Faculty

Tucker Authors Several New Papers on Science in Society, Modern Science

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, is the author and co-author of several new publications. They include:

“A View of the Ocean, Between the Tropics (1765–1800),” published in Britain in the World: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art by Yale University Press, 2019.

“Popularizing the Cosmos: Pedagogies of Science and Society in Anton Pannekoek’s Life and Work,” published in Anton Pannekoek: Ways of Viewing Science and Society by Amsterdam University Press, 2019.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Hartford Courant: “Jeanine Basinger, the ‘Professor of Hollywood,’ Is Wesleyan University’s Homegrown Screen Legend”

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita Jeanine Basinger, whom this article notes has been dubbed “the professor of Hollywood” and “an iconic figure in American cinema, one of the most beloved and respected film history professors in the history of film studies” by The Hollywood Reporter, is interviewed on the occasion of her 60th year at Wesleyan, and the 50th since she created its film program. She talks about her next book on American film comedy, shares some of her favorite things, and muses on which actress would play her in a movie of her life.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: “‘We Need More Vigorous Debate’: A Conversation with Michael S. Roth”

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, managing editor of Modern Intellectual History, interviews President Michael Roth in connection with his latest book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Roth discusses his career path from intellectual historian to university administrator and professor, and offers his unique perspective on debates surrounding freedom of speech and political correctness.

3. Los Angeles Times: “Kirk Douglas Dead at 103; ‘Spartacus’ Star Helped End Hollywood Blacklist”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, comments on Kirk Douglas’s legacy following the film icon’s death at 103. Recalling when she first saw him on-screen in the 1940s, she said, “He wasn’t a traditional leading man, really, in looks, and yet he had an unmistakable charisma and power on screen—not just the glamour of the movie star, though he did have that, but real acting chops. So you knew he was going to be a star.” She added, “He was a very modern American antihero type, but he could also play anything, really.”

Hatch Pens Book on the Secret Use of Drugs to Control Captives

Silent CellsAnthony Ryan Hatch, chair and associate professor of science in society, is the author of Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America, published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2019.

The book offers a critical investigation into the use of psychotropic drugs to pacify and control inmates and other captives in the vast US prison, military, and welfare systems.

According to the publisher:

Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.

For residents of state-managed institutions, the American Dream too often has been warped into a drug-addled nightmare. Combining novel insights supported by rigorous scholarship with fresh, accessible writing, Hatch presents a powerful indictment of imposing psychotropics upon the caged powerless, building an unimpugnable case that unveils a deeply troubling pattern and also affords us the chance to end it.

Kaye’s New Book Offers Critical Perspective of Criminal-Justice Reform

KayeKerwin Kaye, associate professor of sociology, is the author of Enforcing Freedom: Drug Courts, Therapeutic Communities, and the Intimacies of the State, published by Columbia University Press in December 2019.

According to the publisher:

In 1989, the first drug-treatment court was established in Florida, inaugurating an era of state-supervised rehabilitation. Such courts have frequently been seen as a humane alternative to incarceration and the war on drugs. “Enforcing Freedom” offers an ethnographic account of drug courts and mandatory treatment centers as a system of coercion, demonstrating how the state uses notions of rehabilitation as a means of social regulation.

Situating drug courts in a long line of state projects of race and class control, Kerwin Kaye details the ways in which the violence of the state is framed as beneficial for those subjected to it. He explores how courts decide whether to release or incarcerate participants using nominally colorblind criteria that draw on racialized imagery. Rehabilitation is defined as preparation for low-wage labor and the destruction of community ties with “bad influences,” a process that turns participants against one another. At the same time, Kaye points toward the complex ways in which participants negotiate state control in relation to other forms of constraint in their lives, sometimes embracing the state’s salutary violence as a means of countering their impoverishment. Simultaneously sensitive to ethnographic detail and theoretical implications, “Enforcing Freedom” offers a critical perspective on the punitive side of criminal-justice reform and points toward alternative paths forward.

Quijada’s Book on Post-Soviet Buryatia Wins Prize from Society for the Anthropology of Religion

Justine Quijada

Justine Quijada, at right, accepted the first Honorable Mention for the Geertz Prize during the American Anthropological Association’s Annual Meeting in Vancouver in November 2019.

Justine Quijada, associate professor of religion, is the author of a new book titled Buddhists, Shamans, and Soviets: Rituals of History in Post-Soviet Buryatia, published by Oxford University Press in 2019.

The book recently won the first Honorable Mention for the Geertz Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of Religion (SAR). Named in honor of the late Professor Clifford Geertz, the Geertz Prize seeks to encourage excellence in the anthropology of religion by recognizing an outstanding recent book in the field. SAR awards the prize to “foster innovative scholarship, the integration of theory with ethnography, and the connection of the anthropology of religion to the larger world.”

Buddhists, Shamans, and Soviets explains how Soviets viewed Buryats—an indigenous Siberian ethnic group—as a “backwards” nationality that was carried along on the inexorable march toward the Communist utopian future.

According to the book’s publisher:

When the Soviet Union ended, the Soviet version of history lost its power and Buryats, like other Siberian indigenous peoples, were able to revive religious and cultural traditions that had been suppressed by the Soviet state. In the process, they also recovered knowledge about the past that the Soviet Union had silenced. Borrowing the analytic lens of the chronotope from Bakhtin, Quijada argues that rituals have chronotopes which situate people within time and space. As they revived rituals, Post-Soviet Buryats encountered new historical information and traditional ways of being in time that enabled them to re-imagine the Buryat past, and what it means to be Buryat. Through the temporal perspective of a reincarnating Buddhist monk, Dashi-Dorzho Etigelov, Buddhists come to see the Soviet period as a test on the path of dharma. Shamanic practitioners, in contrast, renegotiate their relationship to the past by speaking to their ancestors through the bodies of shamans. By comparing the versions of history that are produced in Buddhist, shamanic and civic rituals, “Buddhists, Shamans and Soviets offers a new lens for analyzing ritual, a new perspective on how an indigenous people grapples with a history of state repression, and an innovative approach to the ethnographic study of how people know about the past.

Fowler, Baum, Gollust ’01 Co-Author Paper on Gun Coverage in Political Advertising

Gun-related deaths are on the rise in the United States, and following recent mass shootings, gun policy has emerged as an issue in the 2020 election cycle.

In the February 2020 issue of Health Affairs, co-authors Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and director of the Wesleyan Media Project; Laura Baum, project manager in the Government Department; and alumna Sarah Gollust ’01 explain how political advertising is an increasingly important tool for candidates seeking office to use to communicate their policy priorities. Over $6 billion was spent on political ads in the 2016 election cycle, and spending in the 2020 cycle is expected to be even higher.

Their paper, titled “Guns In Political Advertising Over Four US Election Cycles, 2012–18″ suggests that tracking gun-related political advertising over time can offer critical insights into how candidates view the salience of gun policy in the context of the 2020 election and beyond.

The co-authors analyzed the coverage of guns in over 14 million candidate-related television ad airings for presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative races over four election cycles: 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018.

According to their paper:

The share of candidate-related ad airings that referred to guns increased from 1 percent in the 2012 cycle to over 8 percent in the 2018 cycle. Pro–gun rights content dominated but dropped from 86 percent of airings mentioning guns in the 2012 cycle to 45 percent in the 2018 cycle. Advertising in favor of gun regulation and against the National Rifle Association increased over time. These shifts offer insights into how gun issues are being framed in the 2020 election cycle.

Research for this study was supported by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, the Smart Family Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Juhasz Studies Word Age-of-Acquisition Effects through Eye Movements

Assistant Professor Barbara Juhasz is interested in understanding how words produce a certain sensory experience when read.

Barbara Juhasz

Barbara Juhasz, Jeffrey L. Shames Professor of Civic Engagement and associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and behavior, is the co-author of an article titled “The time course of age-of-acquisition effects on eye movements during reading: Evidence from survival analyses,” published in Memory and Cognition, January 2020.

According to the paper’s abstract:

Adults process words that are rated as being learned earlier in life faster than words that are rated as being acquired later in life. This age-of-acquisition (AoA) effect has been observed in a variety of word-recognition tasks when word frequency is controlled. AoA has also previously been found to influence fixation durations when words are embedded into sentences and eye movements are recorded. However, the time course of AoA effects during reading has been inconsistent across studies.

The current study further explored the time course of AoA effects on distributions of first-fixation durations during reading. Early and late acquired words were embedded into matched neutral sentence frames. Participants read the sentences while their eye movements were recorded. AoA effects were observed in both early and late fixation duration measures, suggesting that AoA has an early and long-lasting effect on word-recognition processes during reading.

Slowik in The Conversation: Oscar-worthy Scores Unlock a Film’s Emotional Heart

Michael Slowik '03

Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03 writes about how film scores can “convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape” by considering two films nominated for 2020 Oscars for best score.

The secret to the success of two Oscar-nominated scores

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards an Oscar to the film with the best original score.

The best scores—like those from Lawrence of Arabia and Black Panther—convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape.

How do composers pull this off?

Back in 2014, I wrote a book examining the musical methods of early sound films. Ninety years later, some of the basic techniques developed during that era remain relevant. They include what industry professionals call “spotting,” which refers to when music appears in the film, and decisions about which musical styles to incorporate.

This year, two very different Oscar-nominated scores—those from Marriage Story and Joker—show how style and spotting can have major effects on a viewer’s engagement and emotional experience with a film.

Sounding out the breakdown of a marriage

Marriage Story tells the story of a married couple whose separation leads to an increasingly bitter and contentious divorce.

The film’s score, composed by Randy Newman, uses music in a classical style—but mainly during moments of kindness and human connection.

In the film’s lengthy opening, for example, we hear Charlie and his wife Nicole describe what they love about each other. During this sequence, the audience hears strings, flute, harp and piano. Perhaps Newman chose classical music because, for many listeners, its sounds can evoke the perfection of a past era. He splices these sounds with dialogue reflecting what most people want from their romantic relationships: warmth, trust and mutual support.

Cohan in The Conversation: A Clue to Stopping Coronavirus

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Fred Cohan, professor of biology, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, PhD student Kathleen Sagarin, and Kelly Mei ’20 explain how viruses like coronavirus—and several others over history—spread from animals to humans, what determines the size of the outbreak, and how behavioral modifications and technology can stop the spread.

A clue to stopping coronavirus: Knowing how viruses adapt from animals to humans

As the novel coronavirus death toll mounts, it is natural to worry. How far will this virus travel through humanity, and could another such virus arise seemingly from nowhere?

As microbial ecologists who study the origins of new microbial species, we would like to give some perspective.

As a result of continuing deforestation, “bushmeat” hunting of wild animals and caring for our domestic animals, the novel coronavirus will certainly not be the last deadly virus from wild animals to infect humans. Indeed, wild species of bats and primates abound in viruses closely related to SARS and HIV, respectively. When humans interact with wild animal species, pathogens that are resident in those animals can spill over to humans, sometimes with deadly effects.

Gilmore Works on Planetarium Show at American Museum of Natural History

worlds beyond earthResearch conducted by a Wesleyan professor is part of a new space show at the American Museum of Natural History.

Martha Gilmore

Martha GIlmore.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of Earth and environmental sciences, worked over the past year developing content for the new Hayden Planetarium Space Show Worlds Beyond Earth. The show opened on Jan. 21 as part of the museum’s 150th anniversary celebration.

“It’s amazing,” Gilmore says. “The images that you see are all realistic. We even contacted some of the engineers for the Magellan spacecraft in order to understand exactly how the spacecraft imaged Venus in the early 1990s.”

Featuring brilliant visualizations of distant worlds, groundbreaking space missions, and scenes depicting the evolution of our solar system, Worlds Beyond Earth “takes viewers on an exhilarating journey that reveals the surprisingly dynamic nature of the worlds that orbit our Sun and the unique conditions that make life on our planet possible,” according to the American Museum of Natural History’s website.

Over the year, Gilmore worked with fellow Earth and planetary scientists, science visualization experts, writers, and artists to turn data into a visual masterpiece displayed on the world’s most advanced planetarium projection system. Gilmore’s specific task was to share the story of Venus having once been a habitable planet.

“The idea that Mars, Venus, and Earth were all habitable four billion years ago, but only Earth remains—that’s what I presented to them, and it’s really nice to see that story in the most famous planetarium show in the country!”

Gilmore

Wesleyan alumnus Mark Popinchalk ’13 and Martha Gilmore mingled at the Worlds Beyond Earth preview event.

On Jan. 15, Gilmore was invited to the museum for a sneak preview of the show. Other Wesleyan affiliates in attendance included James Greenwood, assistant professor of Earth and environmental sciences; Anne Canty ’84, senior vice president for communications at the museum; and Gilmore’s former student and museum science educator Mark Popinchalk ’13.

Gilmore also is one of three scientists featured in a short movie that will be played in the waiting area of the planetarium.

The show “is just gorgeous,” Gilmore said. “What I appreciate now is that the data you see in the show are correct—the spacecraft orbits, the positions of the planets and stars, the magnetic field data, etc. It’s an incredible amount of work to make that happen. If you see it and wait for the credits to roll on the dome, you’ll see my name and Wesleyan!”

Ostfeld ’10 Fundraising for Organic Farm Food Ordering App via Kickstarter

Rosemary Ostfeld '10

Rosemary Ostfeld ’10

Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies, is developing a smartphone app to re-energize the connection between communities and local farms so people can purchase healthy and sustainable food options. Called “Healthy PlanEat,” the app will allow patrons to order food from local organic farms.

Ostfeld launched her Kickstarter in January, and she’s hoping to raise $40,000 by Feb. 15. The idea has also appeared in The Hartford Courant, The Day, and The Middletown Press.

Recent Media Hits

NewsWesleyan in the News

  1. Connecticut Public Radio: “The Struggle for Sleep: Why More School Districts Are Considering Later Starts”

Speaking as both a scholar and a mother, Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman comments in this story on the movement to push schools in the state to start later. “People ask me, as a developmental psychologist, ‘Oh, we have this mental health crisis in the state, what are we going to do, what should we be funding, what kind of resources do we need to build in?’ And I just think it’s so silly when we have such a straightforward solution that has such large, measurable impacts.”

2. The Washington Post: “For the Super Bowl, Bloomberg and Trump Are Each Spending $10 Million on Ads”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and her colleagues on the Wesleyan Media Project write about what makes political advertising in the 2020 election cycle look so different (hint: two self-funded billionaires are blowing up existing records) and the unusual decision by candidates Michael Bloomberg and President Donald Trump to spend $10 million each to reach nearly 100 million American viewers at the same time. Fowler was also recently interviewed on Marketplace about political advertising.

3. Transitions Online: “Russian Government Reshuffle: Plus ça Change”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, Professor of Government, analyzes the recent mass resignation of the Russian government following a surprise announcement from Russian President Vladamir Putin that he was rewriting the constitution. There is much unclear about the changes, including why Putin chose to make them at this time, and what the impact will be on Russia’s government. What is clear, Rutland writes, is that “Russia’s political system is broken” due to Putin’s constant tinkering with the country’s political institutions “to create the appearance of change while retaining power in his own hands.”

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan Student Heading to Hollywood Among Writers of the Future Winners”