Faculty

Yohe on How Candidates Talk about Climate Change

WNPR interviewed Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, for a story on how candidates should talk about climate change.

Yohe said that climate change has not been a big issue this election cycle.

“I think a lot of the campaigning in Connecticut has been defined by jobs and economics and misstatements on one side or the other about what is happening,” he said. “The impacts of climate change and the economics of climate change have not been elevated to the same level.”

Yohe said he thinks the issue will play a much bigger role in the 2016 election, as the Obama administration continues its push to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030.

Yohe is professor and chair of economics, professor of environmental studies. He is vice-chair of the National Climate Assessment advisory committee.

Studies by Varekamp, Thomas Published in Paleoceanography

varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Wesleyan faculty Joop Varekamp and Ellen Thomas are among the authors of a paper on rates of sea-level rise along the eastern U.S. seaboard titled “Late Holocene sea level variability and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation,” published in the journal Paleoceanography, Volume 29, Issue 8, pages 765–777 in August 2014. Varekamp is the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental sciences and professor of environmental studies. Thomas is research professor of earth and environmental sciences at Wesleyan, and also a senior research scientist in geology and geophysics at Yale University.

Ellen Thomas discovered that microfossils, such as this  foraminifera fossil, reveal that warm oceans had less oxygen.

Ellen Thomas discovered that microfossils, such as this foraminifera fossil, reveal that warm oceans had less oxygen.

Pre-20th century sea level variability remains poorly understood due to limits of tide gauge records, low temporal resolution of tidal marsh records, and regional anomalies caused by dynamic ocean processes, notably multidecadal changes in Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). In the study, Varekamp and Thomas examined sea level and circulation variability along the eastern United States over the last 2,000 years, using a sea level curve constructed from proxy sea surface temperature records from Chesapeake Bay, and 20th century sea level-sea surface temperature relations derived from tide gauges and instrumental sea surface temperatures.

Thomas also is a co-author of a paper titled ‘I/Ca evidence for upper ocean deoxygenation during the PETM‘ published in the Paleoceanography, October 2014.

In this paper, Thomas suggests that the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a potential analog for present and future global warming, may help in such forecasting future deoxygenation and its effects on oceanic biota. Forecasting the geographical and bathymetric extent,

Grossman Discussant at Economics Research Conference

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

On Oct. 24, Richard Grossman, professor of economics, was a discussant at a conference titled “Organizations, Civil Society, and the Roots of Development,” organized by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass.

Grossman commented on a paper by Dan Bogart (University of California at Irvine) titled “Securing the East India Monopoly: Politics, Institutional Change, and the Security of British Property Rights Revisited.” The paper focuses on the history of the English East India Company and ways it yields new insights on the relationship between politics, institutional change, and the security of property rights in Britain.

Kottos, Basiri Author Paper Published in Physical Review

Data by Tsampikos Kottos and Ali Basiri.

Tsampikos Kottos and Ali Basiri, a Ph.D. student in physics, are co-authors of a paper titled “Light localization induced by a random imaginary refractive index,” published in Physical Review A 90, on Oct. 13, 2014. Kottos is the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics.

In the paper, the authors show the emergence of light localization in arrays of coupled optical waveguides with randomness.

 

 

 

“Citizenfour” Draws Praise

The new documentary about former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, “Citizenfour,” can be seen as both advocacy journalism and an elegant movie, says New York Times reviewer (and Distinguished Professor of Film Criticism) A.O. Scott.

In a review published Oct. 23, Scott praises the film by Laura Poitras as a “tense and frightening thriller,” while it also seeks to offer Snowden’s side of the controversy over his allegations of widespread government surveillance.

“… it is also a primal political fable for the digital age, a real-time tableau of the confrontation between the individual and the state,” Scott writes.  “It’s hard to tell the difference, and thinking about the issues Ms. Poitras raises can induce a kind of epistemological vertigo. What do we know about what is known about us? Who knows it? Can we trust them? These questions are terrifying, and so is “Citizenfour.””

Hughes Finds Magnetic Fields in Stardust; Study Published in Nature

Assistant professor of Astronomy Meredith Hughes and eight colleagues have found evidence of magnetic fields in stardust – an indication that magnetic fields are important in the process of planetary system formation, according to a new paper in the journal Nature.

The discovery is another step in work by Hughes and other astronomers to understand how celestial bodies are formed. It is known that magnetic fields in the “accretion disks” of stars play a dominant role in the star formation process.

Meredith Hughes

Meredith Hughes

Using data from an observatory near Bishop, Calf., Hughes and her colleagues were able to spot signs of magnetic fields in the dust of the disk of a star about 300 light years away. While magnetic fields have been detected in regions that represent the very earliest stages of star formation (the so-called Class 0 and Class I stages), this is the first time they have been seen around a star with an older age closer to when we believe planetary systems form.

“This is an important result,” Hughes said. “It’s the first time that we’ve seen magnetic fields this late in the process of star and planet formation. And like any good scientific result, when you find something new it opens up whole new sets of questions we can ask.”

In fact, Hughes said the astronomers did not expect the results they got. “I honestly didn’t think it was going to work – we had been trying so long with Class II sources and hadn’t found anything,” she said. “But I thought, we might as well try this last source that is just a little younger than most Class II sources. You want to try everything you can – but it was really a surprise when it worked.”

The paper, “Spatially resolved magnetic field structure in the disk of a T Tauri star,” was published Oct. 22. Nature is the world’s most highly-cited interdisciplinary science publication. The 145-year-old journal is published weekly.

Kaye Studies Addiction and Criminal Justice, Male Prostitution

Kerwin Kaye at Wesleyan University. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Assistant Professor of Sociology Kerwin Kaye is teaching courses this year on sociology of crime and punishment, sociological theory, and sociology of sexualities.

Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Kaye! Please catch us up on your life up to the present.

A: I grew up in Denver, Colo., and yes, I did learn to ski. My academic interests have transformed significantly, given that I began my university education with the idea of double-majoring in physics and philosophy. I wound up at CU-Boulder working on a crisis hotline and obtaining a BA in psychology. After that I moved to San Francisco, pursuing an MA in anthropology at San Francisco State University, where I conducted ethnographic research on male street prostitution. In 2001, I moved to the East Coast, obtaining a Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. My master’s work concerning street prostitution pressed me toward the issue of drug use (nearly everyone on the street was using drugs of some sort), and also towards the question of institutional responses to street poverty. For my doctoral dissertation, I did a participant-observational study of drug courts and drug treatment within the criminal justice system (topics that brought me closer to some of the core issues and methodologies of sociology as a discipline). I still retain interests in physics and philosophy, and am grateful to have been exposed to a variety of intellectual traditions.

Q: How did you come to teach at Wesleyan? Is it true that you were previously a visiting professor here?

A: I was indeed a visiting professor here four years ago, and enjoyed the experience enormously. At the risk of pandering, I’d have to say that the enthusiasm and intelligence of the students here were huge factors that made me want to return.

Q: Please describe your research interests.

A: At present I am engaged in three projects. My primary project involves reworking my dissertation on drug courts and turning it into a book (tentatively titled “Using Drugs” and to be published in the Public Criminology series with Columbia University Press). I am also collaborating with about a dozen other scholars on a group research project in which we are attempting to reflect upon our individual projects in developing a larger framework concerning the direction of gender and sexuality within the contemporary economic environment. I also just finished writing a paper about the exclusion of men and boys from the sex trafficking discourse, using the exclusion of men as a way to talk about the narrowly gendered vision of “sex trafficking” as a frame, and arguing that a less melodramatic vision of the challenges faced by sex workers is needed. There are simply very few people who need to be rescued from sex traffickers, and prioritizing “sex trafficking” makes the important issues we should actually be confronting practically invisible.

Q: I see you’ve published a number of papers on male prostitution. How did you become interested in this subject, and what specifically did you study?

A: I had been interested in the politics of sex work for some time, and saw that most of the debates centered around street prostitution (just as today they focus on “sex trafficking”). I wanted to develop a better understanding as to what was happening on the street, so I began what turned into a year’s worth of ethnographic study, living for a short time in one of the local hotels used by the street workers, but mostly working through a small harm reduction agency in the area that handed out food, clothes, condoms, and needles for injecting drugs. My research focused specifically on the non-sexual aspects of street prostitution – I was curious about the everyday lives that people were living more than the sex as such. Basically, it was something of a crash course in issues of urban poverty among street populations. To me, the issue of street prostitution must be understood within that broader context rather than having the issue of sex narrowly define the questions.

Q: You’ve also written about addiction and criminal justice. Please describe your research in this area.

A: I conducted more than a year’s worth of ethnographic study looking at the way “drug courts” work (people avoid jail time by undergoing drug treatment that is supervised by these courts). I especially focused on the treatment centers that the courts send people to, a topic where there’s been very little research. I began by looking at the way that “addiction” gets defined by the various people and organizations involved: How do you know if someone is getting “better” if they’re living in a treatment center and are not presently using drugs? Do the different agencies agree upon a common vision of addiction and of treatment, and how do the people going through the programs understand these issues? Over time, I saw many practices at the treatment centers that I thought were very abusive. Apparently getting better from addiction requires being yelled at and shamed a great deal — to me it seemed that “tough love” is more tough than loving. More than that, I saw that “addiction” was being defined in terms of classed and gendered behaviors. Basically, the move from “addiction” to “sobriety” was defined as a shift from the street-oriented hustling that I had seen in the male prostitution study into normative forms of work, sex, and family life. In terms of employment, people were made to subordinate themselves within the lowest strata of the formal economy as a sign of sobriety; this included explicit instruction in how to accept abusive behavior from one’s boss, and how to emotionally cope with the tedium of much low-wage labor. Behaviors associated with the improvisational and often dangerous nature of street life were shamed as unworthy parts of a “drugs lifestyle” while acceptance of labor market injustices was defined as “emotional maturity.” Some of the people going through the program were glad to have a chance to get included in mainstream life, even at the bottom, but others thought the treatment center was simply another type of prison. And no one liked being yelled at and shamed by the staff.

Q: Please tell us about the courses you’re teaching this semester. What do you plan to teach in the future?

A: This semester I am teaching Introduction to Sociology and Sociology of Crime and Punishment. Next semester I’ll be teaching Sociological Theory and Sociology of Sexualities. I’m still thinking about what I might teach next year, but perhaps a course specifically on Critical Social Theories. At some point I will no doubt offer a course on drugs and addiction as well….

Q: How would you describe your teaching style?

A: I approach my classes with limited amounts of lecture and a greater focus on discussion. I usually have an agenda regarding a few points that I want to make sure get made during the class, but beyond that I much prefer open-ended conversations that take us to unexpected places in addressing student concerns. There are usually a few movies or videos thrown in for good measure as well…

Q: What are you most looking forward to about working at Wesleyan?

A: I am very happy to be here. My colleagues are great, and the students are even better! I especially appreciate the classroom dynamics that can get established when students are already interested in a topic and are essentially demanding that I teach them everything I know – it’s hardly an environment in which I confront a classroom of passive and bored students!

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: Walks and hikes in nature are perennial favorite activities for me. And, though geeky, I admit to also being an aficionado of science fiction.

Interview, Paper by Smolkin-Rothrock, Fusso Focuses on Russian Atheist

Wesleyan faculty Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock and Susanne Fusso are the co-authors of “The Confession of an Atheist Who Became a Scholar of Religion,” published in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Volume 15, Number 3, Summer 2014. The paper is based on an interview Smolkin-Rothrock completed on Russian atheist Nikolai Semenovich Gordienko.

Smolkin-Rothrock is assistant professor of history; assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies; Faculty Fellow Center for the Humanities; and tutor in the College of Social Studies. Fusso is professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies.

Among the most prominent professors of “scientific atheism” in the Soviet Union, Gordienko also was the author of the Foundations of Scientific Atheism textbook and a consultant to the political elite on religious questions. Over the course of his life, he was connected with every institution that managed Soviet spiritual life in both its religious and atheist variants. Read the paper’s abstract online here.

Conn. Governor’s Race Sets Record in Negative Ads

Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, spoke to WNPR about the Connecticut governor’s race, which has emerged as the most negative in the country.

“We do tend to see movement in polls due to negativity,” she said. “The reason why you continue to see lots of negative [ads] is because people do seem to respond to them.”

“Foley and his allies are going after Malloy for being a career politician. For higher taxes that hurt the middle class,” Fowler said. “Whereas Democratic groups and Malloy are going after Foley for tax breaks for millionaires. For being anti-worker for not caring about the average citizen.”

Fowler said negative ads — and TV advertising in general — is generally targeted toward undecided voters and she said, “Negativity isn’t always bad. In a world where citizens don’t always pay a lot of attention to politics, a negative ad that induces a little bit of fear and therefore some information seeking, can actually be a good thing.”

The Wesleyan Media Project analyzes campaign ad spending in all U.S. Senate, House and gubernatorial races. More than 100 articles in major news outlets have cited the project’s research this election season. Other recent highlights include an interview with Fowler on Fox News, stories on NPR and Politico, and in The New York TimesThe Christian Science Monitor, CBS News, USA Todayand The Wall Street Journal.

Gruen on Killing ‘Excalibur’

Lori Gruen, chair and professor of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, writes in Time about the decision in Spain to kill a dog named Excalibur, who lived with a nurse exposed to Ebola.

Neither the dog, nor the nurse’s husband, who was put under monitoring, showed any signs of the virus, writes Gruen. Moreover, experts say there is no evidence to support the notion that dogs can transmit Ebola. Gruen writes:

The right thing to do would have been to isolate Excalibur and observe him, as was done to others who had been in contact with Teresa. But Spanish authorities weren’t thinking of Excalibur’s life as valuable or of how devastating his death would be to his family. They were thinking about what was expedient.

Many consider dogs, like most animals, disposable. Animal lives are thought to be worth less than those of humans. Rather than spend money or energy isolating a dog, it was easier, Spanish authorities decided, to kill him. And given how long it took the hospital to admit Teresa, it was unlikely they were simply acting with the utmost caution when it came to Excalibur. In the U.S., more than one million dogs are euthanized each year, dogs that are inconvenient or unwanted are routinely disposed of.

The routine killing of animals diminishes not only their lives, but the toll that choosing euthanasia takes on people who live with and love animals.

Twagira’s Paper on Cosmopolitan Workers Published in Gender & History

coverLaura Ann Twagira, assistant professor of history, is the author of an article titled, “‘Robot Farmers’ and Cosmopolitan Workers: Technological Masculinity and Agricultural Development in the French Soudan (Mali), 1945–68,” published in the November issue of Gender & History, Volume 26, Issue 3, pages 459-477.

In 1956, Administrator Ancian, a French government official, suggested in a confidential report that one of the most ambitious agricultural schemes in French West Africa, the Office du Niger, had been misguided in its planning to produce only a ‘robot farmer’. The robot metaphor was drawn from the intense association between the project and technology. However, it was a critical analogy suggesting alienation. By using the word ‘robot’, Ancian implied that, rather than developing the project with the economic and social needs of the individual farmer in mind, the colonial Office du Niger was designed so that indistinguishable labourers would follow the dictates of a strictly regulated agricultural calendar. In effect, farmers were meant simply to become part of a larger agricultural machine, albeit a machine of French design. Read the full article, online here.

Crimea, Tatar Rights Explored at Panel Discussion, Multimedia Performance

Wesleyan will present "To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars" Oct. 24. The event includes a panel discussion, faculty dance concert/multimedia presentation and reception.

Wesleyan will present “To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars” Oct. 24. The event includes a panel discussion, faculty dance concert/multimedia presentation and reception.

 

On Oct. 24, the Dance Department and Center for the Arts present “To Not Forget Crimea: Uncertain Quiet of Indigenous Crimean Tatars,” a panel discussion and the Fall Faculty Dance Concert by Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio.

While international media and political leaders are ignoring the situation in Crimea, this event draws public attention to the widespread violation of the Tatars’ human rights and the degree to which the Russian Occupation has forced them out of their ancestral homeland.

The evening will begin with a free panel discussion, “Indigenous Ukrainian Perspectives of Crimea Post Russian-Invasion,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Fayerweather Beckham Hall. The discussion will revolve around the current situation in Crimea, the quest for indigenous status by its Tatar population, and the movement for Tatar rights under Mustafa Jemilev, which through non-violence and interfaith collaboration offers an inspiring model for other oppressed peoples.

The event will be live streamed; see here for information and the live stream link.

Panelists will include Arsen Zhumadilov, founder and chairman of the Crimean Institute for Strategic Studies; Ayla Bakkalli, United States representative of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and Greta Uehling, lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Program in International and Comparative Studies, and author of Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return.