Event Calendar

February 2021

Mon, Feb 8, 2021

"Amherst Faculty in the Public Arena in the Trump Era and Beyond"

The Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and the Amherst College Press invite the Amherst College community to a panel discussion moderated by Professor Austin Sarat, with faculty members who will explore the motives that led them to take on a public role in their writing. Presenters will be professors Lawrence Douglas, Javier Corrales, Catherine Sanderson, Eleonora Mattiacci, Pawan Dhingra and Ilan Stavans.

Register in advance:

Wed, Feb 10, 2021

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 https://www.amherst.edu/mm/597044


Mon, Feb 15, 2021

Research image of Drosophila marked with intersecting lines and dots

Biology Monday Seminar: Walking and Singing: The Neurobiology of Multitasking in Drosophila"

4:00 pm Virtual

Osama Ahmed, Ph.D., Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, will speak on "Walking and Singing: The Neurobiology of Multitasking in Drosophila."

Locomotion, such as walking or flying, is vitally important for the survival and fitness of practically all animals, and regularly occurs in tandem with other motor actions. Human locomotion, for example, may occur concurrently with talking, and similarly, Drosophila flies can walk and produce complex acoustic signals called “courtship songs.” While many components of the neural circuits that control either walking or singing have been identified, the neural substrates that couple these behaviors during multitasking are entirely unknown. Here, I show how Drosophila courtship behavior can be leveraged as a neuroethological model for studying multitasking. During courtship, male flies must attend to and keep up with their potential mates, all the while producing the right songs at the right times by correctly vibrating their wings. My results show that fly chase-and-stop courtship sequences exhibit hallmarks of multitasking: male flies either walk, or sing, or perform both behaviors simultaneously. Through optogenetic activation of locomotor neurons in freely courting male flies and new machine-learning methods for automated behavioral analysis, I reveal performance differences in how flies walk or sing (single-tasking) compared to when they walk and sing (multitasking). These results demonstrate that the fly courtship model is an advantageous and promising framework for characterizing and testing the neurogenetic control of multitasking. These experiments provide a strong foundation and entry point for probing circuit mechanisms that underlie multitasking via brain-wide neural recordings in behaving animals. Identifying these mechanisms will inform our understanding of how neural pathways interact to control, or limit, behavioral simultaneity.

Persons from the college community that wish to attend should please register by sending an email request to the Biology ADC, Karen Racz, who will provide the Zoom link to the event.

Wed, Feb 17, 2021

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

Thu, Feb 18, 2021

Event poster featuring a black-and-white photo of Jason Moran against a purple background

Rapaport Lecture: Jason Moran, "The Sound Will Tell You"

This year’s Rapaport Lecture will feature jazz pianist, composer and artist Jason Moran, the artistic director for jazz at The Kennedy Center. Moran was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2010. He has recorded 16 solo albums, with the most recent being his third solo piano recording, titled The Sound Will Tell You.

To attend, please register in advance: https://amherstcollege.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_bArSNWdMQyGOSCejVqgOBg

Registration Required

Fri, Feb 19, 2021

Cheminar: Professor Robert Gilliard, University of Virginia: "Electronic Tuning in the Main-Group: From Subvalent Organometallics to Novel π-Electron Materials"

3:30 pm - 4:30 pm Via Zoom Link

Abstract: Research efforts in the Gilliard laboratory span diverse areas of chemical synthesis related to the activation of inert chemical bonds, energy storage and molecular hybrid materials chemistry. Our work with s-block metals has resulted in a number of advances in the low-valent and hydridic chemistry of the alkaline earth metals (e.g., beryllium, magnesium), including molecular models for hydrogen storage. Recently, we have begun to study heterocycles “doped” with p-block elements for the development of new π-electron materials with unusual bonding and photophysical properties. This has led to the first examples of pyrene-fused N-heterocyclic germylenes and boranes, thermochromic and thermoluminescent borafluorene materials, and stable borafluorene radicals. Our primary goal has been to isolate molecules in rare electronic states and to provide a link between structure and function. This presentation will highlight our most recent results in these research areas.

Wed, Feb 24, 2021

Image from the book cover of Hitler writing.

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

Thu, Feb 25, 2021

Freedom Speaking Competition photo with black silhouettes of birds flying in a sunset sky

FREEDOM! Amherst College's Annual Speaking Competition

Please support student speakers by attending FREEDOM: Amherst College’s remote speaking competition. Students from all four class years have written persuasive speeches about this year’s theme, “FREEDOM,” and will speak compellingly about what matters to them. Speaking prizes will be awarded at the conclusion of the event. Please Zoom in to cheer on these FREEDOM speakers on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 4 to 5:15 p.m.

Pre-registration is required for this webinar event. Please register here:

Registration Required

Fri, Feb 26, 2021

Book jackets for books by this year's LitFest authors

A Conversation with 2020 National Book Award Winner Charles Yu and Nominee Megha Majumdar

7:00 pm Virtual

Join Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint for a conversation with National Book Award winner Charles Yu and nominee Megha Majumdar, with a welcome from President Biddy Martin. This virtual event, hosted in partnership with the National Book Foundation, is open to the general public and will be followed by a Q&A.

Charles Yu is the author of four books, including Interior Chinatown, winner of the 2020 National Book Award. He received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for his work on the HBO series Westworld. He has also written for shows on FX, AMC and HBO. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.

Megha Majumdar was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, where she was a Traub Scholar, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an associate editor at Catapult and lives in New York City. A Burning, her first book, was longlisted for the National Book Award and was named a top book of the year by the New York Public Library and NPR.

Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint is the author of a novel, The End of Peril, the End of Enmity, the End of Strife, a Haven, which won a 2018 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Her second book, Names for Light: A Family History, was the winner of the 2018 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and is forthcoming from Graywolf Press this August. Myint was the recipient of a Fulbright grant to Spain and holds an M.F.A. from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Denver. She is currently a visiting writer at Amherst College.

Registration Required

Sat, Feb 27, 2021

book covers from LitFest authors

A Conversation with 2020 National Book Award for Poetry Finalists Tommye Blount and Natalie Diaz

11:00 am Virtual

Join John Hennessy for a conversation with National Book Award for Poetry Finalists Tommye Blount and Natalie Diaz. This virtual event, hosted in partnership with the National Book Foundation, is open to the general public and will be followed by a Q&A.

Tommye Blount is the author of Fantasia for the Man in Blue (Four Way Books, 2020)—a finalist for the National Book Award—and the chapbook What Are We Not For (Bull City Press, 2016). A Cave Canem alumnus and graduate from Warren Wilson College, he has been the recipient of a fellowship from Kresge Arts in Detroit and the John Atherton Scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Blount’s work has been featured in Magma, Poetry, New England Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Ecotone, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review and elsewhere. Born and raised in Detroit, Blount now lives in the nearby suburb of Novi, Mich.

Natalie Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press, and her second book, Postcolonial Love Poem, was published by Graywolf Press in March 2020. She is a MacArthur Fellow, a Lannan Literary Fellow, a United States Artists Ford Fellow and a Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Artist Fellow. Diaz is director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands and is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University. She lives in Phoenix, Ariz.

John Hennessy is the author of two poetry collections, Bridge and Tunnel and Coney Island Pilgrims, and his poems appear in The Believer, Best American Poetry, Harvard Review, The New Republic, Poetry, The Poetry Review (UK), Poetry Ireland Review and other journals and anthologies. He is the co-translator, with Ostap Kin, of A New Orthography, selected poems by Serhiy Zhadan, longlisted for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, 2021; Hennessy and Kin won the John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize for Translation from Poetry magazine for work included in this book. A former Amy Clampitt Resident Fellow, Hennessy is the poetry editor of The Common and director of undergraduate creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Registration Required
LitFest 2021 Wordmark

Emily Dickinson’s Amherst College

2:00 pm Virtual

In partnership with Amherst College’s Bicentennial, join Museum staff for a talk about the impact of the College on the life of poet Emily Dickinson. The Dickinson family was instrumental to the College during its first 75 years, beginning with Samuel Fowler Dickinson’s part in its founding and continuing with Edward and Austin’s combined 60 years of service as treasurers. The College was an early and lasting influence in Emily’s life, playing an inestimable role in her early education and friendships, and later connecting her to an ever-widening local and global community. Through original photographs and archival documents, encounter some of the people and places that defined the Dickinsons’ 19th-century Amherst College, including students, professors, workers and alumni.

Registration Required
LitFest 2021 Wordmark

Readings by The Common's Literary Publishing Interns: Amherst Students Share Their Own Creative Work

4:30 pm Virtual

Jennifer Acker ’00 will host readings by The Common's the literary publishing interns: Olive Amdur '23, Sofia Belimova '22, Eliza Brewer '22, Whitney Bruno '21, Elly Hong ’21 and Isabel Meyers ’20.

Jennifer Acker ’00 is founder and editor-in-chief of The Common and author of the debut novel The Limits of the World. Her short stories, essays, translations and reviews have appeared in Amazon Original Stories, The Washington Post, Literary Hub, n+1, Guernica, The Yale Review and Ploughshares, among other places. Acker has an M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches writing and editing at Amherst College, where she directs the Literary Publishing Internship and LitFest.

Registration Required
LitFest 2021 Wordmark

Alumni Authors Cocktail Hour Reading

5:00 pm Virtual

Jennifer Acker ’00 will host brief readings by Calvin Baker '94, Chris Bohjalian '82, Dan Chiasson '93, Edward A. Farmer '05, Michael Gorra '79, Kirun Kapur '97, Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne '01 and Ismée Williams '95. A Q&A to follow.

Acker ’00 is founder and editor-in-chief of The Common and author of the debut novel The Limits of the World. Her short stories, essays, translations and reviews have appeared in Amazon Original Stories, The Washington Post, Literary Hub, n+1, Guernica, The Yale Review and Ploughshares, among other places. Acker has an M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches writing and editing at Amherst College, where she directs the Literary Publishing Internship and LitFest.

Registration Required

Sun, Feb 28, 2021

LitFest 2021 Wordmark

The Poet’s Prose: Rereading Joseph Brodsky’s Essays Today

11:00 am Virtual

This LitFest event features Professors Polina Barskova and Catherine Ciepiela ’83, in conversation with Christopher Benfey, Sven Birkerts and Jonathan Galassi about the prose works of the Nobel Prize Winner and 5-Colleges Literature Professor Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996). This event is hosted in partnership with the Amherst Center for Russian Culture.

Polina Barskova is a poet and a scholar, author of 12 collections of poems and two books of prose in Russian. She has also authored a monograph, Besieged Leningrad: Aesthetic Responses to Urban Disaster (2017), and edited three scholarly volumes. Her collection of creative nonfiction, Living Pictures, received the Andrei Bely Prize in 2015; it was published in German by Suhrkamp Verlag and is forthcoming in English from New York Review Books. Barskova edited the Leningrad Siege poetry anthology Written in the Dark (Ugly Duckling Presse) and has four collections of poetry published in English translation: This Lamentable City (Tupelo Press), The Zoo in Winter (Melville House), Relocations (Zephyr Press) and Air Raid (forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse). She has taught at Hampshire College, Amherst College and Smith College. Starting in 2021, she will be teaching Russian literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

Catherine Ciepiela ’83 is a scholar and translator of Russian poetry who teaches at Amherst College. She is the author of The Same Solitude, a book on Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak; co-editor, with Honor Moore, of the anthology The Stray Dog Cabaret; and editor of Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets. Her translations have appeared in The Nation, The Massachusetts Review, Seneca Review, The Common, Pequod and elsewhere. Her translation of Polina Barskova’s book of poetic essays will appear in the coming year from the New York Review of Books.

Christopher Benfey is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. He is the author of five books about the American Gilded Age, including A Summer of Hummingbirds, which won both the 2009 Christian Gauss Award of Phi Beta Kappa and the Ambassador Book Award. A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, Benfey is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2013, he won the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which is given to a writer whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style.

Sven Birkerts is the author of 11 books, most recently an appreciation of Nabokov’s Speak, Memory (Ig Publishing). He co-edits the literary journal AGNI at Boston University, and was for many years the director of the Bennington Writing Seminars. He interviewed Joseph Brodsky for The Paris Review.

Jonathan Galassi has been at Farrar, Straus & Giroux since 1986 and currently serves as president. His most recent publication is a translation of Eugenio Montale’s selected poems (part of the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series, 2020).

Registration Required
LitFest Book Covers

A Conversation with Pulitzer Prize Winner Anne Applebaum

1:00 pm Virtual

Join Pulitzer Prize Winner Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy in conversation with host Cullen Murphy '74 H'19. This virtual event, hosted in partnership with the National Book Foundation, is open to the general public and will be followed by a Q&A.

Anne Applebaum is a staff writer for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where she runs a project on 21st-century disinformation. She was a Washington Post columnist for 15 years and a member of the editorial board. She is the author of several history books, including Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956 and Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. Her newest book, Twilight of Democracy, appeared in July 2020. Her writing has also appeared in many publications, including The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, among many others.

Cullen Murphy ’74 is editor-at-large of The Atlantic where he has spent most of his career, and a former editor-at-large of Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe, a memoir about the large cartoonist colony in Fairfield County, Conn. His other books include Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and The Fate of America and God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World. For 25 years he collaborated with his father, illustrator John Cullen Murphy, on the comic strip Prince Valiant. Murphy was a longtime member of Amherst College’s board of trustees and chaired the board from 2012 to 2018. He lives in Massachusetts.

Registration Required