Snapshots

Scholars Explore the Theme of “Dirt” Through Center for the Humanities Series

During the Center for the Humanities Lecture Series, nine scholars explored the theme of “Dirt” throughout the fall 2020 semester. The theme explored the material ecologies and symbolic currencies of filth, waste, toxicity, and contamination alongside ideas of purity, hygiene, and cleanliness to address and reframe a range of contemporary environmental and cultural urgencies.

Through various topics, the scholars discussed uses and abuses of dirt and its various political, religious, sexual, ethnic, racial, and ecological significations.

The topics and speakers included:

Projected Resonances: Intersections of Sound, Performance, and Tourism Underground at Mammoth Cave” by Paula Matthusen, associate professor of music; “Getting Our Hands Dirty: Manual Labor Schools, Abolition, and the Empire of Benevolence” by Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies; “Trashy Encounters: Modernity, the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, and Indigenous Futures” by Yu-ting Huang, assistant professor of East Asian studies; “Anthropogenic Forms in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being” by Amy Tang, Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of English and American Studies; “Lust Area” by Greg Goldberg, associate professor and chair of sociology; and “Queer Erotic Archives in Franco’s Spain (1954-1979)” by Javier Fernandez Galeano, Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow.

Other speakers included “Detention Operations” by Angela Naimou of Clemson University; “Soil, The Black Archives” by Marisa Solomon of Barnard College and Columbia University; and “Histories of Dirt in Lagos” by Stephanie Newell of Yale University.

The series was hosted by Natasha Korda, professor of English and director of the Center for the Humanities.

The spring 2021 Center for the Humanities theme is ephemera.

Natasha Korda, professor of English and director of the Center for the Humanities, explained how the theme "examines the material ecologies and symbolic currencies of soil, filth, waste, and contamination to reframe a range of contemporary environmental and cultural issues bearing on bodies and borders.” Korda also acknowledged that the land on which Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities stands once belonged to the indigenous Wangunk Indian tribe.

Natasha Korda, professor of English and director of the Center for the Humanities, explained how the theme “examines the material ecologies and symbolic currencies of soil, filth, waste, and contamination to reframe a range of contemporary environmental and cultural issues bearing on bodies and borders.” Korda also acknowledged that the land on which Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities stands once belonged to the indigenous Wangunk Indian tribe.

Amy Tang

On Oct. 19, Amy Tang, Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of English and American Studies, presented a talk titled “Anthropogenic Forms in Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.” “[The novel] vibrantly juxtaposes multiple timescales specifically working between the scale of the human and the scale of the planet. Moreover, Ozeki’s novel highlights the narrative’s own temporal plurality as a way of locating ourselves within the geological epochs of the Anthropocene.”

On Oct. 26, Yu-Ting Huang, assistant professor of East Asian studies, presented a talk titled "Trashy Encounters: Modernity, the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, and Indigenous Futures."

On Oct. 26, Yu-ting Huang, assistant professor of East Asian studies, presented a talk titled “Trashy Encounters: Modernity, the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, and Indigenous Futures.”

Johnson noted that in the 1800s, liberal arts colleges and Protestant theological seminaries across the United States had integrated manual labor into their educational programs. At Andover Seminary in Massachusetts, students labored together 30-45 minutes before meals, and at Oneida Institute in New York, students were required to labor three hours a day.

On Nov. 9, Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies, spoke about “Getting Our Hands Dirty: Manual Labor Schools, Abolition, and the Empire of Benevolence.” Johnson noted that in the 1800s, liberal arts colleges and Protestant theological seminaries across the United States had integrated manual labor into their educational programs. At Andover Seminary in Massachusetts, students labored together 15 minutes before meals, and at Oneida Institute in New York (pictured at left), students were required to labor three hours per day. “Initially, requiring students to labor in farms or workshops served purely practical purposes. Manual labor provided physical exercise that improved general health and well-being, and in contributing labor toward the maintenance of institutions, growing foodstuffs, or producing commodities, students got to offset the cost of their tuition.”

goldberg

On Oct. 5, Greg Goldberg, associate professor and chair of sociology, presented a talk titled “Lust Area,” which focused on progressive support for all-gender public bathrooms in contrast to progressive silence surrounding the surveillance and policing of men who have sex with men in public bathrooms (also called “cruising”). Goldberg argued: “some of the contemporary support for all-gender bathrooms on the Left is motivated, probably unconsciously, by a discomfort with the homoerotics of the bathroom, and more specifically with the possibility of cruising. All-gender bathrooms can alleviate this discomfort insofar as they foreclose opportunities for cruising, whether through designs that eliminate opportunities for discrete exposure and contact, or by the installation or conversion of single-user bathrooms.”

Paula Matthusen presented "Projected Resonances: Intersections of Sound, Performance, and Tourism Underground at Mammoth Cave" on Nov. 23 as part of the Fall 2020 Center for the Humanities Lecture Series.

On Nov. 23, Paula Matthusen, associate professor of music, presented “Projected Resonances: Intersections of Sound, Performance, and Tourism Underground at Mammoth Cave.” With Projected Resonances, Matthusen explored the acoustic space in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave and its intertwined histories of musical performance and tourism.

On Sept. 14, Javier Fernandez Galeano, Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. "Queer Erotic Archives in Franco's Spain (1954-1979)"

On Sept. 14, Javier Fernandez Galeano, Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, presented “Queer Erotic Archives in Franco’s Spain (1954–1979).” Galeano explained that under Francisco Franco’s regime (1939–1975) in Spain, the authorities incinerated heterosexual pornography while they preserved, curated, and restored queer pornography. The study of the confiscated materials “suggests that queer and trans communities embodied in their photographs a reading of their own desires that differed from the authorities’ views,” he said.

South Asia’s Caste System Discussed by Scholars, Students

In South Asia, particularly in India, people are born into a caste system that determines their social status, career, and access to resources and opportunities. Under Brahmins (priests, intellectuals), Kshatriyas (military, warriors), Vaishyas (merchants, farmers), and Shudras (laborers, servants) are Dalits, also known as the “untouchables.” Those in the Dalit caste group struggle with oppression and discrimination and are considered “dirty” and spiritually polluting.

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan’s South Asian students’ association Shakti presented a conversation titled “Caste Conundrum and Identity Politics.” Panelists included Hari Krishnan, professor of dance; Indira Karamcheti, associate professor of American studies; Manjula Pradeep, a human rights lawyer and former director of the Navsarjan Trust; and Meena Varma, director of the International Dalit Solidarity Network.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay and Darshana Banka moderated the discussion, which explored gender, privilege and their corresponding impacts on a day to day basis.

Shakti members Sushraya Jay ’21, top left, and Darshana Banka ’22, top right, moderated the discussion, which explored the caste system, gender, and privilege, and their corresponding impacts on a day-to-day basis.

"The caste system is so ingrained into society so people have adjusted life ... It doesn't bother everyone in India. There's millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste," Pradeep said. 

“The caste system is so ingrained into society, so people have adjusted life. . . . It doesn’t bother everyone in India. People don’t want to talk about it. There are millions of people who support this system because they have benefits associated with a caste,” Pradeep said. “But the lower you are in the caste, and you’re born in the (Dalit) community, you have to do degrading work. If you’re born an untouchable, you live and die an untouchable.”

"We all need to be hyper-aware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it's not enough anymore," Krishnan said. Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity ... and be aware of the social political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence."

“We all need to be hyperaware of the circulation of caste discrimination, even in daily life. If you see something, say something. Being a silent observer; it’s not enough anymore,” Krishnan said. “Everyone needs to be an activist, everyone needs to be in solidarity . . . and be aware of the social-political problems that continue to promote and propagate violence.”

caste

Karamcheti discussed the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965, which opened up worldwide immigration to the United States. Since the 1917 Immigration Act, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zones Act, immigration from various non-white countries had been restricted to around 100 persons per year. The Hart-Celler Act raised that cap to 20,000 per year, prioritizing highly skilled, highly educated individuals and family reunification. Consequently, those migrants joined the U.S. as members of the upper and middle classes. “They had professions in the public sphere, often highly prestigious, and incorporated into the U.S. into a flattening out of caste. In a sense, that first wave of immigration comes in, not caste-less, but as upper-caste. As those numbers increased into the 2000s, what you get is the community of South Asians, putting caste-ism into practice.”
As long as the South Asian community was small in number, the dominant culture saw them as all belonging to the model minority. “In this sense, ignorance about their internal differences was in a sense protection; people could pass in terms of their caste identity. South Asians, as their numbers increased, put caste-ism into practice against each other. As the dominant culture gained knowledge about South Asians, knowledge in this case led to more caste discrimination,” she said.

"If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you're probably privileged," Varma said. We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that's why solidarity networks are so important."

“If you have to ask what caste privilege is, you’re probably privileged,” Varma said. “We need to bring caste into the open, bring discrimination out into the open. We need to be caste aware and that’s why solidarity networks are so important. One thing we can do, as when we talk about COVID, is to stop using the word ‘social distancing.’ Even though this is now global terminology, this is what has happened to Dalits for 3,000 years. We are now being social, and being distant for reasons of health, but it is because we need safe distancing, not social distancing.” Varma also described the work of Dalits. “Dalits are manual scavengers; they are cleaning human [feces] with their hands,” Varma said. “Cleaning of dry latrines is mostly done by women, and sanitation workers, mostly men, die every day because they are lowered into a manhole without protection. Here is a country that can send satellites into space, but can’t automate its sanitation.”

Gamelan Ensemble Provides Virtual Mini-Concerts, Demonstrations During Pandemic

On Nov. 19, students from the Javanese Gamelan Ensemble presented their work-in-progress, a number of compositions in different tuning systems, and formal musical structures.

On Nov. 19, students from the MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners class presented their work-in-progress as part of a virtual mini-concert series. Both the beginning and advanced classes are allowed to perform in person as long as they remain six feet apart and wear masks and disposable gloves.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of Wesleyan’s musical activities and classes were canceled, drastically adjusted, or moved to virtual platforms. Fortunately, for Wesleyan’s Javanese gamelan classes, students were still allowed to meet in-person as long as they followed strict guidelines: wear a mask and disposable gloves, social distance, and frequently use hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

“The university made all of these available to the students in the World Music Hall, where the gamelan meets,” explained Winslow-Kaplain Professor of Music Sumarsam. “The gamelan instruments were set up six feet apart, and the students were required to maintain that distance while playing or sitting in the audience area for discussion, and when lining up to enter or exit the hall. We also planned to have occasional online lectures and discussions, so the group did not have to meet in person as often.”

In the process of planning their hybrid MUSC 451: Javanese Gamelan-Beginners and MUSC 452: Javanese Gamelan-Advanced courses, Sumarsam and fellow gamelan instructor I.M. Harjito, University Professor of Music, decided to create a biweekly series of virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations, each one showcasing a different theme or style in 30-minute formats. “The production staff of CFA has worked tirelessly to publicize and produce these virtual mini-concerts and demonstrations,” Sumarsam noted.

Kurtz Speaks on Improving Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia

Kurtz

On Nov. 18 as part of the Wesleyan Faculty Lunch Talk series, Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology, spoke about “Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia: Can They Be Improved, and If So, How?” Kurtz said people with schizophrenia have cognitive deficits in attention and memory, which seem to predict the degree to which they are able to participate in community activities, make friends, attend a work skills or social skills program, or have stronger performance-based functions such as making phone calls, organizing, or making a doctor’s appointment. “This suggests that if we were to elevate cognition, we might be able to elevate function.”

Otake on “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries”

As a dancer and choreographer, Wesleyan’s Visiting Dance Artist-in-Residence Eiko Otake spent the past 45-plus years of her career presenting her work in theaters, universities, museums, galleries, outdoor sites, and festivals worldwide. But like other artists navigating through the crisis, Otake was forced to find creative ways to re-focus, re-imagine, and share her work during the ongoing pandemic.

In March 2020, the Center for the Arts invited Otake to begin a Virtual Creative Residency, during which she began shifting her performance-based art to an online venue named Eiko Otake’s Virtual Studio. Here, Otake posts her new creations, dialogues, and reflections.

On Nov. 15, Otake led a virtual tour and conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” She was joined by two of her collaborators, DonChristian Jones ’12 and Iris McCloughan ’10. McCloughan also moderated the discussion.

The group shared works such as Your Morning Is My Night, Fish House, Visit, Attending, A Body in a Cemetery, Saving, and others.

otake

On Nov. 15, Eiko Otake, DonChristian Jones ’12, and Iris McCloughan ’10 presented a live, virtual conversation titled “An Artist’s Practice in the Year of Pandemic and Political Cries.” McCloughan also moderated the discussion. In 2020, Otake was invited by Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts (CFA) to its first Virtual Creative Residency. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Otake created Virtual Studio, a space to share newly created and newly edited video works, written reflections, the voices of her collaborators, dialogues with artists and writers, and response from viewers.

Wesleyan Community Gathers for Thanksgiving Service, Offers Reflections

thanksgiving service

On Nov. 14, the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life hosted a non-denominational Thanksgiving service for the Wesleyan community. Curated by students and Wesleyan staff, the event blended secular and spiritual elements. Wesleyan Protestant Chaplain Jami Carlacio and her student assistant Lourdes Fitzgerald ’23 welcomed the audience to the service. Fitzgerald also led the “Mi’Kmaq Prayer” and Carlacio read a reflection from Yaje Nshanji ’22, who was unable to attend.

thanksgiving service

Dean of Student Affairs Mike Whaley provided a reading from the Gospel According to John.

Late Professor Cady Honored for Founding the Quartz Crystal Oscillator

lady

On Nov. 5, former Wesleyan Professor of Physics Walter Guyton Cady (1874–1974) was celebrated during a virtual program sponsored by Wesleyan and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society. Cady, who earned his PhD in physics in 1900, taught at Wesleyan from 1902 to 1946 and founded the Wesleyan Radio Club in 1914.

Cady's principal interests included electrical discharges in gases, piezoelectricity, ultrasound, piezoelectric resonators and oscillators, and crystal devices. In 1921, he developed the first piezoelectric quartz crystal oscillator, which advanced ultrasonics, sonar, radar and other electronic applications. They appeared in everyday life through their use in quartz wristwatches.

Cady’s principal interests included electrical discharges in gases, piezoelectricity, ultrasound, piezoelectric resonators and oscillators, and crystal devices. In 1921, he developed the first piezoelectric quartz crystal oscillator, which advanced ultrasonics, sonar, radar, and other electronic applications. They appeared in everyday life through their use in quartz wristwatches. Cady was featured in a September 1943 Middletown Press article for speaking in a film titled “Crystals Go to War.”

The virtual event was attended by 90 participants including Wesleyan faculty, IEEE members, and guests from around the world.

The virtual event was attended by 90 participants, including Wesleyan faculty, IEEE members, and guests from around the world.

Greg Voth, professor of physics, presented the IEEE Milestone Plaque, mounting it outside the Cady Lounge.

Greg Voth, professor of physics, presented the IEEE Milestone Plaque, mounting it outside the Cady Lounge in the Physics Department.

Janice Naegle, dean of the Natural Science and Mathematics Division, and Alan Dachs Professor of Science, spoke on "Cady's Groundbreaking Work on Piezoelectricity.

Janice Naegle, dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division and Alan Dachs Professor of Science, spoke on “Cady’s Groundbreaking Work on Piezoelectricity.” “A quartz, under pressure, produces an electric current; or conversely, sending a current through the crystal causes the crystal to vibrate,” Naegele said. “And Cady discovered that when the frequency of an oscillating current is applied to the crystal and varied, the crystal responds vigorously. In other words, it resonates with a single frequency and could be used, therefore, as an oscillator to stabilize circuits.”

C. Stewart Gillmor, professor emeritus of history and science spoke on "Resonance and Renaissance: The Work of Walter Cady and Physics at Wesleyan, 1900-1940s."

C. Stewart Gillmor, professor emeritus of history and science, spoke on “Resonance and Renaissance: The Work of Walter Cady and Physics at Wesleyan, 1900–1940s.” Gillmor explained that while Cady was in high school, he hoped to become an electrical engineer, however, after two years at Brown University he decided to become a physicist. “But Cady also was a Renaissance man and contributed to early plasma physics, ergonomics, sonar and general acoustics, radio antennas, measurement standards, physiological optics, and bird studies.”

Ahmad Safari, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers University, presented the event's keynote lecture on "Advances in Development and Applications of Piezoelectric Materials."

Ahmad Safari, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers University, presented the event’s keynote lecture, “Advances in Development and Applications of Piezoelectric Materials.”

Students Discuss Politics at Pre-Election Fireside Chat

On Nov. 2, more than 65 students gathered at one of four locations on campus for a pre-election fireside chat and s’mores.

“The event provided students an opportunity to socialize under the stars, meet new people, and showcased the compassionate and empathic community that Wesleyan can be,” said Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, University Jewish Chaplain and director of religious and spiritual life.

The event was sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL) and several student leaders from different campus communities.

“Fire is a place for warmth, survival, and renewal. We’re living in tumultuous times; join a caring community of your fellow students to find solace around the fire,” said Emily McEvoy ’22, the religious and spiritual diversity intern at ORSL.

Andrea Roberts, associate professor of the practice in chemistry; Anthony Hatch, associate professor of science in society; and Jennifer D’Andrea, director of counseling and psychological services (CAPS) co-facilitated dialogue at the fireside chats along with a student leader.

“A great time was had all around,” Roberts said. “Laughter, the voicing of serious concerns, singing, talks of the future and the election and classes and the holidays. Everyone was so grateful, especially me for the opportunity to be a part of it!”

Photos of the fireside chats are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

russian house

Students gather for a fireside chat behind the Russian House and Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

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.

Students, Alumni to Make Presentations at Geological Society of America Meeting

Wesleyan students, graduate students, and recent alumni will present research posters during the annual Geological Society of America meeting Oct. 26–30. The virtual event will allow for a five-minute presentation followed by a five-minute period to answer questions.

poster

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Yu Kai Tan ’20 and Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21 will present their poster, titled “Freshwater Mussels in North America: Museum Collections and Pre-Industrial Biogeography,” at 5:15 p.m. Oct. 29. Their advisors are Ann Burke, professor of biology, and 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. Listen to the presentation in advance online here.