Senior Sabbatical Fellowship Awards 2012/2013

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 2012-2013 Fellowship recipients’ research projects.

Elizabeth Aries, Professor Psychology
Research Project: Pioneer Women Faculty at Amherst College

In 1962, Rose Olver was appointed as the first woman tenure-track faculty member at Amherst College. By 1982, Amherst had hired more than fifty tenure-track women. Yet the experience of many of these pioneer women was not a positive one. Some of these women were not reappointed, others did not get tenure. Some chose not to stand for tenure because they felt their cases would not be fairly heard. For many reasons, most of the first tenure-track women hired left Amherst College and pursued successful careers elsewhere. In conjunction with Professors Emeritae Rose Olver and Jane Taubman, Professor Aries will be working on an edited volume to trace the history of the arrival and departure of the pioneer women faculty, and to analyze the issues the first two decades of tenure-track women faced in joining a predominantly male Faculty. This volume is an outgrowth of the September, 2011 symposium, Half a Century of Women Teaching at Amherst: Gender Matters, which Professor Aries helped to organize. Many of the pioneer women who left the College returned to participate in the symposium and reflected on their experiences at Amherst. The volume will include essays written by a selection of pioneer women, analyzing the challenges they faced on campus, as well as essays reflecting on themes raised by symposium participants, biographies of the pioneer women faculty, and transcripts from the symposium itself.  The volume will serve as a historical record of Amherst’s transition to becoming a Faculty of men and women, and will have the potential to bring the issues addressed by the symposium participants to a wider audience. Further, an examination of the experiences of the pioneer women faculty has considerable relevance to the transition Amherst will be undergoing over the next decade, from a predominantly white Faculty to a more diverse Faculty.  The volume will provide insight into what the college can do to be more successful this time around in diversifying its faculty.

John-Paul Baird, Associate Professor of Psychology

Information to come

Amrita Basu, Domenic J. Paino 1955 Professor of Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies
Research Project: Fasts as Modes of Resistance in India

Professor Basu proposes to study the impact of protest fasts on democratic politics in India. The first part of the study explores why fasts have been such important mechanisms of protest in India by examining their cultural and religious underpinnings, their meaning and significance. The second part analyzes Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s fasts during the colonial period. Since Gandhi was uniquely aware of the complicated ethical and political consequences of fasting, studying his principles reveals the dissonance between his views and those who claim fidelity to his legacy. The third part examines the different characteristics and impact of several important fasts in post-colonial India. Underlying this study are questions about the relationship between protest fasting and democratic politics in India. What determines whether fasts secure popular support and state concessions? How do debates about the ethics of fasting reveal popular understandings and disagreements about the relationship between state and civil society, institutionalized and non- institutionalized forms of power, and the meanings of coercion and persuasion? Are all protest fasts potentially coercive? Should the ethics of protest fasts be evaluated relative to the legitimacy of the state or the integrity of fasting leaders?  This study will contrast the state’s response to fasts by Ana Hazare, the celebrated leader of the anti-corruption movement, and another movement leader, Irom Chanu Sharmila, who has sought to fast ever since November 2000 to protest the presence of Indian Armed Forces and its brutality toward civilians in her home state of Manipur in northeast India. Whereas the state readily conceded to Hazare’s demands so that he would end his fasts, it has detained Sharmila on grounds that suicide is illegal and kept her alive through force feeding.  Professor Basu will determine which of a variety of factors explains the state’s more conciliatory response to Hazare than to Sharmila.

Through an analysis of fasts, this study seeks to illuminate the reasons for the growth and significance of the powerful anti-corruption movement in India. It also seeks to contribute both to theoretical and political analysis of direct action versus representative forms of protest as well as to normative theory analyzing the ethics and desirability of extra-institutional protest within Indian democracy.

Anston Bosman, Associate Professor of English

Information to come

Ethan Clotfelter, Associate Professor of Biology

Information to come

C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and Black Studies

Information to come

Javier Corrales, Professor of Political Science
Research Project: Origins of Presidential Powers in Latin American Democracies and Management of Oil Companies in Latin America

During his leave, Professor Corrales plans to work full time on two projects.  He will complete his book manuscript, “Fixing Democracy: Constitutional Assembly, Presidentialism, and the Struggle to Improve the Quality of Democracy in Latin America,” on which he has been working for the past four years. This manuscript advances a theory about the origins and variation in formal presidential powers across democracies.  He will use evidence from Latin American democracies in the past three decades.  Latin America has produced ten constitutional rewrites since 1987.  These cases provide a good opportunity to test theories about the origins of presidential powers.  Professor Corrales will also start a new research project, “Varieties of Statism in Latin America.”  Based on his work on the political economy of petro-states (which forms the basis of one of his most popular courses at Amherst, and which is strongly informed by his research on Venezuela), Professor Corrales has become intrigued by a puzzle that he feels needs an explanation:  some Latin American countries manage their oil companies better than others.  He will use two indicators of performance:  extraction rates and staffing rates.  Countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Peru score positively; Venezuela, Ecuador, and Mexico score negatively.  He plans to use his sabbatical to develop a theory to explain this puzzle.  

Nicola Courtright, Professor of Art and the History of Art
Research Project: Research at the Clark and the INHA

During her senior sabbatical, Professor Courtright will be a fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in the fall, and in the spring, will move to Paris, where she will be a chercheur at the Institut National d’histoire de l’art (INHA).  In both locations she will work on a manuscript of a new book, “Art and the Invention of Queenly Authority in Early Modern France.” In it, she will examine how gardens, art, and architecture in royal residences were crafted to support the authority of queens in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France, women who were not officially sanctioned to rule but were nevertheless often in positions of authority. Professor Courtright contends that, beginning with Henri IV, queens were intentionally integrated into the imagery and politics of rule to paint a new picture of the queen’s shared sovereignty with the king.  During this period, queens’ domiciles—including queens’ wings in royal residences—and the imagery in them expanded greatly, a phenomenon that was puzzling, given what seemed to be the inferior status of royal women compared to their husbands and sons. Regents needed to appear authoritative on behalf of their underage sons when their spouses died prematurely, to be sure, but this visual and spatial amplification portrays a notion of partnership of king and queen, inaugurated by Henri IV, that was important enough to the ruling royal culture to continue, despite fissures, conflicts, and missteps, into the reign of Henri’s grandson Louis XIV. Even when queens were divested of actual authority by the end of the seventeenth century, royal consorts and regents were portrayed ever more frequently and occupied ever more important spaces because, she hypothesizes, they gave the appearance of dynastic invincibility and stability to a fragile state in the wake of the religious wars, political disarray, and dynastic breakdown in early modern France.  In the book, Professor Courtright will begin with a study of Catherine de Médici’s spaces (above all in Fontainebleau, the birthplace and baptismal site of many royal children, hence the source of queens’ implicit authority as mothers and dynasty builders), continue with areas within Marie de Médici’s, and her daughter-in-law Anne d’Autriche’s residences, including Fontainebleau and the Louvre, and conclude with a selection of Louis XIV’s programs in the Tuileries, Louvre and Versailles that, in her view, explicitly incorporate his mother, Anne, and his, consort Marie-Thérèse, as part of a political program. She will demonstrate how these domiciles and apartments were intimately related to programs in the kings’ realms, and thus became the locus of important political claims for queens, queen regents, and queen-mothers, as well as kings.  

Christopher Dole, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Research Project: Disaster Psychiatry in Turkey

Centered around a series of devastating earthquakes that struck western Turkey in 1999, Professor Dole’s study will examine the divergent ways that experiences of suffering and recovery coincident with disaster take part in emerging arrangements of medical, political, religious, and economic authority.  The specific objectives of the larger project encompass: the long-term social and psychological impact of disaster; the role of state and non-state actors in the management of disaster, with particular attention to the role of transnational forms of scientific expertise; the globalization of psychiatric categories (that coincided with the flood of “trauma researchers” following the 1999 earthquakes); and the cultural elaboration of disaster scenarios and preparedness.  Interviews will be conducted with survivors of the 1999 earthquake; mental health care professionals treating earthquake survivors and involved in coordinating medical relief for future disaster; governmental agencies dedicated to disaster recovery and preparedness; and neighborhood organizations involved in managing disaster relief.

Judith Frank, Professor of English
Research Project: Noah’s Ark

Professor Frank will be finishing her novel, “Noah’s Ark,” during her fall sabbatical.  A novel about terrorism, bereavement, and parenting, and about the conflicted connections between Israel and American Jews, Noah’s Ark tells the story of an American gay couple: a Jewish man named Daniel Rosen, and his non-Jewish lover, Matthew Greene.  As the novel opens, Daniel’s twin brother and his wife, who lived in Jerusalem with their two small children, have been killed in a café bombing, and it is revealed that they designated Daniel and Matt the guardians of their children in the event of their deaths.  The men are planning to bring the children home to live with them in their small New England town. The novel is about the firestorm that erupts in the families when they find out that these bereaved children are going to be raised by American gay men, away from the Jewish homeland.  It is also about how to mourn a death from terrorism when the only cultural scripts available to these men, who strongly oppose the Israeli occupation, feel unusable, even toxic to them.  Finally, it recounts Daniel and Mat’s attempts to keep their relationship together while raising two grieving children, and while their sexual intimacy shuts down under the weight of Daniel’s inchoate sense of survivor guilt.  In the event that sets off the novel’s climax, Matt’s hunger for intimacy leads him to court danger, with profound effects on the fragile family that has been trying to heal. 

Jonathan Friedman, Associate Professor of Physics
Research Project: Quantum Phenomena of Single-Molecule Magnets and Superconducting Devices and their Applications in Information Processing 

Professor Friedman will be doing experimental and theoretical research in the quantum phenomena of single-molecule magnets and superconducting devices, and their applications in information processing.  He is spending the summer at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Ontario, as a Visiting Scientist, where he is working with some of the world’s experts in quantum phenomena and their application to quantum information science.  When he returns to Amherst in the fall, Friedman will delve into experimental work in his lab.  One project he is pursuing is to try to coax a crystal of single-molecule magnets (containing ~1016 individual nanomagnets) to collectively emit many photons simultaneously, a phenomenon called superradiance that is akin to the radiation emission process in lasers.  Microwave resonators for this and related projects are being fabricated in facilities at UMass and using a  National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded electron-beam evaporator at Amherst College.  Professor Friedman will also be working with his UMass graduate student (Yiming Chen) to see if a simple superconducting device can be made to behave like the famous double-slit experiment, in which two macroscopically distinct paths exhibit wave-like interference.  The theoretical work that Professor Friedman will do involves designing a specialized quantum computer for factoring or other classically hard computational problems. 

Betsey Garand, Senior Resident Artist, Art and the History of Art
Research Project:

Ms. Garand is working on a series of prints, drawings, and paintings.  Her artistic investigation draws upon the history of image making present in petroglyphs and pictographs. The layering of imagery is a reference to the multi-dimensional essence of memory and experience, the past with the present.  She will visit relevant sites in New England and Nova Scotia, including Kejimkujik Lake in Nova Scotia, Machias Bay and Embden in Maine, and the Swanton and Jericho’s Browns River in Vermont. This visual research will aid her understanding and knowledge of the importance of this visual language that was once used among all the five hundred Nations of people in North America.  The prints involve a variety of intaglio, relief, and stencil techniques, including drypoint, lift-ground aquatint, monoprint, monotype, woodcut and wood relief, and pochôir. In October, a solo exhibition of Ms. Garand’s recent work at the Dadapost Gallery in Berlin, Germany.

Caroline Goutte, Professor of Biology
Research Project: Molecular Genetic Research on Proteins that are Critical for Cell Communication

During her sabbatical, Professor Goutte will continue her molecular genetic research on proteins that are critical for cell communication.  Using the microscopic soil nematode C. elegans as a model system, she has been characterizing gene products that facilitate cell interactions, and analyzing how these proteins cooperate throughout the development of the worm.  Professor Goutte will spend part of her sabbatical preparing experimental results and writing a manuscript that presents findings about the regulation of the aph-1 gene product.  She will also prepare an NSF grant proposal that embarks on a new extension of her work, focusing on two C. elegans genes that encode presenilin proteins.  Presenilin proteins are critical for certain modes of cell communication, and in humans the malfunction of a presenilin protein is associated with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  In the laboratory, Professor Goutte will work with honors students on three different projects that are part of the ongoing research in her lab investigating the interactions of the aph-1 gene, the presenilin genes, and another gene known as aph-2.

Maria Heim, Associate Professor of Religion

Professor Heim will spend her semester sabbatical launching a new book-length project on the history of emotions in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism.  She works in sources in the Pali language, and particularly on a fifth century CE commentator named Buddhaghosa.  Her sabbatical will be spent doing translation work on Buddhaghosa’s commentaries.  The project has several fronts. First, it involves an area of interest of Professor Heim’s that has expended over the years, concerning methodological challenges in reading Buddhist commentaries. Part of her work on this commentator involves learning how to read Buddhist commentaries, which represent a vast and largely unexplored terrain in Buddhist studies. She will be working through the nature of Buddhaghosa’s exegetical principles, and may offer a separate publication on this topic. Secondly, her project on emotions involves studying Buddhaghosa’s treatment of particular emotional experiences, particularly some of those that do not appear to have clear correlates in English.  While the term “emotion” does not have any correlate in Pali, and it categorizes human experience in ways that might be unique to modern Western thought, it can provide an initial entry into the sort of questions in which she is interested.  These are questions about how certain affective experiences were named, described, and regarded as universal to human experience in the Buddhist sources.  

Leah Hewitt, Professor of French
Research Project: Borders Within: Cinematic Memorials of French Internment Camps      

France is a country of memorials and commemorations. And yet, until quite recently, there have been no large-scale constructions to commemorate the history of French internment camps (more than two hundred of them) from World War II.  Critical commemorations are now being added, however, to the panoply of heroic representations. This year and next, memorials and museums are opening at the ex-camps of Drancy and Les Milles; other projects are under way. President Hollande spoke pointedly of French responsibility in July 2012 at the seventieth anniversary of the infamous “Vél d'Hiv” roundup, noting that it was French police under Nazi orders who arrested 13,000 Jews, who were then crammed into the Paris cycling stadium (Vélodrome d’hiver) in appalling conditions before being deported to French camps and then to Auschwitz. Hollande’s acknowledgment of French participation in the deportations scandalized some on the political right. While historians have covered this ground fully, popular knowledge of the events has nevertheless lagged. Quite recently, however, several fictional and documentary films have portrayed both the roundup at the Vélodrome d’hiver and French internment camps. Furthering the work already carried out in her 2008 book remembering the Occupation in French Film, Professor Hewitt’s new project involves an analysis of these recent cinematic portrayals with an eye to the ways the memories of World War II become embroiled in issues of national identity. With deportations of Romas as “undesirables” in France under ex-President Sarkozy, and the imprisonment of undocumented immigrants, in general, the cinematic narratives of roundups and French camps articulate contemporary concerns involving national borders, citizenship and human rights.

Jenny Kallick, Professor of Music
Research Project: Production and Staging Development for ARCHITECT. A Chamber Opera.

Since the receiving an initial FRAP grant for the “Kahn Project,” Professor Kallick and her collaborators have completed the chamber opera—ARCHITECT. A Chamber Opera Inspired by the Life and Work of Louis Kahn;  a recording of the opera; and a video version, all of which will be released in fall 2012 by PARMA Recordings and NAXOS as a two-disc package with available digital downloads of performance materials and the ARCHITECT Sourcebook.  Professor Kallick and her collaborators are now in the planning phase for a staged performance. Various presenters have expressed interest, including graduate opera programs, professional companies, and Louis Kahn venues. The development of production designs, casting, and budget projections are under discussion with these various potential educational and professional partners. An exploration of these possibilities will also be a focus during visits to three Louis Kahn sites—Kimball Art Museum “at 40” (Fort Worth), FDR Memorial “Opening” (Roosevelt Island), and Yale Center for British Art (New Haven)—where the video version of ARCHITECT will be screened. Professor Kallick anticipates that these development-phase discussions will clarify the best choice of venue for the first staged production.

Peter Lobdell, Senior Resident Artist in Theater and Dance
Research Project:  Reflections upon Acting — Using the Dao De Ching as a Mirror.

Mr. Lobdell proposes to finish and publish his book “Reflections upon Acting—Using the Dao De Ching as a Mirror.” This book is a mixture of meditations on why one “acts” and a highly developed analysis of the paradox of the actor, illustrated by anecdotes of Mr. Lobdell’s experiences on Broadway, on tour, and abroad. In addition, he will write a new play that has been brewing in the back of his mind for several years. He can’t describe the play, he says, beyond including the list of the themes and sub-themes that he has on the wall by his desk in his studio.

Attraction and lust; the need to procreate/raise a child;
What to do when your husband will not/ cannot give
you a child; hetero/homosexuality; aging and time; loss
of a lover by AIDS; persistence of attraction and lust —
even when it is forbidden; friendship; memory;
the curiosity of the child about the parent; the eternal feminine;
creativity; success and mediocrity: art.

Trent Maxey, Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Civilizations and History
Research Project: Automotive Modernity: The Politics of Mobility in Twentieth-Century Japan

Professor Maxey’s current research explores the cultural history of the automobile, or “automobility” in twentieth-century Japan.  A wealth of interdisciplinary literature considers the way in which the automobile refracted and shaped individual subjectivity, constructions of gender, ideals of citizenship, as well as institutional discourses concerned with safety and liability in North America and Europe. The multivalent role of the car in twentieth-century Japan, however, remains largely unexplored. This project addresses the lacuna in part because the automobile looms large in Japan not just as a successful export commodity, but also as a dominant element of daily life through much of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Just as the jinrikisha and the railway colored the social experience of nineteenth-century Japan, the automobile also generated its share of cultural representation and social change. To the extent that automotive technology, like any form of technology, was discursively mediated and constructed, the automobile proved a significant nexus for social and political contestation and signification through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. A chronological arc organizes this project, beginning with the introduction of the automobile as an ill-fitting and rare mode of transportation, tracing its ascendance as an object of consumerist desire and mass ownership, and ending with its nadir as an object of desire. After serving as a reference point for personal success, the car has begun to function as a focal point for economic and demographic decline in Japan. This arc also corresponds to the arc of class-consciousness in twentieth-century Japan. Organized around this chronology, the project uses the changing meanings attached to the automobile to trace the cultural history of Japan through a century of dramatic political, economic, and environmental change.

Catherine McGeoch, Beitzel Professor in Technology and Society (Computer Science) Research Project:  The Internet and the Foundations of Computer Science

Professor McGeoch will spend her sabbatical as a Visiting Professor at the University of Massachusetts.  During that time, she plans to complete three publication projects, two large and one small. The main project is to finish an online book (an ebook) to accompany Demystifying the Internet,  a course that she has taught for several years.  The book explains fundamental computer science concepts that are illustrated at various layers of the Internet protocol stack—such binary codes for data compression (jpeg, gif,  mp3), deadlock-avoidance and other issues of protocol design,  compilation and the notion of closed vs. open source,  peer-to-peer vs. client-server networks,  public key cryptography,  and the PageRank algorithm.  The book will exploit the power of online publication with animations and interactive demonstrations of key concepts.   A second project, continuing her long-time interest in experimental algorithmics, involves  simulation experiments to evaluate mechanisms for online auctions. A mechanism defines the rules of the auction:  for example, eBay uses a variation on the second-price mechanism, where the winner pays an amount slightly higher than the second-highest bid.  “Optimal'” mechanisms, which maximize expected revenue to the seller, have been proposed.  Some are NP-hard to compute, which means that approximation mechanisms are likely to be needed in practice.  Experiments are ongoing to compare the merits of optimal and approximation mechanisms in realistic bidding scenarios. The third project involves data analysis to compare the predictability of shootout, overtime, and regulation play in NHL hockey games.  The perceived “randomness” in shootouts appears to be explained by the fact that a higher percentage of shootout games are played between evenly-matched teams, and that games between well-matched teams are harder to predict, no matter what format is used. 

Ronald Rosbottom, Winifred L. Arms Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Professor of French and European Studies
Research Project: When Paris Went Dark

Professor Rosbottom will use his leave to complete a project that he has been working on for a decade: the German Occupation of Paris, 1940-1944. One of the most often asked questions about the Occupation of Paris concerns how and when its citizens resisted the imposition of a foreign host. Why was the city surrendered without a shot being fired? What sort of organized resistance developed? How unified were the different groups who did resist? What forms did that resistance take, and why was it not more successful? In the end, is it true that the French were more passive than active in their acceptance of German authority? The main character of this book is Paris, both the geo-political site as well as the imagined one. There are many, many references here to specific streets and boulevards, Métro stops, neighborhoods, monuments, restaurants, cafés, churches, museums, cemeteries, parks, hotels and so forth. In some ways, this is a retroactive guidebook, for the city that the Nazis occupied has not changed much in the last seventy years. The other story is how two complex national and cultural entities—Parisians and Germans—reacted to each other, how they lived in an intimate embrace where the moves or caresses of one brought forth a reaction from the other, and so on. Neither was strong enough to control the other, but slowly, because of fatigue rather than strength, one finally manages to break away. The story of the Occupation of Paris fascinates us the same way that fictional works imagining the Nazi occupation of London or New York do. How can a city so well known— thanks to poetry, fiction, history, film, painting, photography, postcards, songs and the innumerably recounted visits of thousands upon thousands of world tourists—adapt to a sudden jolt that, unlike an earthquake or even a plague, lasts much, much longer than expected? The reader asks: what about the neighborhood where I stayed as a student? What about that cinema I went to so often? What about my favorite park? What would I have done had my neighbor asked for help? How did such a familiar environment become uncanny, and then how does one adapt to that sense of strangeness, even of danger? The tale is a universal one.

Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture (Spanish)
Research Project: Jewish life in Latin America: Fifteenth Century to the Present

Professor Ilan Stavans will write a book exploring Jewish life in Latin America from the end of the fifteenth century to the present. There are approximately half a million Jews in the region today: 220,000 in Argentina, 160,000 in Brazil, and the rest, in descending order, in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, and the countries that make the rest of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking confederation of American states. About half of all these Jews are of Sephardic descent, and the rest are Ashkenazi. Professor Stavans has already visited all the nations in the region, many of them on numerous occasions, and has accessed for different projects a variety of legal, governmental, and personal documents dating from the colonial period to the present. These documents explain how the Jews came to settle in these shores. Tentatively called “A Journey through Jewish Latin America,” the book he will write will look at the history, politics, and culture of the Jews in Latin America in chronological order through a thematic prism. Professor Stavans’s plan is to travel back and interview major players (rabbis, community leaders, journalists, politicians, teachers, lawyers, doctors, writers, and TV personalities) in order to create a thorough, objective picture of Jewish life in the region. The interviewee comments will be interwoven, producing a composite that also uses historical analysis and personal reflections.

Martha Umphrey, Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

Information to come