Spring 2016 Schedule

Jan 22      Heather May (Theatre) & Kendra Freeman (Anthropology and Sociology)

Embodied Alternatives: The Power of Theater for Social Change on College Campuses

Abstract: Institutions of higher education are increasingly promoting inclusivity and equity as broad community goals. In this talk, we present one approach to the promotion of equity at HWS already in place, Mosaic NY. We'll detail what Mosaic NY is and how the company devises and performs its work. We argue that theatre for social change is a particularly relevant site for community transformation, especially in the context of a small liberal arts institution. Feedback from audience members and company members alike suggests that this method promotes critical inquiry of social difference, empowerment to intervene in instances of bias, and increased empathy. We look forward to discussing your experience with Mosaic NY further.

Jan 29      Eugen Baer (Philosophy / Dean's Office)

How Can Words Heal?

Abstract: In this short talk I do not focus on how words can have effects in psychosomatic medicine. Rather, I analyze the healing power of words in so far as they allow patients to reframe their illness in narrative ways, drawing on the rich resources of genre and metaphor. As an example I draw on the book Intoxicated By My Illness by Anatole Broyard (1920-1990), a notable critic of The New York Times.

Feb 5       Liz Thornberry (History)

What Makes a Chief? Legitimating Traditional Authority in the New South Africa

Abstract: In 2010, the South African Commission on Traditional Leadership (better known as the Nhlapo Commission) issued a controversial report in which it recommended deposing several of South Africa's ruling Paramount Chiefs. This report, which has become the subject of Constitutional Court litigation, raised fundamental questions about how traditional leaders should be legitimated in the context of a democratic state. In this talk, I argue that a historical examination of disputes over traditional leadership in earlier periods can provide guidance to these contemporary legal disputes. I show that the "customs" which are commonly asserted in these cases have historically been much more flexible than contemporary debates assume, and argue that this flexibility should allow for a democratization of the institution of traditional leadership.

Feb 12     Marie-Helen Koffi-Tessio (French and Francophone Studies)

Reading East-Asian Characters in Francophone Films

Abstract: Asian characters have been rather scarce in Francophone African films. And yet, echoing the increased visibility, in the media, of Chinese in Africa, contemporary West and Central African filmmakers are making East-Asian characters a recurrent figure. This paper explores these filmic inclusions that mirrors global patterns of migration and asks to what extent they seek to represent, challenge or foresee African changing ethnic landscapes.

Feb 19     Kyle Mackey (Political Science)

War, Bargaining, and the Paradox of Power

Abstract: The study of international relations has traditionally been framed around understanding how power affects state behavior, especially regarding decisions about war and peace. Research on international conflict behavior frequently views power as enabling, and suggests that stronger states have an incentive to reveal and use their power both diplomatically and militarily. Yet there are many circumstances where stronger states defy our expectations, acting in ways that obfuscate their power rather than reveal it. Underlying this is the incentive to conserve, rather than utilize the very resources that make a state powerful. The talk explores this paradox of power in the specific context of the onset, duration, and termination of international war.

Feb 26     Feisal Khan (Economics)

Struggling to Write a Constitution: The Long Gestation (1948-56) and Short Life (1956-58) of Pakistan's First "Islamic" Constitution

Abstract: Pakistan almost from birth was destined to be an Islamic state; the only question was 'how Islamic?' Contrary to common perception, even among many Pakistanis, Pakistan did not start 'Islamizing' under the military dictatorship of Gen. Zia ul Haq (r. 1977-1988)—Pakistan's most overtly Islamist ruler—or even under the self-proclaimed “Islamic Socialist” Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto (r. 1972-1977). Pakistan became an "Islamic Republic" in 1956 when its first constitution was finally enacted after a very long, contentious and extremely violent debate fought out in both its Constitutional Assembly and the streets over Pakistan's "Islamic nature" or lack thereof. Pakistan's subsequent history is that of a near-constant, sometimes violent, struggle between Islamic minimalists (where the state is only nominally Islamic but essentially secular) and Islamic maximalists (where everything has to be derived from 'Shariah') with the latter clearly in the ascendancy. These early Pakistani debates, far from being mere historical curiosities, have resonance in today's Islamist uprisings. The development of the concept of the maximalist ‘Islamic state' by the Indian-Pakistani Islamist Abul Ala Maududi in the 1950s appears even today in the language used by ISIS when it's self-anointed Caliph Abu Bakar al Baghdadi quoted Maududi when proclaiming the new Islamic Caliphate in 2014.

Mar 4       Wan Sonya Tang (Spanish and Hispanc Studies)

Personal and Political: the Spanish Civil War in La plaça del diamond

Abstract: This talk will examine the portrayal of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) in La plaça del diamant (1962), the most translated novel by a Catalan woman to date. The talk will focus particularly on how author Mercè Rodoreda blends the domestic with the political in her narrative, thereby drawing parallels between the tyranny of traditional home life and the tyranny of war as similarly rooted in chauvinistic attitudes.

Mar 11     Renee Monson (Anthropology and Sociology)

When does group work work? Evidence from a decade of using group research projects

Abstract: Group research projects are frequently used to teach undergraduate research methods. This paper examines the group-level characteristics associated with student achievement and positive student experiences in group research projects. It also examines cohort differences in student achievement and experiences. The sample includes 241 students who completed Soc. 211 at H&WS between 2004 and 2014. I find that group characteristics (group size, gender and racial composition) and assigned research method are associated with group achievement (grade on research project) but not individual achievement (grade on final paper). Cohort is associated with student experiences, but not student achievement; more recent student cohorts describe more negative experiences. The findings raise questions about whether to modify the pedagogy of group research projects to adapt to changes in the 21st century undergraduate population.

Mar 25     Jack Peltz (Psychology)

"There's a Time and a Place for Everything": Transactional Associations Among Sleep, Anxiety Symptoms, and Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption in College Students' Daily Diary Reports

Abstract: Among the mental health concerns that college students report, anxiety continues to be the most prevalent, with nearly one in six students being diagnosed with or treated for the disorder (Center for Collegiate Mental Health). Anxiety's pernicious influence on college students extends to their academic performance, drinking behavior, and to their interpersonal relationships. Previous research provides clear evidence that adolescents' levels of anxiety are also connected to their sleep. Although the bulk of the research examining the links between sleep and anxiety has been conducted in adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 years old, studies of college-aged individuals have begun to establish similar connections. Recent research in this area is essential, given the developmental changes associated with adolescents attending college. Specifically, these individuals have started the transition of living independently from their parents, and they must begin to negotiate life's challenges without consistent parental supervision.

In the current study, we examined transactional associations between multiple forms of sleep disturbance and anxiety using a 7-day sleep diary in a college sample.? Controlling for daily caffeine and alcohol consumption, we found that sleep disturbance and anxiety were transactionally related across the 7 days of the study. Further results and implications of the study will be presented at the upcoming talk.

Apr 1       Susan Lee (Title IX Office) and Three Miles Lost (Chaplain)

Til It Happens To You

Abstract: Three Miles Lost will go into detail about the process of the making of the “Til It Happens to You” video. We’ll focus on the technical process, and inspirations for the scenes of the video. After showing it, we will go over our experience learning the song, recording it professionally, and the hours spent on making the video around campus. Mostly, we will discuss the impact that our video is making and the reasoning behind our participation in not only the Til It Happens to You: Sing for Survivors contest, but also the making of the video.

Apr 8       Joe Rusinko (Math and Computer Science)

Are genes accurate historians?

Abstract: Every gene tells a story of how an organism evolved over time. However, different genes regularly speak to conflicting evolutionary histories. We discuss mathematical approaches to resolving these historical conflicts in an effort to uncover the true evolutionary relationships among a group of species. In doing so we pose the question of whether it is better to be mathematically sophisticated or naïve when examining the past.

Apr 15     Dan Graham (Psychology)

Why Art Looks as it Does

Abstract: Visual art from across history and culture possesses basic regularities in terms of its spatial structure. This means that almost all art--including abstract art--has rather predictable structure at a basic statistical level, which I have shown matches the basic structure of the human visual environment. I argue that art has this regular structure due to the fact that the brain has adapted over the course of evolution to be well matched to our visual environment in terms of the visual system's neural processing strategies for spatial form. Thus, visual artistic expression is constrained by the structure of the visual system. Indeed, we would have great difficulty perceiving art that does not contain the basic regularities demanded by the visual system.

Apr 22     Robert Cowles (Music) and Guest Composer

Abstract: TBA

Apr 29     David Finkelstein (Geoscience)

Abstract: TBA


Leslie Hebb,

Yan Hao,


Spring 2017

Fall 2016

Spring 2016

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.