Center for 'Race' Colloquia Series: The Dark Side of Fairness: Risk, Reward, and Racial Justice in The Merchant of Venice after #BlackLivesMatter

Vimala Pasupathi (Associate Dean, Hofstra University Honors College) will discuss her project “The Dark Side of Fairness: Risk, Reward, and Racial Justice in The Merchant of Venice after #BlackLivesMatter.”

#BlackLivesMatter” examines race and early modern legal and economic institutions in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1596). The essay’s title hinges on the respective (and distinct) 16th century and 21st century valences of the operative term “fair,” including the early modern use to mean attractive, valuable, and virtuous, as well as the primary modern sense of equitable dealing, as well as the trans-historically common use of the term to mean light-skinned. Many scholars have pointed out the degree to which the word “fair” is gendered, racialized, and inflected by religion and socio-economic status; my reading of the play focuses on fairness and risk to interrogate the privileges afforded to whiteness, if not also or simultaneously “white” people, and to show how Shakespeare’s portrayal of these privileges in Merchant resonates with events crucial to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent American history. In particular, I attend to the play’s depiction of the “fairness” of Venetian characters and justice in light of Grand Jury decisions regarding police officers for the lethal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and choking of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.


Center for “Race” Colloquia Series
Held on the last Wednesday of every month during the academic year, in these colloquia, Hofstra faculty members are invited to present their recent publications and engage with new scholarship focusing on race, culture and social justice. Multiple forms of scholarly production are welcome, including books, films, music, and other artistic expressions and research projects related to the core mission of the Center:

The Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice, established at Hofstra University in January 2017, works to promote diversity, inclusiveness and cultural awareness on campus, and features several distinctive research and scholarly programs throughout the academic year.


Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Time: 1:00 p.m. - 2:25 p.m.

LocationZoom link (no RSVP necessary)


All events are open to the public. For information, please contact the Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice at 516-463-6585 or

Wednesday, February 24, 2021





Hofstra University Virtual Event
Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549-1000


Center for “Race,” Culture and Social Justice

Phone: 516-463-6585
Website: Click to Visit

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