Event Calendar

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Thu, Feb 6, 2020

Film still from "Girlfriends," showing two women facing each other and smiling as they sit on a couch in front of a fireplace

Helene Keyssar Lecture: "The Girlfriend Film: Affection and Affiliation" with Melissa Hardie

Long before the Bechdel Test codified and implicitly critiqued the failure of films to make female interaction the focal point of narrative activity, Fred Zinnemann’s 1977 Julia and Claudia Weill’s 1978 Girlfriends both described the difficulty of conceptualizing female affiliation in narrative as well as visual sequences. Within widely different industrial and political contexts, they each narrated the ways in which explicit interdiction and other forms of “sororophobia” arise as forms of plot advancement and affective dislocation in the lives of paired female friends. In Julia, the adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s memoir foreshadows as public historical and political allegory this separation or dislocation. In Girlfriends, the focus is personal and intimate, although the premise of the plot is also that this interdiction is a political and aesthetic matter. In both, an endeavor to separate affection from desire is gestured at as a condition of affection. This lecture will explore the ways in which women, in historical fact or imaginative revision, can be brought together as girlfriends.

Melissa Hardie is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Sydney. Much of her work considers “novel objects,” bridging modernist to contemporary textual practices to find unexpected areas of connection between what are usually thought of as discrete periods, practices or genres. Her recent essays have turned to Marielle Heller’s 2018 film Can You Ever Forgive Me?, about writer Lee Israel; texts by filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and novelist Djuna Barnes; and George Cukor’s last film, Rich and Famous, which narrates the friendship of two women writers. Her current book investigates how the closet is a critical vector in the remediation of forms of confession and disclosure, focusing on television, cinema, memoir and the starlet. She is also co-editing a book on Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls with Meaghan Morris and Kane Race. Hardie is driven by an ethos of inclusivity, which means she focuses on the underexplored and underrepresented edges of canons and how fields are transformed when inclusion and diversity are made central concerns.

A reception will follow.

Statistics Colloquium: "Tackling Disparities in Genetics Research: Building the Research and Researchers Together" - Lori Chibnik

Since the sequencing of the first human genome, over 30,000 disease-associated variants have been identified, the majority through genome-wide association studies. While these advances in our understanding of how genetics contribute to disease risk are now being used to inform translational research, including development of therapeutics and genetic risk screening, large-scale genetic studies have primarily used only genomes with European ancestry. If this pattern continues, advances in genetics will be limited, with the ensuing risk that therapeutic innovations leave out large segments of the global population. In addition, genetic risk scores, having been developed primarily on European genomes, do not translate to other populations, thus leading to many false positives and negatives. Expanding study collections to other populations will help alleviate some of these disparities, however without engaging scientists and physicians on all levels and providing them with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform these studies in their populations, there is a significant risk that the findings will again result in a widening of the massive research and treatment gaps with the rest of the world.

Using research on major mental health disorders, including schizophrenia and psychosis as examples, this talk will discuss work being done in the Neuropsychiatric Genetics of African Populations-Psychosis (NeuroGAP-Psychosis), a study which began collection in 2018 and aims to collect DNA and phenotypic data from over 17,000 cases (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) and 17,000 controls from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. I will present preliminary findings and highlight the development and implementation of a partner-training and capacity-building program, the Global Initiative for Neuropsychiatric Education in Research (GINGER), which focuses on building the next generation of computational genetics researchers in East and South Africa.

Lori Chibnik, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a biostatistician and assistant professor with an appointment in the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Math Colloquium: "Unsupervised Clustering, Harmonic Analysis and Applications" - James Murphy

Machine learning is revolutionizing the sciences, but most existing methods require large amounts of human-generated training data to succeed. In this talk, we will introduce the unsupervised clustering problem, which requires an algorithm to make predictions without training data. We will discuss some classical methods for clustering before introducing a couple of new approaches. Throughout, connections with graph theory, Fourier analysis and probability theory will be developed. We will also demonstrate
applications to image processing and remote sensing.

James M. Murphy is an assistant professor of mathematics at Tufts University. His research interests include theoretical machine learning and applied harmonic analysis. He works on problems in unsupervised and semi-supervised learning, high-dimensional probability theory, image and signal processing, graph theory and frame theory.

Event poster featuring photos of Westover and Jack and their respective book covers

"What Would Equality in Education Look Like?": A Conversation with Tara Westover and Tony Jack ’07

Tara Westover and Anthony Jack ’07 will discuss “What Would Equality in Education Look Like?” in a conversation moderated by Professor Leah Schmalzbauer. A book signing will follow this event.

Tara Westover is an American historian and writer known for her unique and courageous education journey. She was born to Mormon survivalist parents opposed to public education. Tara never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother... until Tara decided to get an education and experience the world outside of her community. Tara taught herself enough mathematics, grammar and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. She was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom and continued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from BYU in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an M.Phil. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a Ph.D. in history in 2014. Her new book, Educated, is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a story that gets to the heart of what education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it. Tara argues that education is not just about job training, but a powerful tool of self-invention. Educated was long-listed for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and has spent 32 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Former U.S. President Barack Obama named Educated as one of the books on his summer reading list of 2018.

Anthony Jack ’07, sociologist and assistant professor of education at Harvard University, is transforming the way we address diversity and inclusion in education. His new book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, reframes the conversation surrounding poverty and higher education. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what Jack calls the “doubly disadvantaged”—students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Although both groups come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the privileged poor have more cultural capital to navigate and succeed—in the college environment and beyond.

This event is funded by the Croxton Lecture Fund.