Snapshots

Japanese Community Celebrates Spring with Cherry Blossom Festival

On April 17, Wesleyan’s Japanese community gathered outside the College of East Asian Studies to celebrate Ohanami, or “flower viewing.” In early spring, three sakura—or cherry blossom trees—are blooming near the Japanese Garden.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual gathering was restricted to current students studying Japanese and CEAS faculty members.

The cherry trees were donated in the mid-70s by Nobel Laureate Satoshi Omura, who received an honorary degree from Wesleyan in 1994.

“The cherry blossoms’ timing was perfect,” said event coordinator Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian Studies. “We had fallen cherry blossoms all over the ground, which made a beautiful cherry blossom carpet.”

Maruta said this year’s event was especially meaningful because it was canceled last year. Also, since Japanese classes are still taught online this semester, “some students and teachers finally met each other for the first time in person.”

Photos of the event are below:

cherry blossom

cherry blossom

Canada Geese Graze and Greet Wesleyan Students

geese

A gaggle of Canada geese visited campus on Feb. 22 to enjoy a grassy area for feeding. Although some geese migrate, they’re also year-round Connecticut residents and are frequently seen on Andrus Field in February and March. Canada geese prefer wide-open spaces for grazing and breeding. More than 25 geese gathered in this area and greeted Wesleyan students as they walked by. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Campus Community Celebrates the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Feb. 12, Wesleyan welcomed Civil Rights activist, organizer, author, and educator Ruby Sales to deliver the annual 2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. Sales is the founder and director of SpiritHouse Project, a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization that uses the arts, research, education, action, and spirituality to bring diverse peoples together to work for racial, economic, and social justice. In the 1960s, Sales joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Tuskegee University and went to work as a student freedom fighter in Lowndes County, Alabama.

On Feb. 12, Wesleyan welcomed civil rights activist, organizer, author, and educator Ruby Sales to deliver the annual 2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. Sales is the founder and director of SpiritHouse Project, a national 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that uses the arts, research, education, action, and spirituality to bring diverse peoples together to work for racial, economic, and social justice. In the 1960s, Sales joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Tuskegee University and went to work as a student freedom fighter in Lowndes County, Alabama. “Not only do Black people survive, we also try and we thrive, because we were privileged to have 111 historically black colleges that produce Black doctors, Black lawyers, Black morticians—a Blackness that exists in every southern city in the United States—Birmingham; Washington D.C.; Charleston, South Carolina,” Sales said. “Yes, there was a plantation system in this, but there was also the magnificent work of the people who carved out a middle-class existence in a society that did not intend for us to survive.”

C-CERT Assists with Student Arrival Period

During the spring semester arrival period, Feb 5–8, volunteers from Wesleyan’s Campus-Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT) assisted with welcoming students to campus, checking them in, and ensuring they had a COVID-19 test within five days of arriving on campus.

Members also shoveled snow to keep paths clear and delivered students’ suitcases, via an ATV, to their residences. Joe Fountain, director of athletic injury care, loaned the Athletics Department ATV to C-CERT for this purpose.

Wesleyan’s C-CERT group consists of staff, faculty, and student volunteers.

(Photos by Olivia Drake and Roseann Sillasen)

CERT

CERT

Snow Dusts Campus during Winter Recess

Light snow dusted campus Jan. 26–27, while students were away on winter recess. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

snowy campus

Andrus Field glimmers with fresh snow behind College Row.

Snow covers an evergreen hedge on Pine Street near several wood-frame student houses.

Snow covers an evergreen hedge on Pine Street across from several wood-frame student houses.

Students Connect with Alumni Leaders through Career Conversation Events

This winter, the Gordon Career Center is hosting four “fireside chat” style Winter Alumni Career Conversation events between prominent alumni and current students. Guests include Kimberley Martin ’03, NFL reporter for ESPN; Jon Turteltaub ’85, film/TV director and producer; Jesse Greenspan ’06, director of supply chain and logistics, Partners in Health; and Dana Peterson ’98, chief economist, The Conference Board.

On Jan. 21, Myla Stovall ’22 moderated a talk with Kimberley Martin '03, NFL reporter for ESPN. Martin has covered the National Football League as a national writer and team beat reporter for more than a decade and joined ESPN as an NFL reporter in March 2020. She covers the league year-round and contributes to ESPN’s NFL shows, SportsCenter, ESPN.com and more.

On Jan. 21, psychology and English double major Myla Stovall ’22, at left, moderated a talk with Kimberley Martin ’03, NFL reporter for ESPN. Martin has covered the National Football League as a national writer and team beat reporter for more than a decade and joined ESPN as an NFL reporter in March 2020. She covers the league year-round and contributes to ESPN’s NFL shows, SportsCenter, ESPN.com, and more. During the discussion, Martin recalled the reasons why she chose to attend Wesleyan. “Wesleyan was literally the last school that I visited. I saw every school on the eastern seaboard and Wesleyan just felt like home. I felt like the birds were singing. This is where I needed to be,” she said.

Scholars Explore the Theme of “Dirt” Through Center for the Humanities Series

During the Center for the Humanities Lecture Series, nine scholars explored the theme of “Dirt” throughout the fall 2020 semester. The theme explored the material ecologies and symbolic currencies of filth, waste, toxicity, and contamination alongside ideas of purity, hygiene, and cleanliness to address and reframe a range of contemporary environmental and cultural urgencies.

Through various topics, the scholars discussed uses and abuses of dirt and its various political, religious, sexual, ethnic, racial, and ecological significations.

The topics and speakers included:

Projected Resonances: Intersections of Sound, Performance, and Tourism Underground at Mammoth Cave” by Paula Matthusen, associate professor of music; “Getting Our Hands Dirty: Manual Labor Schools, Abolition, and the Empire of Benevolence” by Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies; “Trashy Encounters: Modernity, the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, and Indigenous Futures” by Yu-ting Huang, assistant professor of East Asian studies; “Anthropogenic Forms in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being” by Amy Tang, Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of English and American Studies; “Lust Area” by Greg Goldberg, associate professor and chair of sociology; and “Queer Erotic Archives in Franco’s Spain (1954-1979)” by Javier Fernandez Galeano, Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow.

Other speakers included “Detention Operations” by Angela Naimou of Clemson University; “Soil, The Black Archives” by Marisa Solomon of Barnard College and Columbia University; and “Histories of Dirt in Lagos” by Stephanie Newell of Yale University.

The series was hosted by Natasha Korda, professor of English and director of the Center for the Humanities.

The spring 2021 Center for the Humanities theme is ephemera.

Natasha Korda, professor of English and director of the Center for the Humanities, explained how the theme "examines the material ecologies and symbolic currencies of soil, filth, waste, and contamination to reframe a range of contemporary environmental and cultural issues bearing on bodies and borders.” Korda also acknowledged that the land on which Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities stands once belonged to the indigenous Wangunk Indian tribe.

Natasha Korda, professor of English and director of the Center for the Humanities, explained how the theme “examines the material ecologies and symbolic currencies of soil, filth, waste, and contamination to reframe a range of contemporary environmental and cultural issues bearing on bodies and borders.” Korda also acknowledged that the land on which Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities stands once belonged to the indigenous Wangunk Indian tribe.

Amy Tang

On Oct. 19, Amy Tang, Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of English and American Studies, presented a talk titled “Anthropogenic Forms in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.” “[The novel] vibrantly juxtaposes multiple timescales specifically working between the scale of the human and the scale of the planet. Moreover, Ozeki’s novel highlights the narrative’s own temporal plurality as a way of locating ourselves within the geological epochs of the Anthropocene.”

On Oct. 26, Yu-Ting Huang, assistant professor of East Asian studies, presented a talk titled "Trashy Encounters: Modernity, the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, and Indigenous Futures."

On Oct. 26, Yu-ting Huang, assistant professor of East Asian studies, presented a talk titled “Trashy Encounters: Modernity, the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, and Indigenous Futures.”

Johnson noted that in the 1800s, liberal arts colleges and Protestant theological seminaries across the United States had integrated manual labor into their educational programs. At Andover Seminary in Massachusetts, students labored together 30-45 minutes before meals, and at Oneida Institute in New York, students were required to labor three hours a day.

On Nov. 9, Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies, spoke about “Getting Our Hands Dirty: Manual Labor Schools, Abolition, and the Empire of Benevolence.” Johnson noted that in the 1800s, liberal arts colleges and Protestant theological seminaries across the United States had integrated manual labor into their educational programs. At Andover Seminary in Massachusetts, students labored together 15 minutes before meals, and at Oneida Institute in New York (pictured at left), students were required to labor three hours per day. “Initially, requiring students to labor in farms or workshops served purely practical purposes. Manual labor provided physical exercise that improved general health and well-being, and in contributing labor toward the maintenance of institutions, growing foodstuffs, or producing commodities, students got to offset the cost of their tuition.”

goldberg

On Oct. 5, Greg Goldberg, associate professor and chair of sociology, presented a talk titled “Lust Area,” which focused on progressive support for all-gender public bathrooms in contrast to progressive silence surrounding the surveillance and policing of men who have sex with men in public bathrooms (also called “cruising”). Goldberg argued: “some of the contemporary support for all-gender bathrooms on the Left is motivated, probably unconsciously, by a discomfort with the homoerotics of the bathroom, and more specifically with the possibility of cruising. All-gender bathrooms can alleviate this discomfort insofar as they foreclose opportunities for cruising, whether through designs that eliminate opportunities for discrete exposure and contact, or by the installation or conversion of single-user bathrooms.”

Paula Matthusen presented "Projected Resonances: Intersections of Sound, Performance, and Tourism Underground at Mammoth Cave" on Nov. 23 as part of the Fall 2020 Center for the Humanities Lecture Series.

On Nov. 23, Paula Matthusen, associate professor of music, presented “Projected Resonances: Intersections of Sound, Performance, and Tourism Underground at Mammoth Cave.” With Projected Resonances, Matthusen explored the acoustic space in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave and its intertwined histories of musical performance and tourism.

On Sept. 14, Javier Fernandez Galeano, Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. "Queer Erotic Archives in Franco's Spain (1954-1979)"

On Sept. 14, Javier Fernandez Galeano, Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, presented “Queer Erotic Archives in Franco’s Spain (1954–1979).” Galeano explained that under Francisco Franco’s regime (1939–1975) in Spain, the authorities incinerated heterosexual pornography while they preserved, curated, and restored queer pornography. The study of the confiscated materials “suggests that queer and trans communities embodied in their photographs a reading of their own desires that differed from the authorities’ views,” he said.

South Asia’s Caste System Discussed by Scholars, Students

In South Asia, particularly in India, people are born into a caste system that determines their social status, career, and access to resources and opportunities. Under Brahmins (priests, intellectuals), Kshatriyas (military, warriors), Vaishyas (merchants, farmers), and Shudras (laborers, servants) are Dalits, also known as the “untouchables.” Those in the Dalit caste group struggle with oppression and discrimination and are considered “dirty” and spiritually polluting.

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan’s South Asian students’ association Shakti presented a conversation titled “Caste Conundrum and Identity Politics.” Panelists included Hari Krishnan, professor of dance; Indira Karamcheti, associate professor of American studies; Manjula Pradeep, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Navsarjan Trust; and Meena Varma, director of the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay and Darshana Banka moderated the discussion, which explored gender, privilege and their corresponding impacts on a day to day basis.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay ’21, top left, and Darshana Banka ’22, top right, moderated the discussion, which explored the caste system, gender, and privilege, and their corresponding impacts on a day-to-day basis.

"The caste system is so ingrained into society so people have adjusted life ... It doesn't bother everyone in India. There's millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste," Pradeep said. 

“The caste system is so ingrained into society, so people have adjusted life. . . . It doesn’t bother everyone in India. People don’t want to talk about it. There are millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste,” Pradeep said. “But the lower you are in the caste, and you’re born in the (Dalit) community, you have to do degrading work. If you’re born an untouchable, you live and die an untouchable.”

"We all need to be hyper-aware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it's not enough anymore," Krishnan said. Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity ... and be aware of the social political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence."

“We all need to be hyperaware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it’s not enough anymore,” Krishnan said. “Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity . . . and be aware of the social-political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence.”

caste

Karamcheti discussed the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965, which opened up worldwide immigration to the United States. Since the 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zones Act, immigration from various non-white countries had been restricted to around 100 persons per year. The Hart-Celler Act raised that cap to 20,000 per year, prioritizing highly skilled, highly educated individuals and family reunification. Consequently, those migrants joined the U.S. as members of the upper and middle classes. “They had professions in the public sphere, often highly prestigious, and incorporated into the U.S. into a flattening out of caste. In a sense, that first wave of immigration comes in, not caste-less, but as upper-caste. As those numbers increased into the 2000s, what you get is the community of South Asians, putting caste-ism into practice.”
As long as the South Asian community was small in number, the dominant culture saw them as all belonging to the model minority. “In this sense, ignorance about their internal differences was in a sense protection; people could pass in terms of their caste identity. South Asians, as their numbers increased, put caste-ism into practice against each other. As the dominant culture gained knowledge about South Asians, knowledge in this case led to more caste discrimination,” she said.

"If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you're probably privileged," Varma said. We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that's why solidarity networks are so important."

“If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you’re probably privileged,” Varma said. “We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that’s why solidarity networks are so important. One thing we can do, as when we talk about COVID, is to stop using the word ‘social distancing.’ Even though this is now global terminology, this is what has happened to Dalits for 3,000 years. We are now being social, and being distant for reasons of health, but it is because we need safe distancing, not social distancing.” Varma also described the work of Dalits. “Dalits are manual scavengers; they are cleaning human [feces] with their hands,” Varma said. “Cleaning of dry latrines is mostly done by women, and sanitation workers, mostly men, die every day because they are lowered into a manhole without protection. Here is a country that can send satellites into space, but can’t automate its sanitation.”

Gamelan Ensemble Provides Virtual Mini-Concerts, Demonstrations During Pandemic

On Nov. 19, students from the Javanese Gamelan Ensemble presented their work-in-progress, a number of compositions in different tuning systems, and formal musical structures.

On Nov. 19, students from the MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners class presented their work-in-progress as part of a virtual mini-concert series. Both the beginning and advanced classes are allowed to perform in person as long as they remain six feet apart and wear masks and disposable gloves.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of Wesleyan’s musical activities and classes were canceled, drastically adjusted, or moved to virtual platforms. Fortunately, for Wesleyan’s Javanese gamelan classes, students were still allowed to meet in-person as long as they followed strict guidelines: wear a mask and disposable gloves, social distance, and frequently use hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

“The university made all of these available to the students in the World Music Hall, where the gamelan meets,” explained Winslow-Kaplain Professor of Music Sumarsam. “The gamelan instruments were set up six feet apart, and the students were required to maintain that distance while playing or sitting in the audience area for discussion, and when lining up to enter or exit the hall. We also planned to have occasional online lectures and discussions, so the group did not have to meet in person as often.”

In the process of planning their hybrid MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners and MUSC 452: Javanese Gamelan-Advanced courses, Sumarsam and fellow gamelan instructor I.M. Harjito, University Professor of Music, decided to create a biweekly series of virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations, each one showcasing a different theme or style in 30-minute formats. “The production staff of CFA has worked tirelessly to publicize and produce these virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations,” Sumarsam noted.