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'DEIS Impact College

Attendees sat in on open sessions of courses taught by faculty representing a range of disciplines but one common goal: grounding college students' passion for changing the world in solid theory. DEIS Impact College began in 2014. 

2015 Summaries

All classes were held in Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “Order and Change in Society” (SOC 1a), David Cunningham

Thursday, Feb. 5, 11:00-11:50 a.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

CunninghamDrawing from the civil rights movement, recent Boston demonstrations, and Brandeis campus protests, Prof. Cunningham discussed the ways in which activists seek to leverage audiences to disrupt authorities. Examples include the 1960 sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina; the “Black Lives Matter” protestors that disrupted traffic on Boston’s I-93 last month; the 1986 Brandeis students who occupied a makeshift campus shantytown for a month to protest University investments in South Africa under apartheid, and the Brandeis students who held signs protesting the University’s response to sexual violence at the dedication of the “Light of Reason” exhibit last September. Each represents collective contentious performances of a challenge to authority in order to make political claims. For several of these cases, students were invited to stand in groups indicating whether they agreed with the goals and means, agreed with the goals but not the means, or agreed with neither the goals nor the means. Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College.

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “Twentieth-Century American Culture” (AMST 100b), Thomas Doherty

Thursday, Feb. 5, 12:00-12:50 p.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

DohertyUnpacking the “trial of the century,” Prof. Doherty examined the 1920 Massachusetts case of Nicola Sacco, a shoemaker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fishmonger. Sacco and Vanzetti were Italian-American anarchists who were executed for robbery and murder in a case widely believed to reflect a deeply flawed judicial system. Some criminal cases like this one take on wider cultural resonance than the guilt or innocence of individuals. Issues such as immigration, justice, democracy, and religion all played out in this case, which inspired writings by Edna St. Vincent Millay, songs by Woody Guthrie, and work from other notable figures around the world who protested the innocence of these men. The Brandeis library has an aluminum relief of a sculpture of Sacco and Vanzetti: Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College.

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “Microeconomics” (ECON 10a), Michael Coiner

Thursday, Feb. 5, 1:00-1:50 p.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

CoinerEfficiency of markets, while desirable, is not the only possible goal. Some believe equity of markets is also important – worth sacrificing some efficiency to achieve more equality. In the US, inequality improved between 1935-1970, but fell again from 1970 to the present, with the gap continuing to widen. In fact, among affluent nations, the US has the widest gap between socioeconomic strata. In his book “Capital in the 21st Century,” Thomas Piketty states that markets tend to rising inequality, but Professor Coiner feels his assumptions do not account for shrinking inequality between 1935-1970. Rising inequality has negative effects because it is simply unfair; it represents a loss of social cohesion and national unity; and it has macroeconomic effects if the poorer strata are unable to afford to purchase the goods and services being produced. That is, sufficient consumption is necessary to sustain full employment. Steps to reduce inequality include changing the tax code, changing the education system (particularly early childhood and higher education), increasing collective bargaining rights (because unions vigorously reduce inequality), spending on infrastructure such as roads and bridges (not only to benefit the country but to employ less skilled laborers), and campaign finance reform. Our election system relies on “one person, one vote.” But people with high income can distort the political process to perpetuate their wealth. But by using their wealth, some have in effect more than one vote. Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College.

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “Dancing the African Diaspora: Keyterms, Grammars” (AAAS 148b), Jasmine Johnson 

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2:00-3:20 p.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

JohnsonExamining theories, debates, and critical frameworks in African Diaspora Dance Studies, students explored the meaning of dance scenes in the 1989 film “Coming to America,” and the careers of black dance legends Katherine Dunham and Josephine Baker. While dance is often seen as apolitical or “just for fun,” dance can not only express racial injustice, but also represents powerful social power structures. For example, what dances get funded? Who gets to be a professional dancer? Who gets to see African dance? Where? How is the meaning of the dance understood? The remark of Katherine Dunham (1909–2006) when she danced to a segregated audience at Jacob’s Pillow is particularly poignant. In effect, she said, “Until I can sit next to you, I’m not coming back” and “I could walk into houses of kings and presidents, but not into a hotel and get a cup of coffee.” Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College.

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “Bollywood: Popular Film, Genre and Society” (ENG 20a), Ulka Anjaria  

Thursday, Feb. 5, 3:30-4:50 p.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

AnjariaExamining popular Hindi cinema since 1950 uncovers topics such as melodrama, song and dance, love and sex, stardom, nationalism, religion, diasporic migration, and globalization. But these topics (particularly love and sex) are rarely represented directly on screen. The camera work represents what the script cannot say, in completely G-rated scenes. For example, a 1965 film describes neglect and insensitivity within marriage, failed sexual encounters, and the lack of freedom to express sexuality in the domestic sphere. These themes are communicated through the use of objects (ancient Indian art), sound (jingling anklets), and the gaze of the crowd (objectifying the leading woman). When understood properly, the film represents an understated but clear critique of the hypocrisy of Indian social norms of the time around respectability, sexuality, and gender equality. Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College.

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “International Economic Law” (LGLS 127b), Guive Mirfendereski  

Thursday, Feb. 5, 5:00-6:20 p.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

MirfendereskiThe regulation of transnational enterprises should seek to support both good business practices and human rights. However, transnational legal institutions and practices are not always at the ready to promote these values. For example, when a corporation operates in a foreign country, its employees are subject to the laws of that country, the same as local citizens. However, some foreign laws are below the minimum national standards of the home country. Respecting the judicial sovereignty of a country therefore sometimes comes into conflict with the right of a government to protect its citizens worldwide from abusive treatment. International economic law also comes into play when economic sanctions against a country are considered for “national security” or “foreign policy” reasons. Under economic sanctions, often the people suffer more than the government. The oligarchs likely experience little discomfort from economic sanctions, but the assumption is that people will get fed up and change their government, or that government officials will change so as to avoid unrest and even a revolution. Economic sanctions may also radicalize the people. Social justice is about peace (absence of violence), prosperity (economic opportunity and access throughout society), and progress (a sense that all things are improving), which are the values that international economic law should promote. Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College

Friday, February 6, 2015

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “Masculinities” (SOC 115a), Gordie Fellman  

Friday, Feb. 6, 9:30-10:50 a.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

FellmanMen's experiences of masculinity are complex and problematic. For example, American football is a wildly popular game that combines masculinity with the entertainment value of violence, where winning the game is often more important than the health of the football player. Professor Fellman maintains that football, like war, is a form of secular sacrifice, in which old men send young men into battle to win or be hurt. This is similar to the ancient sacred sacrifice of young, healthy men and women being sacrificed to the Aztec sun god. Structural violence violates the dignity of individuals, but social justice means respecting life. Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College

'DEIS Impact College: Social Justice and “American Transformations: Perspectives on United States History” (HIST 50b), Abigail Cooper  

Friday, Feb. 6, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Sherman Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center

CooperThe Industrial Revolution was democratizing in some ways, but also solidified slavery in a strange twist. In fact, Waltham itself played a role in expanding slavery during the industrial revolution, in a situation that might be called “How the Abolitionist Capital of America Also Became a Leader During Slavery’s Expansion.” That is, the invention of the cotton gin (patented in 1794) made it much simpler and quicker to separate cotton fibers from their seeds (which the students discovered for themselves when Professor Cooper provided raw cotton). In addition, the transportation revolution of 1800-1830 made it possible for cotton to get to market faster via railroad. The cotton gin, power loom weaving, and the railroad combined to make the textile mill town of Waltham one of the driving forces behind the increase in demand for slave-produced cotton in the South. Click here to learn more about 'DEIS Impact College.