Faculty

Hot Off the Press: Meere, Tulchin ’20 Explore Identity, Exile in Kacimi’s Plays

AFLMichael Meere, assistant professor of French, and Sophie Dora Tulchin ’20 are the co-authors of “Filling In the Gaps: Identity, Exile, and Performance in 1962 and Babel Taxi by Mohamed Kacimi,” published in the Journal of the African Literature Association, Vol. 14, Issue 3, on Nov. 12, 2020.

This article explores issues of identity, exile, and performance in 1962 (1998) and Babel Taxi (2004), two foundational plays by the Algerian-born author Mohamed Kacimi. 1962 is an autobiographical play written during Algeria’s “black decade” about the effects of Algeria’s independence on two particular characters, while Babel Taxi allegorically retells the legend of the Tower of Babel in modern-day Iraq at the start of the Iraq War. In these plays, the characters’ pasts and memories are full of gaps (trous). The article argues that the characters’ attempts to fill in these trous with performance illuminate their experience of exile as a permanent psychological state. This endeavor not only applies to Arabic-speaking, Islamic characters, but also to those from Argentina, Israel, France, China, India, and beyond. Further, both plays highlight the transformative power of performance. However, whereas the characters in 1962 use performance to elevate their personal narratives of the past and resist the domination of official history, the resurrection of biblical legend through performance in Babel Taxi ends in violence and disunity. Performing the past can facilitate connection and offer solace from the confusion of exile, but it can just as easily sow discord in the present.

Hot off the Press: Papers by Psychology Faculty, Alumni Published in Journals

Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology; Liana Mathias ’17; and former lab coordinators Alexandra Zax and Katherine Williams are the co-authors of an article titled “Intuitive symbolic magnitude judgments and decision making under risk in adults,” published in Cognitive Psychology, 118, in May 2020.

Barth; Williams; postdoctoral fellow Chenmu Xing; Jamie Hom ’17, MA ’18, Meghana Kandlur ’18, Praise Owoyemi ’18, Joanna Paul ’18, Elizabeth Shackney ’17, and Ray Alexander ’18 are the co-authors of “Partition dependence in financial aid distribution to income categories,” published in PLoS ONE 15, in April 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; and Sheri Reichelson ’16, MA ’17 are the co-authors of “Developmental change in partition dependent resource allocation behavior,” published in Memory & Cognition 48, March 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; Paul; and Williams are the co-authors of “Number line estimation and standardized test performance: The left digit effect does not predict SAT math score,” published online in Brain and Behavior, October 2020.

Psychological Scavenger Hunt Helps Alleviate Zoom Fatigue

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. 

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. One group walked more than 2.5 miles during the scavenger hunt.

This fall, the introductory-level course PSYC 105: Foundations of Contemporary Psychology is being taught entirely online to 200 students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After six weeks of remote lectures and interactive breakout sections via Zoom, Professors Steve Stemler and Sarah Carney who are team-teaching the course, hoped to break the “Zoom fatigue” routine and get their students physically interacting. So working together with the eight course TAs, they created a campus-wide psychological scavenger hunt.

With the first wave of students participating on Oct 27, and other waves participating subsequently, more than 110 students participated in the activity in person, while others joined in virtually.

“This was a fun way of doing some course-relevant activities while getting students out and about and interacting with each other,” Stemler said.

The instructors and TAs worked hard to ensure the scavenger hunt adhered to all COVID-19 protocols by keeping team sizes small, start times staggered, and locations spread out across campus and outside.

During the hunt, students worked in groups of four and looked for clues at various campus locations. The clues led them to a station run by a teaching assistant, who asked the undergraduates to complete a task relevant to the course content.

At an “intelligence station,” for example, the groups engaged in a word recognition test that relies on past experiences to prime their perceptions. At a “consciousness station,” students were asked to write down five things about themselves, and then the TA shuffled around their cards. After the cards were revealed, students had to categorize the notes as belonging to the social self, spiritual self, or material self in accordance with William James’ theory of the empirical self. And at a “methods station,” students read a description of a fictional research study and were allowed to ask 10 follow-up questions. The goal of that activity was to get students thinking about what information they wanted to know and why in order to evaluate the validity of the study rather than simply recalling the correct answers about the study design.

The scavenger hunt also led students to stations on memory, cognition, and bystander intervention.

The Teaching Apprentices for the course are Nolan Collins ’23, Maya Verghese ’23, Sarah Hammond ’22, Charity Russell ’21, Will Ratner ’22, Christian Quinones ’22, Arianna Jackson ’22, and Ezra Levy ’21.

Photos of the scavenger hunt on Oct. 27 are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Hot off the Press: Short Stories by Ospina; Research Articles by Thomas

ospina book Associate Professor of Spanish María Ospina’s collection of short stories, Azares del Cuerpo (Variations on the Body), was published in Spain in September 2020, after being previously published in Colombia, Chile, and Italy. The book also is forthcoming in the U.S. next summer by Coffee House Press.

Azares del Cuerpo was reviewed in one of Spain’s most important national newspapers (El Mundo) on Oct. 30. Read more here.

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the co-author of three papers:

They include:

The enigma of Oligocene climate and global surface temperature evolution,” published in PNAS on Oct. 13, 2020;

I/Ca in epifaunal benthic foraminifera: A semi-quantitative proxy for bottom water oxygen in a multi-proxy compilation for glacial ocean deoxygenation,” published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol. 533, March 2020.

And “Earth history of Oxygen and the iprOxy,” published in Cambridge Elements’ series on “Elements in Geochemical Tracers in Earth System Science.”

Wesleyan Hires 14 New Ongoing Faculty in 2020–21

Wesleyan welcomes 14 new ongoing faculty to campus this fall, including five professors of the practice. They include:

Charles Barber, associate professor of the practice in the College of Letters, is a nonfiction author who writes about mental health and criminal justice issues, for both popular and scholarly audiences. He has previously taught at Wesleyan for eight years as a visitor, primarily as Writer in Residence in the College of Letters, and also in the Psychology and English departments, and Allbritton Center. He has written three books: Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors, Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation, and Citizen Outlaw: One Man’s Journey from Gang Leader to Peacekeeper. Barber has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, The Nation, and Scientific American MIND. Before becoming a full-time academic, he worked with homeless and incarcerated people for two decades, and conducted federally-funded studies on how to best engage such individuals into treatment and services. He also is a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale University.

Garry Bertholf is an assistant professor in the African American Studies

Garry Bertholf, assistant professor of African American studies is an expert on Africana literature and Black critical theory, and the intellectual and cultural history of the African diaspora.

Garry Bertholf, assistant professor of African American studies, holds a doctorate in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a master’s degree in jazz and popular music studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He is working on two book projects. The first, titled The Black Charismatic: Demagoguery and the Politics of Affect, examines the performance, practice, and rhetoric of demagoguery in post-Civil Rights Black political leadership, showing in what ways this form of what he calls “the Black charismatic” threatens to make illusory what should be a vibrant Black public sphere based on substance rather than affect. The second, Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism in Africana Literature, theorizes a distinctively literary genealogy of that antinomy (Afro-pessimism/Black optimism) by exploring earlier Africana texts that potentially give a new shape to the debates that currently circulate around that antinomy. Bertholf has published articles in south: a scholarly journal, Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, and in the edited volume Reconstruction at 150: Reassessing the Revolutionary “New Birth of Freedom.”

Wesleyan Welcomes 17 Visiting Faculty

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 17 visiting faculty members to campus. They are:

Chris Bell

Chris Bell, David Scott Williams Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, is a human sciences-oriented psychologist working at the intersection of cultural, clinical, and critical psychology.

Christopher Bell, David Scott Williams Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, received his BA in English literatures and cultures from Brown University and his MA and PhD in psychology from the University of West Georgia. His research explores the processes and outcomes of psychotherapy; his dissertation, Psychotherapeutic Subjectivities, examined the subjective experiences of individuals in psychotherapy, analyzing these experiences in terms of different psychotherapeutic techniques. He has published on projection and memories of projection as well as Lacanian psychoanalysis, and his projects advocate a contextual approach to psychotherapy research. This fall, Bell is teaching a first-year seminar on Psychoanalysis Then and Now, and Cultural Psychology.

Alessandra Buccella, visiting assistant professor of philosophy, received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work focuses on the philosophy of mind and perception, at the intersection with psychology and cognitive science. She did her undergraduate studies in Milan, Italy, and has a Master’s degree in analytic philosophy from the University of Barcelona, Spain. Buccella’s broader philosophical interests encompass 20th-century phenomenology, philosophy of science, and feminist philosophy. Recently, she has been working on ways to combine philosophical theories of perception and objectivity with insights coming from the feminist tradition, in particular regarding the role of the body in shaping our experience of the world. This fall semester, she’s teaching Philosophy of Psychology and a first-year seminar titled Bodies and Experiences.

9 Postdoctoral Fellows Join Wesleyan in 2020-21

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes nine postdoctoral fellows to campus. They include:

Sierra Eisen, postdoctoral fellow in psychology, joins the Psychology Department for two years. She received her PhD from the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where she was a researcher in the Early Development Lab. Eisen studies how children interact with and learn from different forms of media. Her research mainly focuses on how children think about and learn from touchscreen devices and educational apps. At Wesleyan, she will conduct collaborative research with students and faculty in the Cognitive Development Laboratories, directed by Anna Shusterman and Hilary Barth, as well as teaching a seminar course in her area of specialization.

Javier Fernández Galeano, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities, is a historian of 20th-century Argentina and Spain. His research and teaching interests include gender and sexuality in Latin America and Iberia, queer history, diasporas and migrations, state violence, prison management, and global activist politics. His first book project traces the erotic lives and legal battles of Argentine and Spanish gender-nonconforming people. He shifts the focus to non-elite actors––rural populations, recruits and prisoners, fans of flamenco music, and defendants’ mothers––and to queer transnationalism in spirituality, folk music, fashion and performance, and visual and material culture. Galeano has a PhD in history from Brown University, where he graduated as a Mellon/ACLS fellow; a MA in historical studies from the New School for Social Research, where he was a Fulbright scholar; and two BAs in history and anthropology from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid. He has published in the Journal of the History of Sexuality, the Latin American Research Review, and Encrucijadas, among others.

Sumarsam, Gruen, Herbst Honored with Faculty Research Prizes

Three Wesleyan faculty were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research in October. The third annual prize is similar to the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, but is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field.

Each recipient received a plaque and citation as well as research funds for their award.

This year’s recipients include: Division I, Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music; Division II, Lori Gruen, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy; and Division III, Bill Herbst, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy.

Philosophical Debate Serves as Living a Good Life Course’s Midterm

good life class

Students from the philosophy course Living a Good Life gathered in Memorial Chapel on Oct. 22 to participate in a three-part debate that served as their midterm.

Philosophers in the ancient world, in both the East and the West, typically viewed the practice of philosophy as an activity aimed at changing one’s orientation to the world and, thus, how one lives one’s life. Some of these thinkers developed views that still appear to have contemporary relevance, but many of them also held beliefs that we recognize today as not only outdated but also deeply misguided. Given these blind spots in their thinking, should ancient philosophy be “canceled”?

That was the question up for consideration in a midterm debate held on Oct. 22 as part of PHIL 210: Living a Good Life, co-taught by Steve Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy; Tushar Irani, associate professor of letters and philosophy; and Steven Horst, chair and professor of philosophy. The course is one of Wesleyan’s largest in-person courses taught this semester and was featured in an Oct. 19 The New York Times article titled “Ancient Philosophy, Meet Modern Pandemic.”

Thomas Honored for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research

ellen thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the recipient of the 2020 Joseph A. Cushman Award for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research.

At Wesleyan, Thomas investigates oceanic benthic foraminifera (eukaryotic unicellular organisms) as proxies for the impact of changes in environment and climate on living organisms on various time scales. This fall, she’s teaching the courses Research Frontiers in the Sciences and Mass Extinctions in the Oceans.

Brian Huber, president of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research noted that the Cushman Foundation Board of Directors agreed that Thomas “richly deserve[s] being honored for [her] voluminous and highly impactful contributions to foraminiferal research and the broader disciplines of paleoceanography, paleoclimatology and environmental science. [Her] influence as a mentor and educator and [her] leadership and selfless public service contributions to the international research community are also considered outstanding.”

Thomas will receive the award during the Geological Society of American Meeting next fall in Montreal, Canada.

Kolcio Receives Grant from the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme

kolcio

Katja Kolcio, associate professor dance, leads a somatic methods workshop in Lviv, Ukraine, in June 2015.

Katja Kolcio, director of the Allbritton Center, associate professor of dance, received a $64,745 grant from the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) this month to evaluate the impact of somatic methods on psycho-social wellness in the context of the armed conflict in Donbas, Ukraine.

“Somatic methods, which are the basis of this project, are movement-based methods that hone body-mind connection in the interest of promoting self-awareness and wellness,” Kolcio explained.

The Vitality Donobas Project is a collaboration between Kolcio and the Development Foundation (DF), an NGO dedicated to psycho-social relief, formed in Ukraine during the Maidan Revolution. In the course of six months, this project will directly engage over 1,500 participants in Donbas through a combination of virtual online and safe in-person programming.

Zimmeck Spearheads Launch of Important Online Privacy Tool

Sebastian Zimmeck,

Sebastian Zimmeck

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sebastian Zimmeck is leading a major initiative to help consumers gain greater control of their personal data online.

On Oct. 7, Zimmeck and his collaborator, Ashkan Soltani of Georgetown Law, as well as a group of partner organizations that includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mozilla, and the parent company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr, among others, announced the beta launch of the Global Privacy Control (GPC), a new effort to standardize consumer privacy online.

As Zimmeck explains it, privacy regulations introduced in recent years such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have given consumers more rights to limit the sale and sharing of their personal data than ever before. The CCPA regulations give California residents a legal right to opt out of the sale of their data, and requires businesses to respect their preferences through a signal from their web browser. Zimmeck applauds this progress, but says it “doesn’t amount to much if it is hard for people to take advantage of their new rights.” That’s because there had been little progress on developing standards that allow users to signal through their web browser that they wish to opt out of having their data sold or shared. An early standardization attempt, Do Not Track (DNT), suffered from a low rate of adoption due to its lack of enforceability. In practice, this means users generally need to manually opt out of each site or app they want to stop tracking their data—something most users don’t go through the trouble to do.

According to a WIRED article on the beta launch, “the CCPA includes a mechanism for solving the one-by-one problem. The regulations interpreting the law specify that businesses must respect a ‘global privacy control’ sent by a browser or device. The idea is that instead of having to change privacy settings every time you visit a new site or use a new app, you could set your preference once, on your phone or in a browser extension, and be done with it.”

The idea for the new global opt-out started with Zimmeck, who last spring began building an extension for the Chrome web browser with his students called OptMeowt. Initially, Zimmeck worked with Wesleyan computer science students Kuba Alicki ’22, David Baraka ‘21, and Rafael Goldstein ’21. As the effort gained momentum, Daniel Knopf ’22 and Abdallah Salia ’22 joined as well.

“My students are doing an excellent job,” Zimmeck says. “I am mostly taking on the role as an engineering manager and the students are really the ones implementing the various technologies. I think it is also nice that the students are exposed to how things are done in industry, and that they can acquire real-world software engineering skills.”

“As of today, users will be able to set a global browser opt-out in browsers including Mozilla, Brave, and DuckDuckGo, as well as the DuckDuckGo privacy extensions for Chrome,” the WIRED article further explains. “The code necessary for businesses to respond to the privacy control is publicly available. Publishers who have signed on, most notably The New York Times and The Washington Post, have agreed to honor the signal.”

“For California residents, the global privacy control, if enforced by the attorney general, would have a very different effect than existing privacy controls such as third-party cookie blockers. Those settings have no power over what a website or app does with the data it collects directly from you. The global control, by contrast, would issue a legally binding order that, if violated, would be punishable by major fines.”

Indeed, briefly after its release, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted that “[t]his proposed standard is a first step towards a meaningful global privacy control that will make it simple and easy for consumers to exercise their privacy rights online. #DataPrivacy is the future, and I am heartened to see a wave of innovation in this space.” As Zimmeck told WIRED, “The time is right to do this,” adding that the American public cares much more about privacy than during the earlier DNT effort, and now there is finally law on their side. “I think it’s really important to not just theoretically talk about how this could work,” he said, “but also to actually do it.”

Additional coverage of the beta launch can be read on TechCrunch.com, Neowin.net, and Decipher.