Award-winning Cultural Theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah Speaks on Politics and Polarization

Award-winning philosopher, cultural theorist, and novelist Kwame Anthony Appiah will deliver the 2023 Distinguished Public Lecture at Virginia Tech.

Kwame Anthony Appiah is a Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. He has published widely in literary and cultural studies, with a focus on African and African-American culture. His book, In My Father’s House (Oxford University Press, 1992) explores the role of African and African-American intellectuals in shaping contemporary African cultural life. The book won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association for “the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English.”

Among many other honors, Professor Appiah won the Ralph J. Bunche Award of the American Political Science Association “for the best scholarly work in political science which explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism,” the Outstanding Book Prize of the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights, and the Arthur Ross Book Award of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Professor Appiah was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Royal Society of Literature. In June 2017, he was named by the Carnegie Corporation of New York as one of its 2017 “Great Immigrants” and, in January 2022, he was elected President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

At Virginia Tech, drawing from his work on cosmopolitanism and identity, Professor Appiah will first explore the idea of identity philosophically, then focus on the psychology of identity and the challenges of managing identities in a humane way. He will examine how partisan identity works in our own society today, and end by discussing the role of identities across the world, defending the continuing relevance of a cosmopolitan respect for the diversity of identities, an attitude that is very much under attack. His lecture is titled, “Politics and Polarization: The Place of Identities in Democracy.”

The lecture will take place on March 15, 2023, from 5-6:30pm in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre of the Moss Arts Center. No tickets are required. The lecture will be followed by a public reception. All faculty, students, and members of the public are cordially invited to attend this event. Here is a link to the VT News feature about the lecture.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Holly Belcher ( at least ten business days before the event.

Photos taken by Richard Mallory Allnutt.

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