, fashion and adornment; race, capitalism and education, and the urban politics of food and cannabis production.

The author of four books and numerous articles, essays and op ed’s, Rooks has received research funding from the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson School among others. She lectures frequently at colleges and universities around the country and is a regular contributor to popular outlets such as The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Chronicle of Higher Education, Time Magazine and NPR.

Rooks’ current book, in which she coined the term “segrenomics,” is Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education which won an award for non-fiction from the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Her current research, for which she has received a Kaplan Fellowship and a fellowship from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, will explore relationships between capitalism, land, urban food politics and cannabis legalization in the United States.

She is a professor in Africana Studies, the director of American Studies, an affiliated faculty member in the Center for Inequality Studies, a Faculty Fellow in the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and a member of the core faculty in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies.