The Unruly Classroom

A public forum that interrogates the construction of race and racialized thinking in everyday life


Organizing Institutions

Slought, camra, The Rotunda and Penn Social Policy & Practice

Contributing Institutions

Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania


Arjun Shankar, Christopher Vandegrift, Aaron Levy


School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public





Public Courtyard
across from Slought and The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web


Slought, camra, The Rotunda, and Penn Social Policy & Practice are pleased to announce The Unruly Classroom, a public forum that interrogates the construction of race and racialized thinking in everyday life. The classroom will take up residence around a shipping container implanted on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania from Tuesday, April 26 - Friday, May 6, 2016. This makeshift meeting space will anchor a series of screenings, seminars and conversations that seek to destabilize where we locate intellectual life. What is the relation between social justice and the production of knowledge within the university classroom? How might we acknowledge the boundaries that exist while encouraging intersections?

The last few years have witnessed an explosion of mainstream and independent media coverage on the continued salience of racial discrimination – both across the globe and within the United States in particular. Despite this coverage and an increase in general cultural awareness regarding issues of race, academia remains a zone where critical discussions concerning the enduring colonial and imperial logics of racism happen only at the margins, if at all. In its placement at the corner of 40th and Walnut – an intersection where the University of Pennsylvania meets the larger West Philadelphia community – The Unruly Classroom seeks to map out and occupy these margins of the university landscape, both figuratively and literally. In this way, the project aims to highlight not just the marginal position afforded to conversations on race and social justice, but also the generative possibilities for meaningful discourse that such a position affords.

Join us on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 from 6:00-7:30pm as we begin this conversation with Arjun Shankar and others in dialogue about Mitch Duneier's ethnographic work Sidewalk (2000), which uses text and film to explore the social life of the sidewalks in one of New York's most diverse neighborhoods.

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The shipping container stands as a physical embodiment of the marginality that The Unruly Classroom exists within. Its interior has been furnished so as to represent the truly public, truly inclusive discourse that the project seeks to engender. In addition to a series of multimedia installations, the interior will serve as the home for a living audio archive of the project itself – each event associated with The Unruly Classroom will be recorded and added to a chorus of voices that will playback and reverberate inside the space, a running commentary on media-making activism in an increasingly racialized environment. The first of these recordings will be of keynotes given at this year's SSMF festival, featuring remarks and discussion from Marc Lamont Hill, Michele Stephenson, Bianca Williams, Todd Wolfson, Sandra Khalifa, Adrienne Keene, and Tara Conley.

camra is a collective organization that fosters interdisciplinary collaborations amongst scholars, sensory ethnographers, artists, and educators within and beyond the University of Pennsylvania to explore, practice, evaluate, and teach about multimedia research and representation. Like Slought and The Rotunda, camra is dedicated to cultural critique and the promotion of multimedia as both a form of social justice and an alternative to scholarly text.

This year, camra devoted its annual media festival – SSMF – to specifically focus on these core principles, bringing together scholars, activists, and artists who actively engage with social justice issues through media making.

The Unruly Classroom is an outgrowth of the interdisciplinary conversations fostered by this year's festival. Installations featured in the shipping container will include:

Caleb Beckwith's Chaser (2016), which repurposes the ubiquitous news ticker as a vehicle for highlighting the disparities of power that underlie television spectacle – specifically, live coverage of car chases involving law enforcement.

Roxanne Campbell's Color Bar (2015-present), which is an interview-driven documentary video project that seeks to deconstruct cultural notions of delimited "Black"-ness.

Kelly Gallagher's FROM ALLY TO ACCOMPLICE (2015), which is an experimental essay in three movements that explores the importance of being more than an "ally" in struggle.

Shakeil Greeley's Trail of Silence (2014-present), which is an ongoing investigation into the killings of unarmed civilians by police since 2000 that presents available data as a looped video installation.

Kameelah Janan Rasheed's HOW TO SUFFER POLITELY (and Other Etiquette) (2016), which is a large format print series that examines how expressions of anger and resistance to racialized violence are regarded as "impolite" in order to maintain social order.

"During the second half of the nineteenth century, the American University was wrested out of its somnolent seminarian mediocrity and cast in the shape of the modern institution for a modern world. It was at this time that the American University turned its back on the chaos and crisis of the modern city and saw itself as a refuge from the confusion and disorder of urban life. [...]

It was proposed that the University, like the Museum, the Park, the Theater and the Concert Hall become places that would have a civilizing influence on what was perceived to be the increasingly unruly urban masses. Cultural hierarchy was invented as a mode of crowd control."

-- Catherine Liu, "Auditions for the Future," Rrrevolutionnaire (2006)