Society

Alumni Speak on Careers for the Common Good

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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.

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.

Ulysse Denounces Use of Term “Voodoo Economics”

Associate Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse, writing in The Huffington Post, denounced New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s use of the term “voodoo economics” in a recent essay, calling it derogatory and outdated. She writes:

Indeed, with its direct references to the most archaic of tropes (black magic, cult, inward-looking or progress-resistant, vindictiveness) Krugman’s “Voodoo Economics, The Next Generation” shows a socially limited attachment to an outdated term. His column could not make it any clearer why the New York Times, which has been repeatedly petitioned over this terminology by concerned individuals and collectives over the years, needs to revise its style sheet. The Haitian Vodou religion is not Krugman’s voodoo.

Grossman Discusses Policy in Wake of Financial Crisis

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman, author of Wrong: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn to Themwas interviewed on Concord News Radio about policy decisions made in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

“The actions that were taken in the wake of the financial crisis, I view as having been completely necessary. If you go back and look at the Great Depression,when the government didn’t do enough and the central bank for sure didn’t do enough, then you get a sense of how bad things can be,” said Grossman. “When you’re just a few inches away from financial Armageddon, even if the policy isn’t perfect, you really have to turn all your guns on it and do everything to avoid going those last few inches over the edge.”

 

Barber Receives DOJ Grant to Study Peer Mentoring of Prisoners

Charles Barber (Photo by Amy Pierce/charlesbarberwriting.com)

Charles Barber (Photo by Amy Pierce/charlesbarberwriting.com)

Visiting Writer Charles Barber, director of The Connection Institute for Innovative Practice, will be the principal investigator, along with David Sells of Yale University, on a study peer mentoring of prisoners, thanks to a $295,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The study is a two-year randomized trial involving 110 ex-offenders in New Haven, Bridgeport and other Connecticut cities — 55 will receive mentors, and 55 will not.

“We will recruit clients from prisons, where mentors— who are former prisoners themselves, with at least five years of stability behind them — will meet with them two to three times, pre-release. Mentors will then meet weekly with clients for six months to a year in the community,” Barber said.

The mentors will use evidence-based practices to facilitate community reentry for the newly released clients. At their weekly meetings, the mentors will offer psychosocial support and practical guidance toward reentry into the community.

“We will then track if it has an impact on recidivism six months, one year and three years post-intervention, as well as look at other measures such as criminal risk, substance use, engagement in treatment and services,” Barber said.

At Wesleyan, students in Research Professor of Psychology Jennifer Rose’s Statistical Consulting Class will be involved in assisting and bolstering the research project.

The Connection Institute for Innovative Practice is the research arm of The Connection, a Connecticut-based human service and community development agency, which serves thousands of people throughout the state with behavioral health, family support and community justice programs.

The grant funds, awarded Oct. 1, were released under the the Second Chance Act of 2007, intended to allow agencies to develop mentoring and other programs to allow those released from prison to reintegrate successfully into the community.

Rutland on Hong Kong Pride

Writing in Foreign Policy, Peter Rutland argues that the protestors in Hong Kong are not just demanding democracy, “they’re also asserting their own identity in the face of increased efforts by Beijing to impose greater homogeneity on its far-flung territories.”

Mainland China is experiencing its own upsurge in nationalism, writes Rutland as he looks to 19th century Europe to explain how rapid industrialization and a boom in international trade lead to increased military spending and a rise in populist nationalism. This trend is echoed, in some ways, in Hong Kong, particularly in “the growing prominence of identity politics.”

Rutland writes: “Hong Kong’s impressive economic achievements have inspired great pride among the city’s residents — pride in a local identity increasingly defined in contrast to that of the mainland Chinese.”

Read the full essay here.

Rutland is The Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, tutor in the College of Social Studies.