David Pesci

5 Questions with . . . William “Vijay” Pinch on Maritime History

William "Vijay" Pinch, professor of history, adjusts the topsail of the Joseph Conrad, during an NEH-funded summertime institute in June. Pinch participated in the five-week institute, in part, to refine and improve his maritime world history course. (Photo by Heather Agostini)

William “Vijay” Pinch, professor of history, adjusts the topsail of the Joseph Conrad, during an NEH-funded summertime institute in June. Pinch participated in the five-week institute, in part, to refine and improve his maritime world history course. (Photo by Heather Agostini)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask “5 Questions” of William “Vijay” Pinch, professor of history. Pinch spent five weeks this summer interacting with maritime scholars and working in the archives and library at Mystic Seaport. 

Q: What were you studying at Mystic Seaport this summer?

A: From June 25 to to July 27, I was privileged to be a student in a “summer institute” at Mystic Seaport, focused on “The American Maritime People.”  The institute is usually pitched to graduate students, but every few years it is offered to college and university faculty with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This was one of those NEH-funded summers.  The faculty who teach at the institute represent some of the top scholars in maritime history, especially in the context of the Atlantic and (mostly) North American world.  What was especially interesting to me, as someone who was not originally trained in maritime history (or North American history for that matter), was to see how the field of maritime history has broadened, so that it now encompasses everything under the rubric of the human interaction with and perception of the sea over time.  This appealed to my wider world-historical instincts. Similarly, it was instructive to see the ways in which the maritime experience mediated New England’s interaction with other parts of the Americas and the wider world.  We also examined marine environmental history, fisheries history, the history of oceanography, naval history, and the recent maritime past and maritime present–including the geo-strategic challenges on the horizon (especially in the Pacific and Indian Oceans), the rise of container shipping, bulk cargo supertankers, and the mega-cruise ship phenomenon.

Q: How does this inform, or how is it informed by, your other areas of interest?

A: My initial interest in the summer institute at Mystic stemmed from a desire to refine and improve my maritime world history course.  I’ve offered the course in varying incarnations over the past seven years or so, and each time I struggle with what to include and how to organize it.  So the five-week course was excellent for stimulating new thinking along these lines.  I’d like for students to be able to take better advantage of all that Mystic and the wider region have to offer. What makes the summer institute special is the combination of traditional classroom learning with more hands-on “public history” kinds of activities.

Roth Op-Ed: Liberal Education is Freedom

In a Sept. 5 op-ed for The New York Times, Wesleyan President Michael Roth discusses the recent calls to further specialize education and narrow what we teach students from K-12 and on to college at the exclusion of the liberal arts, especially the humanities. Roth says this drive to turn students into “human capital” is not a new. In fact, the esteemed 19th century educational philosopher John Dewey argued against the very same calls, saying, in part, “that learning in the process of living is the deepest form of freedom.”

Caldwell’s Op-Ed: Akin Uses Science of Ancient Romans

In an Aug. 24 op-ed for The Hartford Courant, Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies, says that U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s reference to women being able to consciously prevent conception during rape is relying on “facts” presented by the ancient Roman physician Soranus of Ephesus in the Second Century, A.D. Caldwell also says, “The next time I teach my course, I will be able to bring in the example of Rep. Akin to illustrate the ways in which ‘medical understanding’ continues to be used with the aim of social control,” which was also an objective of Roman rulers in the second century.

Tucker’s Op-Eds Published in WSJ, NYT

On Sept. 18, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, associate professor and chair of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. In light of the current mission of the Mars Curiosity Rover, Tucker writes about the centuries-long search for extraterrestrial life. The op-ed can be read online here.
On Aug. 23, The New York Times published an op-ed by Tucker.  Tucker says that the science behind Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on rape is completely sound, at least from the perspective of the 12th Century. She says that what may be worse is that, as a current member in the House of Representatives, Akin sits on the House Science and Technologies committee. The op-ed can be read online here.

Roth OpEd: Liberal Education Is Freedom

In an OpEd for The New York Times, President Roth discusses the recent calls to further specialize education and narrow what we teach students from K-12 and on to college at the exclusion of the liberal arts, especially the humanities. Roth says this drive to turn students into “human capital” is not a new and in fact the esteemed 19th Century educational philosopher John Dewey argued against the very same calls, saying in part “that learning in the process of living is the deepest form of freedom.”

Genetically Modified Fish a Hazard to Ecosystems

Commenting in a piece in The Washington Post, Barry Chernoff, chair, College of the Environment, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, says the genetically-modified “GloFish” are being released into the wild and can damage natural stocks and threaten ecosystems. The fish have been genetically manipulated, implanting color genes from coral to create unnatural fluorescent exterior colors.

Return to Gold Standard a Big Mistake

In an OpEd for The Los Angeles Times, Richard Grossman, professor of economics, says that the Republican National Convention platform’s call for a study on reestablishing the gold standard is relatively harmless–that is, as long as the gold standard is not actually adopted. Grossman says, “being a conservative should not mean promoting policies that have not worked for 100 years.”

Caldwell: Akin’s Uses Science of Ancient Romans

In an OpEd for The Hartford Courant, Lauren Caldwell, assistant professor of classical studies, says that U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s reference to women being able to consciously prevent conception during rape is relying on “facts” presented by the ancient Roman physician Soranus of Ephesus in the Second Century, A.D. Caldwell also says, “The next time I teach my course, I will be able to bring in the example of Rep. Akin to illustrate the ways in which “medical understanding” continues to be used with the aim of social control,” which was also an objective of Roman rulers in the second century.

Tucker: Akin’s Science Sound…For the 12th Century

Writing for The New York Times OpEd pages, Associate Professor Jennifer Tucker says that the science behind Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on rape is  completely sound, at least from the perspective of the 12th Century. Tucker, who is an associate professor of history, associate professor of science and society, chair and associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, says that what may be worse is that, as a current member in the House of Representatives, Akin sits on the House Science and Technologies committee.

Fowler: TV Political Ads Will Escalate in Next 2 Months

Commenting on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Erika Fowler, director of The Wesleyan Media Project and assistant professor of government, says with the presidential election essentially a dead heat right now, there will be no respite in political television advertising. In fact, much to the angst and consternation of many viewers, the quantity and frequency will increase, especially in the swing states. The reason is linked to what insiders call “the margins” – voters who remain undecided in their choice.

Cutler Discusses Union Busting In Connecticut

A piece in The New York Times explores the situation of 600 SEIU workers from five nursing homes owned by HealthBridge who staged a walkout on July 3 when asked to pay for their health care. The ensuing relationship between the workers and HealthBridge have become “toxic” with charges of sabotage and misdealing flying. Jonathan Cutler, associate professor of sociology, says the situation looks more and more like a case of union busting by the employer.