Professor Matiangai Sirleaf investigates race and national security in new book

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In her new book Race and National Security, Professor Matiangai Sirleaf brings together leading experts to challenge conventional interpretations of national security and illuminate how White supremacy informs and shapes the parameters of the national security conversation.  

Contributors offer visions for reforming and transforming national security, including adopting an abolitionist framework. Together, they invite readers to radically reimagine a world where the security state does not keep Black, Brown, and other marginalized peoples subordinated through threats of and actual incarceration, violence, torture, and death.  

Race and National Security is groundbreaking,” Sirleaf writes in the introduction, “because it brings domestic, transnational, comparative, and international perspectives on race and national security in conversation with each other. Pieces that would not otherwise appear together do so in this volume, leading to important theoretical and policy insights for reforming and transforming national security.” 

The volume builds on Sirleaf’s 2020 “Racing National Security” symposium on the online forum Just Security, amplifying voices that position racial justice as fundamental to understanding national security. Many of those same scholars expanded their work from the symposium for inclusion in the book.  

Race and National Security is the first thematic print volume in a new series exploring race and national security. The series is a partnership between Just Security and Oxford University Press.    

Race and National Security features chapters from leading thinkers: 2023 MacArthur Fellow Andrea Armstrong, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law; Aslı Bâlı, Yale Law; Monica Bell, Yale Law; Adelle Blackett, McGill Law; Noura Erakat, Rutgers University; James Gathii, Loyola University Chicago School of Law; Margaret Hu, William & Mary Law School; Yurav Joshi, Brooklyn Law School; Rachel Lopez, Drexel Kline School of Law; Catherine Powell, Fordham Law; Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Temple Law School; Aziz Rana, Boston College Law School; as well as chapters from Sirleaf.  

To commemorate the book’s publication and Sirleaf’s investiture as the Nathan Patz Professor of Law, Maryland Carey Law and its Gibson-Banks Center for Race and the Law will host a celebration on Nov. 16-17 with events at the law school and at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, a national heritage site celebrating Baltimore's African-American maritime history. Highlights will include Sirleaf’s investiture lecture, “Hierarchy & International Law,” on the 16th and the Race & National Security Book Launch & Conference on the 17th, a day of panel discussions featuring 2023 MacArthur Fellow E. Tendayi Achiume, University of California Los Angeles Law School; Khaled A Beydoun, Arizona State University College of Law; Ryan Goodman, New York University School of Law; Maryam Jamshidi, University of Colorado Law School; and Shirin Sinnar, Stanford Law School, joining several of the book’s contributors and Maryland Carey Law faculty in conversation. 

Additionally, Sirleaf and book contributors will speak at multiple book events in the coming months, including at a AALS National Security Law Section webinar on Oct. 11, the AALS Annual Meeting on Jan. 3 in Washington, DC, appearances at Pitt Law on November 10 and Tufts University on March 26, as well as a book roundtable at the annual meeting of the American Society for International Law in April. 

Sirleaf is the Nathan Patz Professor of Law at Maryland Carey Law and holds a secondary appointment as a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her Maryland Carey Law professorship is named for Nathan Patz, a 1926 graduate of the law school, who practiced in Baltimore for more than 70 years before he passed away in 1998. Patz served as president of the University of Maryland Alumni Association and the Bar Association of Baltimore City. He was also on the Maryland Judicial Disabilities Commission for 18 years.  

Sirleaf’s work has been featured in leading law reviews; her scholarship appears in several textbooks; and her commentary and reflections also appear in numerous online fora. Sirleaf serves as executive editor at Just Security and is a member of the board of editors for the American Journal of International Law 

She earned her JD from Yale Law School, her MA from the University of Ghana Legon Center for International Affairs, and her BA from New York University College of Arts and Sciences. Sirleaf has been awarded several prestigious grants, fellowships, and other honors. 

Released Sept. 26, Race and National Security is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book from Oxford University Press. Register here to attend Sirleaf’s investiture lecture on Thursday Nov. 16, 2023, and here to attend the Race & National Security Book Launch & Conference on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.