Students Explore Japanese Politics through Movement

japanese politics class

Mary Alice Haddad, John E. Andrus Professor of Government (pictured at right, facing camera) taught her Japanese Politics class outdoors on Oct. 22 through a series of kinesthetic exercises. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

When the GOVT: 296 Japanese Politics class was learning about environmental policy, course instructor Professor Mary Alice Haddad brought her students out of the Hogwarts Classroom and to the Center for the Arts Green for their Oct. 22 class.

“Using our environment to learn the material was particularly appropriate,” said Haddad, John E. Andrus Professor of Government, chair and professor of East Asian studies.

With social distancing in mind, Haddad taught the lesson through kinesthetic learning—learning with your body. She learned about this technique from her experience with Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative, which pairs performance artists with non-performance faculty for teaching collaborations.

“Kinesthetics is one of the most effective ways to learn, but it is often undervalued as a mode of instruction outside of the arts,” Haddad said. “Through collaborations with numerous dancers over the years is where I learned about how valuable these kinds of exercises can be to enhance the class dynamic and in facilitating student learning. They are also fun!”

In the first exercise, Haddad taught her students how to bow—a vital skill and an important aspect of cultural competency when living in, working in, or visiting Japan.

In the second exercise, Haddad asked the students to observe their environment, first with eyes open, and then closed. During reflection, the class remarked how they were much more aware of the sounds of the birds and the feel of the sun and breeze on their skin when observing with their eyes closed.

“While their eyes were open, they paid more attention to man-made things like buildings and cars and when they weren’t using their eyes, they were much more aware of their natural environment,” Haddad said. “I highlighted that one of the main reasons they take a class on Japanese politics, or any class about a different culture, is that it opens up a new perspective. Much like noticing the birds that were there all along when you close your eyes, studying Japanese politics makes you pay attention to different aspects of American politics—or the politics of wherever they come from—that were there all along but which you might not have been paying attention to before.”

During a “stop-drop-go” exercise, the students learned how amazingly perceptive people are by how quickly and accurately they can pick up on nonverbal subtle cues from one another and move together as a group. Through this process, the students feel in their body the psychological effects of the risks inherent in leadership; when they initiate a new movement, such as clapping, laying down, standing on one leg, or waving, they don’t know if anyone will follow.

“They quickly realize that in group settings it is frequently impossible to identify the leader, and it is often not the first mover who actually has the most power but rather the second and third mover who are the ones who turn a single person’s actions into the actions of the group,” Haddad said. “Although our exercise is quite innocuous, you quickly understand both how easy it is in group settings to be sucked into doing things you don’t really want to do as well as the subtle ways people can resist doing what everyone else is doing by modifying it or doing it in a slower or incomplete way.”

Haddad then broke the class into four groups and asked them to construct “movement phrases” based on their recent readings. Through this exercise, the students engaged with the topics emotionally rather than just intellectually and expressed all of that with their bodies. After performing their movement phrase, fellow classmates reflected on how they interpreted the movements.

For the final exercise, the class created their own version of a Shinto ritual in which individuals wrote prayers and tied them to a large oak tree, recognizing that the spirit of the tree is sacred. “Thus, for Japanese, and perhaps for us as well, our hopes and dreams are quite literally tied to the natural world. Our trees and plants should be revered,” Haddad said. “It would be good for all of us to take a moment, stand in awe, and bow in appreciation of what they do for us and how much our lives are connected to theirs.”

Photos of the Oct. 22 class are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics class japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics classjapanese politics classjapanese politics class

Rouse Leads Faculty Fall Luncheon Talk on Radical Naturalism

Joe Rouse, the Hedding Professor of Moral Science in the Philosophy Department and the Science in Society Program delivered a faculty fall luncheon talk Oct. 21 on "Radical Naturalism: A Philosophical Research Program."

Joe Rouse, the Hedding Professor of Moral Science, delivered a faculty fall luncheon talk Oct. 21 on “Radical Naturalism: A Philosophical Research Program.” Rouse has taught in Wesleyan’s Philosophy Department and Science in Society Program since 1981.

Rouse's primary research interests are in the philosophy of science, the history of 20th C. philosophy, and interdisciplinary science studies. Within these areas his primary foci include the philosophy of scientific practice; naturalism and anti-naturalism in 20th Century philosophy;

Rouse’s primary research interests are in the philosophy of science, the history of 20th-century philosophy, and interdisciplinary science studies. The sciences, Rouse explained, need no longer “defer to philosophy for their conceptual grounding. On the contrary, a broadly scientific conception of the world provides the horizons for contemporary philosophy,” he said.

In this talk, Rouse how he strives to situate scientific understanding in scientific practice.  "The experimental and observational systems and the practices and skills that the sciences develop are not just a means to scientific knowledge to which then stands on it own. They are integral to scientific understanding." 

In this talk, Rouse explained how he strives to situate scientific understanding in scientific practice. “The experimental and observational systems and the practices and skills that the sciences develop are not just a means to scientific knowledge that then stands on its own. They are integral to scientific understanding,” he said.

“Educating for Equity” Discussed at the 28th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium

dwight greene

On Oct. 17, the Wesleyan Alumni of Color Council presented the 28th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium titled “Educating for Equity – Building Racial Competencies.” Several alumni of color who work at independent schools served as panelists to share their strategies on addressing race, diversity, and equity at institutions with longstanding histories of privileging sameness. The panelists included: Aléwa Cooper ’98, head of the Foote School in New Haven, Conn.; José De Jesús ’97, head of the Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Ill.; Javaid Khan ’96, head of the middle division at the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, N.Y.; Semeka Smith-Williams ’97, director of diversity and equity at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Steven Tejada ’97, head of the upper school at Maret School in Washington, D.C.; and Gillian Todd ’98, first program director at the Dalton School in New York, N.Y. Francisco Tezén ’97, CEO/president of A Better Chance in New York, N.Y., served as the event’s moderator.


“The pandemic is impacting kids in different ways,
 especially kids of color and Black kids,” Tejada said. “And how do we think about our grading and our assessment during this
 time? And that shouldn’t be just during a pandemic, right?
 That should be happening all the time.
 And my hope is that we’re going to be holding onto some of those
 changes that we’re making right now and thinking about how those are
 making our schools better places regardless.”

Adherence to Safety Protocols Results in Safe and Successful Fall Semester

campusWesleyan’s careful planning, creative problem-solving, and exemplary adherence to safety protocols have resulted in the campus community staying together this semester. For the third week in a row, Wesleyan has 0 reported cases of COVID-19.

“This is a proud and happy moment for us all,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a recent Public Health Update. “At the same time, it is a precarious moment. We understand that the pandemic is still with us and that the public health context can change at any time.”

With these considerations in mind, Wesleyan will hold Thanksgiving Recess from Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Monday, Nov. 30. Classes resume remotely on Tuesday, Dec. 1, with all classes and exams conducted online for the remainder of the semester. Students may return to campus for the spring semester beginning Friday, Feb. 5, and classes will begin online on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

“These are challenging times, but I am heartened by the many ways that you have risen to these challenges,” Roth said. “Thank you for all you are doing to care for yourselves and one another.”

Pictured below, while practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, students enjoyed a sunny afternoon on campus Oct. 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)



Music Graduate Students Share Recent Projects

On Sept. 23, two students from the Music Department kicked off the 2020–21 Wesleyan Music Graduate Series, which is being hosted on YouTube this semester. Hosted by Wesleyan’s Music graduate students, this series showcases the performance, compositional, and research capabilities of Wesleyan graduate music students, alumni, and other Wesleyan affiliates. Panels will be streamed in six weekly installments on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. during September and October 2020.


Stuart Wheeler, a second-year MA student, presented a talk and performance of his composition “Mr. Bernard Shaw from On Vivisection.” The song, which can be performed by 1–13 singers, is based on a poem Wheeler wrote using source text from On Vivisection. The content focuses on Shaw’s political opposition to the practice of vivisection in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Wheeler's construction of the text is drawn heavily from the composer, performance artist, and poet Jackson Mac Low.  "There's specific methods of selection and rearrangement of words in the text, and these methods are both nonintentional and completely pre-determined," Wheeler said. "I'm making no intentional decisions on the granular level, I'm simply developing my own system for selecting and rearranging words from the source text."

Wheeler’s construction of the text is drawn heavily from the composer, performance artist, and poet Jackson Mac Low. “There are specific methods of selection and rearrangement of words in the text, and these methods are both nonintentional and completely predetermined,” Wheeler said. “I’m making no intentional decisions on the granular level, I’m simply developing my own system for selecting and rearranging words from the source text.” Wheeler also explained that his piece is built around a single chord that forms the harmonic architecture for the piece.


Bianca Iannitti MA ’19, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, presented an an autoethnographic case study of the 2018 song Italiana by Fedez and J-Ax. Iannitti, who is fluent in Italian, recalled overhearing the song during a trip to Italy in 2018. “Italiana became an immediate success and is considered Italy’s top summer hit of 2018,” she said. “It was an integral part of my local surroundings. I would hear it in passing on the radio, in retail stores, local bars, or even watching MTV with my cousins.”


Italiana’s chorus serves as a double entendre, to highlight the tourism, and popularity, and beauty of the Italian summer, while also revealing the cracks within this often romanticized portrayal of the country,” Iannitti said. “Although there are references to the summer weather, the Italian beachside, and the beautiful people, there also lies this double meaning, or added layer, which serves as a political critique against the country’s immigration policy as well as the treatment toward undocumented citizens.”


Iannitti pointed out several pop cultural references and cultural stereotypes in the song and video, including the use of hand gestures, the love of pizza and spaghetti, and a laid-back mindset. “The song’s Italian music style, lyrical content, and music video ultimately exemplifies the complexity of the Italian culture and its identity on a local, national, and international scale,” she said. (Image: Italiana by Fedez and J-Ax.)

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression

Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

campus during COVID-19

Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

outdoor classroom

Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.

This Changes Everything Documentary Selected as First Year Matters Common Experience

This Changes EverythingAs part of Wesleyan’s First Year Matters (FYM) program, the FYM committee selects a “common experience” for the incoming class as an intellectual introduction to Wesleyan.

Next fall, the Class of 2024 will watch and discuss the documentary This Changes Everything, directed by Avi Lewis and based on the award-winning book of the same title by environmental activist Naomi Klein.

“The film is an unflinching look at the disparate impacts of climate change on various communities around the world and highlights some fundamental conflicts between global economic systems and efforts to combat climate change,” said First Year Matters Committee Chair Kevin Butler, assistant dean of students and director of community standards.

The FYM committee is currently working to arrange a related keynote address during the New Student Orientation program.

Any faculty or staff who is willing to facilitate a small group discussion with incoming students on Thursday, Sept. 3 is asked to contact Butler at

The First Year Matters program is designed to help first-year students establish on-campus community connections, engage in shared learning experiences, explore new opinions and ideas, and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in Wesleyan’s rigorous liberal arts environment. In addition to the common reading, students attend lectures and presentations by faculty, residence hall discussions, and a major participatory arts event during New Student Orientation (NSO).

Alumni of Color Help Wesleyan Plot a Path ‘Toward an Anti-Racist Community’

The recent death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed while being forcibly detained by police, has ignited the United States and brought issues of inequality and violence against black people to the forefront of the national consciousness.

Alison Williams ’81, vice president for equity and inclusion/Title IX officer, and Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 hosted a panel discussion on Thursday, June 11, titled “Toward an Anti-Racist Community,” featuring six alumni of color who discussed how to move beyond the pain and trauma of the current cultural moment toward constructive action.

“What I hope is that this will be the beginning of many conversations that lead to transformation both at Wesleyan and beyond,” Williams said. “This requires that we first take a look at our own attitudes and biases and do some personal work. . . . Until we do the personal work, any structural or institutional changes that we implement will be meaningless.”

“We feel confused, angry,” President Roth said during his panel introduction. “Sometimes energized, sometimes full of despair. When I have that mixture of feelings, I turn to friends and colleagues . . . I want to listen.”

Wesleyan Community Reacts to George Floyd’s Death

After George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed during his arrest on May 25 in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide demonstrations, members of Wesleyan’s administration and alumni are speaking out against racial injustice and offering resources for community members.

On May 30, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 shared a Roth on Wesleyan post titled “Build an Anti-Racist Community in Which Hatred and Intolerance Have No Place.”

Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. We speak their names with sorrow and with anger. In recent weeks, we confront once again the fact that in America some people so radically devalue African Americans that their lives can be just brutally destroyed. The precarity of black lives has a very long history in this country, but now technology makes it possible for people everywhere to witness violent injustice. We witness, and we are disgusted; we witness, and we are enraged; we witness, and we mourn. Black Lives Matter.

As a historically white institution, Wesleyan has struggled with our own history of racism. Over the last several decades, thanks to the work of activist students, faculty, staff and alumni, we have become more aware of the ways in which the ideology of white supremacy has affected this history and our own present. We try to build a different kind of community – one in which racism, hate and intolerance have no place. This is an ongoing project, and we re-dedicate ourselves to it.

Birney Studies Ancient Perfume “Knock-Offs” in Athens as New Directions Fellow


Greyware unguentaria (perfume bottles) were produced in Greece (pictured at left); however, Wesleyan’s Kate Birney excavated similar bottles in Ashkelon, Israel (pictured at right). By using the scientific process of ceramic petrography, Birney is revealing that the unguentaria from Israel are likely “knock-offs” of the Greek perfumes. “When we excavated these bottles at Ashkelon in Israel, their coloring and fine quality looked exactly like the ones known from Greece. We’d seen some crummy imitations before—basically thick-walled bottles painted grey and haphazardly striped, clearly echoing the Greek original but not going to fool anybody—but the assumption was that the nice, super-delicate ones must be imported from Greece,” Birney said. “That is not necessarily the case.” (Image at left: Unguentaria (P10734) from graves near the Agora. Image from the Athenian Agora Excavations Collection at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Image at right: courtesy of the Leon Levy Expedition.)

Kate Birney

Kate Birney

There was something about Kate Birney’s research that smelled a little off.

As far back as the 4th century B.C., Greece was a global leader in producing a plethora of posh perfumes sold in handcrafted ceramic bottles marked with three chalky-white stripes.

“Much like today, some of these ceramic perfume bottles were ‘branded‘—made in distinctive shapes, and painted or decorated in distinctive ways—probably to tell the consumer what scent they contained, or which perfume house/region they were imported from,” said Birney, associate professor of classical studies and chair of Wesleyan’s Archaeology Program.

So when similar bottles, or unguentaria, were excavated from the site of Ashkelon in southern Israel, scientists assumed the Hellenistic-period (4th–1st century B.C.) perfumes were imported via trade routes. Or were they?

Through a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, Birney spent this past winter and early spring at the Wiener Lab of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, studying the ceramic petrography of bottles collected from Ashkelon. There, she worked with petrographic specialists and accessed the lab’s comparative collections.