Conference on race and national security celebrates new book edited by Prof. Matiangai Sirleaf

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Leading experts challenging conventional notions of national security assembled in downtown Baltimore on Nov. 15. The conference and book launch celebrated the new volume Race and National Security, edited by University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Professor Matiangai V.S. Sirleaf and published by Oxford University Press. 

The event was held at the Frederick Douglass- Isaac Myers Maritime Park, a national heritage site that celebrates the contributions of African Americans in the development of Baltimore’s maritime industry. 

In her opening remarks, Sirleaf spoke about the importance of the work developed for Race and National Security. “The volume is aimed at subverting White hegemonic power and dominance in national security,” she said. “Through this reframing and refocusing on the ‘faces at the bottom of the well’, the volume helps create a more accurate understanding of how race manifests in national security, domestically, transnationally, and globally.” 

Bringing together domestic, transnational, and comparative and international law perspectives on racial justice and national security, the conference featured an all-star lineup of scholars from across the country and included many of the thinkers who contributed chapters to Race and National Security. Sirleaf organized the proceedings around the book’s structure with discussions centered on its three sections: Why Race and National Security?, Race and its Effects on National and Transnational Security, and Comparative and International Perspectives on Race and National Security.  

Panelists and moderators were: 

Maryland Carey Law’s Gibson-Banks Center for Race and the Law co-sponsored the conference, which was the center’s first major event since launching in September. Led by Professor Michael Pinard, the center is mission-focused on working in partnership to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities impacted by historical and modern-day racial and intersectional oppression. 

On the eve of the conference, the Maryland Carey Law community celebrated Sirleaf’s investiture as the Nathan Patz Professor of Law at the law school. Following an introduction from Guy-Uriel E. Charles, the Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Sirleaf delivered a lecture titled Hierarchy and International Law.  

In his remarks, Charles praised Sirleaf’s remarkably wide-ranging intellect and areas of expertise, comparing her to an alchemist with the ability to blend intelligence, ferocity, and moral clarity to create enlightening work. Her scholarship, he said, is “widely ambitious and elegant.” 

As well as Sirleaf’s endowed professorship at Maryland Carey Law, she holds a secondary appointment as a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Sirleaf writes and teaches in the areas of global public health law, public international law, international human rights law, international criminal law, post-conflict and transitional justice, and criminal law.