Every Monday at noon, Conversations About Our Scholarly Lives 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). 12:00-1:00 in room 309 in the Library.

September 11 – Wessam El Meligi (Classics)
“Graphic Whys: Of Libraries and Displacement, Water and Migration”
Children displaced by war seek refuge in their deserted city. A young victim of harassment seeks empowerment across borders. A group of refugees and migrants embark on a fateful journey in the Mediterranean to unwelcoming shores. Questions asked and decisions made in three graphic novels.  Y and Y and Jamila, and previews his forthcoming third graphic novel, Boat, with a presentation of the original artwork and a narrative of how the stories helped shape his experience at Macalester and impacted Arabic classes.

September 18 – Rebecca Wings (Mellon Post-Doc Fellow)
“Deserted and Widowed Women Homesteaders”
Wingo uses homestead claims filed by women either deserted by their husbands or widowed during the “proving up period;” in other words, women who did not originally intend to file claims in their own names. The study area highlights the legal and social barriers widows and abandoned wives faced as they filed their claims and received title to their land.

September 25 – Felix Friedt (Economics)
Hurricane Katrina and The Resilience of International Trade: An Empirical Examination of the Dynamic Spatial Trade Effects of Natural Disasters”
Natural disasters are omnipresent, increasing in their destructive force and potentially devastating local and regional economic activity.  Friedt discusses his spatial gravity model of international trade which he applied to monthly U.S. port level trade data in Louisiana and Florida. Ports closest to hurricane Katrina’s epicenter experienced significant short-run reductions, whereas international trade handled by nearby ports rose in response to the 2005 disaster.  Overall, the analysis illustrates the potential disparity between aggregate and local trade effects and underlines the significance of infrastructure networks to reduce the devastation inflicted by natural disasters.

October 2 – Chris Wells (Environmental Studies and History)
“‘We Speak for Ourselves’: Telling the History of the Postwar Environmental Justice Movement with Primary Documents”
The environmental justice movement sprang to life on September 15, 1982, when fifty-five nonviolent protesters, leveling charges of “environmental racism,” lay down in the middle of a highway in rural Warren County, North Carolina, in an effort to block a squadron of dump trucks from entering the state’s first toxic waste landfill.  In the following years, as evidence began to mount that poor and minority populations bore significantly heavier environmental burdens than other groups, a full-fledged environmental justice (EJ) movement took shape. Declaring that “We speak for ourselves,” EJ activists had a tense relationship with the overwhelmingly white and affluent members of the environmental movement, whose approaches and priorities often failed to address the pressing environmental problems of poor and minority peoples. In this talk, Chris Wells will talk about the process of editing a book, designed primarily for classroom use, that collects a range of primary documents to chart the growth and evolution of EJ struggles in the U.S.

October 9 – Jehra Patrick (Art and Art History)
“Your Gallery is Boring, or Why Should I Care about Art”
If an exhibition goes up and no one sees it, does it exist?  In a fast-paced talk, Patrick will share her 10 years of experience building audiences for the arts – from artist-run spaces, cat video festivals, CSA art shares, artists as start-ups, curating the internet, getting things done with beer money and thank-yous, and balancing fun with very-serious-symposiums – and how she plans on turning up the volume for the gallery here at Macalester.

October 16 – Brian Johnson (German and Russian Studies)
“Dipsomania, Alcoholic Madness and White Fever in Crime and Punishment”
Fyodor Dostoevsky populates his works with characters of diseased mind, soul and body.  Characters suffer from alcoholism, delirium tremens, tuberculosis, monomania, and hallucinations in Crime and Punishment alone.  Johnson examines the preponderance of illness throughout Dostoevsky’s works in his manuscript Dostoevsky’s Diseases by framing it in the context of the medical world of the author’s time. Using source material drawn from Russian medical journals of the nineteenth century, Johnson analyzes Dostoevsky’s depiction and treatment of illness, health and medicine from an interdisciplinary point of view.  Today’s talk focuses on the condition, symptoms and effects of alcohol abuse in Dostoevsky’s most famous novel Crime and Punishment.

October 23 – Roopali Phadke (Environmental Studies) and Jim Dawes (English) 
“Writing to a Broad Public Audience: Translation, Transformation, or Trepidation”
Phadke and Dawes recently published articles in the national press that grow out of their scholarly research on wind turbines and autonomous weapons systems respectively.  In so doing, they shared their ideas and expertise with the public at a moment when scholarly authority is widely ignored (or ridiculed) by the President, members of Congress, tv commentators and regular citizens.  What prompted our colleagues to write these pieces?  What changes in policy, attitudes, or action did they hope to accomplish?  What feedback did they receive by engaging with non-academic audiences and what lessons did they learn?  Would they do it again?  Join us as our colleagues reflect on scholarly writing to non-academic audiences.

October 30 – Arthur Mitchell (Asian Languages and Cultures)
“Confessions of an Anal Academic on Sabbatical: How I Cured My Masochism and Learned How to Write”
Mitchell talks about his pre-tenure sabbatical in Tokyo, Japan, reflecting on the way the time and space of the sabbatical enabled him to develop security and confidence in his academic writing.

November 6 – DeMethra Bradley (Assistant Vice President & Dean of Students)
“Outside Second-Generation, Inside First-Generation: A Hidden Population in Higher Education”
What attributes and experiences (or lack thereof) do we connect to the first-generation college student experience?  What happens when we encounter students who are not first-generation but possess those “first-gen” attributes and have those “first-gen” experiences?  I was one of those students, and my college years fueled my research on second-generation college students who are, definition aside, really first-generation college students.

November 13 – Lizeth Gutierrez (American Studies)
“Queer Chisme: Tools of Survival for Mexican Immigrant Women in The Global Economy”
In this presentation, Gutierrez argues that Mexican women have been pushed to perform chisme (gossip) in specific ways in the larger political economy of labor.  Mexican immigrant women who labor as domestic workers in the U.S. are brought together by the global market’s economic interest in their exploitation.  Yet, it is in that labor space where women also share their knowledges to navigate the constraints of their economic conditions. Chisme creates an affective site from which to informally and formally negotiate their personal lives with their working lives, informal collective bargaining and quotidian attention to labor practices.  The economic processes that result in chisme enables a more nuanced understanding of its political possibilities.  Providing an overview of the specific constraints that influence the emergence of chisme will allow us to better articulate how Mexican women’s agency, labor and community are a consequence of these constraints.

November 20 – Lisa Mueller (Political Science)
“Political Protest in Contemporary Africa”
Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced an historic spike in protest activity during the early twenty-first century.  What explains the timing and scale of this unrest?  Mueller will present the main findings from her forthcoming book, Political Protest in Contemporary Africa.  Her research is based on surveys from thirty-five countries and field research in Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Malawi.

November 27 – William Mitchell (Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science)
“Fluid Mechanics is Awesome”
What will the West Antarctic ice sheet do in the next 200 years?  What happened in the Great Molasses Flood of Boston?   Why do fish use fins to swim while microorganisms use flagella?  Why do baby mice have so much trouble excreting liquid waste?  Can you turn on a computer and figure out which of three new aircraft designs will be the most fuel efficient?  What cool shapes does a dissolving clay ball assume?  Mitchell will discuss these questions in the hope of persuading you that fluid mechanics does not deserve a certain insult from xkcd, but is instead awesome both in the modern sense of “neat” and in the old sense of “inspiring awe.”

December 4 – Jesse Zarley (History)
“Mapuche Diplomacy in the Age of Revolution, 1792-1835”
The indigenous Mapuche people of South America successfully resisted Spanish conquest from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and continued to impede the political and economic projects articulated by nations of Chile and Argentina until the 1870s and 1880s. This talk examines how diplomatic rituals practiced by Mapuche leaders to define and defend their sovereignty provide different genealogies for our understanding of politics in the Age of Revolution. These interactions along the old Spanish/Mapuche frontier, which stretched across the continent from the Pacific Coast of Chile to the mouth of the River Plate, were but the tip of the iceberg in the broader, transandean Mapuche political world that confounded the spatial imaginaries of empires and nations.

December 11 – Andrew Beveridge (Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science)
“Fractal Dramaturgy of ‘Game of Thrones'”
Who is the main character in “Game of Thrones?”  Who is the protagonist?  Are these different questions?  Wait- why is a mathematician asking this?  I will talk about a digital liberal arts collaboration that combines math with poetics to study pop culture.  Warning:  here there be dragons and spoilers.