Sawyer Seminar Series brings David J. Leonard to campus March 26

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — David J. Leonard, professor of critical culture, gender and race studies at Washington State University, will deliver a lecture titled “Playing While White: Power, Privilege and the Politics of Protest,” at 6 p.m. Monday, March 26, in 101 Chambers Building on Penn State's University Park campus.  Leonard’s presentation, part of the Penn State Department of African American Studies’ Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance Sawyer Seminar Series, is free and open to the public.

Leonard has dedicated his academic career to teaching and research that underscores the continued significance of race within popular culture, the structures of politics, and society at large. His Penn State presentation will explore the different ramifications of sports protests for black athletes and white athletes.

Leonard is the author of “Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema” and “After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness," and is co-editor of “Criminalized and Commodified: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports.” He is a regular contributor to NewBlackMan, layupline, Feminist Wire, and Urban Cusp, and he is a past contributor to Ebony, Slam, Racialicious, Loop21, The Nation, and The Starting Five. He received his bachelor’s degree in black studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.

Racial Disposability and Cultures of Resistance seeks to identify and examine the ways that black people are thought of and how they are treated as expendable or exploitable. Spanning the Americas over the last two centuries and covering topics including slavery, housing policy, and the criminal justice system, the series examines the people, ideas, and policies responsible for deciding whose lives matter, how they matter, and under what circumstances. “Racial Disposability” also addresses the creative ways that black people resist and refuse their disposability through spectacular, large-scale actions and less visible daily acts of refusal.

Funding for the series comes primarily from a grant provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; additional support for Leonard’s visit comes from the Penn State Department of Kinesiology.

Additional information about “Racial Disposability” can be found on the series website or by contacting Cynthia Young, associate professor and head of the Department of African American Studies, at

Media Contacts: 

William Hessert

Work Phone: 

College of the Liberal Arts

Last Updated March 23, 2018