November 22, 2016 at 1:06 pm

New Faculty Daniel Moak Focuses in Race and Politics

Dr. Daniel Moak has joined Ohio University as Assistant Professor of African American Studies. He is also a new Faculty Affiliate of the Center for Law, Justice & Culture.

Moak focuses on race and politics, with an emphasis on recognizing voices atypical to the discourse surrounding race.Center for Law Justice & Culture logo

“There are multiple voices that had been pushing for very different understanding of the political interest of black people,” Moak said.

“Part of my focus is bringing in some of those voices that aren’t here all the time and problematizing this notion of the black political community as a unified community with unified interests.”

Moak is currently researching this articulation of politics through writing on Thurgood Marshall’s vision of democracy, positioning the U.S. economy and structure as “fair as long as one can do away with arbitrary racial distinction.”

While he is critical of Marshall’s vision, this is the perspective which Americans are living with today, according to Moak.

“By and large, some aspects of this racial democracy vision have been incorporated into mainstream politics, but one of the things I want to highlight is this has always been a contested tradition,” Moak said.

Moak is not only researching Thurgood Marshall, but also working on a project dealing with the school-to-prison pipeline.

“I’m focusing on a case study out in California that is way outside the mainstream in terms of its use of punitive tactics in schools and its willingness to send juveniles to detention facilities,” Moak said. “Hopefully [I will] end with strategies that may be effective to combating this type of relationship.”

In addition to his two research projects, Moak is teaching two classes this fall semester, including AAS 1060: Introduction to African American Studies and AAS 3680: African American Political Thought.

“The way I have designed AAS 1060 is a historical approach. We start with the founding period, spent quite a bit of time in the antebellum U.S., and we’re ending with the discussion of mass incarceration,” Moak said.

“AAS 3680 is a similar approach, but more theoretical in orientation, how different groupings define particular problems of African Americans and what the proposed political solutions are. What’s really great to focus on is the disagreement there.”

Next semester, Moak also will teach AAS 2200: Black Political Economy, which focuses on specific questions of politics and the economy. Additionally, Moak has proposed a new course, Race in the Criminal Justice System, and is hopeful that it will be offered during the next academic year.

Moak’s interest African American Studies stems from his own ties to the South, with his parents each attending segregated schools. Furthermore, race and education had always interested Moak, whose dissertation research focused on this specifically.

After obtaining his undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Political Science from Willamette University, Moak took a year off working at a pizza shop before returning to school at the University of Pennsylvania. There, Moak went on to receive a master’s and Ph.D. in Political Science.

Moak taught as a graduate student during his time at the University of Pennsylvania before joining Ohio University’s African American Studies Department.

“One thing I really love here is that the African American Studies Department is interdisciplinary,” Moak said. “There’s a sort of academic freedom to teach classes the way you want to teach them. That’s really strengthened by the fact that we do have such an interdisciplinary group here.”

To Moak, this interdisciplinary element is evident not only within the African American Studies Department, but also at the Center for Law, Justice & Culture.

“I’m super excited to be working with the Center for Law, Justice & Culture,” Moak said. “I was interested in the interdisciplinary, access to scholars with similar interests, and having access to students that might be interested in this type of subject. I’m really happy to have that community on campus.”

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