Raven Foundation Lecture

Introduction by Suzanne Ross

Good evening. I’m Suzanne Ross, co-founder with my husband Keith of the Raven Foundation. Our mission is to broaden awareness of mimetic theory among non-academic audiences we do that primarily through our online magazine, the Raven ReView. You know that blank look you get from your aunt or cousin when you tell them that you do research in mimetic theory? That blank look is our bread and butter! Our website hosts introductions to mimetic theory for your aunt; for your cousin. The Raven ReView provides social commentary on polarizing issues using mimetic theory to raise awareness of scapegoating and to nudge our readers out of “us vs. them” mentalities. And for anyone using social media platforms, our presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube encourages users to vent their rage on actual punching bags rather than demonizing some hateful other. Our goal is make the incredible explanatory and transformative power of mimetic theory accessible to everyone. So, the next time you get that blank look, please direct that gaze in the Raven Foundation’s direction.

Our work promoting mimetic theory is utterly dependent on your work, the scholars dedicated to developing and applying mimetic theory. You are the brains behind our operation. We couldn’t be more proud of our partnership with COV&R and by the opportunity to endow a Raven Foundation lecture. Our aim is to feature scholars who are highly respected by their peers and able to connect with audiences beyond academic circles. And so, it is with great pleasure that we bring you Professor Laura Kipnis who has not only written insightfully about scapegoating and scandal but has the unfortunate honor of being able to do so from a personal and very public experience.

In 2015, she dared to reflect in print for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the new sexual harassment guidelines at Northwestern University where she was and remains a professor in the Department of Radio/TV/Film. Professor Kipnis questioned the premise of predatory professors and vulnerable students that appeared to drive the need for the guidelines. To her surprise she became the subject of a Title IX investigation for writing the article and was condemned by fellow feminists and student activists alike.

Professor Kipnis’ work focuses on, as she puts it, “sexual politics, aesthetics, emotion, acting out, bad behavior, and various other crevices of the American psyche”. Her latest book, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, was prompted by the Title IX investigation and the essay that started the trouble, “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” and was included in The Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen. Her six previous books, which include Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, How to Become A Scandal, and Against Love: A Polemic, have been translated into fifteen languages. Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Professor Laura Kipnis.