James Smalls, Visual Arts, Writes on Race, Gender, and Sexuality in The Conversation

On July 23, James Smalls, professor of Visual Arts and affiliate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, published an article in The Conversation that discussed the rationale behind his upcoming course, Roaming the Star Trek Universe: Race, Gender, and Alien Sexualities. Sensing that students often seem very “connected” but are simultaneously distanced from the overwhelming complexities of the world around them, Smalls set out to find ways in which to explore the difficult topics of race, gender and sexuality. “I found part of the answer,” he said, “by traveling back to the 1960s, when difficult social change movements around race (civil rights, black power), gender (the women’s movement) and sexuality (the gay and lesbian movement) were in full swing and paralleled the national obsession with technology, the space race and indulgence in popular culture as a way to both escape and liberate ourselves.”

“One way to do this,” he added, “is to ask probing questions so to get students thinking about ways in which interspecies conflicts among humans, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians, Betazoids, Cardassians and Bajorans, to name a few, are portrayed and how they mirror or parallel disagreements between today’s nations, races, genders, religions and classes.”

Read “A teacher uses Star Trek for difficult conversations on race and gender” in The Conversation.

Sunil Dasgupta, Political Science, Writes ISN Article on What Makes a Modern World Power

Sunil Dasgupta, director of UMBC’s political science program at the Universities of Shady Grove, recently published an article in International Relations and Security Network (ISN) News on the establishment of world powers through norms and institutions instead of superior capabilities over others.

Sunil DasguptaUsing the example of Britain, Dasgupta noted that despite its decline, its membership in international institutions ensures the country staying power on the world stage: “Britain remains a veto-carrying, permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, one of a handful of nuclear weapons states, a rich country, and one of the closest allies of the United States. Despite Prime Minister Cameron’s focus on domestic politics, there is no expectation that the British government will concede any of these positions in the future. To the contrary, Security Council membership can be seen as ensuring that Britain remains a ‘world power’ no matter what other circumstances change. Indeed, has Britain really resigned as a world power?”

Dasgupta wrote that in modern times there is more than one way to become a world power than merely having advanced economies and militaries: “Since the end of World War II, however, international norms have reduced the importance of both 1) conventional economic and military capabilities and 2) a country’s position relative to others in this regard. While the intense rivalry between the United States and the former Soviet Union overshadowed serious discussion of norms and beliefs during the Cold War, it became clear thereafter, with the rise of Japan and Germany as economic heavyweights with limited military capacity, that there were other pathways to great power status.”

Read “What Makes a Great Power?” in ISN.

John Rennie Short, School of Public Policy, Discusses Cities’ Impact on Climate Change in The Conversation

In the wake of the visit of 65 mayors to the Vatican to discuss climate change, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short wrote an article for The Conversation reflecting on the central role of cities in climate change discussions.

John Rennie Short“Cities house more than half the world’s population, consume 75% of its energy and emit 80% of all greenhouse gasses. But cities are not just sources of problems; they are innovative sites for policy solutions,” wrote Short, who is an expert on urban issues and environmental concerns.

In his article, he wrote that many cities are on the front lines of climate change impacts, which has spurred action to address environmental concerns and form urban networks to learn which policies are working.

“The brute facts of climate change vulnerability in cities are prompting a new and more pronounced urban environmental sensitivity. Cities are responding with both climate change mitigation and adaption. Mitigation focuses on reducing the concentrations of greenhouse gases by using alternative energy sources, encouraging greater energy efficiency and conservation, and through the promotion of carbon sinks by planting trees.

Separately, cities are adapting to the effects of climate change. Chicago has developed policies anticipating a hotter and wetter climate by repaving its roads with permeable materials, planting more trees and offering tax incentive to encourage green office roofs,” Short wrote.

Read “Why cities are a rare good news story in climate change” in The Conversation.

Joseph Tatarewicz, History, Provides Historical Context for Pluto Flyby Mission in The Conversation

On July 21, Joseph Tatarewicz, an associate professor of history, published an article in The Conversation analyzing the history of space exploration in light of the recent NASA New Horizons Pluto mission. Professor Tatarewicz teaches the history of science and technology, policy, and public history. He has done extensive work in public history, including eight years as a Smithsonian museum curator and ten years in private practice. He is author of Space Technology and Planetary Astronomy

JoeT“The boomers are the first generation to witness the initial exploration of our solar system and the last to be taught that standard phrase, ‘the nine planets.’ During the last half-century, scientific research and Cold War politics brought to a head changes in scientific disciplines and organization that had been maturing for centuries,” Tatarewicz wrote in the article.

Tatarewicz stated that the New Horizons voyage marked the end of the Copernican revolution, but there is still plenty to discover: “The entire New Horizons mission over 15 years cost about US$700 million, or $47 million per year – less than Americans spend on soft drinks. All of space exploration is but spare change, and this mission’s tariff almost invisible on anybody’s ledger. Like the Romans, we demanded bread and circuses during the space program’s heyday in its first decade or so. This circus is already quite a bargain. Throw some spare change into the next model of an orphan mission of exploration. You will need to have patience, but you will be rewarded.”

Read “New Horizons brought our last ‘first look’ at one of the original nine solar system planets” in The Conversation.

Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies, Writes About Preserving Baltimore’s LGBTQ History in City Paper

During Pride Week, Kate Drabinski, a lecturer of gender and women’s studies, wrote a column in City Paper about the work being done to document and preserve Baltimore’s LGBTQ history.

Kate DrabinskiIn her article, Drabinski described the work of several local activists who are conducting research and publishing articles and books related to LGBTQ history in Baltimore, including Louis Hughes, Louise Kelley, Jodi Kelber, April Householder, and Betsy Nix. Drabinski wrote that as gay bars have been closing in Baltimore, the public history work being done should be reflected in contemporary conversations.

“Yes, we may be saying goodbye to the Hippo this year, but we are not saying goodbye to the histories that supported that bar, or the harder histories that come along with it as the LGBTQ movement has struggled with its own racism, sexism, and classism. It’s different now, but how it got to be that way is the result of a whole lot of work that must be remembered and taken forward in contemporary organizing. And that is work that should be celebrated this Pride season,” Drabinski shared.

Read “Recording the Rainbow Revolution: As gay bars in Baltimore shut their doors, activists work to document LGBTQ history” in City Paper.

Michele Osherow, English, and Manil Suri, Mathematics, Explore “The Mathematics of Being Human” on WYPR

On Thursday, July 16, Michele Osherow, associate professor of English, and Manil Suri, professor of mathematics, were guests on WYPR’s Humanities Connection to discuss their play “The Mathematics of Being Human,” which debuted at UMBC last fall. The play explores how mathematics and the humanities offer valuable perspectives on what it means to be human, perspectives that at first glance are highly distinct, but that create entry points for conversation and shared understanding over time.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

Photo by Marlayna Demond.

“The idea of pairing mathematics with humanities subjects like literature may seem odd. But, we found that there are many exciting opportunities for joint exploration. The humanities can help put mathematical inquiry into a human, accessible context and allow people to relate to a subject that too often seems obscure,” Osherow explained.

“For example, creative works like film and literature can generate real curiosity about mathematical ideas. Movies like Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, plays like Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and books like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time expose non-mathematicians to the mystery and complex beauty of mathematics,” Suri added.

Suri was also recently interviewed by SPAN Magazine about the play, which is scheduled to be performed at the Bridges Conference in Baltimore on July 29. Suri and Osherow have previously performed the play in New York City and San Antonio, with plans to bring the production to Mumbai and New Delhi early next year in partnership with the U.S. Embassy. Read “From STEM to STEAM” in SPAN Magazine.  

Kate Brown, History, Describes Her Experience Writing Plutopia in Process History Blog

Kate Brown, a professor of history, was recently interviewed by Process, the blog of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the Journal of American History (JAH), and The American Historian (TAH), about her award-winning book Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Kate BrownThe posted interview is in Q&A format and Process asked Prof. Brown about her inspiration, research process, and difficulties in writing the book: “…it was difficult to integrate labor, urban, cultural and environmental history with the history of science and medicine, and to do so in the context of two national histories. I worried initially that I was missing a lot, making major mistakes in this or that historical subfield, and that generally I was trespassing where I did not belong.

And then I stopped worrying about it. I have long believed that histories written to define or protect professional expertise manage only to distance historians from their audience, but in researching Plutopia, I was also was well aware that the compartmentalization of knowledge into discrete fields caused many of the environmental and health problems at both plants.”

Brown received several awards for Plutopia, including the American Historical Association’s 2014 Albert J. Beveridge Award. Read Kate Brown’s complete interview in Process.