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.
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.
“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 Drabinski, lecturer of gender and women’s studies, was a guest on WYPR’s Maryland Morning on July 10 to discuss how slavery and the Civil War is represented in public spaces in Maryland. Drabinski was joined by Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead ’09, Ph.D. LLC, an assistant professor in the department of communication at Loyola University-Maryland.
The discussion helped listeners think about how the history of slavery is conveyed in Maryland memorials and parks as Gov. Larry Hogan has decided to stop issuing license plates with the Confederate symbol and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is appointing a task force to review the city’s Confederate monuments and other historical sites.
The conversation covered a wide range of issues, including thinking about symbols of the Civil War in the context of present day America. “We are long past slavery, but we are still working through the issues of the relationship between freedom and slavery, between white Americans and black Americans, and these different periods of history. We’re still fighting over the meaning of the war,” Drabinski said.
To listen to the complete discussion, click here.
In the latest essay for his Race Stories column in The New York Times, Maurice Berger, research professor at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, examines the shifting attitudes toward the Confederate battle flag. “The image was at once mundane and historic. In Alabama last Wednesday, on the order of Gov. Robert Bentley, workers took down the Confederate battle flag on the grounds of the state Capitol and were photographed as they did. The camera, whose role it was to record a reality — and thus to make visible its compelling details of the world — now documented a symbol’s imminent invisibility,” notes Berger, but adds, “In the end, retiring an icon is not the same as dealing with the underlying institutional, emotional, economic and historic complications that it represents.”
Read “Making a Confederate Flag Invisible” and view the photographs at The New York Times Lens blog.
Berger’s Race Stories column, which appears monthly on The New York Times website, is “a continuing exploration of the relationship of race to photographic portrayals of race.”
Linda Dusman, Music, and Eric Smallwood, Visual Arts, were interviewed by The Baltimore Sun’s Tim Smith about their app Octava, which is designed to enhance the audience experience at symphony orchestra performances. Read the full article on the Sun’s website here.
“The app, called Octava, is aimed at enhancing the musical experience for listeners by delivering information via Wifi, synced with the music being played in the concert hall,” says Smith. In development for several years and formerly known as Symphony Interactive, the project received a $150,000 Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) grant in 2014 (read more here).
Maurice Berger, research professor and chief curator at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, was interviewed by WYPR’s Culture Editor for Maryland Morning, Tom Hall, about Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television, an exhibition now on display at the Jewish Museum in New York. Berger curated the exhibition, which has been co-organized by the CADVC and the Jewish Museum, and authored the companion book by the same name, published by Yale University Press.
Revolution of the Eye is the first exhibition to explore how avant-garde art influenced and shaped the look and content of network television in its formative years, from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s. “Television and modern art became mutually beneficial forces, starting really at the very early days of television,” Berger explained to Hall. “The pioneers of television…looked to modern art—they were fascinated by it—as something that could help them perhaps prove that television was a discerning medium.”
The exhibition will visit UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in Fall 2016.
To hear the full interview, which originally aired on WYPR’s Maryland Morning on Friday, June 19, click here.
An article published June 18 in the Baltimore Sun examined a digital history project documenting the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Denise Meringolo, an associate professor of history, is collaborating with the Maryland Historical Society and University of Baltimore to collect images, oral histories, and videos taken by everyday citizens documenting the events. Meringolo, who is featured in the article, set up a website for the project.
“I decided to establish a site that allows people to participate directly in the act of collecting,” Meringolo said. “When you study social movements from the past, sometimes what’s missing are the experiences and perceptions of the people who were in that moment. You find the official reports, but it’s very difficult to get a sense of what that protest was like viscerally from the ground view.”
To read the article in the Baltimore Sun, click here. For additional coverage by the Associated Press, click here. To learn more about the project, visit baltimoreuprising2015.org.