Tag Archive for faculty publications

Case, Hingorani Coauthor Study on DNA Repair

Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Brandon Case and Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, are coauthors on a study published in Nucleic Acids Research in October 2018.

The paper, titled “Coordinated protein and DNA conformational changes govern mismatch repair initiation by MutS,” reports new findings on how the Mutator S (MutS) protein repairs mistakes in the DNA sequence, which is essential for maintaining the accuracy of the genetic code.

The collaborative effort from researchers at Wesleyan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University employed single molecule and ensemble kinetic methods to study the mechanism of action of MutS. The outcome is a unified model of coordinated changes in MutS and DNA conformation that enable the protein to recognize errors in DNA and initiate their repair.

The research at Wesleyan was supported by NIH grant R15 GM114743 awarded to Manju Hingorani.

Slotkin Authors New Book of Semifictional Stories

Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, is the author of a new book, Greenhorns: stories, published Oct. 10 by Leapfrog Press.

Slotkin writes more personally in Greenhorns than in his past nonfiction books, in a series of linked semifictional stories based on his ancestors’ immigration from Eastern Europe early in the 20th century.

A kosher butcher with gambling problems; a woman whose elegant persona conceals unspeakable horror; a Jewish Pygmalion who turns a wretched orphan into a “real American girl”; a boy who clings to his father’s old-world code of honor on the mean streets of Brooklyn; the “little man who wasn’t there,” whose absence reflects his family’s inability to deal with their memories—these tales of early 20th-century Jewish immigration blur memoir and fiction, recovering the violent circumstances, the emotional costs of uprooting that left people uncertain of their place in America and shaped the lives of their American descendants.

Weiss Pens Book on Indigenous Peoples’ Futures on Canadian Islands

Joseph Weiss, assistant professor of anthropology, is the author of Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond Settler Colonialism, published by the University of British Columbia Press in September 2018.

Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii shows how an indigenous nation in British Columbia not only continues to have a future but is at work building many different futures—for themselves and for their non-indigenous neighbors. The project emerges from an almost decade-long relationship between Weiss and the citizens of the Haida Nation of Haida Gwaii, a series of islands off the west coast of Canada.

Weiss explores these possible futures in detail, demonstrating how Haida ways of thinking about time, mobility, and political leadership are at the heart of contemporary strategies for addressing the dilemmas that come with life under settler colonialism.

Too often, Weiss explains, indigenous peoples have been portrayed as being without a future, destined either to disappear or assimilate into settler society. This book asserts the opposite: Indigenous peoples are not in any sense “out of time” in our contemporary world.

“This work was in large part about trying to respond to dominant assumptions—both in the academy and in North American society—about the ways that indigenous peoples experience settler colonialism,” Weiss said. “I sought to shift the narrative from one that emphasizes domination and constraint towards telling stories about how Haida citizens and communities are building all sorts of different futures, claiming their right to decide for themselves what should come next and what should not.”

From the threat of ecological crisis to the assertion of sovereign rights and authority, Weiss shows that the Haida people consistently turn towards their possible futures, desirable and undesirable, in order to work out how to live in and transform the present. His book breaks new ground in the exploration of the relationship between time and colonialism as experienced in the day-to-day lives of an indigenous community.

Weiss first started visiting Haida Gwaii in 2010 through ties of friendship and a deep admiration for and interest in the work of the Haida Nation in fighting for Haida rights to their sovereign territories and to self-determination. In 2013, he moved to the Haida community of Old Massett to begin a two-and-a-half-year period of full-time fieldwork, focusing on exploring communities’ experiences and understandings around political and social change. While there, he worked as a classroom assistant and occasional school play director for the community’s primary school, the Chief Matthews School.

Weiss’s work was and remains an attempt to engage in respectful anthropological research grounded in dialogue with and accountability to the community of Old Massett and the Haida Nation. This extended both to the kinds of questions that were asked and to the ways interviews were conducted and then approved by Weiss’s Haida friends and colleagues.

“Shaping the Future is as much the result of building relationships and this commitment to respect as it is an academic text,” Weiss said.

This book will appeal to scholars and students of indigenous studies, particularly in anthropology, political science, sociology, and history. Researchers planning to work with communities will learn from the author’s reflections on conducting ethnographic fieldwork with First Nations.

 

Wes Press Authors Nominated for 2018 Book Awards

Four Wesleyan University Press–affiliated authors were nominated for book awards this month.

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Rae Armantrout is one of 10 contenders for the National Book Award for Poetry. Her collection, Wobble (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) was named to the award’s longlist on Sept. 13. Finalists will be revealed on Oct. 10.

Teetering on the edge of the American Dream, Armantrout’s Wobble seeks to both playfully and forcefully evoke the devastation of a chaotic, unstoppable culture.

Two authors were named 2018 CT Book Awards Finalists by the Connecticut Center for the Book, a Connecticut Humanities program. The awards recognize and honor authors and illustrators who have created the best books in or about Connecticut in the past year.

Between three and five finalists have been selected in each of five categories: Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry; Young Readers—Young Adult; and Young Readers—Juvenile. Five distinguished judges per category read each entry and reviewed works using rigorous criteria. A total of 140 books were submitted this year.

Middletown, Conn., resident Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology; professor, feminist gender, and sexuality studies; was nominated in the Poetry category for her book, Because When God Is Too Busy: HAITI, me & THE WORLD (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

And Chester, Conn., resident David Hays, Hon. ’86, was nominated in the Nonfiction category for his book, Setting the Stage: What We Do, How We Do It, and Why (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

Winners will be announced at the 2018 Connecticut Book Awards ceremony on Oct. 14 at Staples High School in Westport, Conn. Okey Ndibe, the 2017 Connecticut Book Award winner for nonfiction, will deliver the keynote speech. A reception and book signing will follow, and all finalists’ and winners’ books will be available for purchase.

In addition, Wesleyan University Press author sam sax is the recipient of a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from The Poetry Foundation. The $25,800 fellowship is among the largest and most prestigious awards available for young poets in the United States.

sax is the author of bury it (Wesleyan University Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 James Laughlin Award given by the Academy of American Poets.

Ponsavady’s New Book Examines the Development of French Transportation Systems

Stéphanie Ponsavady, assistant professor of French, is the author of a new book titled Cultural and Literary Representations of the Automobile in French Indochina: A Colonial Roadshow, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.

In the book, Ponsavady aims to answer the question: How are the pleasures and thrills of the automobile linked to France’s history of conquest, colonialism, and exploitation in Southeast Asia?

Ponsavady addresses the contradictions of the “progress” of French colonialism and their consequences through the lens of the automobile. She examines the development of transportation systems in French Indochina at the turn of the 20th century, analyzing archival material and French and Vietnamese literature to critically assess French colonialism.

Ospina’s Fiction Nominated for Prestigious Spanish American Short Story Award

A book written by María Ospina, assistant professor of Spanish and assistant professor, Latin American studies, was recently nominated for the Gabriel García Márquez Spanish American Short Story Award.

The prize is awarded annually by the National Library of Colombia and the Colombian Ministry of Culture to a short story collection in Spanish that has been published the year before by authors from the Spanish-speaking world (Spain and Latin America). This year, the jury selected 14 titles from 127 submissions.

This award is considered the most important prize in the short story genre in the world of Hispanic letters and honors the life and work of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. The prize, which will be delivered in Bogota at the beginning of November, is endowed with $100,000 for the winner and $2,000 for each of the four finalists.

Ospina’s book, Azares del Cuerpo (Fates of the Body), was published by Laguna Libros in 2017. Like migratory animals, the female protagonists in this collection of short stories are travelers in search of new homes, hosts, and bonds of friendship and intimacy. Through the interrelated stories of women of diverse ages and origins who migrate to and from Bogotá, Ospina investigates the relationship between desire and the corporeality of the female body, and examines a multiplicity of modes of care and kinship outside of the bonds of family and heterosexual love. These stories about the limits of hospitality and the longing to cure one’s wounds by attempting to save other people also investigate the subtle ways in which broader histories of violence and migration shape people’s lives psychically and materially.

 

Sultan, Baker ’18, Berg ’16 Coauthor Paper on Plant Development

Sonia Sultan, professor of biology and professor, environmental studies, and her former students Brennan Baker BA/MA ’18 and Lars Berg ’16 are the coauthors of a paper published in the August 2018 issue of Frontiers in Plant Science.

The study, “Context-Dependent Developmental Effects of Parental Shade Versus Sun Are Mediated by DNA Methylation,” presents work that Baker completed as a BA/MA student in 2017–18. The article is part of a special Frontiers theme on the emerging area of ecological epigenetics.

In this study, the coauthors compared the development of individual plants when their parents were grown in shade or in full sun. The results show that genetically identical seedlings developed very differently just as a result of this difference in parental conditions.

Baker followed up this finding in several ways, including showing that this ‘neo-Lamarckian’ effect on development was conveyed from parents to offspring through epigenetic regulatory changes to DNA expression rather than changes in the genes themselves.

“Learning how environmental effects in the parent generation can influence offspring via these epigenetic mechanisms is one of the most astonishing and important new areas in biology since it challenges the long-held view that only DNA sequence information could be inherited,” Sultan explained.

Baker will be pursuing his work on transgenerational environmental effects in a different biological context. This fall, he is starting an environmental health PhD program at Columbia University, where he plans to study inherited effects of environmental contaminants on human health. Since graduating from Wesleyan, Berg has held a competitive NIH research internship and is planning to go on to medical school.

In addition, a paper by Baker, Sultan, Maya Lopez-Ichikawa ’18, and Robin Waterman ’19 was an invited submission for a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society that is dedicated to adaptive responses to rapid environmental change. The paper is currently under review for publication.

Kuenzel Coauthors Paper in the Journal of Macroeconomics

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel, assistant professor of economics, is the coauthor of a new paper published in the September 2018 Journal of Macroeconomics titled, “Constitutional Rules as Determinants of Social Infrastructure.”

In the paper, Kuenzel and his coauthors, Theo Eicher from the University of Washington and Cecilia García-Peñalosa from Aix-Marseille University, investigate the link between constitutional rules and economic institutions, which are a key driver of economic development and economic growth.

Kuenzel and his coauthors find that the determinants of economic institutions (or social infrastructure) are much more fundamental than previously thought. In addition to constitutional rules that constrain the executive, highly detailed aspects of electoral systems such as limits on campaign contributions and the freedom to form parties are crucial factors for improving the quality of countries’ economic institutions. Moreover, Kuenzel and his colleagues show that basic human rights have profound effects on economic institutions, a dimension that previously had not been explored in the literature.

Gottschalk, Greenberg ’04 Release Second Edition of Islamophobia

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, and history major Gabriel Greenberg ’04 are the coauthors of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, Second Edition, published in July 2018 by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. The duo released Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy in August 2007.

Islamophobia explores anxieties surrounding anti-Muslim sentiments through political cartoons and film. After providing a background on Islamic traditions and their history with America, it graphically shows how political cartoons and films reveal a casual demeaning and demonizing of Muslims and Islam from both sides of the political aisle. Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment offers both insights into American culture’s ways of “picturing the enemy” as Muslim, and ways of moving beyond antagonism.

“The new edition adds two new chapters and makes many changes to account for the rise of President Trump and mainstream white nationalism,” Gottschalk explains. The book also incorporates parts of Greenberg’s honors thesis at Wesleyan and features more than 50 images that highlight Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias from conservative and liberal media outlets alike.

Gottschalk also is director of the Office for Faculty Career Development and coordinator of the Muslim studies certificate. His books, which include American Heretics and Religion, Science, and Empire, draw on his research and experience in India, Pakistan, and the United States.

Greenberg lives with his wife and kids in New Orleans. He is the congregational rabbi of a historic synagogue, and also serves as the rabbi for Avodah: New Orleans, a local service corps that seeks to address effects and root causes of poverty in the city.

Kim, Johnson ’18, Rothschild ’19, Coauthor Study on Self-Related Memory Advantage

Kyungmi Kim

Kyungmi Kim, assistant professor of psychology, is the coauthor of a paper published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review on Aug. 8. Jenne Johnson ’18 and Danielle Rothschild ’19 also contributed to the article.

The paper is titled “Merely presenting one’s own name along with target items is insufficient to produce a memory advantage for the items: A critical role of relational processing.”

Many studies have shown that information processed in relation to our “self” vs. someone else has an advantage in memory, termed the self-reference effect (SRE). Early studies of the SRE used tasks in which participants made explicit self-referential (Does the word nice describe you?) or other-referential judgments (Does the word friendly describe Angelina Jolie?) of target items at encoding, highlighting the memory benefit of explicit semantically-based associations between self and target items. However, an important subsequent finding was that even in the absence of any explicit task demand to make self-referential judgments, there is a memory advantage for target items presented simultaneously with self-relevant (e.g., one’s own name) vs. other-relevant (e.g., another person’s name) information at encoding.

In the study, Kim and her colleagues aimed to clarify the processes underlying this “incidental” self-memory advantage assessing two possibilities: an incidental SRE arises due to a mere co-presentation of a target item with self-relevant information or a relational processing between a target item and self-relevant information at encoding.

During encoding, words were presented in two different colors either above or below a name (the participants’ own someone else’s). Participants performed either a relational encoding task (i.e., a location judgment task, “Is the word above or below the name?”) or a non-relational encoding task (i.e., a color judgment task, “Is the word in red or green?”). In the subsequent surprise memory test, the researchers found a self-memory advantage for both items and their associated source features (name, location, and color) under a relational encoding context but not under a non-relational encoding context. These findings add to the current understanding of how the self affects long-term memory by providing clear evidence for a critical role of relational processing between target items and self-relevant information in eliciting a self-memory advantage. By demonstrating the modulation of an incidental self-memory advantage by encoding contexts, these findings further suggest that the impact of self on cognition is more dependent on processing context than previously assumed.

Kim, a cognitive psychologist, is an expert on learning and memory, and the role of self in cognitive and affective processing. The research in her lab aims to identify psychological mechanisms through which the mind subjectively construes the external world.

This fall, she’s teaching courses on Research Methods in Cognition and Advanced Research in Learning and Memory.

Gottschalk in The Conversation: Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?

Peter Gottschalk

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, discusses “Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?” Gottschalk also is professor of science in society, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development, and coordinator of Muslim studies.

Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and why haven’t they voted in 30 years?

Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, is all set to be the country’s new prime minister. His party emerged the single largest in recent elections.

It is only for the second time in the 71-year history of this second largest Muslim majority country that a democratically elected government, will transfer power to another after completing its full term. The nation’s military has intervened repeatedly to remove leaders and has directly controlled the country for about half of its history.

And so this recent milestone in Pakistan’s democracy has elated many citizens. However, one community boycotted the recent elections, as they have for over three decades: the Ahmadi, a religious minority.

Who are the Ahmadis and what does their boycott tell about the role religion has played in Pakistan’s nationalist politics?

The Ahmadi of Pakistan
The origin of the Ahmadi community goes back to the British-ruled India of 1889. At the time, in the province of Punjab (a region that would later be split between an independent India and Pakistan), a Muslim religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, became disenchanted with what he viewed as Muslim decadence that allowed for the humiliating experience of foreign rule.

Like many Indians, he wondered what needed to change in order to overcome the invaders.