CNN is reporting that President Obama has chosen Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to fill Associate Justice David Souter’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor’s nomination will inevitably raise the usual issues of politics and legal philosophy, as well as questions about “identity politics.” The latter, of course, refers in this context to the practice of taking into consideration the identity of potential nominees as members of historically disadvantaged groups, in order to compensate for the structural barriers which have caused these groups to be dramatically under-represented on the Court.

The issue of “identity politics” will probably be raised more sharply with this nominee than with others, for the simple reason that her selection involves multiple identities and another “first” for the Court: Judge Sotomayor, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, would be the first Hispanic justice and only the third female justice to serve on the Supreme Court.

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The reason it’s been quiet here for the last couple of days is that I’ve been in Albuquerque, N.M. to speak at an interdisciplinary conference on cultural studies in the humanities and social sciences.

The conference featured two evening screenings of Traces of the Trade for attendees, and I spoke at two panel sessions about the use of film as a popular medium and as a pedagogical tool for exploring under-appreciated history and contemporary social issues.

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Columnist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times writes today about the overwhelming domination of Wall Street by male executives.

I’m not sure that I agree with Kristof’s conclusion that what the global banking industry needed in order to avoid its current woes was “women, women and women.” However, he devotes most of the column to highlighting important research showing that in areas such as race, gender, and class, diversity improves the quality of group decision-making.

This research offers a distinct rationale for diversity in education and in the workplace, beyond questions of fairness to the individuals involved or other arguments about diversity which may not garner universal agreement.

This particular justification for diversity is also more palatable to many of those who are skeptical of affirmative action or multiculturalism, being focused on generating measurably superior outcomes for the entire institution or for society as a whole. Moreover, this approach defines diversity in a subversive manner: it assumes that diversity today means having different experiences and perspectives, while giving no credence to beliefs that there are fundamental differences between people on account of race, ethnicity, gender, or other superficial traits.

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Traces of the Trade has been named the best documentary in the “Courage in Filmmaking” category for 2008 by the Women Film Critics Circle.

Gender played a central role in our discussions of race and privilege during the filming of Traces of the Trade, even though this issue did not appear in the finished film. So I think that this award, by an organization promoting the voices and perspectives of women in film, is a particularly fitting tribute to the work that Katrina Browne and everyone involved with the film has done.

The awards ceremony will be broadcast live on Wednesday, December 31 at 11am on WBAI-AM (New York) and streamed online at

Tom DeWolf, the author of Inheriting the Trade, was interviewed this afternoon on the Cliff Kelley Show on WVON-AM radio (“The Talk of Chicago”).

This turned into a lengthy and well-received interview, with Tom being asked to stay well into the show’s second hour to continue the conversation and being asked to return another time.

I have several comments after the jump, but the full interview with Tom can be heard here.

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Inheriting the Trade in the Christian Science Monitor The Christian Science Monitor has a review of Tom DeWolf’s Inheriting the Trade in tomorrow morning’s edition, entitled “An Honest Look at a Slave-Trading Family’s Past.”

The reviewer, book editor Marjorie Kehe, finds particular value in Tom’s “spirit of honesty and the willingness to confront the ugly parts of human experience,” concluding that while Tom offers no easy answers to the difficult questions he raises, “honest self-examination remains an excellent place to start.”

The online version of the review also offers an audio interview which Kehe conducted with Tom.

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