Around Campus

Two Women's Studies Research Center scholars honoredPosted: Dec. 10, 2018

Two scholars from the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) received honors this fall.

Resident scholar Margaret Morganroth Gullette has received the Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars. 

Gullette won the award for her book “Ending Ageism; or, How Not to Shoot Old” (Rutgers University Press). The prize honors distinguished published research in the fields of modern languages and literatures, including English, and recognizes achievements and contributions of independent scholars.

Meanwhile, WSRC board member and resident scholar Annette Liberman-Miller has received the 2018 Berkshire Theatre Critics Association Award for "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play" for her role as Katherine in Shakespeare and Company's recent production of "Mothers and Sons.”

Creating a network for art makers in areas of conflictPosted: Dec. 3, 2018
Cindy Cohen speaking to a crowd at an event in August.Photo/Mike Lovett

Cynthia Cohen, director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, speaks at a design lab held earlier this year.

In the face of violent conflict, the arts can play powerful, constructive roles. A project overseen by the Peacebuilding in the Arts program at Brandeis is leading the way to create a support system for the people behind such cultural productions. 

"The biggest challenges of the twenty-first century -- war, inequality, climate change, migration -- these problems require solutions that can't be found through linear processes alone," said Cynthia Cohen, director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. “Solutions will arise through creative, transdisciplinary approaches, and arts and culture will likely play leading roles.”

IMPACT (Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation) is an 18-month initiative to design an infrastructure to organize and support the diverse, global, and growing arts and culture already contributing to more vibrant, less violent communities and a more just, sustainable and peaceful world. The infrastructure will engage university-based programs, researchers, cultural institutions, artists, funders and policy-makers in regions around the world.

Launched in September 2017 with a year of intensive, global research, the initiative has already started to connect people from all over the world. Its team of researchers includes scholar-practitioners from Cambodia, Kenya, Cyprus, Australia, Japan and France. The project is led by Brandeis’ Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, in collaboration with the Baker Institute of Peace and Conflict at Juniata College and Maseno University in Kisumu, Kenya, and is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A three-day design lab, held on campus at the beginning of the fall semester, brought together 25 practitioners, scholars, and policy-makers from Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Europe, Kenya, Israel, the US, Pakistan and the Philippines to discuss the needs of the field and ways to strengthen practice and influence policy. Participants generated ideas for fostering exchanges, strengthening ties between researchers and practitioners, and improve relationships between donors and grantees.

Cohen envisions the initiative will lead to a global network of cultural leaders, researchers, and artists that will be held together by a shared set of values related to the unequal distribution of resources across the field.  The emerging plan will address the sense of isolation that face many working in the field, through a network of regional hubs and a series of virtual learning exchanges, both of which will foster inclusion and connectivity. This infrastructure would connect existing networks, build communities of practice, and engender systems of influence that will have an impact on cultural policies and funding resources.

IMPACT aims to have established a framework by early 2019, which will include recommendations for approaches to strengthening coordination among university-based cultural entities and others working in the field of arts, culture and conflict transformation.  It will propose priority activities for the next 3 to 5 years; and a dynamic set of ethical principles and tools for implementing them and improving them, based on practice. As that work is underway, Cohen said they will aim to find ways to make priority structures and processes sustainable.

“We're intending to establish an advocacy arm to generate more resources for creative approaches to urgent social issues and to link with related fields such as human rights, sustainable development, transitional justice, and arts education. We’d like to see opportunities for global learning exchanges become an on-going part of IMPACT,” Cohen said. “We would like to find ways for them to become self-sustaining."

Physicist Aparna Baskaran wins prestigious early career award Posted: Nov. 20, 2018

Associate Professor of Physics Aparna Baskaran has won a 2019 Early Career Award for Soft Matter Research from the American Physical Society (APS).

Soft matter consists of materials that fall between the categories of liquids and solids such as foams, gels, liquid crystals and biological structures like cell membranes and proteins.
Baskaran studies the unique properties of soft matter that allow it to self-assemble and form complex and changing arrangements in response to external stimuli. Such research may one day enable us to create new compounds and machines capable of rapid, shape-shifting transformations.
The APS cited her for achieving "pathbreaking advances in our understanding of the physics of soft materials out of equilibrium, especially active and granular matter."

Baskaran earned her MS at the Raman School of Physics Pondicherry University in Puducherry, India, and her PhD at the University of Florida, where she won numerous teaching and research awards, before her appointment as a postdoc at Syracuse University. She came to Brandeis in 2010.
Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, including an NSF CAREER Award, and her articles have been published in such journals as the Physical Review, Nature Physics, Soft Matter, and the Journal of Statistical Mechanics.

Recent Brandeis University Press titles win awardsPosted: Nov. 12, 2018

Books published by Brandeis University Press recently won two awards:

Gershom Scholem: From Berlin to Jerusalem and Back by Noam Zadoff of Indiana University has won the 2018 Concordia University Azrieli Institute for Best Book in Israel Studies Award (under the auspices of the I.J. Segal Awards of the Jewish Public Library). Gershom Scholem is published as part of BUP’s Tauber Institute Series.

It is the fourth time in eight years that a book published by Brandeis University Press has won this biennial award. Previous winners include: Land and Desire, by Boaz Neumann; Israel: A History by Anita Shapira; and Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1929 by Hillel Cohen, all published in the Schusterman Series for Israel Studies. 

A Home for All Jews: Citizenship, Rights and National Identity in the New Israeli State by Orit Rozin of Tel Aviv University was named this year’s finalist in the category of Modern Jewish History and Culture: Europe and Israel for the Jordan Schnitzer Book Awards. The awards, given by the Association for Jewish Studies, recognize and promote outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies and honor scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: innovative research, excellent writing, and sophisticated methodology. In 2015, the BUP-published Jewish Philosophical Politics in Germany, 1789–1848, by Sven Erik Rose was awarded the  2015 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award for Philosophy and Jewish Thought. A home for All Jews was published as part of the Schusterman Series in Israel Studies & Brandeis Series in Gender, Culture, Religion, and Law.

Halevi, Issa, discuss Israel-Palestine relationsPosted: Nov. 6, 2018
Walid Issa and Yossi Klein Halevi Photo/BrandeisNOW

Palestinian economist and educator Walid Issa (left) and American-Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi

Brandeis Hillel hosted a dialogue between American-Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi and Palestinian economist and educator Walid Issa on Nov. 6.

The two longtime friends commented on the ongoing relationship between Israel and Palestine and the prospects of a two-state solution.

They also said their deep friendship can be a model for Israelis and Palestinians who might struggle to see the opposite point of view.

“We agree about many things and we disagree about many things,” said Halevi. “What we disagree about is as important as what we agree about because we’re able to model a disagreement.”

“It’s easy to model a friendship when you agree. It’s a lot harder when you’re in a life and death conflict – as we both are – and you don’t agree on who’s responsible and who’s to blame,” Halevi added.   

Issa, the Palestinian director of the American Palestinian Hope project, met Halevi through their mutual friend, Imam Abdullah Antepli, who also teaches with Halevi at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

Halevi and Issa shared their personal experiences with the Israel-Palestine conflict, then took questions from students and faculty in attendance. The two guests also discussed how different generations view the conflict and the role young people can play in finding a solution.

“[Your] college years are the years that your identity and character is shaped and determined,” Issa said. “Your level of comfort during these years with different opinions and diversity leads to success in the future. As long as you’re able to listen and try to understand different sides and different points of view, you’ll be more successful in the future and be more effective.”

Halevi also autographed free copies of his most recent book, “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor.”

The Kniznick Gallery at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center presents Half-Silvered: Anne Lilly & Karin RosenthalPosted: Nov. 2, 2018
Enter Title

Anne Lilly, To Be, 2016. Mirror, acrylic, aluminum, stainless, delrin, engineering components, motor, micro controller, chairs

The Kniznick Gallery presents Anne Lilly and Karin Rosenthal in “Half-Silvered.” Both artists in the exhibition visually and conceptually explore the notion of fracturing through the lenses of water and mirrors. In their works, figures are fungible — subject to splitting, undulation and disappearance — alluding to an interior space that openly coexists with external realities.

Lilly's kinetic sculptures, made of stainless steel, use precision to establish their own kinespheres of motion. The furniture in her work invites viewers to participate in looking, while other works utilize touch to set them in motion. Rosenthal’s photographs are careful compositions of figures distorted and disguised by their own idyllic surroundings. 

The physicalities and qualities of water and mirrors themselves become part of the subjects in the works. Each artist exploits the boundaries within their mediums — that either define or are defined by what they encounter. Rosenthal’s camera and Lilly’s kinetic design root the artists in their poetic intentions, despite the mechanics of their mediums. Each work utilizes what is "half-visible" to suggest a more expansive and hidden content.

The exhibit opens on Nov. 8 at 5 p.m. with an artist's lecture and opening reception with Anne Lilly. On Dec. 4 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., WSRC Scholar, art historian and museum educator, Annie Storr will lead "Exercises for the Quiet Eye," a contemplative look at the exhibition. On Feb. 5 from 5 to 8, Karin Rosenthal will give an artist's lecture with reception to follow.

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A philosophical approach to politics: master’s student runs for office in MainePosted: Nov. 2, 2018

Jeremy Mele, a second-year master’s student in philosophy, is running for state representative in Maine's House District 19, which represents part of Sanford, the 6th largest city in Maine with 21,000 residents. Below, Mele talks about how his studies in philosophy influence his approach to politics.

Update on Nov. 7, 2018: Mele, who ran as a Democrat, was not able to overcome Republican Matthew Harrington in the election, collecting 1,471 votes to Harrington's 1,878.

Who (or what) inspired you to run for office?
There were a number of factors that played into my decision to run for office. I'd say the key political figure who inspired me to run was Bernie Sanders. A lot of people were inspired by his message of getting money out of politics, fighting for workers' rights, and guaranteeing healthcare for all, and I was a strong supporter of his bid for president. When he lost, I, and I think a lot of others, realized that no one was coming to save us, not even Bernie. If we wanted positive change to occur, we had to go out and do it ourselves. So, when the opportunity came to run for office, I decided that I should give it a go. Problems like low wages, a lack of universal healthcare, and climate change aren't going to go away on their own; we need elected officials who recognize and treat them as the threat they are. I am running for office because I do recognize these threats and want to see them addressed.

How does your work as a philosopher inform your political work?
Though I don't consider myself a Utilitarian, I have been greatly inspired by the work of Peter Singer in my ethical development. His "drowning child" thought experiment caused me to reevaluate how I live my life. There are terrible things happening around us all the time; people live in poverty, corporations get away with unfair and exploitative labor practices, and climate change is putting us on the path towards global destruction. We don't always see these things as they happen, and it can be easy to become complacent. As Singer points out, though, just because something is out of sight, that doesn't mean we are justified in putting it out of mind. Running for office to promote positive changes is my way of living out the maxim of doing the most good that I can do.

Furthermore, I feel that philosophy has, in many ways, prepared me for politics. Elected officials, ideally, should have a strong moral compass. I like to think that my research has prompted me to develop clearer answers on the fundamental moral questions of "How ought I to treat others?" and "How ought people live in a society?" Moreover, my research in philosophy has developed general, close reading skills that I think will serve me well if elected; they certainly will help if I have to research policies and develop well-thought out legislation. Careful, considered decisions based on moral principles are not always something we find in politics, and I'd like to be an exception to that rule.

Plato thought that society ought to be ruled by philosophers, and while I disagree with his antiegalitarian, authoritarian ideal of the "Philosopher King," I do think philosophers have valuable perspective and insight to share. We should always strive to be building a more just and moral society, and I think philosophers, who have spent millennia developing ideas on what things like "justice" and "morality" are, should bring those ideas into the practical realm of politics.

What are some of the issues that concern you most?
Politically and philosophically, I'm a socialist, so the standard of living and position in society of the working class is a major concern for me. That the working many have little to no say in our places of work, that our real wages have been stagnating for the past thirty years, and that we increasingly find healthcare out of reach are all major concerns. The power imbalance between employer and worker is one thing I'd like to see addressed by elected officials. If elected, I plan on addressing that imbalance by working to make the minimum wage a living wage, guaranteeing healthcare for all, and by offering support for the formation of workers' cooperatives. Workers deserve more autonomy both inside and outside the workplace, and all of these aforementioned prescriptions would go towards empowering workers to work where and as we choose.