The Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship, or RIC, in Johns Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences will launch a new name at an event Friday, which will also include a workshop to help plan a new major.
The Chloe Center for the Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism will continue its previous focus on graduate studies, but also deepen its collaboration with other divisions at Johns Hopkins and with community leaders and organizations. It will also focus more heavily on undergraduates through events, research grants, and its new major—Critical Diaspora Studies—which has been approved by the university but must still earn approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
"There's nothing we're turning off; we're opening the spigot wider on all of our current activities," said Stuart Schrader, the center's director and associate research professor in the university's Center for Africana Studies.
Throughout its 18 years, the center has been committed to studying historical injustice in order to plan for a better future, to understanding the history of the university's relationship to Baltimore and to other universities, and to exploring how research is produced and by and for whom, Schrader said. Speakers at its frequent events represent its commitment to interdisciplinary and transnational scholarship, and often include artists, activists, and community leaders.
The center's new name reflects those goals, Schrader said; archival records indicate that Chloe was a Black woman who worked for the university's namesake and founder, Johns Hopkins, from 1850 to 1873. She may have been the daughter of a migrant from the Virgin Islands, and her last name is unclear. Hopkins left her a bequest of $1,000 in his will.
"RIC … recognizes a tragic but fitting absence in Chloe's erased family name," says the proposal for the name change, which was based on research by N.D.B. Connolly, associate professor of history and the center's outgoing director. "The vagueness around her possible migrant heritage and ancestry captures both the specificity of her personal history as a Black Baltimorean, and the more general experience of working people who across generations and often great distances worked to build the nations, empires, and institutions of the modern world."
Schrader said the change sends a message that RIC is thinking differently about whom to honor, as well as the research required to honor someone who is not well-known.
The shift in the center's title from "citizenship" to "colonialism" will allow it to explore some topics it doesn't currently cover, such as Indigenous studies, while continuing to research how people enact belonging and challenge power structures both individually and collectively, Schrader said.
At Friday's event, titled Who's Chloe?, center leaders will share what they know about Chloe and introduce faculty and graduate students involved with the center. Attendees will then participate in an interactive workshop to explore their ideas about the topics the new major will cover and share what they want to learn, continuing the voice students have had in the curriculum's design.
Natalie Wang, a senior majoring in neuroscience and medicine, science, and the humanities, has been an RIC fellow since last summer and helped plan both the major and the workshop. A long, deliberative process built the framework for the major, she said, informed by more than 400 responses to a survey about what students were hoping for. She and her peers then shepherded the concepts through the institutional steps necessary to create a new major, coming to understand curricular decisions from a new point of view—she was used to considering what courses she needed to fulfill her requirements, she said, but now she needed to think about crafting the requirements themselves.
All along, the major has been "bi-directional," Wang said, where students have an active part in shaping their learning. Friday's workshop will reflect that, asking participants to share not only what they know, but what they don't know.
"This is something that gets said in the sciences, but it applies here too: It's about asking the right questions, not about having the right answers," she said. "This event is designed in that spirit, and we want people to come with questions. This new set of courses and this new major can step in as a response to that. It's about inquiry. It's about being curious."