Andrea Smith, Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside, will deliver the first lecture for the Mellon Research Initiative in Social Justice at 9:30 a.m. this Friday, October 18 in the Art Annex with her talk, “Without the Right to Exist: Rethinking Security.”

Smith is a co-founder of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, the Boarding School Healing Coalition, and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association. She is the author of Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances (2008) and Conquest: Sexual Violence and the American Indian Genocide (2005). Smith’s talk will be followed by Q&A, light refreshments, and a roundtable discussion concerning social justice work at UC Davis.

The UC Davis Social Justice Initiative was established out of Hart Hall in 2012, following widely and diversely expressed social justice concerns arising from the pepper spray incident of November 2011. The first major public event launching this initiative was the campus rally at which Angela Davis addressed over 2,000 concerned members of the Davis community.

This week’s launch of the Mellon Research Initiative in Social Justice marks the opening of a three-year project: the first year is dedicated to issues of feminism and social justice; year two will address issues of land claims, territory and expressions, and indigenous knowledges; the final year engages the themes of citizenship, identity, queer diasporas, sexualities and health, and social justice within the academy and security/insecurities on campus.

Susy Zepeda, the Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor for Social Justice, will be organizing and participating in many of Mellon Social Justice group’s exciting upcoming events. Zepeda received her doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her research focuses on genders and sexualities, Chicana/Latina feminisms, and critical race and ethnic studies. This fall she is teaching a course entitled Critical Feminist Methodologies: Building Frameworks for Social Justice that focuses on interdisciplinary critical feminist methodologies in the field of gender, ethnic, and area studies with a particular emphasis on Native American and Indigenous Studies in order to build frameworks for social justice in intellectual and cultural production that are applicable to our contemporary society.


Click here for an expanded course description

The goal of the Social Justice Initiative (SJI), according to its organizers, is to galvanize interest in social justice-related scholarship in the wake of the pepper spray incident. SJI organizers believe this incident–broadcast across the country and globe– has provided the campus with a unique opportunity to investigate and respond collaboratively, as a progressive intellectual community, to the new concerns over security, on the one hand, and social justice, on the other.

The SJI considers these campus incidents as just one of many local iterations of the widespread social unease accompanying the ongoing reconfigurations of power, knowledge, and resources that are shaping and being shaped by globalization.  This situation creates intellectual, political, social and administrative tensions that deserve serious attention.

The Mellon Social Justice launch event builds on this legacy and works to create a larger campus dialogue among faculty and students in or affiliated with ethnic and gender studies at UC Davis.  The co-directors of this three-year funded Social Justice Initiative are: Amina Mama, Professor of Women and Gender Studies; Ines Hernandez-Avila, Professor of Native American Studies; and Yvette Flores, Professor of Chicana/o Studies.  For more information, contact Susy Zepeda at