Senior Sabbatical Fellowship Awards 2011/2012
The H. Axel Schupf ’57 Fund for Intellectual Life supports the Senior Sabbatical Fellowship Program, which increases tenured faculty members’ salaries for one semester of leave from 80 to 100 percent. The fellowships are competitive, and they are awarded by the Dean of the Faculty and the Committee of Six once their recommendations are approved by the President and the Trustees. The following are summaries of the 2011-2012 Fellowship recipients’ research projects.
Professor Babb’s project originated with a request to write a paper on Jainism’s ethic of nonviolence for inclusion in an anthology on animal rights (Being for the Other: Ethics and Animal Rights in Literature and Religion, edited by Manish Vyas). He was asked to contribute because much of his recent writing has concerned Jainism and the trading castes of Western India. At the time, he knew little about the animal rights movement in the West, but the more he learned, the more interested he became. In particular, Professor Babb was quite intrigued by clear parallels between Jain ideas of how living things should be treated and those of the Western animal rights and environmentalist movements, but he also came to see that these parallels can be very misleading. During his sabbatical, he intends to pursue a comparison between attitudes toward non-human life in Indic religions—especially (though not exclusively) in Jainism—and those underlying Western animal rights and environmental advocacy. The differences are both deep and instructive, despite the obvious similarities, he notes. For example, the animal rights movement draws partly from Western traditions of political theory based on the concept of the natural rights of the individual, but, lacking such a concept, Jainism does not employ a discourse of “rights” at all. And it is hard to argue that there is, or even could be, a Jain environmental ethic as such, Professor Babb acknowledges. Jain soteriology insists that the goal of religious life should be the permanent separation of the soul from all forms of material existence. As a result, although the Jains respect all forms of life, Jain spirituality deeply devalues the natural world. Professor Babb is still at the beginning stage of his project, and he feels that there remains much to learn. An investigation of how these issues play out in an Indian context will help clarify the extent to which animal rights and environmental advocacy bear a distinctively Western stamp and will also highlight ways in which cultural differences shape human understanding of the world of non-human life.
Professor Barale noted that she is presently precariously balanced, and possibly more often actually tottering, between two disciplines—literature and art—and three interests: Willa Cather, modernism, and photography. She says that, if she also adds in interests such as gender, queerness, and something that might be called the sociology of aesthetic influence, her equilibrium becomes either more agile or downright dangerous. One more image of what she is trying to accomplish: when you rub odd things against one another you are unable to predict what might result: sometimes the gears just don’t mesh; other times they spark. Professor Barale feels that she cannot yet tell what is happening with all these pieces. Cather’s interest in telling stories of art and artists has encouraged useful critical interest in her knowledge of music and musicians and painters and painting. Unremarked upon as yet, however, is photography’s meaning for Cather as someone who scorns both realism and romanticism (but loves French and American Impressionism), and as the subject of numerous photographs, both formal and vernacular. Professor Barale is trying to make sense of Cather’s desire to quite literally see herself as artist even as she refuses to accept as art the literally representational. Professor Barale has already written two essays on Cather’s aesthetics and the complex parts desire and history play in the discovery and creation of beauty. The first essay examines the artistic distinctions Cather draws between a painter and a singer; the second reads Cather so as to locate the origins of art in sites of impurity—bathrooms, spoiled milk, dog urine. Both of these essays allowed Professor Barale to be firmly grounded in the thing that she has studied for years: literature. Photography is a new area for her, and one with a formidable critical history. At the same time, vernacular photography—the candid pictures ubiquitously produced by the invention of the cheap Brownie camera—is far less examined as something with a critical, rather than simply cultural, history. This is the topic of the third, though not, she believes, final essay she wishes to write on Cather’s philosophy of art.
During his sabbatical, Professor Barbezat plans to explore how directed introspection and attention affects economic decision making. By cultivating awareness, he feels that we can both learn to withstand the whims of powerful emotional forces that overly focus on immediate gains and can better discern the salience of key aspects of our environment when making decisions. However, it is not enough to modulate inner drives and be able to focus, Professor Barbezat notes—we must also define direction through attending to our deepest convictions and meaning; without this, we are simply unable to navigate the tempest of desires and opportunities that constantly present themselves. Personal introspection is required to create and define this sort of meaning. Professor Barbezat’s Senior Sabbatical Fellowship will support his work on a book project, provisionally entitled “Wanting,” a behavioral economic experiment, co-authoring a handbook on contemplative practices in higher education, and the editing of a collection of articles on how introspective/contemplative practices are used throughout higher education.
Anna Seghers (1900–1983) was a modernist writer, a passionate art historian, and a leading intellectual voice among German émigré and post-war intellectuals. Professor Brandes’s new book project traces Anna Seghers’s relevance for the U.S. In 1940, Seghers’s book The Seventh Cross, the first novel to take place in a German concentration camp, was extraordinarily successful in this country and was made into a movie with Spencer Tracy. At the same time, the FBI amassed much confidential material about her, the alleged ”CommuNazi.” Professor Brandes will present Seghers’s writings, her exile, and her political dilemmas in the context of twentieth century German-American history.
Professor Burkett will use her Senior Sabbatical Fellowship to bring ongoing research projects to completion and publication. She studies hybrid materials that combine inorganic (mineral) and organic (carbon-based) components, which are appealing because of the potential for combining the unique properties of the different constituents, such as the hardness or magnetic properties of inorganic materials and the flexibility or processibility of polymers (plastics). The key challenge in assembling hybrid materials such as the polymer–clay nanocomposites that are of interest to Professor Burkett is the incompatibility of the hydrophilic inorganic clay layers with the nonpolar organic polymers of interest. The extent of integration of the inorganic and organic components is strongly dependent on the specific chemical interactions at the interface, and control of these interfacial interactions is the key to tailoring the structure and properties of the hybrid material at both short and long length scales. Professor Burkett will continue synthesis and characterization work on this family of materials, with a particular focus on preparing materials with controlled polymer brush “bristle” density, “bristle” length, and total polymer content. Professor Burkett also plans to publish the experimental results from her previous sabbatical, which involved detailed characterization of the structure of hybrid clay materials by solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance.
Less than thirty years ago, the biomedical definition of autism gained acceptance over psychological explanations that often placed blame on the family for their child’s condition. This change in the understanding of autism ushered in new possibilities for treatment and new forms of parent advocacy. This transformation was coterminous with a major shift in responsibility for the care of disabled children that began in the 1970s. The de-institutionalization of care transformed expectations about the potential for a normal life for disabled individuals and made parents responsible for meeting their children’s needs at home, while claiming their share of public resources through rights-based entitlements. This project will study the profound implications of this shift in responsibility. It will broadly investigate the consequences of community-based care for people with autism, including the successes and failures of parental and self-advocacy, the continuing role of experts and scientific knowledge, and the prospects for social inclusion. More specifically, this project evaluates the growth of community-based care for the disabled, particularly for people with autism. It considers how the advent of the biomedical model of autism has impacted people with autism and their families’ perception of their role as advocates and supporters of medical research. The research also investigates how the emergence of autism as one of the largest categories of the disabled and this population’s significant needs for therapeutic intervention has created pressures on families, school systems, medical providers, and social welfare agencies of the state. Connections will be drawn between these pressures and the concepts of state responsibility that have prevailed during the current era of community-based care. The research will explore whether an “autism epidemic” is forcing a trade-off between the goal of inclusion and efforts to gain specialized provisions for education and employment.
The Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) was thoroughly cosmopolitan: as a young woman, she traveled Europe, followed its cultural and political life, and spoke fluent German and French. After the Bolshevik Revolution, she left Russia and spent the next seventeen years living as an émigré in Western Europe, mainly in its cultural capital, Paris. These were the years of her creative maturity, when she wrote her most ambitious works in verse and a series of brilliant essays—writings that have never been framed in their European context, as Professor Ciepiela proposes to frame them in a book-length account of her émigré years. By documenting Tsvetava’s engagement with the culture and politics of Europe between the wars, Professor Ciepiela hopes to make visible her contribution to international modernism as a writer of immense talent and ambition, possessing an expansive sense of poetry’s significance, a strong identity as a woman artist, a wide range of lived experience, and—not least—an ambivalent attachment to the not-quite-European country of her birth.
Information to come
During his leave, Professor Dennerline will continue archival and oral history research in Singapore, Malaysia, China, and the U.S. His focus is on the history of the Chinese community in Malacca, with special reference to the influence of transnational and transregional social networks on education and other aspects of civil society under the British colonial regime. He will finish his study of He Baoren, a trans-regional civic leader and educational reformer in Singapore and Malacca in the 1930s, who had been born and raised in Xiamen and Singapore, had been educated in China and been a key student leader in the revolutionary May Fourth movement in Shanghai in 1919, had received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Illinois, and established the Social Sciences Division at Fudan University in Shanghai before returning to Singapore to marry. Professor Dennerline will also finish his research and writing for an article on the history of Malacca’s Chinese vernacular schools.
Professor Dizard’s project has grown out of previous work on how natural resource managers, animal activists, hunters, and environmentalists think about (“socially construct”) the natural world. Even though all groups were heavily influenced by ecology, they drew different lessons from what they took to be the central tenets of ecology. To make things more complicated, it turns out that long-standing ecological models are now being sharply challenged by new research. Professor Dizard is studying how ecologists are responding to the challenge of finding new models with which to describe fundamental ecological processes. He spent the first half of his leave reading current ecology texts as well as the classic texts to see how representations of the field have changed. In addition, he carefully examined the origins and subsequent developments in the emerging sub-fields of conservation biology and ecological restoration. These new sub-fields have contributed to the growing unease with the once dominant metaphors like the “balance of nature,” a metaphor that is commonly invoked in disputes between resource managers and environmentalists and animal activists and hunters. If there is no “balance,” if order is largely contingent, not foreordained, how are we to understand our place in nature? It is to this question that Professor Dizard will turn in the second half of his leave.
Professor Dole wills spend his leave working on a book about a genre of scholarly literature that has flourished during the past two decades, one in which the “hermeneutics of suspicion” are applied to the field of religious studies in various ways. His primary concern will be to identify the central mode of argumentation at work in this genre and to develop a method for critical engagement with it. He will introduce the idea of a suspicious explanation as a replacement for the term ‘hermeneutics of suspicion,’ thus reframing work in the genre as an explanatory rather than interpretive exercise, and will draw on literature on inference to the best explanation to develop an apparatus for critically examining suspicious explanations. On his reading, suspicious explanations are closely related to conspiracy theories, in that both explain an observable phenomenon by describing it as an intended result of the action of agents with morally objectionable desires. But unlike conspiracy theories, suspicious explanations complicate the identity of the agents in question by diffusing agency throughout the social body in various ways. In analyzing contemporary literature within this genre Professor Dole hopes to point out the respects in which the works in question display the characteristic features of a suspicious explanation, and to display the strengths and weaknesses of this mode of argumentation. Overall he hopes to convince his readers that work within this genre tends to be fairly formulaic, and that its persuasive force depends on its readership sharing a specific set of background assumptions regarding the way agency tends to work within social groups generally.
During her leave, Professor Epstein hopes to complete one project and to begin another. First, she plans to write an article based on her ongoing research on hiring trends in different fields of modern European history. The article is tentatively titled “Modern German and European History in the American Academy, 1945-2010.” It will trace developments in higher education and broader American society that explain the ebb and flow of the hiring of historians of Germany—as compared to those of Britain, France, and Russia/Soviet Union—after 1945. Second, she has recently submitted a proposal to write a short textbook on Nazi Germany. If the proposal is accepted, she will use her sabbatical to begin work on this textbook.
Professor George will spend his sabbatical exploring philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s “Remarks on Frazer’s The Golden Bough.” In particular, he will focus on what Wittgenstein was trying to say about Frazer’s analysis of ancient magic and ritual and, more generally, about how to approach (and how not to approach) religious belief and practice; how these remarks relate to much more general themes in Wittgenstein’s philosophy; and why his thoughts on these matters bear on philosopher David Hume’s understanding of the rational basis of religious belief.
Professor Gilpin’s Senior Sabbatical Fellowship will support the preparation for publication of her book, “Architectures of Disappearance: Movement in Performance, New Media, Architecture,” which is under contract with The MIT Press. The book examines compositional strategies used in making and interpreting work in the fields of performance, architecture, and new media art. It draws on material and approaches from philosophy, cultural theory, and European movement performance to explore contexts in which movement is difficult to enact, and often traumatic to witness. Professor Gilpin addresses the work of a number of German, European, and North American choreographers, architects, and new media artists, and proposes a model for the development of a discourse to address the genre of movement performance and its multidisciplinary function in cultural production.
Professor Goheen will use her senior sabbatical fellowship year working on at least two, and if time, three research and writing projects. Her first priority will be to finish a book manuscript based on field research from her last sabbatical year, which was spent conducting research in Cameroon (2002-03). The book will draw on research that she conducted on the Nso’ (Cameroon) Diaspora via the Internet over the time since she returned to Amherst in 2003, and on a research trip to Cameroon planned for four-six months during this sabbatical year. After that trip, she will determine whether any further data will be needed to collect to successfully complete this book. The book is focused on the ways in which the current generation of young people in Nso,’ both those at home and those in a far reaching Diaspora ranging from Finland to Australia to Euopean countries and the United States, use new electronic technologies, including Internet chat rooms, to create an identity as global citizens whose primary sense of self and agency remains focused on being citizens of the Nso’ Chiefdom in Western Cameroon. A second purpose of her research trip to Cameroon will be to work in collaboration with Professor Ajume Wingo, professor of Africana studies and philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a native of Nso’. Professor Goheen and he plan to set up some pilot primary school classes in Nso’ that they hope will be models for future teaching at the primary school level. Professor Wingo and Professor Goheen have been working on this project for two years, and they have high hopes for a successful venture, which may include involving interns from the United States in the future. Finally, Professor Goheen has been collaborating with Professor Stanley Tambiah, professor emeritus, Harvard University, on a book manuscript based on two decades of collaboration and teaching. Professor Goheen and he have started putting together a book on Economic Anthropology and Social Theory, a course Professor Goheen has taught at Amherst for twenty years, and one she taught initially with Professor Tambiah as a teaching fellow at Harvard University when he was her Ph.D. advisor.
For many years, Professor Greenstein’s professional interests have focused on developing innovate ways to teach science, both to science- and non-science students. He is currently in the final stages of a multi-year project of writing a textbook that emphasizes these new instructional techniques, most notably inquiry learning. This textbook has been accepted by Cambridge University Press, the premier academic press in the world for astronomy. In recent years information technology has revolutionized every aspect of society, not least the way that students learn. During his sabbatical Professor Greenstein proposes to transform his hard-copy textbook into an online presence: a presence that goes far beyond a mere set of static Word documents online, but that actively engages the student in a set of carefully crafted exercises. This online material will complement, but not supplant, the hard-copy book.
Adam Honig, Associate Professor Economics
Research Project: Financial Frictions and Monetary Transmission Strength: A Cross-Country Analysis and The Impact of Central Bank Independence on the Performance of Inflation Targeting Regimes
Professor Honig is currently working on two projects that he intends to see through to publication during his sabbatical. In “Financial Frictions and Monetary Transmission Strength: A Cross-Country Analysis” (with Uluc Aysun), the colleagues will perform the first large sample cross-country test of the hypothesis that monetary policy has a greater impact on GDP when it is more difficult for lenders to monitor and recover funds from defaulting borrowers. In “The Impact of Central Bank Independence on the Performance of Inflation Targeting Regimes” (with Sami Alpanda), the colleagues explain the weak evidence that inflation targeting successfully lowers inflation by arguing that it only works well in countries that do not have independent central banks. Professor Honig also plans to submit a brief note to a journal that focuses on teaching economics. He will present a modification to the short run model of the economy taught in undergraduate macroeconomics courses to allow for the possibility of contractionary currency depreciations in emerging market economies. Finally, he plans to continue his research agenda to examine the benefits and risks of financial globalization.
Michael Hood, Associate Professor of Biology
Research Project: Disease Ecology and the Dynamics of Pathogen Genetics
Professor Hood will use his Senior Sabbatical Fellowship to advance three projects through the involvement of student researchers and existing collaborations. Two areas of research address the ecology of diseases in natural populations. Professor Hood will study how the small and fragmented population structure of endangered species affects the maintenance of disease-causing organisms. Through newly awarded federally funding, he will study similar aspects of disease in populations at the margin of a host's natural geographic range. This work addresses how infectious diseases affect the distribution of their hosts, particularly hosts that are already limited by changing environmental conditions. He will be conducting field studies in the Italian Alps, bringing undergraduates to participate in the research and a short workshop in disease ecology supported by the grant. Overlaying these efforts will be genetics studies on the diversity of pathogens encountered, particularly dealing with the control of mating or hybridization between pathogen species. Continuing efforts will be dedicated toward mentoring multiple thesis students, the publication of recent student theses, and grant writing.
Professor Hunter’s research group has a long tradition of pursuing precision tests of fundamental symmetries and has been supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) continuously for more than twenty-five years. The group has searched for the electron edm in an atom (Cs) and in a solid (GdIG) and has compared precision nuclear (Hg) and electron (Cs) magnetometers to test Local Lorentz Invariance, CPT symmetry, and to search for axions. Professor Hunter’s group has also tested relativity in rotating frames and done precision atomic and molecular spectroscopy. All of these projects have actively engaged undergraduates and resulted in publications with undergraduates as co-authors. In order to sustain the vitality of the program, Professor Hunter feels that it is critical that he remain engaged with the community of scientists who work in this field. As a means of continuing to draw new directions and inspirations through immersion with a vital research program at a research institution, during his leave, Professor Hunter will spend 20 percent of his time at Yale. There, he will participate in the university’s atomic physics seminar, attend departmental colloquia, and spend some time in the laboratories of Professor David DeMille and Professor Steve Lamoreaux. These researchers are acknowledged leaders in the field of precision measurements and fundamental symmetries, and they are scientists with whom Professor Hunter has had fruitful collaborations in the past. During the leave, Professor Hunter will spend the majority of his time at Amherst developing his on-site research program, working with Amherst students in the lab, and continuing to make progress toward his research goals.
Professor Katsaros plans to use her sabbatical leave to complete a book-length study of three nineteenth-century French women who lived in the shadow of their more illustrious male relatives: Caroline Aupick, the mother of Charles Baudelaire; Isabelle Rimbaud, the sister of the poet Arthur Rimbaud; and Judith Gautier, the daughter of the Romantic poet and critic Théophile Gautier. She wishes to pursue the investigation of women’s issues she began in her book on bachelors and prostitutes in nineteenth-century France (Un nouveau monde amoureux: Célibataires et prostituées au dix-neuvième siècle, Galaade, 2010). In this new project, Professor Katsaros will examine the emergence of women’s voices in the context of a male-dominated literary culture that often portrays mothers, sisters, and daughters as both marginal and monstrous. In the course of her previous research, she became fascinated with the astonishing abundance and frankness of the letters Baudelaire sent to his mother—begging for money, for love, for comfort, often without success. She found it striking that a poet renowned for his perverse views of sexuality, not to mention his general hostility to women, should have remained throughout his life so deeply attached to his mother. The life of Caroline Aupick remains quite mysterious. She believes it will be an interesting challenge to try and create a portrait of this woman through the sources Baudelaire provides and the testimonies of his contemporaries. Isabelle Rimbaud was present when Arthur Rimbaud died in Marseilles in 1891. After her brother’s death, she and her husband, Paterne Berrichon, worked relentlessly to prove that Rimbaud had returned to Catholicism in his final days, abjuring both his atheism and his left-wing politics. Not unlike Nietzsche’s sister, who became notorious for distorting her brother’s legacy in order to suit her own political agenda, Isabelle Rimbaud has been much maligned and mocked by critics for her appropriation of the Rimbaud legend; but she has also been viewed by some as a saint. Professor Katsaros wants to try and understand why and how such a conflicting portrait of Isabelle Rimbaud has emerged. Judith Gautier is almost forgotten nowadays, whereas her famous father Théophile is still widely read. Yet she is one of the most extraordinary figures of the nineteenth century. The first woman ever to be elected to the Académie Goncourt, she was the preeminent translator of Chinese and Japanese poetry in France. She was also an art and music critic who befriended Wagner, and an enormously successful novelist in her own right. Book-length biographies of Judith Gautier by Bettina Knapp and Joanna Richardson are already in print. Professor Katsaros has no wish to rewrite these biographies, but rather to examine how Judith Gautier developed her own aesthetics and philosophy in a male-dominated world, almost overshadowing her father’s accomplishments. By looking at these parallel and very different lives, Professor Katsaros hopes to trace an arc from the almost total silence of Baudelaire’s mother to the full self-expression of Judith Gautier, showing all the nuances between these two states. She has obtained a one-month research fellowship from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. She is planning to go there either in January or next spring to work on Isabelle Rimbaud.
This fellowship will assist Professor Keller in her studio research during a period of concentrated study and focused studio production. During the past two years, she has worked exclusively on large and small scale collaged constructions, two-dimensional compositions that weigh simple forms against each other and pursue sometimes constrained, sometimes overt, gestures. Most often, the simple forms exist against a stark ground, and they range from obstinate to buoyant in their attitudes. Professor Keller’s goal for this new work might be distilled to this: to make active structures, animated by the relationships that form them. Her sustained engagement with collage has yielded new freedoms for her in the studio, including the incorporation of color for the first time in ten years, and a new vocabulary of shapes and references. In the next year, and especially during her planned sabbatic leave, she intends to move these goals and interests into sculptural form. Professor Keller is increasingly engaged by raw gesture, and unpredictable, even wayward, structures. Because of this, she will experiment with materials that allow her to build as intuitively and directly as possible. Truncated gesture and passages of disjuncture are of primary interest to me right now. Through the abrupt shifts they create in a composition or structure, and through their refusal to follow something through to its anticipated conclusion, she feels they offer the possibility of combining the cerebral and the visceral. The sculptural object presents an obdurate presence that can serve as a tangible, and she would say crucial, counterpoint to the increasingly encompassing, yet distanced, world of computer technologies. Professor Keller is as avidly committed to the handmade object as ever, despite her enthusiasms for artwork being executed in the virtual venues of cyberspace or by digital technologies
For the last three years, Professor Kimball has been accompanying his brother, an auctioneer, when he cleans out the houses of the deceased or dispersed so that he can photograph what has been left behind. Based on these photographs, Professor Kimball also began photographing in abandoned hotels and psychiatric hospitals looking for evidence of an individual's life within those spaces. Most recently, he has found himself photographing in places affected by disappearing industries, the housing boom, and resulting foreclosures. He will use this sabbatical to develop this body of work by making a series of photographic trips by car across the United States. The photographs that he has been making and will make on these expeditions are microcosms of our world with death or loss at their center. He hopes these pictures lead the viewer to question the construct of his or her own life, and thus ask themselves what is meaningful. These are important questions at any time, but in the face of a sinking economic landscape, with physical and emotional tremors felt by each of us, when many are losing jobs, homes, families and themselves, it has become imperative that we ask ourselves how do we live? What do we need? What do we leave?
A study of Marx and international relations is the main project Professor Machala would like to complete during his sabbatical year. By integrating all of Marx’s references to world affairs, both those generally recognized as marxist and those all-too-often neglected by the members of academy, whether they are from the left or from the mainstream, he proposes to demonstrate that this dismissed dimension of Marx on mid-nineteenth century world affairs is not only far more interesting to read than the reductionist Marx most familiar to those in the academy, but that such a “re-excavated” Marx is also methodologically and theoretically extremely useful to students interested in developing an understanding of world affairs in the twenty-first century.
During the period of his sabbatic leave, Professor Maraniss will continue his work on an English translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. He is now on Chapter 41 of Part I, which is about one third of the way through the book. He notes that he has his style and what he needs now is time, which the denior dabbatic fellowship will provide, generously.
Professor Moss’s current research explores the politics of school districting, desegregation, and choice in the late twentieth century. More than any other factor, a child’s address often determines what kind of public education he will receive. Yet recent Supreme Court rulings, particularly Parents Involved in Community Schools v. the Seattle School District (2007), have circumscribed the strategies that communities might employ to disrupt the linkage between residence and educational opportunity. This project follows Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the late 1970s, as it attempted to do precisely this. In the early-1980s, Cambridge adopted a system of controlled choice, whereby parents could select a school and a district could consider race when making assignment decisions. In so doing, Cambridge eliminated a system which had been in place since the 1930s, which linked school attendance to place of residence, and replaced it with a city-wide assignment policy which took into account parental preference and racial balance. Professor Moss’s research seeks to answer two interrelated questions. First, how did race, property, and educational opportunity become entangled in Cambridge during the twentieth century? And second, why and how did Cambridge—as a community—attempt to disentangle race and property from educational opportunity in the late-twentieth century?
Professor Poccia will use his Senior Sabbatical Fellowship to continue his work on cellular mechanisms involved in natural membrane fusion and to explore relevant advanced techniques in the laboratory of his collaborators at Cancer Research UK, London Research Institute. He has developed a model for membrane fusion in cells that involves a critical role for localized generation of the membrane lipid DAG. The model, which was developed with the use of cell-free systems, is now being tested in live embryos and cancer cells. He will use fluorescence confocal imaging and electron microscopy, as well as manipulation of cells by microinjection or transfection to alter DAG production in specific membrane compartments, in order to analyze the effects of DAG on membrane fusion and test the validity and generality of the model.
Professor Raskin is interested in how Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), a biological treatment for Major Depression, is viewed cross-culturally, in Italy and the United States. ECT was invented at the Sapienza University in Rome in 1938 by Ugo Cerletti, a professor of psychiatry, and Luigi Bini, then an assistant professor in Rome. Although the American Psychiatric Association considers ECT a “highly technical and sophisticated medical procedure, which deserves proper training in residency programs,” Italy is embroiled in a controversy about the use of ECT. In 1999 the Minister of Health in Italy issued a “circolare” (government white paper) with stringent new restrictions on the use of ECT, specifying that it may now be administered only as an emergency procedure in government hospitals; Italian psychiatrists regret they cannot utilize this effective technique for serious intractable Depression (as is done in many countries, including the United States). During his time, Cerletti was admired in Italy; he apparently believed in the experimental approach to understanding human behavior and in the importance of research in psychiatry. Yet, given the strong feelings these days among the Italian public against ECT (there was a well-attended protest outside of a recent conference in Italy on ECT), Cerletti is hardly a national hero now. Professor Raskin plans to use her leave to study the topic of Italian attitudes toward psychiatry in general, and toward Ugo Cerletti and ECT in particular. Having been pursuing this topic for a few years, along with her study of the Italian language, Professor Raskin will go back to Rome for more interviews with psychiatrists and will continue to study this interesting controversy.
During her last semester sabbatical (fall 2010), Professor Ringer completed a book entitled Pious Citizens: Reforming Zoroastrianism in India and Iran which will be published in fall 2011. In this book, she argues that religious reform in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Middle East and India needs to be recognized as integrally involved with the deliberate creation of religious beliefs and practices thought to be generative of citizens and secular states. She looked at Zoroastrianism in India and Iran in order to uncover the contours of this new, rationalized, “modern” religion. Now she is turning her attention to Ottoman and Iranian Muslim modernists’ writings—in particular, those intellectuals who are not viewed in the historiography as having anything to say about religion. She will argue that their engagement with promoting ideas of citizenship was in itself profoundly involved with conceptualizing secularism and rethinking the nature and function of religion, in keeping with the developing relationship between civil society, secular states, and the individual as citizen. She plans to complete an article on the writings of Dekhhoda during her sabbatical and the following summer, which she will present at the International Society for Iranian Studies conference to be held in Istanbul, August 2012. This article will form the first chapter in a larger book project.
In recent years, Professor Schulkind has become interested in studying whether musical training is related to improved performance on non-musical tasks. He is particularly interested in whether musical training and/or musical aptitude are associated with an increased facility to learn foreign languages. Some preliminary data, collected as part of an honors thesis project with Laura Hyman ’11, suggested that musical training and musical aptitude were related to different aspects of foreign language learning. Musical experience was correlated with the ability to learn new foreign language vocabulary. Musical aptitude was correlated with an increase in the number of years of foreign language study (this implies that those with a ‘musical ear’ were more interested in the study of foreign languages than those with less musical ability). During his sabbatical, Professor Schulkind hopes to pursue this line of research further to see if the relationships uncovered in this initial work will replicate and to gain a more fine-grained understanding of how musical training and/or aptitude promotes foreign language acquisition. For example, musical training may be a form of mental exercise that increases general cognitive capacity (some data from Laura’s thesis are consistent with this proposal). In other words, musical training might increase learning of all kinds of material, not just foreign languages. A second possibility is that people high in musical aptitude have better ‘ears’ for both music and the sound properties of foreign language. If data were obtained that were consistent with this second hypothesis, it would suggest that music and language share a common evolutionary history, which is currently a topic of considerable theoretical interest in the literature. In addition to these research goals, Professor Schulkind plans to use his sabbatical to update his Cognitive Psychology course to include more hands-on research experience for students. A recent external review of the Department of Psychology recommended providing more research opportunities for our majors.
Professor Shah plans to be a visiting scholar in the philosophy department at NYU during the fall semester of 2011, in order to work on a book manuscript. His topic is philosophical explanations of the human practice of making normative judgments. Human thinkers can make judgments about how one should, must, or may (not) respond to various states of affairs. We can judge, for example, that one must act to prevent suffering, or that one should not believe what the chairman says, or that one may slurp one's soup, or that one must not affirm inconsistent propositions. Our practice of making judgments of this sort - call them normative judgments - is central to who we are as human beings, and for this reason alone many philosophers are driven to explain where it comes from, how it works, and why we engage in it. They want to know what place the practice of normative judgment has in the grand scheme of things—not merely in the narrower and more familiar order of human and animal life, but also in the broader and less familiar order of reality itself. The thesis of Professor Shah’s book is that the success of this project depends on certain assumptions about human agency that are false. Roughly, in order to understand the kind of rational control we have and don't have over our own beliefs, desires, and intentions, we must regard these mental states as essentially subject to certain normative standards. To the extent that we regard ourselves as responsible for our attitudes, we must regard ourselves as capable of being guided by the norms governing these attitudes. He argues in detail that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for traditional philosophical explanations of our normative practices to accommodate this fact about our mental agency. Professor Shah goes on to suggest a diagnosis for this failure: all traditional theories implicitly seek a normatively detached understanding of our practice of making normative judgments; however, to even identify the psychological facts involved in making normative judgments one must become normatively engaged. If his thesis is correct, the grand philosophical ambition of giving a fully general and detached explanation of our normative practices cannot succeed.
Professor Van Compernolle has long been interested in exploring the way in which literature takes part in larger social debates and the ways in which social discourse and narrative form intersect and influence each other. He is currently in the final stages of completing a new book, tentatively titled “Struggling Upward: Worldly Success and the Japanese Novel,” which will explore how new ideas about social mobility arising in the nineteenth century help shape the modern Japanese novel during its formative period during the Meiji era (1868-1912), a time of rapid change in Japan as the country reinvents itself as a modern nation-state. The Senior Sabbatical Fellowship will allow him to devote an entire year to completing the manuscript.
During his years at Amherst, Professor Velleman has taught calculus many times, and he has developed a number of ideas about how calculus should be taught that are different from what one finds in most calculus textbooks. He will use his leave to write a book on calculus that will incorporate these ideas.
During Professor Yarbrough’s leave, she will revise and update The World Economy, the book that provides the foundation for the two courses she teaches regularly in the field of International Economics, International Trade (Economics 227) and Open-Economy Macroeconomics (Economics 235). These courses introduce a wide range of students to economic analysis of global or international issues, serve as “stepping-stone” courses for students considering a major in Economics, satisfy requirements for the Five-College International Relations certificate, and contribute to students’ knowledge of other countries, relations among countries, and general global understanding by engaging frequently with real policy debates and current events in the international economy.