McAlister on Vodou’s Rise with Haitian-Americans

Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of religion and expert on the religion of Vodou, was cited in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on the recent gravitation toward Vodou by many young Haitian immigrants. The popularity of the religion, which blends ancient African religious traditions with the worship of Catholic saints, is said to be increasing because many first and second generation Haitians are looking to reconnect spiritually with their ancestral homeland.

Varekamp on Rumbling Alaskan Volcano

Mount Redoubt, an active volcano southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, is giving indications that it may erupt soon (the last time was 1989-90). Johan Varekamp, Herald T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, who analyzed the ash fall created by the volcano’s last eruptions discusses in The Los Angeles Times the possible environmental hazards to the surrounding landscape, people and animals that could be produced if the mountain erupts again.

Roth on Buck-Morss’ ‘Hegel and Haiti’

President Michael S. Roth reviews a new book by Susan Buck-Morss called Hegel, Haiti and Universal History that theorizes the German philosopher Georg Hegel was “inspired by the Haitian revolution of the 1790s when developing his fundamental concept known as the master-slave dialectic.” Roth explores this bold claim and the evidence and logic used to support it.

Schwarcz on Being Among 1st Scholars in China: 1-29

This year marks the 30th anniversary of The United States establishing an embassy in communist-ruled China, and Wesleyan Professor Vera Schwarcz was one of only seven invited western scholars to be there for the event. Schwarcz, professor and chair, East Asian Studies, professor of history, and director of the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies, was one of the very first group of official exchange scholars to arrive in China on February 23, 1979. On Thursday, Jan. 29 at 4:30 p.m., Schwarcz will present “A Thirty Year Harvest: Personal Reflections on U.S. China Relations” at the Mansfield Freeman Center.

The lecture will offer Schwarcz’s recollections on her experiences in China, as well as the evolution of American relations with China over the past three decades. Schwarcz’s scholarly research on student movements for science and democracy has repeatedly placed her at the center of public demonstrations and commemorations in 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009. While building East Asian studies at Wesleyan, Professor Schwarcz has also maintained an active dialogue with Chinese intellectuals in all walks of life, bridging the distance between Beijing and Middletown through more than 20 visits, dozens of lectures, and eight books. This talk represents the culmination of a 30-year journey toward cross-cultural understanding.

Potter in Inside Higher Ed on ‘The Obama Effect’

Claire Potter, chair and professor of American studies, professor of history, was cited in Inside Higher Ed on the debate among academics of the so-called “Obama Effect” on education, and particularly test-taking among African American students. Researchers from Vanderbilt University recently released a study stating that the test-taking performance gap was virtually eliminated during key moments of President Obama’s candidacy, showing the effect of positive role models. Professor Potter had another view articulated in an essay on her blog and Inside Higher Ed took note (it is the last item in the round-up here).

Roth in Huffington Post on Service and Education

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth has written a new blog entry on the Huffington Post that addresses the call to service Mr. Obama championed while on campus in May, during the latter parts of his campaign, and more recently as he worked through his transition from candidate to president. President Roth echoes these thoughts in his latest posting to his own blog as well.