Announcing LARB's Semipublic Intellectual Sessions

By LARBSeptember 19, 2021

Announcing LARB's Semipublic Intellectual Sessions

A virtual festival of ideas for thinkers, readers, learners of all stripes celebrating 10 years of sharp, engaging, and wide-ranging conversations at the Los Angeles Review of Books.


In celebration of our 10th birthday, LARB is hosting a virtual series which we’re calling the Semipublic Intellectual Sessions — a month-long festival of ideas more accessible and wide-ranging than an academic conference yet more penetrating and measured than a Twitter debate. We invite readers to join us this fall for a season of smart, timely conversations with writers and critics that reflect the energy, breadth, and commitments of the Los Angeles Review of Books as a publication over the last decade.

The series is a fundraiser for LARB, a 501(c)(3) reader-supported nonprofit. We invite attendees to make donations to help support the work of our staff and contributors as we continue to publish great writing and podcasts for free to the public for the next 10 years to come.

Find more details and series/event registration on LARBHappenings page.



From university classrooms, talk radio, and op-ed pages to Reddit, podcasts, Twitter, and more, sites of cultural conversation proliferate and grow ever more varied in scope, substance, and norms. What does it mean to cover culture or advocate change in this context? How has the emergence of so many new locations — and with them new critics and audiences — shaped, shattered, and meme-ified "the discourse"? Join the Los Angeles Review of Books for our inaugural Semipublic Intellection Session with cultural critics and writers Daphne Brooks (Liner Notes for the Revolution), Javier Cabral (L.A. Taco), Lili Loofbourow (Slate), Sarah Marshall (Youre Wrong About), and Jesse McCarthy (Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?) to find out!


Where do critics come from, and where do they go? In many cases, careers in literary criticism begin in the university, and end up in diverse publications on either side of the public/academic divide. Join Andrea Long Chu (Females), K. Austin Collins (film critic at Rolling Stone), Lauren Michele Jackson (White Negroes, The New Yorker), and Christine Smallwood (The Life of the Mind) for a discussion of writing in and out of the academy. What kinds of forms, arguments, and styles are made possible by breaking free from the spoken and unspoken rules of scholarly criticism? Conversely, upon leaving strictly academic writing, what might one miss?


A global pandemic, a national election, entire regions devastated by one natural disaster after another: new technologies have made it possible for us to track, grasp, and witness these large-scale phenomena in real time and in the palms of our hands. Tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter have encouraged a sense of community and mobilized action, even as they have facilitated the spread of misinformation and the formation of fissures in public life. How do we, as individuals and as communities, navigate technologies of information and misinformation? How much power do tech companies have in shaping public conversation, and how much power should they have? Join us for a conversation about these issues and more with writers and scholars Christoph Bieber (University of Duisburg-Essen), Safiya Noble (Algorithms of Oppression), and Anna Wiener (The New Yorker, Uncanny Valley), moderated by LARB Radio Hour hosts Medaya Ocher & Kate Wolf.

Co-sponsored by the Thomas Mann House, a residency center and space for transatlantic debate in Los Angeles, California |


The law is the frontline in our ongoing battle to “create a more perfect union.” The decisions of our courts, and the laws enacted by our legislatures, reflect both our best aspirations and our worst misdeeds. The question of how law aligns with or, too often, works against the cause of social justice is once again at the center of legal, political, and public debates. Join us for a conversation with Jarrett Adams, lawyer, advocate, and author of Redeeming Justice, former LA Country District Attorney Gil Garcetti, and Loyola Law School Professor of Criminal Law, Laurie Levenson. Moderated by LARB Legal Affairs editor Don Franzen, the panel will discuss the ways that racism has systemically infected the criminal justice system, and review reform measures, both proposed and enacted.


When the Los Angeles Review of Books was founded in 2011, the profession of book reviewing was in crisis. Traditional venues — the book pages of newspapers — were shrinking and vanishing, edging out serious conversations about new publications. Inspired by the near-infinite vistas of virtual space, LARB sought to rekindle those conversations online. But has the web been a blessing for book reviewing, or has proliferation of venues, poor compensation, and the hunger for clicks diluted and compromised the practice? Join us to discuss these pressing questions with critics Aaron Bady, Jane Hu, Christian Lorentzen, Julian Lucas, Ismail Muhammad, and LARB’s Editor-in-Chief Boris Dralyuk.



And there’s more...!

Want to keep the conversation going? Don’t miss these additional fantastic free events hosted by LARB Humanities Editor Anna Shechtman and Science Editors Julien Crockett and Michele Pridmore-Brown!

Satellite Event #1: On the Chinese Cultural Revolution

China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is now roughly sixty years in the past. Its sheer scale makes the Cultural Revolution unique. Even as it has been acknowledged in China and abroad, the volume and severity of its purges, censorship, and social engineering campaigns are still largely misapprehended. Significant aspects of this historical event and its aftermath are still largely unknown to the general reading public and scholars alike. This panel, featuring Jie Li, Lingchei Letty Chen, Frank Dikötter, and Guo Jian, moderated by Nan Da gathers writers who have recently tackled the Cultural Revolution in academic and public-facing writing to share their insights into its intricacies, its cultural landscapes, and the challenges of truth-telling that arise in connecting the personal to the political. Our goal is to introduce new work and new thinking on a historical event — a calamity — that was designed to be apprehended slowly, if at all. In the process, we nominate it as one of the most cognitively difficult objects of our time, worth reexamining not only for the sake of justice and the historical record, but also for our collective grasp of contemporary phenomena.

This event is free to the public.


Satellite Event #2: What Comes After CRISPR?

From "CRISPR babies" to "de-extinction" claims, gene-editing technologies inspire extreme pronouncements — regarding new kinds of choices and "playing God." But behind the headlines and massive valuations of CRISPR companies are a vast international network of scientists, subjects, entrepreneurs, hackers, lawmakers, and professional pushers who create and shape what we now call CRISPR. Inspired from the review by philosopher of science John Dupré, "Caveat Editor: Competing Takes on CRISPR," our panelists — Dupré, molecular geneticist Kevin Davies, law professor Hank Greely, anthropologist Eben Kirksey, and futurist Amy Webb — will analyze this complex system and discuss their CRISPR-themed writings, the notorious He Jiankui affair, and what comes after CRISPR.

This event is free to the public.


Find more details and series/event registration at LARBHappenings


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