Rachel Wachman '24

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated with Contemporary Cinema Series

film

Wesleyan is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the annual Contemporary Cinema from the Hispanic Wold film series. On Oct. 21, the series will feature the Spanish film Rosa’s Wedding, directed by Icíar Bollaín, 2020. Rosa, about to turn 45, realizes that she has always lived for others, so she decides to leave it all and grab hold of the reins of her life. But before all this, she wants to embark on a very special commitment: a marriage to herself. Marrying, even if it is with herself, will be the hardest thing she has ever done.

Since 2012, Associate Professor of Spanish Maria Ospina has worked with the Wesleyan Film Board to organize an annual film series titled Contemporary Cinema from the Hispanic World and celebrate Hispanic cultures following Hispanic Heritage Month. The series has run every year since then, except for in 2020 (during the pandemic).

This year, the series will occur in the Goldsmith Family Cinema on Thursdays at 8 p.m. from Oct.  7 to Nov. 4, with five recent award-winning films from Latin America and Spain featured in the span of a month.

“This film series aims to showcase cultural, social and political issues of the Spanish speaking worlds (worlds that are also plurilingual, of course) and contribute to the intellectual conversations and artistic life at Wesleyan,” said Ospina, who also chairs the Wesleyan’s Latin American Studies program. “This is particularly important in a country where the cultures and languages of these regions are central to the lives of so many, but where diverse groups and institutions are constantly attempting to ignore or erase this presence. There is a huge interest in the Wesleyan Community in Latinx and Latin American issues, and I think cinema is a great space where people can congregate to explore them in a profound way.”

The five films come from four countries: Lemebel (Chile, 2019), Identifying Features (Mexico and Spain, 2020), Rosa’s Wedding (Spain, 2020), The Wolf House (Chile, 2018), and Panquiaco (Panama, 2020).

Tan Authors Book on Chinese Power Development During Revolution and War

tan book Assistant Professor of History Ying Jia Tan authored a new book titled Recharging China in War and Revolution, 1882-1955, already available as an e-book and soon to be available in hardcover, beginning Oct. 15. The work, published by Cornell University Press, explores Chinese power consumption and electrical development throughout seventy-three years of war and revolution.

According to the book’s abstract:

Tan traces this history from the textile-factory power shortages of the late Qing, through the struggle over China’s electrical industries during its civil war, to the 1937 Japanese invasion that robbed China of 97 percent of its generative capacity.

Along the way, he demonstrates that power industries became an integral part of the nation’s military-industrial complex, showing how competing regimes asserted economic sovereignty through the nationalization of electricity. Based on a wide range of published records, engineering reports, and archival collections in China, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States, Recharging China in War and Revolution, 1882-1955 argues that, even in times of peace, the Chinese economy operated as though still at war, constructing power systems that met immediate demands but sacrificed efficiency and longevity.

At Wesleyan, Tan’s research primarily focuses on the history of energy development in China. He studies this subject in relation to environmental history, technology, and cartography. This semester, Tan is teaching HIST 223: Traditional China: Eco-Civilization and Its Discontents and HIST 362: Issues in Contemporary Historiography.

Feller Pens Article Analyzing New Jewish Museum in Israel

Jeremy Zwelling Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Assistant Professor of Religion Yaniv Feller penned an article over the summer titled “Too Good to be True?” for the Tel Aviv Review of Books.

In the piece, Feller discusses the Museum of the Jewish People (ANU), which first opened March 2021. One of the museum’s main exhibits begins with a segment called “Mosaic: Identity and Culture in Our Times” before moving into the historical roots of Judaism, exploring different forms of Judaism in contemporary and historical contexts, as well as the diversity of the Jewish people and the way they observe their religion.

“The question of whether there is such a singular object of research called Jewish history—indeed, whether the history of the Jewish people is unified—has confronted every historian of the Jews. In implicitly answering it, the new exhibition at ANU offers a different historiography to that of its predecessor,” Feller writes.

He argues that the museum could have been constructed anywhere in the world but its specific location within Israel calls into question the role of Israeli politics in the Jewish faith. Feller cites various Israeli politicians who have fought against the LBGTQ+ community, contending that such people inherently affect the religion of the country they seek to represent.

“It is about who gets to define Jewishness,” Feller states.

Feller then analyzes the relationship between politics and Judaism, concluding that Judaism cannot be defined by any one place or identity.

“ANU is everything its creators hoped it would be. A cutting-edge, beautifully executed, comprehensive museum of the Jewish people. And precisely because of that, it feels at odds with its location. As the Museum of the Jewish People, its permanent exhibition is inspirational, but also aspirational. It is increasingly at odds with the diverging paths of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in which the museum is located.”

Sultan, Waterman ’20 Co-Author Paper on Plant Reproduction

Professor of Biology Sonia Sultan recently co-authored an article titled “Transgenerational effects of parent plant competition on offspring development in contrasting conditions” with BA/MA student Robin Waterman ’20. The article, published in Ecology on Sept. 8, examines the relationship between parent plants and their offspring, especially how competition among such parent plants can alter the next generation.

“Conditions during a parent’s lifetime can induce phenotypic changes in offspring, providing a potentially important source of variation in natural populations. Yet to date, biotic factors have seldom been tested as sources of transgenerational effects in plants,” reads an excerpt from the paper’s abstract.

Rubenstein, Taylor ’68 Collaborate On Essay Collection

ImageProfessor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein recently co-authored an essay in collection titled Image: Three Inquiries in Technology and Imagination alongside Mark C. Taylor ’68, professor of religion at Columbia University.

The book, published in September 2021 by the University of Chicago Press, explores how visual elements function in relationship to humans and technology.

“Modern life is steeped in images, image-making, and attempts to control the world through vision,” the book’s description reads. “Mastery of images has been advanced by technologies that expand and reshape vision and enable us to create, store, transmit, and display images. The three essays in Image, written by leading philosophers of religion Mark C. Taylor, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, and Thomas A. Carlson, explore the power of the visual at the intersection of the human and the technological.”

Rubenstein also is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe (2009), Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse (2014), and Pantheologies: Gods, Worlds, Monsters (2018). Taylor, too, has written several books, including Disfiguring: Art, Architecture, Religion (1994), Mystic Bones (2007), and Abiding Grace: Time, Modernity, Death (2018).

Padilla-Benavides to Study How Copper Helps with Muscle Development with NIH Grant

Teresita Padilla-Benavides

Teresita Padilla-Benavides, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a grant from the NIH in August.

With the support of a five-year, $1.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Teresita Padilla-Benavides will study how transition metals—such as copper—contribute to the development of muscle.

The monetary award, called an NIH Research Project Grant (NIH R01), aims to support research and development in health-related fields that bolster the mission of the NIH.

“​Thanks to this award, we will be able to investigate novel molecules and their association with transition metals, such as copper, and how they contribute to the development of muscle,” said Padilla-Benavides, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. “My project will investigate in-depth novel molecular mechanisms by which Cu and Cu-binding transcription factors regulate lineage-specific gene expression and muscle development. We hope to establish a basis to understand muscular phenotypes observed in multiple diseases related to Cu deficiencies at a transcriptional level.”

The funds also will allow her to provide more research opportunities at her Wesleyan lab to undergraduate students.

“I was able to recruit four new undergrads to work on the project, one grad student and one postdoc,” Padilla-Benavides said. “The grant will support the expenses associated with reagents, attendance to scientific meetings, etc. We hope to publish our preliminary findings within one year and continue advancing the project with a focus on human health in the subsequent years.”

Padilla-Benavides coauthored a similar paper on the subject titled “The molecular and cellular basis of copper dysregulation and its relationship with human pathologies,” which was published in the July 2021 issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal. The paper explores the role of copper in human disease.

For more information on Padilla-Benavides’s grant, visit her project report.

Harris-Babou’s “Wholesome Fun” Art Exhibition Opens in Germany

Luther Gregg Sullivan Fellow In Art Ilana Harris-Babou is an interdisciplinary artist whose work encompasses sculptures, installations, and videos around the themes of the American Dream and its contradictions. Harris-Babou’s work is featured in “Wholesome Fun,” her first solo institutional exhibition in Europe, which opened in Hamburg, Germany on Oct. 1.

This exhibition is hosted by Kunsthaus Hamburg, a center for contemporary art in a former market building.

“In her video works, collages, and sculptures, Harris-Babou combines humor and a keen critique of society, revealing racist structures and social discrepancies in the mirror of western hegemonic consumer and media culture,” the exhibition description reads. “In this context, she adopts the language of popular advertising formats on Youtube and Instagram, in which companies develop their brand image and mostly members of the younger generation enact their consumerism as a lifestyle in the everyday sphere, capturing their cooking or DIY activities on camera. Here, the self-empowerment of the Do-It-Yourself concept becomes a paradigm of self-optimization, propagating efficiency, performance, and would-be good taste in addition to practical tips.”

Harris-Babou’s previous work has been displayed in New York at The Museum of Art and Design, HESSE FLATOW, The Whitney Museum of Art, and The Studio Museum, in addition to around the world in Denmark, Germany, Spain, and Australia.

Click here to see Harris-Babou’s professional website with samples of her work.

 

 

 

 

 

Autry Pens Articles on Race, Identity, and Politics in the U.S.

Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology, studies racial identity, Blackness, and memory, in addition to the politics of museum development in the United States and South Africa. She is the author of eight recent articles relating to these topics.

Her work includes the following:

In the fall, she will teach SOC 202-01: Sociological Analysis and SOC 299-01: The Future Perfect.

Hagel Discusses Authenticity Claims in Democratic Life

Nina Hagel, assistant professor of government, is a political theorist whose research focuses on questions of freedom, recognition, resistance, and democratic belonging. She often teaches courses on contemporary political theory, the history of political thought, and feminist political theory. She is working on a book manuscript on the meanings and political value of authenticity claims.

In March 2021, she gave a virtual talk called “Right-Wing Populism and the Dangers of Authenticity” at the University of Alabama as part of the Political Science Department’s Colloquium.

She also presented at the Conference on Philosophy and Social Science in Prague, Czech Republic in May 2020, virtually. Her presentation was called “Rousseau and the Stakes of Authenticity.”

Hagel was additionally invited to speak (virtually) at the Pioneer Valley Political Theory Workshop, in Northampton, Massachusetts in April 2021; present at the Association for Political Theory’s conference in Northampton, Massachusetts in November 2020; and give a talk at the University of Connecticut’s Political Theory Workshop in October 2020.

Moreover, Hagel served as a panel discussant in an “Author Meets Critics” panel for American Incest: An Undercover Politics of White Supremacy by John Seery at the annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association.

At Wesleyan, Hagel received the Center for the Humanities (CHUM) Faculty Fellowship for the fall of 2021, in addition to a grant from Academic Affairs to fund a book conference.

In the fall, she will teach CHUM 376-01: Subjection, Contract, Consent.

Tucker Writes Extensively on British History, Photography, and Archiving

Photo of Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

In the past two years, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker co-edited one book, one journal issue, two articles, two book chapters, and the headnote for a review essay, and authored eight book chapters and two articles. In addition, she has just finished a draft of her second monograph.

Tucker, a historian of 19th- and 20th-century British society, focuses specifically on photographic and cinematic evidence in the fields of science, law, forensic medicine, news reporting, public trials, and the environment.

Her recent work includes the following:

A Right to Bear Arms? The Contested Role of History in Contemporary Debates on the Second Amendment, published by Penguin Press and released in 2020.

“‘Magical Attractions’ Lantern Slide Lectures at British Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meetings, ca. 1850-1920,” a chapter in the book The Magic Lantern at Work: Connecting, Witnessing, Experiencing and Persuading, published in 2020 by Routledge.

“Making Looking: Lantern Slides in British Science,1850-1920,” a chapter in the book A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Slides in the History of Learning, published in 2020 by John Libbey Press.

“A View of the Ocean, Between the Tropics (1765-1800),” a chapter in the book Britain in the World: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art, published in 2020 by Yale University Press.

“Photography in the Making of Modern Science,” a chapter in the book Handbook of Photography Studies, published in 2020 by Bloomsbury Academic Press.

Tucker also co-edited the 142nd issue of the journal Radical History Review titled “Visual Archives of Sex” in 2021.

Taylor Co-Authors 3 Articles, Writes Book Chapter on Lignin Enzymology

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, recently co-authored three papers and a book chapter related to (1) biomass to biofuel production and (2) development of new therapeutics to treat Gram-negative bacterial infections.

Taylor’s work investigates problems at the biological chemistry interface and seeks to find applications of her work to the fields of medicine and sustainable energy.

Her chapter called “Lignin Enzymology – Recent Efforts to Understand Lignin Monomer Catabolism” in the book Comprehensive Natural Products III: Chemistry and Biology, and her paper “Identifying Metabolic Pathway Intermediates that Modulate Enzyme Activity: A Kinetic Analysis of the DesB Dioxygenase from Sphingobium sp. strain SYK-6,” published in Process Biochemistry in January 2021, both help illustrate the mechanisms for breaking down Lignin, an important biopolymer that provides the structural integrity of terrestrial plants. The DesB paper is coauthored with alumnus Stacy Uchendu ’17 and other members of her lab. Her work is aimed toward helping understand ways to improve the efficiency of biofuel and fine chemical production.

The remaining papers describe efforts to understand the machine-like motions of the protein Heptosytransferase I and efforts to design inhibitors against them to treat bacterial infections:

A General Strategy to Synthesize ADP-7-azido-heptose and ADP-azido-mannoses and their Heptosyltransferase Binding Properties,” published in Organic Letters in February 2021.

Her paper, “Conserved Conformational Hierarchy Across Functionally Divergent Glycosyltransferases of the GT-B Structural Superfamily as Determined from Microsecond Molecular Dynamics,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in April 2021.

This summer, Taylor is overseeing the McNair research program with Ronnie Hendrix, and in the fall, she will be teaching a new First Year Seminar titled Chemistry in Your Life.

Kauanui Guest-Edits Anarchist Studies Journal, Speaks at Virtual Events

Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies, guest-edited a 2021 special issue of Anarchist Development in Cultural Studies called “The Politics of Indigeneity, Anarchist Praxis, and Decolonization” as well as wrote an article for the issue by that same title. Kauanui’s work focuses on Indigenous sovereignty, settler colonial studies, anarchist history and activism, and critical race and ethnic studies. Among other recent publications, in 2021, Kauanui also wrote a commentary for Volume 24 of Postcolonial Studies called “False dilemmas and settler colonial studies: response to Lorenzo Veracini: ‘Is Settler Colonial Studies Even Useful?’”

This past academic year, Kauanui chaired the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Native American Studies Search Committee for the American Studies department and also served as a consultant for select administrators and faculty regarding the politics of land acknowledgments and recognition of the Wangunk, the Indigenous people of the land where Wesleyan is located.

Additionally, Kauanui delivered invited lectures (virtually) for universities across the world, including UC Santa Cruz, Concordia University, York University, University of Virginia, Stanford University, and University of Melbourne. She was also a guest on Kaua‘i Community Public Radio (KKCR), where she discussed Biden’s policy on Native Hawaiians and federal recognition.

This coming fall, Kauanui, who also is an affiliate faculty in anthropology, will hold a fellowship at Wesleyan’s Center for Humanities. She’ll be teaching a new class—CHUM378: Decolonizing Indigenous Gender and Sexuality.