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Askwith Essentials: Who Is Eve L. Ewing?

Sociologist and writer Eve L. Ewing will join Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot at the Askwith Forums for a discussion of thinking and writing through the lens of black feminism.

Watch a video of the event:

(Note: Portions of this video have been edited.)

Since leaving HGSE, Eve L. Ewing has collected many titles — sociologist, poet, artist, author, assistant professor, podcast host, Chicago native and spokesperson, activist, comic book writer, and, according to her highly followed and influential Twitter feed, “black girl from outerspace.”

At the Askwith Forums on September 10, Ewing will sit down for a conversation with her HGSE adviser, Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, to discuss the ways black feminism intersects with each of those roles — and to consider the ways in which black feminism can heal and challenge systems of oppression.

Eve Ewing

With her multidisciplinary approach, Ewing, Ed.M.’13, Ed.D.’16, associate professor at University of Chicago, is entering into a long-standing tradition in the work of African American academics such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Though she’s covered everything from comic books to school closures, Ewing’s black feminist ideology links and influences the range of her work.

Ewing’s body of work — including poetry books Electric Arches and 1919; her study of school closings, Ghosts in the Schoolyard; and the Marvel comic book series Ironheart — often explores the struggles of bodies in spaces throughout history, particularly when they encounter systems and structures of oppression. Below is a collection of Ewing’s thoughts on her work and the ways in which it offers space and power to marginalized voices.

ON HER INTELLECTUAL OUTPUT…

“I’ve been obsessed with how black women have been doing this intellectual production. Black scholars in general have been doing this intellectual production that has elided boundaries of creation and genre for so long, and it fascinates me that I live in a world where that is not normalized,” Ewing tells Guernica Magazine.  Where I’m a sociologist and a poet and I make visual art and I make these essays, and 90 percent of the interviews I do I have to sit there politely while somebody awkwardly asks me about that, about the fact that I do multiple things.”

ON SOCIOLOGY…

“I like excavating the things right beneath the surface of the city where I live,” she says. “Everybody has a history, every institution has a history, every neighborhood, every rock, tree, and car. But society is very selective about which of these histories we choose to talk about.”

ON POETRY…

“I love writing about social transformation through poetry because the sky's the limit,” Ewing says. “Creative writing allows you to tackle impossible social problems in limitless ways. And I think that's really exciting, but I also don't see that as a pie-in-the-sky exercise. I think it actually allows us to do the work of envisioning what lies beyond, and a pathway toward getting there.”

ON SCHOOLS…

“The problem is that in America we have two different standards about the kind of education we want to offer young people,” Ewing says. “If you have money or access to private school or live in an affluent neighborhood you have access to one kind of education and if you are poor, or a person of color, especially if you are black, you have access to a different kind of education. So policymakers are making decisions about kids in those types of schools — the kind that I write about that people call terrible schools, failing schools — there’s a different set of standards.”

ON SUPERHEROES…

“I grew up reading a lot of comic books and so this idea of an origin story for any comic book nerd is paramount,” Ewing says. “For every superhero the idea is that where they came from or their genesis shapes something about their life. And I think that that’s true of all of us. We carry stories within us that may seem plain or uninteresting but that actually shape who we are and make us who we are and can actually be quite glorious.”