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Event Calendar

Wed, Feb 10, 2021

Headshot of Allison Formanack

CHI Salon: "Worthless: An Ethnography of Devaluation and Domecide in a Midwestern Trailer Park"

Manufactured homes (MHs), better known as “mobile homes” or “trailers,” house an estimated 22 million Americans; however, fewer than 25 percent of all manufactured homes are titled as real estate. Classifying their homes as personal property is the only option for the estimated 7 million residents living in approximately 50,000 mobile home communities (MHCs) across the United States. Although over 90 percent of MHs never move once sited, most municipalities restrict MHs to MHCs, where resident landownership is prohibited.

Drawing on 28 months of ethnographic research in urban MHCs in Lincoln, Neb., in this talk, 2019-20 CHI Fellow Allison Formanack describes how mobile-homeowners create symbolic-- if not economic --value in their homes. As these case studies reveal, the affective labor of home-making produces a hybrid identity-- that is, a deeply meaningful relationship between “home” and “owner” that is as often destructive as it is beneficial.

Allison Formanack is an incoming assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Southern Mississippi. A cultural anthropologist, Dr. Formanack considers the process by which pollution, ruin and “trashiness” is transferred from home to resident in the context of the most maligned housing type in the United States: the “mobile” or “trailer” home. Drawn from 28 months of ethnographic fieldwork in urban mobile home communities in Nebraska, her work finds that immaterial systems of law and finance conditions the materiality of categorically ambiguous “mobile” housing. This creates a state of “im/permanence,” or imposed temporariness, which threatens the rights and well-being of an estimated 22 million mobile-homeowners. She is currently working on a book project based on this work, Mobile Home on the Range: Manufacturing Ruin and Respect in an American Zone of Abandonment. Dr. Formanack received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Colorado Boulder, where her research received support from from the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, among other organizations.

Registration Required

Fri, Feb 12, 2021

Hired Guns? The Politics of Foreign Interventions

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm Held Via Zoom, Zoom Link: https://amherstcollege.zoom.u

The Faculty Colloquium Series for 2020-21 presents a lecture entitled "Hired Guns? The Politics of Foreign Interventions" presented by Eleonora Mattiacci, Assistant Professor of Political Science. This lecture will be held via Zoom (see link below). Faculty Colloquium events are sponsored by a group of faculty colleagues who meet informally with the purpose of supporting and promoting the College’s commitment to faculty research. The event is open to the Amherst College Community. For more information about the Faculty Colloquium Series please visit this link


Wed, Feb 17, 2021

Headshot of Jennifer Hamilton

CHI Salon: "The Indian in the Freezer: The Genomic Quest for Indigeneity"

4:30 pm - 5:30 pm Virtual, Zoom

Visiting Professor of Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies Jennifer Hamilton will present her new book manuscript, The Indian in the Freezer: The Genomic Quest for Indigeneity (under contract with the University of Washington Press). The book explores what she terms “the genomic quest for indigeneity,” and follows people, scientific objects, biomedical discourses and capital over time and in space in order to provide a rich ethnographic account of how race, sex and sexuality continue to inform and shape contemporary biomedical inquiry. Hamilton argues that indigeneity is a productive category, particularly in terms of how genomics is imagined. She does the empirical work of tracing how indigeneity circulates and how it impacts the creation of diagnostic technologies and therapeutics as part of a larger intervention in ongoing discussions of how and why health disparities cannot be reduced to naturalized narratives of biological difference. The overall point of the book is to take seriously that if we accept, possibly embrace, the speculative and contingent yet material and consequential dimensions of genomics and the life sciences more broadly, we can potentially shift scientific modes of inquiry to be more inclusive of other possible worlds.

Registration Required

Wed, Feb 24, 2021

Thumbnail image of the book cover. The title is at the top with an image of Hitler below.

CHI Salon: "Spain, the Second World War and the Holocaust"

Join editors Gina Herrmann and Sara J. Brenneis in a discussion of the new publication Spain, the Second World War and the Holocaust: History and Representation (University of Toronto Press, 2020). Herrmann and Brenneis brought together over 30 international experts around the topic of Spain's involvement in World War II, combining the vantage point of Jews who fled Nazi persecution through the Iberian Peninsula, Spaniards who were directly involved in the war and/or imprisoned in Nazi camps, and artists who have created representations of this historical period and its actors. The waves of people-- Jewish refugees and Spanish antifascists alike --who moved across borders, through concentration camps and into exile press us to consider what "home" meant during a moment of unparalleled global strife.

The editors will speak about this collection as the first volume to take this kind of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural view of the period, consider how the volume came together, and discuss some of the more extraordinary takeaways from the book.

Gina Herrmann is a Norman H. Brown Faculty Fellow, professor of Spanish and director of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at the University of Oregon, Eugene. Sara Brenneis is professor of Spanish and department chair at Amherst College.

This event is co-sponsored by the Departments of Spanish and European Studies at Amherst College. Pre-registration is required.

Please note this event will be recorded.

Registration Required

Wed, Mar 24, 2021

portrait of Laure Thompson

CHI Salon: A Symbiotic Future for Machine Learning and the Humanities

4:30 pm - 5:30 pm Virtual, Zoom

Computational methods can help the humanities by making massive cultural heritage collections more explorable and analyzable. Machine learning and statistical methods provide an opportunity to view collections from alien, defamiliarized perspectives that can call into question the boundaries between established categories. But the converse is also true; the humanities have much to offer machine learning. The use of computational methods within humanities scholarship often tests and expands the affordances of these methods. The complexities and idiosyncrasies of humanities collections can improve our understanding of what models learn and how we might direct what they learn.
In this talk, Laure Thompson will discuss how machine learning and the humanities help each other. She will demonstrate how convolutional neural networks can be used as an exploratory tool to ask "What is Dada?" Then, she will show how science fiction novels highlight the way topic models tend to learn author- and series-oriented discourses, and how they have inspired a method for directing these models towards more cross-cutting themes. Finally, Thompson will briefly describe how these two lines of work are being combined to enable the study of magical gems, an art historic category of engraved gemstones from the Greco-Roman world.

Laure Thompson is an Assistant Professor in the College of Information & Computer Sciences at UMass Amherst. This talk will be introduced and facilitated by Lee Spector, Visiting Professor of Computer Science.

Co-sponsored and funded by the Artificial Intelligence in the Liberal Arts Initiative.

Registration Required

Wed, Mar 31, 2021

portrait of Ashlie Sandoval

CHI Salon: Engaging with the Failures of Racial Empathy

4:30 pm - 5:30 pm Virtual, Zoom

In this talk, CHI Fellow Ashlie Sandoval examines the limitations of empathy to think through its role in struggles for racial justice. Scholars, tech entrepreneurs, and media pundits are calling for an increase in empathy, in the face of media attention that has recently spotlighted police brutality, racialized COVID-19 deaths, and the renewed visibility of white supremacy groups. To develop non-Black individuals’ capacity to undo racial injustice, specifically the daily violence experienced by Black people, some have turned to virtual reality to instill empathy, claiming that it may move viewers beyond feelings of pity to feeling accountable to dismantle racism. However, is racial empathy possible? And what can we expect from it? Examining philosophical critiques of empathy’s capabilities in the context of anti-Black racism, Sandoval focuses on what empathy’s limitations might tell us about the emotional and material structures that prevent empathy from achieving the results its advocates often hope for.

Registration Required