Social Sciences Forum: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Challenge to Scientific Racism (11/12)

evelynn-m-hammondsOn Wednesday, November 12, Evelynn M. Hammonds, Director of the Program for the Study of Race & Gender in Science & Medicine at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University, will present the Social Sciences Forum and W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture, “W.E.B. Du Bois and the Challenge to Scientific Racism.” The event will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom.

A renowned researcher and author on the history of disease, on the analysis of race, gender and science, and on African-American women and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, Dr. Hammonds will discuss the ever evolving intersection of scientific, medical, anthropological, and socio-political concepts of race in the United States from the early nineteenth century to present day. Hammonds is the Lewis H. Vovakis Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at Harvard University.

The W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture is co-sponsored with the Department of Africana Studies and the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

CURRENTS: Kevin Wisniewski, LLC and Lisa Vetter, Political Science (11/3)

The Dresher Center for the Humanities is hosting a CURRENTS: Humanities Work Now talk on Monday, November 3 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building, Room 216 (Dresher Center Conference Room). Lunch will be available from 11:30; the presentation starts at noon in the Dresher Center conference room, PAHB 216. Information on the two talks can be found below. The event is open to faculty.

The Hopkinson Hoax of 1763
Kevin Wisniewski, Ph.D. student, Language Literacy and Culture
Fall 2014 Dresher Center Graduate Residential Fellow
As a literary device, the hoax is a slippery term. A popular maneuver among British writers like Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Daniel Defoe and Benjamin Franklin, hoaxes were used to mislead and mystify readers and to disrupt bureaucratic systems. They inspired a number of young writers growing up in the era leading up to the American Revolution. Before signing the Declaration of Independence, designing the American flag, and penning dozens of wartime propaganda including the famous “Battle of the Kegs,” Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) was a poet and composer. Scholars consider one of his earliest published poems “Science,” the first pirated work in the American colonies. But what if the highly publicized quarrels following these pirated copies were part of an elaborate marketing scheme for not one but three separate Hopkinson titles?
An American Enlightenment: Political Theory and the Origins of American Feminism
Lisa Vetter, Assistant Professor, Political Science
I am currently working on a book project that makes the case that several pivotal figures in the 19th century American women’s rights movement deserve to be incorporated into the received narrative of American political thought. I argue that a more inclusive approach is necessary to fully appreciate the richness and diversity of the history of American political theory. The book focuses on several female writers and activists who are not typically considered political theorists, including Frances Wright, Harriet Martineau, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I show that these women were engaging in many of the same theoretical debates as their mainstream male counterparts and on many different levels. Equally important, these women often innovated on and broadened traditional theoretical teachings to better accommodate women and the disenfranchised. For my talk, I will give an overview of the major arguments made in the book and discuss the challenges I have encountered in performing interdisciplinary research, broadening a male-dominated “canon” of political theory, and adapting scholarly work to a broader audience.

Humanities Forum: Revel Without a Cause? Dance, Performance, and Greek Vase Painting (11/5)

On Wednesday, November 5 at 4:00 p.m. in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery, Tyler Jo Smith, Associate Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at the University of Virginia, will present the Humanities Forum “Revel Without a Cause? Dance, Performance, and Greek Vase Painting.”

Greek vases have much to teach us about ancient dance and performance. But how do the figures decorating ancient drinking cups and mixing bowls relate to the dances documented by the ancient authors? This talk explores the unique connection between these two important art forms, and reveals the ways they have been understood by scholars over the past 100 years. From drinking games to party tricks, we will explore the context of ancient dance and the special place of vases in performance history.

The event is sponsored by the Ancient Studies Department and by the Dresher Center for the Humanities; the Visual Arts Department; and the Office of Summer, Winter and Special Programs. For more information, click here.

The Mathematics of Being Human (11/4)

mathematics_of_human_final_no_dateOn Tuesday, November 4, a provocative new play by UMBC professors Michele Osherow (English, Folger Theatre) and Manil Suri (Mathematics), and directed by Alan Kreizenbeck (Theatre), will take place in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building Black Box Theatre at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m.

Battle lines are drawn when an English professor and mathematician are compelled to co-teach a course at a university bent on promoting interdisciplinarity. They tussle over everything: from the value of ‘nothing’ in King Lear, to the fractals found in cauliflower. Will they be able to give the class a glimpse of synthesis or will their insularity prove impossible to surmount? Each reading will be followed by a talk-back.

Admission is free and the event is sponsored by the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences; the Dresher Center for the Humanities; and the Departments of English, Interdisciplinary Studies, Mathematics & Statistics, and Theatre.

Ellen Handler Spitz, Honors College, Publishes New E-book

Magritte's Labyrinth Ellen Handler Spitz

A new e-book published by Honors College Professor Ellen Handler Spitz analyzes the artwork of Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte and takes on questions that are rarely asked when studying Magritte’s work. The book, entitled “Magritte’s Labyrinth,” introduces a psychological perspective and examines the emotional impact of Magritte’s paintings. Below is an excerpt from a book review posted on

Trained in art history, philosophy, and nonclinical psychoanalysis, Ellen Handler Spitz, the author of “Magritte’s Labyrinth,” was introduced to Magritte’s art by a New York psychologist who studied bereavement in childhood. Spitz found the images impossible to expunge. She reflects on them psychologically. She analyzes their subtle engagement with conflict, anxiety, and fear. She reads their humor and pathos as veils that both mask and disclose uncomfortable themes. “Magritte’s Labyrinth” offers its readers intriguing ways to understand their own idiosyncratic responses to this mysterious and fascinating art.

Spitz is the author of six books on the arts and psychology: “Art and Psyche” (Yale); “Image and Insight” (Columbia); “Museums of the Mind” (Yale); “Inside Picture Books” (Yale); “The Brightening Glance” (Pantheon); and “Illuminating Childhood” (Michigan). Her most recent research focuses on children’s aesthetic lives. She will be presenting two lectures next week in Germany. She will be discussing childhood and space at the University of Siegen and will also be giving a talk in Bielefeld.

Kate Brown, History, Wins the American Historical Association’s 2014 Albert J. Beveridge Award

History Professor Kate Brown has been selected as the winner of the American Historical Association’s 2014 Albert J. Beveridge Award for her book Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford University Press, 2013). The recognition marks the sixth award Brown has received for Plutopia. The annual Albert J. Beveridge Award honors a distinguished book in English on the history of the United States, Latin America, or Canada, from 1492 to the present.


In a press release from the American Historical Association announcing the award, David Hollinger, the 2014 Beveridge Award Committee chair, commented that “[Brown’s book] counters dominant understandings of the Cold War couched in terms of divergent or separate paths. Deeply and multilingually researched in difficult conditions requiring perseverance in the face of official secrecy, courage in the face of personal exposure, and empathy in the presence of suffering, Plutopia adds to recent scholarship that emphasizes the costs of the Cold War in the places where it turned hot.”

The Albert J. Beveridge Award was initially established on a biennial basis in 1939, in honor of US Senator Albert J. Beveridge (Indiana, 1899-1911), a longtime member of the Association and an active supporter of history as both a lawyer and a senator. It has been awarded annually since 1945. The prize will be presented at the American Historical Association’s 129th Annual Meeting in New York City, January 2-5, 2015.

Brown’s new book, Disptaches from Dystopia: History of Places Not Yet Forgotten, will be published by University of Chicago Press in March 2015. For more information, click here.

For information on Brown’s prior awards, click below:
1.) Heldt Prize in the category of Best Book in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Studies from the Association for Women in Slavic Studies
2.) Western History Association’s Robert G. Athearn Prize
3.) Ellis W. Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians
4.) American Society for Environmental History George Perkins Marsh Prize
5.) Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize sponsored by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Center for Russian and East European Studies of Stanford University

Jason Loviglio, Media and Communication Studies, on BBC Radio

BBC Radio 4 recently aired a special one hour program about interviewing members of the public in the historic format of the vox pop. Jason Loviglio, associate professor and chair of media and communication studies, was interviewed for the program and provides historical context throughout the segment.

Jason Loviglio image

“The origins of vox pop in the United States are almost as old as the origins of broadcasting in the United States. The juxtaposition of the polished, educated voice of the professional radio announcer was then juxtaposed with the voice of the man on the street, sometimes quite literally,” Loviglio said. He pointed to Houston, Texas in 1932 as the origin of vox pop where broadcasters strung a microphone out of a window to interview passers by on the street.

Later in the program, Loviglio describes the differences between American radio and the BBC in the 1940s and 1950s: “The kinds of opinions that were the prerogative of professional journalists and were not the prerogative of anyone else. So the idea that there would be a meaningful contribution from the average person on the street really did not resonate in the same way for the BBC and for very logical business model reasons.”

To listen to the program in its entirety, click here.