Conversations About our Scholarly Lives
Fall 2013

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 9– Erik Davis (Religious Studies).  “Nuon Chea’s New Buddhism”
This presentation reviews key findings from an analysis of long-form interviews conducted by Davis with Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s “Brother Number Two,” in 2005 at his home in Pailin, and with the abbot at the nearby temple where Nuon Chea occasionally attends Buddhist rituals. Nuon Chea is likely the individual most responsible for the Khmer Rouge torture prisons, and is currently being tried in an international tribunal. Davis’ interview centered primarily on the topics of Cambodian folktales and Buddhism. He argues that the various ways in which Nuon Chea’s modernist reformulations of key Buddhist concepts are simultaneously distinct from traditional historical Cambodian imaginations of the same concepts, and serve to re-imagine Buddhist morality and modern Cambodian history in ways that are distinctly self-serving.

September 16 – Marcos Ortega (Biology).  “Viral Replication, X-Ray Crystallography, and Molecular Motors: A Biophysicist’s Soup De Jour”  
Viral replication is a complex and dynamic process which involves the interactions of very many "moving parts," including an assembly of viral proteins referred to as a molecular motor which is involved in viral assembly. Ortega’s research seeks to understand the interactions of these biomolecules so as to illuminate viral replication at the detailed molecular level.  The findings will help in developing viral therapies as well as elucidating a general mechanisms used by molecular motors in other processes such as DNA replication and DNA repair.

September 23 –  Scott Legge (Anthropology).  “Archaeological Survey at Ordway: Macalester’s Natural (and Cultural?) History Study Area”   
The Ordway Field Station at Macalester is well known for exciting natural history and ecology research collaborations between faculty and students. However, very little is known about its potential for cultural history research. Thanks to grant funding from the Minnesota Historical Society and Macalester’s Student Faculty Summer Research program, five Macalester students were able to participate in a cultural resource management survey of the Ordway property during this past summer. This talk discusses the classroom preparation, research methodology, and outcomes of this thrilling new area of research at Ordway.

September 30 - Harini Najendra (Hubert H. Humphrey Distinguished Visiting Professor in Geography).  “Graying and Greening in Bangalore: Impacts of Urbanization on Ecology”
Bangalore is one of India’s fastest growing cities, with a population approaching 9 million. This growth has had a major impact on ecosystems and biodiversity, leading to the encroachment and pollution of water bodies, felling of thousands of trees, and urbanization of green spaces. Yet, civil society also shapes the environmental agenda in Bangalore, taking a vibrant role in limiting environmental change and promoting community-led restoration. Najendra will examine the interactions between people, biodiversity and conservation in this city, given Bangalore’s cultural character as a location of significant civic and collective action.

October 7 – Tim Taylor  (Editor, Journal of Economics Perspectives).  “Running an Economics Journal and the Changing Economics of Academic Journals”
Since 1986, Taylor has served as the managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, hosted by Macalester College since 2001 and one of seven journals published by the American Economic Association. The journal is distinctive from other academic journals because it solicits most of the papers and edits them heavily so that they will be accessible to the broad range of economists who specialize in a variety of subjects.  Taylor will discuss how JEP works, how economics journals work, and more broadly how the economics of academic journals in all fields is evolving in an internet world.

October 14 – Terry Krier (English).  “A Preacher, Oh Dear: Lessons Learnt by a Literary Scholar Asked to Give a Sermon”
Requested to preach at church, Krier dubiously took up the challenge, and made all kinds of discoveries about the ethical challenges of an unaccustomed genre. She promises not to preach today (or ever again, for that matter), but will talk about writing in a non-argumentative genre after a lifetime of scholarly books and essays.


October 28 - Juliana Pegues –  (American Studies).  “Fictions of the Last Frontier: Alaska’s Gold Rush Era and the Legend of China Joe”
This presentation focuses on the folklore archive of Alaskan historical figure China Joe, who appears in two widely reiterated tales: in his generous role as a baker to sustain gold prospectors during a winter freeze, and as the exceptional Chinese who is allowed to stay in Alaska when Chinese miners are driven out.  Gold rushes transformed early Alaska, both in terms of economic development and ushering in the first major wave of settlers. Gold Rush stories are essential to Alaska’s frontier identity, celebrating white heroic masculinity while minor Native and Asian characters depict the negative consequences of modernity generally and industrialism specifically. Pegues reconfigures China Joe’s tale in juxtaposition with Alaska Native antagonisms and affinities, in order to address the different but contingent violences that colonialism both engenders and disavows.

November 4 – Eric Carter  (Geography).  “Making the Blue Zones: Marketing Healthy Places in a Neoliberal Era" The Blue Zones Project is a public-private partnership to promote healthy living in selected Iowa cities. Carter’s paper focuses on exploring the ideological roots and analyzing the political discourse of the Blue Zones Project. While the Blue Zones concept reflects a welcome shift towards geographical or place-based notions of health, it may also be a neoliberal public policy model that glosses over complex social determinants of health.

November 11 – J. Ernesto Ortiz-Diaz (Hispanic and Latin American Studies). “A Luso-Hispanic Ambassador in Safavid Persia”
Ortiz-Diaz will discuss his newest research, specifically a travel account written by Spanish ambassador Don García de Silva y Figueroa who -- during the period of the Iberian Union (1580-1640) -- was sent to Safavid Persia to negotiate an alliance against the Ottoman Empire.

November 18 – Zeynep Gursel (International Studies.)  “Coffee Futures: A Short Film About a  Long Story”
Audience members will first watch a 20 minute ethnographic film then move into Q and A with Gursel, director and co-producer of Coffee Futures (2009). Coffee Futures weaves together the Turkish custom of coffee fortune-telling with Turkey’s decades-long attempt to join the European Union.  This  widespread custom is an everyday communication tool: both a way of dealing with hopes, fears and worries, and also a way of indirectly voicing matters usually left unspoken.  Coffee Futures attempts to render the emotional texture of a society whose fate has been nationally and internationally debated often in relation to Europeanness over a very long period of time, to hint at the psychology of collective waiting and anticipating a national future.

November 25 - Lori Ziegelmeier (Math, Statistics and Computer Science).  “Digital Images:  They're not just for viewing”
We all take digital images, so why not analyze them?  Examples of geometric data analysis can be illustrated in the context of digital photographs.  Here  Ziegelmeier will provide an introduction to images as mathematical objects that can be manipulated and investigated using techniques related to data compression, pattern recognition, and clustering.

December 2 - Paul Schadewald (Civic Engagement Center).  “God, Love, and Good Stuff: Young Adults and the Search for Intentional Christian Community”
A former mine camp in Washington State, reachable only by boat, seems like an inauspicious location for young adults in search of an “alternative” Christian community. Yet, for over 50 years, young adults have traveled across the country to the remote location of Holden Village in search of experiences, both profound and mundane. Schadewald, along with Lucy Forster-Smith and three other researchers were commissioned to study multiple generations of young adults who journeyed to Holden Village and were changed in the process. In the following years, Schadewald explored other remote, Christian sites with similar attraction for young adults: L’Abri in Switzerland; Iona in Scotland, and Taize in France.  Come hear about these sites, the joys and perils of doing research on religious communities, and the meaning of these communities for our understanding of spiritual practice, young adulthood, and the changing religious landscape.