Society

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.

McAlister on Studying Aggressive Prayer

In this essay on the Social Science Research Council’s “The Immanent Frame” blog, Elizabeth McAlister considers “negative prayer as a part of lived religion,” citing examples from the Afro-Haitian Vodou religion and American evangelicalism. She writes: “Just as sorcerers are famous for their deployment of malediction, evangelical Christians are well known for a branch of thought and practice known as ‘spiritual warfare,’ which is also a form of aggressive prayer.”

McAlister is professor of religion, professor of African-American studies, professor of American studies.

McAlister discusses the ways different religious groups employ negative prayer. She concludes:

Studying prayer as it is actually lived in the world means paying attention to such aggressive forms of prayer, and exploring how ideas about negative and aggressive prayer change over time in a given society. We must also open up questions about the negative implications of positive prayer. […]  Studying aggressive forms of prayer may mean asking how religious actors engage with supernatural forces they perceive to be destructive, such as in exorcisms, or magic, and how they control the ritual so they are not themselves harmed. It means figuring out how explicitly negative prayer is rationalized or even justified by the person praying. Does someone praying negatively imagine themselves to be partnering with destructive or evil forces for their own gain, or do they imagine themselves to be neutral, or even righteous? Perhaps they imagine themselves to be in alliance with forces of ultimate good, which demands an aggressive form of prayer. How is negative prayer tied to conceptions of justice?

Read more about McAlister’s study in this past News@Wesleyan article.

Theorist, Historian Federici Speaks to Students, Faculty

Theorist, historian and activist Silvia Federici spoke to faculty and students at the Center for African American Studies on Sept. 25.

Theorist, historian and activist Silvia Federici spoke to faculty and students at the Center for African American Studies on Sept. 25. She is the author, most recently, of Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation; Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle; and Witch-Hunting, Past and Present, and the Fear of the Power of Women.

Jewish Community Celebrates Rosh Hashanah with Shofar Factory

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Chabad at Wesleyan hosted a Shofar Factory Sept. 19 in Usdan's Huss Courtyard. The shofar, a musical instrument traditionally made from a ram's horn, is blown during synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chabad at Wesleyan offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty.

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Chabad at Wesleyan hosted a Shofar Factory Sept. 19 in Usdan’s Huss Courtyard. The shofar, a musical instrument traditionally made from a ram’s horn, is blown during synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chabad at Wesleyan offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty.

Faculty, NPR Reporter Speak at Berlin Wall Commemoration

berlinwallIn 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic began constructing a 96-mile-long dividing wall in attempt to prevent Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state. The Berlin Wall, made of concrete and barbed wire, prevented emigration and more than 170 people were killed trying to cross or get around the wall. On Nov. 9, 1989, the head of the East German Communist party opened the checkpoint, allowing thousands of East and West Berlin residents to pass through. Elated residents, later known as “wallpeckers” used hammers and picks to break apart the wall.

In 1990, East and West Germany reunified into a single German state. To date, the wall serves as a symbolic boundary between democracy and Communism during the Cold War.

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the German Studies Department is hosting a series of lectures.

At noon, Sept. 24, Eric Grimmer-Solem will speak on

Wesleyan, Local Community Celebrate “Freedom Summer” with Commemoration, Concerts

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Wesleyan students, faculty, staff and community members participated in a “Freedom Summer” commemoration Sept. 12-13 on campus.

The summer of 1964 saw thousands of young people — many from colleges and universities in the North – mobilize to register voters, educate citizens, and support other civil rights work in the Jim Crow South. What came to be known as “Freedom Summer” is credited with ending the isolation of states where racial repression and discrimination was largely ignored by news media and politicians, despite the  the landmark Civil Rights Act passed that July.

The summer of 1964 saw thousands of young people — many from colleges and universities in the North – mobilize to register voters, educate citizens, and support other civil rights work in the Jim Crow South. What came to be known as “Freedom Summer” is credited with ending the isolation of states where racial repression and discrimination was largely ignored by news media and politicians, despite the the landmark Civil Rights Act passed that July.

Matesan Studies Contentious Politics, Violence in the Middle East

This fall, Ioana Emy Matesan is teaching two sections of GOVT 157 Democracy and Dictatorship. Matesan is an expert on Middle Eastern politics. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Ioana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, is teaching two sections of GOVT 157 Democracy and Dictatorship. Matesan is an expert on Middle Eastern politics and joined the faculty this fall. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Matesan! Can you please tell us a little about your background?

A: I’m originally from Romania. I came to the U.S. for undergrad in 1998, and earned a degree in economics and political science from Monmouth College in Illinois. Coming from Romania, I had no sense of differences in states. I got together with a couple friends, and we looked at the admission of international students and amount of aid for them at different colleges, and we applied to the colleges with the most aid per international student. It was very much a cost-benefit analysis. I loved the small liberal arts college experience, which is one of the reasons why I love Wesleyan. It was a very good transition coming from Romania on my own at 18—I made meaningful connections with both faculty and students. After undergrad, I worked with a Romanian-American nonprofit, which I had volunteered with in Romania. They had incorporated as a 501(c)(3), and were looking for someone to start the fundraising arm in the U.S. We worked with families who were at risk of abandoning their children to orphanages because of economic or social problems. We offered tutoring and social activities for the children; we helped the parents get jobs, training, etc. After three years at the nonprofit, I decided to go to grad school at Arizona State, where I got my master’s in political science. Then I went on to Syracuse University and got my Ph.D. in political science. From there, I came to Wesleyan.

Q: How did you become interested in studying Middle Eastern politics?

A: I specialize in contentious politics and political violence, with a regional focus in the Middle East. The very first time I became interested in this topic was when I attended a youth UN conference in 1993. There, I met children from Israel and Palestine. I learned a lot about the conflict, but it also became very real, and I suddenly had friends I could associate with both sides.

Fowler Joins The Campaign Finance Institute Board

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, recently joined the Campaign Finance Institute’s (CFI) Academic Advisory Board.

Fowler was one of 16 academics appointed to the board, which advises CFI as it plans and works through its research agenda. Also appointed was Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project and a professor at Bowdoin College.

Founded in 1999, CFI is a campaign finance policy think tank. According to the website, its original work is published in academic journals, and is regularly used by the media and policymakers. Its tools are made available to stimulate new research by others, while its bibliographies bring the results of recent scholarship to the attention of the policy community. More information about the board is available here.

Center for the Humanities Explores “Mobilities” in Fall Lecture Series

Meritocracy and Mobility, Intertwined Histories of the South Indian Dance Revival, and What Do Mobile Phones Mobilize are just three of the topics to be discussed during the Center for the Humanities' fall lecture series.

Meritocracy and Mobility, Intertwined Histories of the South Indian Dance Revival, and What Do Mobile Phones Mobilize? are three of the topics to be discussed during the Center for the Humanities’ fall lecture series.

Over the past decade, a new approach to the study of mobilities has emerged involving research on the combined movement of peoples, animals, objects, ideas and information. This can be viewed through the lens of complex networks, relational dynamics, and the redistribution or reification of power generated by movement.

This fall, Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities will offer 10 lectures on the theme of “Mobilities” as part of its lecture series. Five of the speakers are from Wesleyan.

All talks begin at 6 p.m., are open to the public, and are held at Daniel Family Commons. The dates, topics and speakers are:

Sept. 8
Ecological Poetics, or, Wallace Stevens’ Birds
Cary Wolfe, professor of English, Rice University

Sept. 15
Beyond Synthesis: The Return of Micro History in Global Contexts and the “Relationing” of History
Angelika Eppel, professor of history, Bielefeld University, Germany

Sept. 22
The Roma Question in France and the Return of Race
Éric Fassin, professor of sociology, École Normale Supérieure, Paris

Fowler, Baum, Students Present Paper at Political Science Association Meeting

Leonid Liu '14, Laura Baum, P. Marshal Lawler '16, Michael Linden '15, Eliza Loomis '15, Zachary Wulderk '15, Erika Franklin Fowler at the American Political Science Association meeting.

Leonid Liu ’14, Project Manager Laura Baum, P. Marshal Lawler ’16, Michael Linden ’15, Eliza Loomis ’15, Zachary Wulderk ’15 and Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler attended the American Political Science Association meeting.

Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Project Manager in the Government Department Laura Baum, and four students presented a paper titled, “A Messenger Like Me: The Effect of Ordinary Spokespeople in Campaign Advertising” at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Conference, Aug. 30 in Washington, D.C.

The student authors are P. Marshal Lawler ’16, Michael Linden ’15, Eliza Loomis ’15 and Zachary Wulderk ’15.

The paper considers the effects of using non-elite spokespeople (ie. “the everyman”) in political advertising. The authors draw upon the Wesleyan Media Project’s vast database of political advertising, as well as original coding on almost 300 ads, and a new large-scale survey data set assessing the effectiveness and credibility of 2012 campaign ads. They found that using ordinary spokespeople is a common tactic, particularly in negative campaign advertising, and that their use is associated with higher credibility scores than ads without them, even after controlling for partisanship and political sophistication.

The paper grew out of a fall 2013 pilot course at Wesleyan, GOVT 378 Advanced Topics in Media Analysis. Read the full paper online here.