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Amherst Virtual Lecture Series

The Virtual Lecture Series will resume in October – stay tuned for this fall’s topics!

Have a suggestion for a virtual lecture? Please let us know!


The Virtual Lecture Series are one-hour virtual lectures held during the academic year featuring Amherst College professors and alumni discussing their area of expertise and research. Each lecturer will speak for 30-35 minutes and will then take questions from listeners for 20-25 minutes.
Questions, comments or suggestions? Please contact Carly Nartowicz at cnartowicz@amherst.edu.


Amherst Lecture Series Archive

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[2014-2015 Amherst Virtual Lecture Series]Expanding Amherst’s Scholarly Impact: Establishing the Amherst College Press

Mark Edington
Director of the Amherst College Press

Friday, January 30, 2015

Why should Amherst College launch a new scholarly press? Does a liberal arts college have any business entering a field typically the domain of large research universities? What change might come in the world of scholarship by committing ourselves to this mission — and how can it expand the impact of the college in the years ahead? Mark Edington, the director of the newly launched Amherst College Press, will offer a presentation addressing these questions and the future of the Press.

Supplemental Materials:


Children's Surprising Expectations about Pointing and Pointers

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Professor Carrie Palmquist
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Friday, November 21, 2014

Many cognitive developmentalists believe that humans are uniquely adapted to teach and learn from others. One way we go about doing this is by paying close attention to the information that others provide us. Interestingly, even very young children are sensitive to certain cues that humans use to indicate that they are sharing important information (e.g., child-directed speech, pointing, eye contact, etc.). This talk will focus specifically on children's sensitivity to one cue in particular: pointing, and how this gesture affects children's learning and interactions with others. 

Interested in learning more prior to the lecture? Prof. Palmquist explored these topics in a recent upper-level Amherst seminar on "Development of Nonverbal Communiciation." 

Changes in the American Health Care System

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Dr. Paul Rothman P'15
Dean and CEO of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

October 24, 2014

Dr. Paul Rothman P'15, dean and CEO of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will discuss the current state of our nation's health care and the changes  in the health care industry with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  He will project how these changes may affect the both the delivery of care in the future and the careers of future health care providers. Finally, he will describe the training of physicians and how changes in health care may affect this training and careers.

Food, Sex, and a Hummingbird: The purple-throated carib of the Lesser Antilles

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[2012-2013 Amherst Virtual Lecture Series]

Ethan Temeles
Thomas B. Walton, Jr. Memorial Professor of Biology

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sexual differences in size and morphology are widespread in animals. Charles Darwin drew attention to these differences and offered explanations for their evolution based on mate competition and mate choice, reproductive roles, and competition for food resources. Although ample evidence has been obtained for the roles of mating behavior and reproductive roles in the evolution of sex differences, little evidence exists for the role of food competition in the evolution of sex differences. Prof. Temeles will discuss his ground-breaking research on sexual dimorphism and food competition in the purple-throated carib hummingbird, and the role hummingbirds have played in shaping our understanding of sex differences. His lecture also will feature beautiful photographs and videos of hummingbirds of the Eastern Caribbean.

Supplemental Materials:

Guns, Militias and the Second Amendment

Kevin Sweeney
Professor of American Studies and History

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Professor Kevin Sweeney’s talk examines the origins of the Second Amendment in light of both the possession and use of firearms in colonial America and of on-going efforts during the late 1700s to reorganize and re-arm state militias. Even though the ownership of firearms was widespread, political leaders debated how best to insure militiamen had the right kind of firearm and the necessary training to use it. The Federalists who shaped the Second Amendment were more concerned about securing muskets to insure the nation's defense than in protecting an individual's right to own a hand gun for self-defense.

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What's Become of Privacy? Old Values, New Realities

Professor Austin Sarat
William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science; Associate Dean of the Faculty

April 24, 2014

Professor Austin Sarat considers what we mean when we talk about privacy and what values privacy denotes. Is privacy simply a negative guarantee or does it name anything affirmative? If privacy is the "right to be let alone" what happens to it in an era in which we willingly disclose so much about ourselves? Do claims of privacy come at too high a cost in a world of threat and danger? By considering some of the traditional values associated with privacy we may be in a better position to assess its continuing meaning in today's world.

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Cinephilia and Everyday Life

Amelie Hastie ProfileProfessor Amelie Hastie
Professor of English and Film and Media Studies; Chair of Film and Media Studies

March 28, 2014

Professor Hastie's talk combines the central themes of two classes she regularly teaches at Amherst, "Cinephilia" and "Cinema and Everyday Life," and draws on examples from contemporary global cinema. One of the biggest challenges in teaching film as a medium and as a discipline to be studied is the sense of familiarity students already have with the form. One central disciplinary thrust is to defamiliarize ourselves from film in order to introduce "critical thinking." For students new to film studies, this approach often means, as famous film theorist Christian Metz once put it, of "no longer loving the cinema."

Professor Hastie invites the audience to think through their love of film as a method of creative critical and theoretical practice. Doing so still requires a kind of defamiliarization with film, or at least an agreement to enter into an experience that may, indeed, be "new." Our encounter with film - through love or hate, joy or terror, thrill or boredom - allows us to think with film, not merely through or against it. In the best of cases, our love for film can become a kind of love for the world; that love does not delimit critical practice but, in fact, enables it.

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Why Anthropologists Study Food (and I, Instant Noodles)

Dr. Deborah Gewertz
G. Henry Whitcomb Professor of Anthropology
February 28, 2014

The anthropology of food does far more than celebrate the world’s various foodways.  In this lecture, Deborah Gewertz will show that anthropologists study food because of its cross-cultural significance in, for example, creating groups, building kinship, defining the holy, verifying personal and moral value, and shaping relations of equality and inequality.  As she will illustrate with her recent research about instant ramen noodles worldwide, what one eats, when one eats, with whom one eats, how one eats, and how one acquires what one eats are all socially, culturally, economically, and politically impelled.   That is, food (including its absence in such phenomena as famine and eating disorders) can only be fully understood within a broad—dare we say anthropological context.

Listen to audio from the lecture:

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