Taubira returning to UWM

Just eight months after accepting an honorary doctorate in laws and human rights, Christiane Taubira is deepening her connections to UW-Milwaukee.

Taubira, a former French minister of justice who is known for her passionate advocacy for human rights, has accepted a five-year appointment as UWM honorary professor in the Department of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature and is affiliated as research fellow with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding program.

Taubira resigned as minister of justice in January, just days before accepting UWM’s honorary degree. She was acting in protest of legislation that would strip French citizenship rights from convicted terrorists with dual nationality.

In January, Provost Johannes Britz praised Taubira for keeping “her ethical compass focused on the values of liberty and quality for all.”

“Her political engagement embodies an outstanding commitment and dedication to principles the UWM community holds very dear:  the struggle for human rights, human dignity and equality for all,” Britz said.

Sarah Davies Cordova, a UWM professor of French who first met Taubira in Cayenne, Guiana, in 2007, said Taubira is “an incredible role model for UWM students and faculty.”

“Her values are very much those we aspire to at the university in terms of opening up the university to everybody,” Cordova said. “We’re very much concerned with educational opportunities for all, no matter what one’s origins or life choices might be. Her convictions about freedom of choice, equal access and equal rights mesh perfectly with the university’s mission.”

Taubira is already making an impact on UWM and Milwaukee.

She will give the 2016 Kennan Distinguished Lecture, “Citizenship and Identity in the 21st Century,” on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Helene Zelazo Center, 2419 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Nicole Palasz of the Institute of World Affairs, which sponsors the Kennan lecture, said Taubira’s talk on refugees, immigrants and citizenship will bring a global perspective to local issues, which is the mission of the lecture series.

Palasz pointed to Taubira’s landmark advocacy in the areas of slavery and human trafficking, marriage equality and juvenile justice.

“These issues tie into our own community’s concerns,” Palasz said.

Palasz noted that six students from Milwaukee Public Schools will have the opportunity to meet with Taubira after the lecture. Taubira is also scheduled to meet with the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee.

She will also participate in several sessions of the 16th annual Imagining America conference being held at various locations around Milwaukee Oct. 6-8, and will offer special opening remarks for the closing plenary session on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

UWM is also partnering with the Alliance Française of Milwaukee to live-stream Taubira’s talk “Justice in the Service of Equality” from the University of Chicago from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday Oct. 10 in Curtin Hall 175.

Cordova said Taubira’s work will enrich UWM.

“As public intellectual, brilliant orator and essayist, as well as a fine listener of American blues and jazz, madame Taubira has dedicated her life’s work to addressing the injustices that continue to plague our humanity and she asks the youth of today to become well informed, thoughtful citizens,” Cordova said. “As a university community, we look forward to identifying students whose projects would benefit from her international humanistic perspective and to arranging more opportunities for engagement with faculty and the Milwaukee communities.”

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