Conversations About our Scholarly Lives
Fall 2012

Every Monday at noon, CASL provides Macalester faculty with an opportunity to learn about our colleagues’ scholarly work while joining together for lunch and informal conversation. Presenters have 20 minutes to discuss their research in progress, the excitement and challenges of doing research at a small liberal arts college, or their fully formed research products. The rest of the hour will be spent discussing the issues raised in the presentation. Bring your curiosity, collegiality, and your questions; we provide the lunch (no RSVP necessary). 12:000-1:00 at the CST, Room 338 in the Library.

September 17 – Raymond Robertson, Economics. "Women, Working Conditions, and International Trade: Evidence from Developing Country Studies."
Scholars and policy makers are increasingly recognizing that women's formal labor force participation is a key to development. Apparel is the gateway for millions of women into formal employment, but low pay and poor working conditions raise questions about whether these jobs really improve lives. This talk discusses recent changes in wages and working conditions in several developing countries along with recent attempts to improve working conditions for women in this critical sector.

September 24 – Andrew Latham, Political Science. "Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics -- Or How I learned to Love the Middle Ages."
Against the backdrop of the modernist conceit that the contemporary international system originated with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Latham argues that the modern international order was, in fact, born in the 12th century. In the course of developing this argument, he came to realize that, despite the claims of the better-known champions of modernity (Machiavelli, Hobbes, Grotius, etc) much of what we think of as distinctively modern was, in fact, invented by the late medievals. Come for a discussion of how, while exploring the rather mundane question of medieval war, Latham fell in love with the late middle ages.

October 1– Victoria Malawey Music. "Find Out What It Means to Me": Ownership and Meaning in Aretha Franklin's Cover of Otis Redding's "Respect."
Despite the fact that Otis Redding wrote and recorded "Respect" in 1965, Aretha Franklin stakes a claim of ownership by re-authoring the song in her 1967 recording by changing its melodic structure and adding new musical material and lyrics. Both versions of "Respect" illustrate how gender as a socially constructed concept does cultural work through performance and is integral to the meanings audiences ascribe to the songs. Franklin's version alone was claimed as an anthem for multiple social
movements, and more generally functioned as a song of triumph and empowerment for those who have been marginalized.

October 8 – Wessam el-Meligi, Classics. "Tahrirized: The Dreams and The Nightmares of Egyptian Academia and the January 25th Revolution."
On Jan 25, 2011, "Police Day," liberal activists in Cairo, Egypt planned a flash mob for Tahrir square to protest police brutality. Two days later, the protests turned into a revolution and the entire country was "Tahrirized." Almost 18 months later, thousands of young activists are dead, in jail, or under military trial. During this time, faculty members have been secretly blamed for 'poisoning young minds' especially scholars in the humanities and foreign languages. This talk narrates the experiences of one academic who lived the fight between the dream of the Tahrir chants of "Bread, Freedom, Human Dignity," and the nightmare of military and religious fascism,- -a fight that continues, significantly but less visibly, in university classrooms.

October 15 – Tonnis ter Veldhuis, Physics. "The Hunt for the Higgs boson."
On July 4th, 2012, the Atlas and CMS science teams at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced the discovery of a new particle with properties similar to those of the theoretically predicted Higgs boson. Their announcement likely signals the end of a fascinating quest that lasted more than forty years and culminated in the construction of perhaps the most complex machine ever designed by humans. The observations that led to the discovery and its implications for our understanding of
elementary particle physics will be discussed.

October 22– No program. Fall Break.

October 29 - Gary Erickson, Art & Art History. "My life in Jingdezhen – The Porcelain City of China."
Erickson will discuss how over the past eight years, beginning with a 2005 Macalester Freeman Foundation sponsored trip, Jingdezhen, China has become a summer studio home for creation of his artwork. Through images of his porcelain sculpture and studios worked in he will explain how time living and working abroad have provided influence and opportunities for his career.

November 5– Mario Solis-Garcia, Economics. "Tax Policy News and Business Cycle Fluctuations."
News about changes in future tax plans -- like the Bush tax cuts during 2010 -- can influence the behavior of economic agents even though these plans may never materialize. In turn, the changes in behavior created by news may have important economic consequences in the short run. Would news about an increase in capital tax rates create a recession? Would news about a reduction in the top income tax rate increase hours worked? This research project shows that news can trigger economic
fluctuations even before the policy change takes place.

November 12 – Patrick Schmidt, Political Science and Erik Larson, Sociology. "Getting a Read on Law & Society—a.k.a. L&S on L&S."
The Law & Society Association, an interdisciplinary professional association of social scientists and legal academics, selected Professors Larson and Schmidt to produce the Law and Society Reader (L&S) II, an edited volume of readings from the past 25 years of the Law & Society Review. The project gave the two an opportunity to consider sociolegal scholarly themes while also attending to changes in education since the initial L&S came out two decades ago. Larson and Schmidt will provide an overview of interdisciplinary concerns in law and society research, discuss the process of selecting and editing articles, and reflect on the synergies between scholarship and teaching.

November 19 – William Moseley, Geography. "The Global Food System and Botswana's Conundrum of Growth with Hunger."
Botswana is considered to be an African development success story. Despite its relative prosperity, Botswana still has segments of its population which suffer from the interlinked phenomenon of persistent poverty and food insecurity. Given its high dependence on imported food (90%), Botswana finds itself vulnerable to fluctuating global food prices. This talk addresses three inter-related research questions: 1) How will the Government of Botswana pursue its national food security objectives in a global environment of increasingly volatile food market conditions? 2) How are poor households in urban, per-urban and rural areas coping with increasingly volatile food prices? 3) How does urban food insecurity affect rural food insecurity? These questions are addressed based on information from 160 household interviews, as well as meetings with policymakers, undertaken in the March-May 2012 period.

November 26 – Terri Fishel and Ginny Heinrichs, DeWitt Wallace Library. "Sustainability and Scholarly Journals – Knowing Your Rights as Authors is One Way to Help Improve the Status Quo."
Two events in 2012 – a boycott of Elsevier, a major publisher of scientific journals, and a Harvard Faculty Advisory Council memorandum on the unsustainability of current journal pricing -- have increased faculty awareness of the need to address the cost structure of the scholarly publishing system. Fishel and Heinrichs will discuss how and why the Elsevier boycott and Harvard memo have an impact on your publications and more importantly, they will share steps you can take to control
the distribution of your scholarship, including open access fees, contract addenda, options for distributing your work and retaining rights to your intellectual property.

December 3 – Cheun-Fung Wong, Music. "Musical modernity and minority nationalism in Chinese Central Asia."
This talk examines modernity as a musical problem on China's northwestern ethnic frontiers. It concerns the music of the Uyghur, a Central Asian Turkic Muslim group, whose troubled identity as reluctant Chinese citizens has often been made audible in music and art. Wong will explore how the multiplicity of stylistic influences in modern Uyghur performance has afforded a creative space for minority nationalism among its musicians and audiences.