February 21, 2014

Speed Dating with the Independent Scholars at the Jones

Tuesday, February 25, 7pm
Woodbury Room of the Jones Library

There are a lot of scholars in the area who aren't affiliated with one of the Five Colleges, doing interesting and valuable research on a wide variety of topics.  Join us for a fun evening of information and discovery in a speed dating format - each scholar will have about 10 minutes to give a short presentation about the research and work they are doing in their chosen field.   

The following scholars will present briefly on their current research topics:

·         Emily Monosson, biology
Unnatural Selection: How Our Chemical World is Changing Life, and Why We Should Care
Life is far more fluid than once thought, and our actions, whether altering landscapes and climate or influencing earth's chemical environment with our industrial age chemicals, is driving evolution with unknowable consequences. When we developed antibiotics, drugs, and vaccines, we exerted evolutionary pressure on the organisms in the world, and they adapted as a result. If we want to maintain our current advantage over rapidly-evolving species like pathogens and insects or avoid becoming ill-adapted to our own environment, we must give the evolutionary process its due respect.

·         Mary Hannah Henderson, anthropology
Building Bridges: Story in Democratic Practice
My research and teaching focuses on how people enact democratic values and practices through participation in social justice movements, and particularly on the role of narrative in building agency and leadership.  Against cultural landscapes of inequity, divisive politics, and fear-mongering, what moves activists to commit to the work of social change?  How can communities building movements use story to strengthen their work?

·         Marla Harris, literature
Asperger's Syndrome and the Female Detective in International Popular Culture
I am exploring how Asperger's is treated as a shortcut to character development, as a plot device, and as a commentary on gender. But is the prevalence of the Asperger's detective on television and film an encouraging sign of societal understanding and acceptance,
 or merely a passing trend that in some ways  romanticizes these fictional characters, and why is there a particular fascination with women who have Asperger's?

·         Thomas Ernst, linguistics
How Humans Use Adverbs
My research, on the syntax and meaning of adverbs, is based in a view of language that maintains that all humans are born with (unconscious) innate, mental principles of how language works.  My investigations try to help illuminate these principles, by exploring why much of the way we use adverbs in sentences seems to be universal -- the same for all languages -- even though many other things vary widely from language to language.

·         Patricia Appelbaum, religious studies
Francis of Assisi in America
How did a medieval Catholic saint become an important figure in American Protestantism and popular culture? And what does it mean that he did? I’m studying the ways non-Catholics have interpreted Francis of Assisi, along with the larger question of how religious people use and relate to history.

Free and open to the public.  For more information, please contact Janet Ryan at413/259-3223.