Human Rights: Religious and/or Secular Foundations?

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted, the philosopher Jacques Maritain famously said “Yes, we agree about the rights, but on condition that no one asks us why.” Asking “why” has been a staple of discussion in political theory ever since. This lecture will focus upon the work of two prominent contemporary thinkers, Michael Perry and Nicholas Wolterstorff, who argue that a successful grounding of the idea of human rights must be a religious one.

Continue reading

Groove Theory: Fela Kuti, James Brown, and the Invention of Afrobeat

Who put the “beat” in afrobeat? An important shift occurred in West African popular music in the late 1960s as many musicians looked less to Europe and its former colonies in the Caribbean, and began to draw inspiration directly from African-American cultures in the US. This talk explores Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s seemingly paradoxical adoption of American funk grooves in his quest to further “Africanize” his music.

Continue reading

“Thinking Outside the Light Box: New Ways to Treat and Prevent the Winter Blues”

Central dogma in the field of winter depression has previously viewed seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as a purely biological subtype of depression.  Professor Rohan’s research suggests that psychological models and treatments for depression are relevant to SAD.  She will explain how thoughts and behaviors play a role in triggering the winter blues and how a […]

Data Analysis Without Theory Is Not Science

In his classic book, The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills coined the phrase “abstracted empiricism” to describe research in the social sciences that failed to address important theoretical issues. Although it has been more than half a century since this book was published, far too much current research remains in this category. Professor Krymkowski critiques […]

Home, Land, Security: The Cultural Politics of American Back-to-the-Land Movements

For many of us today, the phrase “going back to the land” may bring to mind a vision of the 1960s: yurts and domes, communes and co-ops. But Americans have been dreaming of returning to the land for over a hundred years, and earlier back-to-the-landers were often motivated by dramatically different beliefs, hopes, and fears. […]

Demystifying Chinese Characters

Chinese characters, unlike the writing system of any Indo-European language, are formed with no letters or combination of letters to represent the sounds of the Chinese language. Chinese characters have been a highly developed writing system for at least 3,300 years. How were the Chinese characters formed? What changes have Chinese characters undergone? How can native English speakers effectively learn and appreciate Chinese characters? Professor Yin addresses these questions, drawing on his studies and research.

Continue reading

Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution: Will Democracy Betray Women?

Tunisia, the original site of the Arab Spring uprisings, was regarded by many as having the best chance of bringing its democratic aspirations to fruition. But as the Jasmine Revolution enters its second year, there are signs that have produced dismay in the camp that views Islam as inimical to democracy. Particularly concerned are those who fear that Tunisian women’s rights may be reversed by the legal and cultural entrenchment of Islamist law in the next round of democratic elections. The striking irony is that Tunisia and several other Muslim countries, women have had dictators, emirs, and monarchs to thank for their legal, social, and economic rights. Will women be betrayed by democracy?

Continue reading

Saving American Elections

Elections in the U.S. are in an unhealthy state. But, what, exactly, is wrong with elections and why?  And what can we do to restore to health both elections and the democracy that relies on them?  Professor Gierzynski addresses these questions by discussing the diagnosis and prescriptions outlined in his 2011 book, Saving American Elections: A […]

Evolution, Etiology, and What’s Wrong with ‘Born Gay’

Valerie Rohy, Professor of English We have all heard the charge that gay men and lesbians seek to “recruit children to their lifestyle”–a claim based on the old belief that homosexuality can be caused, like other bad habits, by dangerous influences. In response, queer communities increasingly cite theories of biological determinism to argue that homosexuality […]

“The Dadaab Suite and Other Poems”

English Professor Major Jackson’s Full Professor Lecture, “The Dadaab Suite and Other Poems,” Tuesday, October 4, at 5:00 p.m. Dadaab, Kenya is the home of the oldest and largest refugee camp administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The camp was built for 90,000 refugees in 1991 as a consequence of the civil […]