On October 15 Dr. Eyo Ewara, BA(Hons)’14, returned to King’s virtually from Chicago, where he now lives and works, to deliver a lecture entitled “Racism, Opacity, Ethics: the Role of Recognition in Racial Justice.” Friends, former classmates, and King’s students and faculty gathered on Zoom to listen and to discuss the lecture, which was organized and hosted by Dr. Dorota Glowacka, the director of the Contemporary Studies Program and Dr. Ewara’s former instructor.
Dr. Ewara graduated from King’s in 2014, with a degree in Contemporary Studies and philosophy. He continued to engage with the ideas he studied in Halifax while pursuing his PhD at Penn State University. His current work addresses ethical questions in philosophy by drawing upon critical theory of race, continental philosophy, and LGBTQ+ thought. Currently, Dr. Ewara is assistant professor of philosophy at Loyola University in Chicago.
Throughout his talk, Dr. Ewara addressed the significance of “opacity” as a tool of self-preservation in the face of dominant white notions of humanity, easily weaving together references to contemporary theory and pop culture. Notably, Dr. Ewara cited the title of Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed 2019 miniseries When They See Us. The series follows the trial and imprisonment of five innocent Black and Latinx teenagers accused of assaulting a white woman. What notions of “‘humanity”’ support a way of seeing racialized people that reduces them to the label of criminal?
Drawing from the writing of Saidiya Hartman, C. Riley Snorton, and Lindsey Stewart, Dr. Ewara interrogated the ethics of legibility and humanity employed by dominant white institutions. Incorporating racialized individuals into white ontologies rationalizes increased surveillance and punishment of queer and racialized individuals, particularly Black people. When engaging with these dominant systems, it can be a threat to one’s safety to be seen acting “out of line.” In this way, the humanity of racialized people is quickly revoked. As a response, people who do not subscribe to dominant humanities can find freedom in “opacity,” or an intentional posture of unintelligibility.
Dr. Ewara cited the preventative measure of blurring faces in protest photography as a particularly pertinent example of this. In order to allow protesters to advocate for their rights in safety, identifying information about them may be blurred or removed from pictures posted online. Opacity allows for freedom of movement, or in Dr. Ewara’s words, “refusing the terms of recognition.”
This lecture was one of the first virtual guest lectures of the year, and a success at that. Although separated by a screen, attendees reached out through the Q&A function to discuss their thoughts with Dr. Ewara. Notably, many of the questions came from friends and former classmates with whom Dr. Ewara took the opportunity to laugh, chat, and reconnect.