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Response or Comment

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I was invited to deliver the September 2017 Dean's Lecture, on which this essay is based, in March of 2017, shortly after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States. I had originally planned to present on one of my longstanding research areas, the intersections of contract law and critical race theory, but as the spring wore on, I began to feel an urgency about using my expertise to comment more directly on the increasingly overt but trenchant race, gender, sex, and class inequalities and conflicts that have plagued our nation for centuries.

Yet, writing an article about contract law and critical race theory felt too luxurious to me, for while the production and dissemination of even very specialized knowledge is essential to the survival and progression of academic endeavor, contract law's role in the construction of racial and gender identity did not seem to me a particularly relevant subject for a lecture in such calamitous times. I wondered: what should an "intellectual" say in a Dean's lecture in times like these? The answer to this question-which is largely what this essay is about-was far harder to answer than I had initially imagined.

Much of the remainder of this essay discusses why I believe reclamation of the intellectual is necessary and how, as a theoretical and pragmatic matter, such work can be done. Following this, and in my conclusion, I also suggest how new media can provide a space in which intellectuals can do this work.