Joshua Katz

Nov. 12, 2020, 6 p.m. Online only. Free and open to the public. Registration required.
Watch Cancellation and Its Discontents

Part of the Benson Center's 2020-21 "The Canceled" lecture series. 

About the Series

In recent months, social coercion has become a more effective means of restricting political speech than legal coercion. Opinions that were once common are now anathema, and campaigns to de-platform or even “cancel” proponents of these opinions are increasingly frequent. These attempts at "cancellation" are not merely fair-minded criticism. Rather, they involve efforts to punish those with heterodox views by banishing them from social media, pressuring their employers to fire them, harassing them in public, or threatening their families. These new methods of social coercion have curtailed the range political views that can be expressed publicly without fear of social sanction. This series considers the implications of the new cancel culture, the norms it imposes on thought and expression, and the conformism it attempts to compel.

About the Speaker

Joshua T. Katz is Cotsen Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Classics at Princeton University, where he is also a member of the Programs in Linguistics, Teacher Preparation, and Translation & Intercultural Communities, and a faculty associate of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. The holder of degrees from Yale (BA), Oxford (MPhil), and Harvard (PhD), Katz has taught at Princeton since 1998 and is the recipient of numerous awards for both his teaching and his scholarship on languages, literatures, and cultures from about 6000 years ago to the present.

About the Lecture 

Statement by Joshua T. Katz, Princeton University

It is difficult and surely wrong for me to complain about my position in the world: I am a tenured faculty member at a prestigious university and I live a highly privileged life—as do all my colleagues at Princeton. Nevertheless, this past summer I experienced what can only be described as “cancellation,” with colleagues, “friends,” and former students turning against me from one day to the next.  My sin? To have objected, in terms I still believe were warranted, to a laundry list of demands, some of them illegal or, in my view, immoral. The story of my survival will, I hope, serve as a lesson for others.  I intend in the course of the evening to explain how it is that a frankly ordinary “library rat” of a professor with little interest in the spotlight became newsworthy.  Above all, I wish to encourage other teachers to join me in pushing back, painful though the short-term consequences are likely to be, against the tidal wave of illiberalism that is threatening to undermine America’s institutions, educational and otherwise.

Read Professor Katz's  Wall Street Journal Op-Ed  and Quillette essay on his cancellation experience.  

About the Moderator

Benson Center associate faculty director Shilo Brooks received his PhD in political science from Boston College, and his BA in liberal arts from the Great Books Program at St. John's College, Annapolis. Brooks is faculty director of the Engineering Leadership Program and senior instructor in the Engineering Management Program in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and holds a courtesy appointment in the Herbst Program for Engineering, Ethics and Society