"The LA Riots: Twenty Years Later" is a two-day event bringing together leading scholars, activists, and artists to look back at—and forward from—the LA Riots. The conference will combine a critical retrospective examination of the uprising with reflections on democracy and inequity today, a time of economic crisis and revolution in much of the world. Read More...

Friday, April 27th

Tsai Auditorium
CGIS South Building
Room S-010 
1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

4:30 p.m. - Film Screening and Director Q&A
Screening of "Sa-I-Gu" Q&A with director Dai Sil Kim-Gibson
Saturday, April 28th

Thompson Room
Barker Center
12 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA 02138


9:30-10:00 a.m. Coffee

10:00-10:30 a.m. Introductory Remarks - Evelyn Higginbotham

10:30-11:30 a.m. Special Guest Appearance - David Banner (More information on David Banner's Activism)

11:30-1:00 p.m. Panel 1 - "Collective Memory"
Biodun Jeyifo, Lewis Gordon, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, Min Hyoung Song, Nigel Gibson,
Arthur Kleinman

1:00-2:30 p.m. Lunch and Media Presentations
Presentations by Harvard College students from the Spring 2012 courses
Economic Rights and Wrongs (Anthropology 1713), Gangsters and
Troublesome Populations (Anthropology 1682), and Interracial
Encounters in Contemporary Ethnic American Narratives (English 90ea)

2:30-4:00 p.m. Panel 2 - “Collective Action”
James Sidanius, Elizabeth Wong, Luisa Heredian, Christine Rebet, Gopal Balakrishnan, Jacqueline Bhabha

4:15-4:30 p.m. Keynote Introduction - Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

4:30-6:00 p.m. Keynote - Patricia Williams

6:00-7:30 p.m. Reception and Closing Remarks - Kerry Chance, Ju Yon Kim,
Laurence Ralph; Performance - Hoop Suite Youth Poets: Deisha Lee, Khelyia Serrano, Daniel Rivera, Jasmine Cadet


The recent riots in London, the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, the murder of Oscar Grant by Bay Area Transit police in 2010, the uprisings across Africa and the Middle East collectively termed “the Arab Spring,” and encampments like “Occupy Wall Street” all urge us to consider how a comparative analysis with the L.A. Riots might stimulate insights into popular politics and civil unrest in the U.S. and beyond.

On April 29, 1992, the Los Angeles Riots began. Thousands of people stormed the streets following the verdict that acquitted four police officers who kicked and beat a black motorist, Rodney King, within an inch of his life.

The incident, captured on a video recording lasting roughly ten minutes, was beamed out on television screens across the nation. In the intervening days, tensions ran high between Korean American shop owners and African American patrons.

By the time the uprising came to an end, property damages totaled nearly $1 billion, 53 people had died, and more than 2,000 people were injured. The National Guard was deployed to occupy L.A., and U.S. Marines patrolled the streets enforcing a curfew.

The L.A. Riots were monumental precisely for what they revealed about the fragility of American democracy and, more broadly, about the social fractures that emerge in conditions of political and economic inequity.

Almost a decade before President George W. Bush waged the “War Against Terrorism,” his father had promised to root out the “random terror” embodied by “looters” in L.A. Yet for others who watched the city burn, block-by-block, business-by-business, there were many difficult questions that needed to be answered.

How do the news media and viewing publics distinguish between protest and lawlessness? What is the process by which the body being injured becomes itself the source of danger? How does a Korean American-owned shop come to stand in for ethnic antagonisms and governmental neglect, even as it falls to ashes?

In a similar vein, ongoing financial crises, along with corporate restructuring and government deregulation, have forced poor and working class families across the globe to bear the brunt of the socioeconomic disparities that are increasingly affecting how ordinary people experience daily life and participate in the public sphere.

In the spirit of the diverse groups in Los Angeles who united with each other to fight against racial oppression and the scapegoating that followed the 1992 uprising, this symposium invites guest speakers, students and Harvard University faculty across academic fields to discuss the legacy of this event.

Sponsored by:

The Provost Fund for Interfaculty Collaboration
The Department of African and African American Studies
The Korea Institute
The Anthropology Department
The Committee on Ethnic Studies
The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute
The Hip Hop Archive

For further information, please contact:
Kerry Chance (kchance@fas.harvard.edu)
Laurence Ralph (lralph@fas.harvard.edu)
Ju Yon Kim (juyonkim@fas.harvard.edu)

2012 President & Fellows of Harvard College | Harvard University