Symposium Schedule


Understanding the Forces that Drive Us Apart: A Symposium on Polarization

February 5, 2019, Campus Center Auditorium

9:00am: Doors open


9:30am: Check-in and Opening Remarks


10:00am: Panel Discussion: Hate in Historical Perspective

This panel will help participants place current events in the context of ongoing challenges of historical exclusion, discrimination, and acts of hate. It will include perspectives on the history of race relations, immigration, and religious minorities in the United States.


  • Evelyn Simien, Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies, University of Connecticut
    Presentation: "The More things Change, The More They Remain the Same:  Racial-Sexual Violence, Hate Speech, and Collective Memory"
  • Franklin Odo, Professor of American Institutions and International Diplomacy, Amherst College
    Presentation: "From Racist Hate to Racist Love: Asian Americans, Demonized Foreigners to Model Minority."
  • Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College
    Presentation: "Antisemitism: The Tenacity of an Unstable Ideology"

12:00pm: Lunch Keynote Address: Hate in the US Today 

Lecia Brooks, Southern Poverty Law Center (pizza will be provided)
Lecia Books, an outreach director at Southern Poverty Law Center, will talk about the current state of hate and extremism in the United States and discuss the relationship between race demographics and rising hate crimes as well as free speech versus hate speech.


1:00pm: Panel Discussion: The Structures of Polarization

This panel will introduce participants to some of the structural factors that act, often invisibly, to drive polarization. Some of the topics covered will include the political geography of polarization, the changing dynamics of social networks, and the impact of lobbying and campaign finance practices.


  • Amel Ahmed, Associate Professor of Political Science, UMass-Amherst
    Presentation: “Playing It Safe: Redistricting and the Political Geography of Ideological Polarization”
  • Anthony Paik, Professor of Sociology, UMass-Amherst
    Presentation: "Personal Networks in a Politically Polarized Age"
  • Ray La Raja, Professor of Political Science, UMass-Amherst
    Presentation: "How Money in Politics Polarizes"
  • Cedric de Leon, Associate Professor and Director of the Labor Center, UMass- Amherst
    Presentation: "Postracial Neoliberalism: Origins of Polarization in the Trump Era."

2:30pm: Breakout Sessions: Building Skills to Combat Polarization

  1. How to be an Intersectional Ally
    Facilitated by: Kim Case, Professor of Women’s Studies and Psychology, University of Houston Clear Lake; Linda Tropp, Professor of Social Psychology, UMass-Amherst; Makiko Deguchi, Associate Professor of Foreign Studies, Sophia University, Tokyo   

    “How to be an Intersectional Ally” will complicate our typical myths and notions of privilege and oppression as single-issues or categorical or additive. Effective allies must engage in critical self-reflection around privilege and apply intersectional theory to ally practice. Through a panel discussion followed by a workshop activity, the session will include analyses of intersectional ally action in everyday life.
  2. Intergroup Dialogue: Pedagogy of Possibilities 
    Facilitated by: Ximena Zúñiga, Professor of Social Justice Education, UMass-Amherst; Margaret Arsenault, Director for Workplace Learning & Development, UMass- Amherst; Kevin Goodman, visiting Professor in Social Justice Education, UMass-Amherst; Joseph Krupczynski, Associate Professor of Architecture and the director of Civic Engagement and Service Learning, UMass Amherst; E.Y. (Eun) Lee, Ed.S. candidate, UMass-Amherst; Dave Neely, Diversity Education and Training Specialist in Student Affairs and Campus Life, UMass-Amherst; Nina Tissi-Gassoway, PhD candidate in Social Justice Education, UMass-Amherst

    Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) is a facilitated, sustained critical-dialogic practice, that encourages listening and voicing across difference, fostering shared understanding, and cultivating social justice commitments. IGD supports participants in exploring different and intersecting social identities, intergroup conflicts, and issues of power, privilege and oppression while building connections across social divides. This interactive workshop introduces participants to key concepts of intergroup dialogue theory and practice and engages them in experiential activities to illustrate some of the dialogic skills for engaging and working across differences.
  3. Using Dialogue to Bridge Political Divides Between Massachusetts & Kentucky 
    Facilitated by: Sharon Dunn, Hands Across the Hills; Jay Frost, Hands Across the Hills

    Hands Across the Hills formed in response to the 2016 election with the goal of meeting face to face with people who voted differently than each other. Two small groups, progressives in rural Western Massachusetts and conservative voters in Eastern Kentucky coal country, met for two weekends of dialogue and cultural exchange in each other’s towns, in fall 2017 and spring 2018. This presentation will discuss the tactics that were used to bridge the divides during these two meetings.

2:30pm: Watch. Learn. Grow. Documentary Film Screening: Abrazos

Reflection and discussion moderated by Luis Marentes, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, UMass-Amherst

ABRAZOS tells the transformational journey of a group of U.S. Citizen Children, sons  and daughters of undocumented immigrants, who travel from Minnesota to Guatemala to meet their grandparents - and in some instances their siblings - for the first time. There are 4.5 million other U.S. citizen children who, like them, have at least one undocumented parent and are part of mixed-status families, ABRAZOS is the story of 14 of them.

4:00pm: Speech On and Off Campus: A Conversation with Jelani Cobb Moderated by Anna Branch

Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia University; Anna Branch, Professor of Sociology and Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, UMass Amherst.


6:00pm: Evening Keynote Address: Insights on How Democracies Die

Daniel Ziblatt, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Harvard University

Drawing on the his scholarship, especially from his book How Democracies Die, Dr. Ziblatt will focus on the sources and consequences of polarization, particularly in the current political climate. In How Democracies Die, Ziblatt and co-author Steven Levitsky use decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, to show how democracies die and how ours can be saved.