Society

Wesleyan, Chinese Social Science Group Enter Into Scholarly Partnership

Scholars from Wesleyan and the Social Sciences in China Press gathered Dec. 10 to sign a memorandum of understanding. Pictured are, front row from left, Daimei Feng, Changbao Wei, Limin Wang, Michael Roth, Joyce Jacobsen, and Jennifer Tucker. Back row, from left, Guofei Chu, Bing Jiao, Qun Zhou, Gary Shaw, and Peter Rutland.

Scholars from Wesleyan and the Social Sciences in China Press gathered Dec. 10 to sign a memorandum of understanding. Pictured are, front row from left, Daimei Feng, Changbao Wei, Limin Wang, Michael Roth, Joyce Jacobsen, and Jennifer Tucker. Back row, from left, Guofei Chu, Bing Jiao, Qun Zhou, Gary Shaw, and Peter Rutland.

This month, Wesleyan signed a memorandum of understanding with the Social Sciences in China Press (SSCP), the publishing arm of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), which formalizes an ongoing partnership between the two institutions. The agreement calls for a biennial scholarly forum involving representatives from Wesleyan and SSCP; mutual advertising to help each gain recognition in the other’s home country; exchange visitors; and cross-publishing of content between Wesleyan’s international journal History and Theory and SSCP’s Historical Research.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is by far the most important center in China for studies in philosophy and the social sciences.

The relationship between Wesleyan and SSCP has been developing since 2010 when a delegation from SSCP first visited Wesleyan. President Michael Roth and the editors of History and Theory spent much of a day with the delegation discussing opportunities for scholarly interaction. As a result, the parties committed to hold two conferences—one in Beijing in 2011 focused around the topic of “Tradition,” and one at Wesleyan in 2013 to discuss “Comparative Enlightenments.” At the most recent conference, Gao Xiang, vice secretary of CASS and editor-in-chief of SSCP, spoke of the partnership with Wesleyan as “a golden example of what exchange should be between academic communities in the United States and China.”

Limin Wang and Michael Roth shake hands.

SSCP Editor-in-Chief Limin Wang and President Michael Roth shake hands.

This year, the two sides decided to formalize their cooperation with the memorandum of understanding. It was signed at a ceremony in the President’s office Dec. 10. Representing Wesleyan were President Michael Roth; Joyce Jacobsen, dean of the social sciences and director of global initiatives; Gary Shaw, associate editor of History and Theory; Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought; and Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history.

“I’m delighted to forge an even stronger partnership with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Social Sciences in China Press,” said Roth. “The first two forums sparked dialogues that advanced the thinking of all who attended, and I look forward to many more productive discussions in the future.”

The parties will next convene at a forum in China in May 2015 on the theme of “Modernization.” Roth, Wesleyan faculty members, and other scholars from North America, Europe and China will attend.

Stephen Angle, chair of the College of East Asian Studies, has been integral in developing the relationship with the Chinese scholars.

“Our bi-annual, jointly-hosted forums have been sites of open, sophisticated dialogue across cultural and disciplinary borders,” he said. “They have also been opportunities for Wesleyan faculty and students to engage with leading Chinese scholars. It is exciting to have an agreement ensuring that these stimulating conversations will continue into the future.”

Ethan Kleinberg, executive editor of History and Theory, commented, “For History and Theory in particular, the partnership extends the reach of our journal into China through the scholar exchanges and also the publication of the Chinese translation of each H&T issue’s table of contents and article abstracts in SSCP’s journal. It is an opportunity for us to exchange ideas with leading Chinese scholars interested in the theory and philosophy of history through editor exchanges, joint conferences, and international workshops.”

Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo ’01 Teaches Latino Studies, Queer Studies

Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo, who graduated from Wesleyan in 2001, is interested in Latino studies and queer studies.

Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo, who graduated from Wesleyan in 2001, is interested in Latino studies and queer studies.

Q: Welcome back to Wesleyan, Professor Grappo! Can you please fill us in on what you’ve done since graduating from Wes?

A: After graduating from Wesleyan in 2001, I worked a fifth grade teacher at a Catholic school in the Bronx. Then I went to grad school at Yale and got my Ph.D. in American Studies. I took a job for a couple years as an assistant professor of American studies at Dickinson College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. Last year, I came to Wesleyan as a visiting professor, and this year I began as a full-time, tenure-track professor.

Q: How does it feel to be back at Wesleyan?

A: I’m excited to be back. I had a wonderful experience here as an undergrad. It was really formative for me as a scholar and I made good friends and enjoyed many of the resources Wesleyan offers. When I saw there was a position open here, it seemed like a terrific opportunity, as not only is Wesleyan an incredible institution, but it’s also in a great area of the country, with so many excellent resources—other universities, libraries, museums, cities—located nearby. I really like the Wesleyan community, and all the smart and interesting people who are here.

Q: Please describe your research interests.

A: The two main fields I work in are Latino studies and queer studies. I feel like my work is guided by ethical and theoretical parameters, and I try to think through conceptual ideas within specific cultural and political moments and texts.

I’m currently working on a book manuscript called “Home and Other Myths: A Lexicon of Queer Inhabitation,” which is about the concept of “home” in the context of minoritarian politics and culture. The decision to use the concept of home as a structural theme was partly inspired by the work of Jean Amery, who is well know for his writings on surviving the Holocaust. In his book At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and its Realities, he defines home not as a place, but as a state of innocence— a way of being in the world where you trust in the laws and customs of the land in which you live, a state in which you trust in the basic moral goodness of other people. Amery writes eloquently and convincingly about how the Holocaust shattered that state for Jews. Extrapolating from this idea, I argue that this conception of home offers a rich and productive way of thinking about contemporary queer life in the U.S., as queer people are often cast outside of the figurative boundaries of national and cultural homelands.

Q: What courses did you teach this semester, and what do you plan to teach in the future?

A: This semester, I taught an introductory Latino studies class and an upper-level class called Diaspora Border Migration. The Introduction of Latino Studies course introduced students—mostly first-years and sophomores, interested in a variety of different fields—to the history, politics, and culture of Latinos in the U.S. Although the class focuses on Latino identities, we considered the ways in which studying latinidad resonates with the larger field of American studies as well. With all my classes, I hope to encourage students’ curiosity and encourage them to think more carefully and deeply about the issues at hand. And with introductory courses in particular, I also hope that the concepts we discuss will pique their interest and guide them toward taking more American studies courses and considering the major. This semester, my upper-level seminar had a number of American studies majors, but also included students majoring in government, history, theater, and Latin American studies. In addition to a more theoretical dense syllabus, the course also asked students to reflect on important current events, such as the President’s speech on immigration, the various debates and actions concerning “securing the border,” and the concept of “illegality.”

Next semester I am teaching a junior colloquium called Cultural Theory and Analysis, which explores influential political theories and cultural concepts in the Western canon. I‘ll also be teaching a seminar titled Queer of Color Critique, which focuses on the ways in which people of color have critiqued queer political and scholarly work through the lens of racial and ethnic differentiation. Next year I’ll be teaching two introductory courses, one on Latino studies and one on queer studies, and two upper-level seminars in the same fields.

Q: I understand the Queer Studies cluster was established at Wesleyan after you were hired. Can you please tell us a little about the cluster, and how it will change the academic experience for students interested in this field?

A: The Queer Studies cluster has been in the works for a long time, but was formally established this year under the leadership of my American studies colleague Margot Weiss, [associate professor of American studies, associate professor of anthropology]. There are a number of professors who contribute classes to the cluster, including some recently arrived scholars. I believe the cluster will give students who are interested in queer studies an accessible academic path to follow, as they’ll be able to easily look online and see all the classes available, allowing them to cumulatively build a course of study that is nuanced, diverse, and thorough.

I’ve observed a lot of interest from students in exploring the field of queer studies—both in a scholarly way and a political way. I think that queer studies as a field has become central to understanding American studies. It’s important to note that queer studies is an expansive discipline – that is to say, it’s not just talking about gay people (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Rather, queer studies as a discipline asks us to think about the world from a minority point of view. What does it mean to negotiate difference? How do we think about minorities in a majority culture, and how are their rights and care determined?

Q: As a student at Wesleyan, you majored in “Women’s Studies.” Can you talk about how the field has changed since that time? The major is now “Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies.”

A: I think it’s gone from being primarily an analysis of gender—which is, of course, important—to a broader way of thinking about how gender and sexuality, which are closely and inextricably tied together, work to construct experiential and political life. People often think of “women’s studies” or “feminist, gender and sexuality studies” as niche fields. But women are half the world. And thinking about gender and sexuality is not just important for people who identify as women, it’s for everyone: how we identify as humans–it’s one of the most basic ways in which we negotiate difference, and it has far reaching implications for everything from the creation of human life to the workings of global politics.

Q: What’s your favorite part about teaching here so far?

A: The students at Wesleyan are outstanding: They’re smart, creative, dedicated to learning, and very interested in the world around them, both culturally and politically. I find the vast majority of my students to be really interesting, intelligent people. I love our class discussions, and hearing what students think about ideas and texts. It can be fascinating for me to interact with students as they lay fresh eyes on material I know well, and very rewarding when a student comes up with an angle I hadn’t considered.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I have two-year-old twins, who take up a lot of my time. We have two dogs and a cat, all rescue animals, who are also integral parts of our family. And, as we live in the forest, we spend a lot of time outside, hiking, spending time with family and friends, and working hard in our vegetable garden.

McGuire Authors Chapter on Democracy, Political Regimes

James McGuire and Guillermo O'Donnell in 1985.

James McGuire and Guillermo O’Donnell in 1985.

Professor of Government James McGuire is the author of a book chapter titled “Democracy, Agency and the Classification of Political Regimes,” published in Reflections on Uneven Democracies: The Legacy of Guillermo O’Donnell by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

Guillermo O’Donnell (1936-2011) was widely recognized as the world’s leading scholar of Latin American politics. During his doctoral studies, McGuire worked closely with O’Donnell in both Argentina and the United States, translating from Spanish to English O’Donnell’s Bureaucratic Authoritarianism: Argentina, 1966-1973, in Comparative Perspective (University of California Press, 1988).

9781421414607McGuire’s chapter in this new volume commemorating O’Donnell’s life and work argues that schemes for classifying political regimes in Latin America could be improved by defining democracy in a way that gives more priority to human agency, and thereby to the opportunity to lead a thoughtfully chosen life; by recognizing that democracy affects social and political outcomes not only through electoral competition, but also through the freedoms of expression and organization, as well as through long-term cultural changes; and by applying contemporary rather than past standards to decide whether a country meets the operational criteria for democracy.

 

 

Grossman Keynote Speaker at Chief Risk Officer Assembly

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, delivered a keynote speech at the 10th Chief Risk Officer Assembly in Munich, Germany on Nov. 19. The speech was based on his book, WRONG: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn from Them (Oxford University Press), and focused the consequences of government policy for economic risk.

The CRO Assembly is organized by Geneva Association, an insurance industry think-tank, and the CRO Forum, which is made up of chief risk officers from large (primarily European) multi-national insurance and re-insurance companies. The conference took place at the headquarters of Munich RE, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies. The program seeks to understand the nature of emerging and key strategic risks, and to understand how and where they relate to insurance.

Read more about Grossman in these past News @ Wesleyan articles.

Teter’s Book Receives Honorable Mention for Jewish Studies Award

sinnersontrialA book by Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, received honorable mention for the 2014 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award. The Schnitzer Book Award was established in 2007 to recognize and promote outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies and to honor scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: innovative research, excellent writing and sophisticated methodology.

Teter’s book, Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation, published by Harvard University Press in 2011, was honored in the Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History category.

In recognizing her book, the Prize Committee wrote:

“In this beautifully written and richly documented work, Magda Teter traces and convincingly demonstrates the interdependence of economic, religious and political motives that animated Polish anti-Semitism in the early modern period. This book also identifies and elucidates significant factors in the history of their formations in East Central Europe, and in the history of the host-desecration charge in early modern Europe.”

Magda Teter

Magda Teter

In post-Reformation Poland—the largest state in Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world—the Catholic Church suffered profound anxiety about its power after the Protestant threat.

In the book, Teter reveals how criminal law became a key tool in the manipulation of the meaning of the sacred and in the effort to legitimize Church authority. The mishandling of sacred symbols was transformed from a sin that could be absolved into a crime that resulted in harsh sentences of mutilation, hanging, decapitation, and, principally, burning at the stake. Recounting dramatic stories of torture, trial, and punishment, this is the first book to consider the sacrilege accusations of the early modern period within the broader context of politics and common crime.

To celebrate the honorable mention, Teter is invited to attend the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award Reception Dec. 14 in Maryland.

Teter also is chair and professor of history, professor of medieval studies. She speaks more about the book and her research in this past News @ Wesleyan article.

Alumni Speak on Careers for the Common Good

alu_act_2014-1120153923

On Nov. 19, four Wesleyan alumni spoke to students about their post-Wesleyan journeys in a panel discussion on “Careers for the Common Good.” The event was moderated by Lily Herman ’16, pictured at left. Panelists included, from left, Gregg Croteau ’93, Christian Philemon ’97, Katie Nihill ’10 and Matt Lesser ’10.

Fusso Translates Gandlevsky’s Trepanation of the Skull

fussotranslationSusanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is the translator of Sergey Gandlevsky’s autobiographical novel, Trepanation of the Skull, published in November from Northern Illinois University Press.

Sergey Gandlevsky is widely recognized as one of the leading living Russian poets and prose writers. His autobiographical novella Trepanation of the Skull is a portrait of the artist as a young late-Soviet man. At the center of the narrative are Gandlevsky’s brain tumor, surgery and recovery in the early 1990s. The story radiates out, relaying the poet’s personal history through 1994, including his unique perspective on the 1991 coup by Communist hardliners resisted by Boris Yeltsin. Gandlevsky tells wonderfully strange but true episodes from the bohemian life he and his literary companions led. He also frankly describes his epic alcoholism and his ambivalent adjustment to marriage and fatherhood.

Fusso’s translation marks the first volume in English of Sergey Gandlevsky’s prose. The book may appeal to scholars, students, and general readers of Russian literature and culture of the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods.

Fusso also is the translator and editor of Vladimir Sergeevich Trubetskoi’s A Russian Prince in the Soviet State: Hunting Stories, Letters from Exile, and Military Memoirs.

Youth, Business, Healthcare Discussed at Africa Innovation Summit

Wesleyan's African Students Association hosted an Africa Innovation Summit Nov. 7 in Daniel Family Commons.

Wesleyan’s African Students Association hosted an Africa Innovation Summit Nov. 7 in Daniel Family Commons.

Hirut Mcleod ’00, a management consultant at The World Bank, delivered the keynote address. Mcleod has experience coaching leaders at all levels in Africam Asian and the Balkan region. She served as elected alumna trustee of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees from 2012-2014.

Hirut Mcleod ’00, a management consultant at The World Bank, delivered the keynote address. Mcleod has experience coaching leaders at all levels in Africam Asian and the Balkan region. She served as elected alumna trustee of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees from 2012-2014.

Smolkin-Rothrock on Russia’s National Unity Day

Writing in Open Democracy, Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, offers a historical explanation of Russia’s National Unity Day. Observed November 4, this holiday–based in what many consider “ancient history”–remains a point of confusion for the Russian public, writes Smolkin-Rothrock. Yet, “even if the holiday holds little significance for many Russians, it matters a great deal to Vladamir Putin and it should matter to those concerned with understanding his ideology.”

 

Wesleyan Media Project Launches New Attack Ads Website, Videos; Provides Campaign Analysis

WMPbanner_20perThe Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzes campaign television advertising in federal elections, has launched a new initiative to educate the public about attack ads and dark money in elections, thanks to funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

As anyone who watches television is well aware, the airwaves are filled with attack ads. Negativity in advertising is especially pronounced in some races, such as the Connecticut governor’s race, in which only 15 percent of ads were positive from Sept. 1 to Oct. 23. At the same time, dark money—or spending by outside groups who do not disclose their donors—is playing an increasingly prominent role in campaign advertising. This is concerning to those who care about transparency in elections.

The Wesleyan Media Project’s new website, AttackAds.org, aims to educate voters about attack ads and dark money.

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.