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The Emperor's New Clothes

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 25 February 1997

This year's Reith lecturer is Professor Patricia Williams, one of the most well known intellectuals in American law. She served as a deputy city attorney from 1976-1978 in the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and as Staff Attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Angeles. She has been affiliated with Columbia University Law School since 1991, and has also taught at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and at the City University of New York in Queens. Professor Williams has published widely in the areas of race, gender, and law, and on other issues of legal theory and legal writing. Her highly regarded first book, "The Alchemy of Race and Rights: A Diary of a Law Professor" is an autobiographical work that illuminates some of America's most complex problems.

In her first lecture, Professor Patricia Williams examines how the issue of colour remains so powerfully determinative of everything from life circumstance to manner of death, in a world that is, by and large, officially 'colour blind'. She considers the tensions between ideological and social measures to eliminate racism and the material conditions experienced by individuals, and argues that the very notion of blindness about colour constitutes an ideological confusion at best and denial at worst.


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