Spring 2018 Schedule

Jan 19       Joonbum Bae (Political Science)

The North Korean Crisis at a Crossroad

Abstract: White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster stated in December that, “the possibility of war with North Korea increases every day.” Considering the possibility of massive casualties on the Korean peninsula and perhaps beyond, then if the probability of conflict is increasing, the benefits of a diplomatic solutions would increase as well. What are the obstacles to and prospects of a diplomatic resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis?

A diplomatic solution must involve some understanding between the United States and China. There is near-consensus that fears about potential ramifications of regime collapse in North Korea are behind China’s reluctance to apply measures that could halt its nuclear program. If so, then reducing uncertainty about the costs of regime collapse would be the most direct way to enhance Sino-American cooperation on the issue. I assess the possible elements of such an understanding between the U.S. and China, and the obstacles to creating such an agreement.

Jan 26       Angelique Szymanek (Art and Architecture)

Looking for Rape: Emma Sulkowicz & the Limits of Consent

Abstract: Set within the backdrop of her highly publicized accusations of rape against a fellow student while residing on Columbia University’s campus, Emma Sulkowicz’s "Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol" (2015) raises critical questions regarding the relationship between rape and its image. In a cultural climate wherein images of sexual violation have become ubiquitous, the index by which one might distinguish sex from rape has come to rely upon proof of consent. Where, in a once consensual encounter turned violent, can the moment of resistance be located? The valences of consensual language, verbal or bodily, become grounds of intense scrutiny aimed most intensely at the accuser, especially if they identify as a woman. The various intersections of race, class, sex, and ablism that constitute the subjectivity of the accuser, moreover, determine the degree to which she is recognized as a consenting subject in the first place. This paper examines "Ceci N’est Pas Un Viol" as a challenge to both this call to locate consent via the visual and to the very tenability of consent as a framework through which rape can be identified.

Feb 2         Elana M.S. Stennett (Chemistry)


Abstract: TBA

Feb 9         Anna Meinig (German Area Studies)


Abstract: TBA

Feb 16       Alden Gassert (Mathematics and Computer Science)

Winning Losing Games

Abstract: In this talk, I will share a mathematical problem that I encountered in my first year of college. Perhaps you might gather from my title that the problem I will describe is somewhat of a paradox: one should not be able to consistently win a game that should otherwise be losing for that player. While I cannot claim that this was the problem that persuaded me to become a mathematician, it certainly had its impact---I continue to think about this, and related problems, to this day. I will also describe the history of this problem and some recent consequences in fields outside of mathematics.

Feb 23       David Slade (Chemistry)

How Can We Improve Writing in a Single Lab Period?

Abstract: Spoiler: We can't. However, we can, at the very least, give students a much better sense for what they should be TRYING to do in their technical writing, and why. In the midst of grading a hefty stack of formal lab reports... I decided to ask Susan Hess the title question. Her answer, of course, is that writing is too hard to "fix" in a one-off setting... but that if I sent her some "better" papers and some "worse" ones, that she'd work with me to come up with a useful intervention that we could try together. This is, absolutely, an interdisciplinary success story - I never would have settled on this approach without her insight as a non-chemist. The very next semester we tried something in the Organic II lab, immediately liked it enough to incorporate the same general concept into the Organic I lab, and we've been devoting at least one full lab period each semester in both organic labs to writing ever since. I'll describe what we came up with, and why, and how it's evolved over the years.

Mar 2        Manuel Portillo (Spanish and Hispanic Studies)


Abstract: TBA

Mar 9        Eleanor Andrews (Environmental Studies)

Beekeeping in the Anthropocene

Abstract: Concerns about honey bee health hit the media in 2006, leading to speculation about the causes of “Colony Collapse Disorder” and elevated rates of honey bee mortality. In turn, this has led to conflicts in the beekeeping world, based largely around competing definitions of sustainability. The key to understanding and solving these debates, I suggest, is found in scholarship on animal life in the Anthropocene (the suggested name for the present geological era in which humans are the dominant force shaping the environment). In this era, some animals are endangered and going extinct (e.g., tigers and polar bears), while others are exploding in number (e.g., cows and chickens). Honey bees embody both of these trends, and if they are such a hybrid, we might ask whether they even need saving at all.

Mar 16      TBA


Abstract: TBA

Mar 23      NO talk, Spring break


Mar 30      Iskandar Zulkarnain (Media & Society)

Traces of Play: Indonesian Videogame Cultures from 1980s to the Present

Abstract: Videogames are quintessentially global technology, with game consumption, production, and related practices taking place in virtually every country in the world today. Still, videogames have been received, created, and even played differently in different regions; and cultural and national contexts impact the circulation and meaning of games in myriad ways. In this informal presentation, I will talk about my research-in-progress on videogame cultures in Indonesia. I will trace how local, national, regional, and transnational contexts have shaped their progression, and how gaming as a media practice has in turn played a role in framing these contexts. The talk will be divided into three sections: Indonesia’s early videogame culture in relation to the militaristic New Order regime, the development of nationalistic videogames in post-New Order era, and the growth of “newsgames” genre in Indonesian contemporary public lives.

Apr 6        Lisa Yoshikawa (History)


Abstract: TBA

Apr 13      David Holtzman (Biology)

Behavioral Plasticity: Snakes are flexible in many ways!

Abstract: While innate behaviors of animals are important for regulating behavior, even innate behaviors require flexibility when conditions change to address the following: How and where can animals find food? Where can they find safe refuges? How can they find their way to and from these refuges and feeding grounds? Behavioral plasticity involves an animal’s ability to change responses with experience or changing conditions. Reptiles, like all animals, show a wide range of behaviors and are confronted with environmental challenges affecting their survival. The overriding theme to my research has been how reptiles, especially snakes, use sensory information to mediate critical behaviors, such as feeding and orientation, and examine the underlying mechanisms through which behavioral plasticity occurs. My interest in the questions above has led me to examine the neural development of nasal chemosensory systems (critical to most behaviors in snakes), spatial learning and memory (necessary for orientation), and spatial ecology (the use of spatial information in natural settings). In this overview of my work, I will illustrate the myriad approaches necessary to address these issues and discuss future work on how behavioral plasticity may influence evolutionary processes.

Apr 20      Bob Cowles (Music)


Abstract: TBA

Apr 27      Xintong Wang (Economics)

Chance and Circumstance: Would Being Drafted Make You Sicker and More Violent?

Abstract: During 1969-1971, the Selective Service System of the United States conducted three lotteries to determine the order of call to military service in the Vietnam War for men born from 1944 to 1952. Economics literature later employed these randomly assigned lottery numbers as a social experiment to estimate the long-term effect of the military service. However, studies paid less attention to the potential draft avoidance behaviors induced by the draft lotteries and their long-term effects. In my research, I estimate the long-term crime and health effect of the Vietnam War lottery draft and the military service on the three groups of people who were under the draft – the potential draft avoiders, the potential draft compliers, and the potential draft volunteers.

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.