Communications Digest | September 2010
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Professor of Anthropology, Stefan Helmreich's most recent book, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas, has been chosen from a field of more than 80 entries, as the recipient of the distinguished Bateson Book Prize, awarded by the Society for Cultural Anthropology. Welcoming a wide range of styles and argument, the Bateson Prize honors work that is theoretically rich, ethnographically grounded, interdisciplinary, and innovative. •
CIS | Pakistani journalist Rabia Mehmood receives Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship
Rabia’s work in Pakistan demonstrates a dedicated and brave pursuit to expose social injustices. "We look forward to her time at MIT and are honored to have her among us," said Richard Samuels, director of CIS and Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT. •
29 September 2010 | Killian Hall | 4-6 pm
How America Invented the Humanities | Presentation by Geoffrey Galt Harpham
Harpham, President and Director of the National Humanities Center, speaks to the MIT campus on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, in Killian Hall, 4-6 pm. Although the humanities have long been associated with the global heritage of human creative activity, Harpham makes the case that the concept of the humanities—as a collection of academic disciplines—is a recent invention, of the American academy, during the post WWII culture of the United States. How does this context of emergence effect the character of humanistic study today? •
J-PAL | How can we improve education worldwide?
Among the many education programs that J-PAL researchers have tested, by far the most cost-effective one is to treat children for parasitic worms through in-school programs, since children with worms are often too tired to attend school. In Kenya, for example, J-PAL researchers Michael Kremer of Harvard University and Edward Miguel of UC Berkeley found deworming cut child absenteeism by 25 percent at a cost of only $3.50 per additional year of attendance. Other initiatives that J-PAL has found help keep children in school include lowering costs associated with attending school by reducing fees or giving out free school uniforms, and giving incentives for attendance, such as school meals or merit scholarships for high-performing girls.
Bookshelf | Recent Faculty Books and Productions
The research of this School appears principally in the form of books, as well as music and theater productions. These gems of the School provide new knowledge and analysis, innovation and insight, guidance for policy, and nourishment for lives.
Take a look
Parag Pathak | Economics Career Development Assistant Professor
In 1998 as a teenager in upstate New York, Parag Pathak discovered and read A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar’s biography of mathematician and Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash, Jr. It proved to be a catalyzing book for Parag Pathak—one of the influences that led to his life as an economic scholar with a specialty in game theory. "The idea that people's motives and their social interactions could be analyzed formally using mathematics was fascinating to me," he says.
With the generous support of the Mellon Foundation, the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences awards two postdoctoral fellowships each year to promising young scholars working at the intersection of humanities disciplines, or between humanities and other disciplines. We are delighted to welcome our two new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows for 2010-12 — Amaranth Borsuk and Chương-Đài Võ — and to welcome back the Mellon Fellows for 2009-2011, Joel Burges and Wayne Marshall.
Profiles of the Mellon Fellows
Two new MLK Visiting Scholars are joining the School community for the 2010-11 academic year: Isaac Mbiti in Economics, and Reuben Buford May in Anthropology. Following a year of inspiring teaching and acclaimed performances, Donal Fox, MLK Visiting Artist in Music and Theater Arts for 2009-10, will be continuing for a second year.
Profiles of the MLK Visiting Scholars
Energy issues call on humanities and social sciences research
At MIT, faculty and researchers are aware that meeting 21st century energy needs requires both technological innovation and input from economic, political, social and cultural spheres. As Susan Silbey, Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, and Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, says, “Technical issues have human and social components...You want people to invest in structures that conserve energy, like solar panels. Those have long-term payoffs. But the cultural norm is that most people want the payoff in three or four years. What will alter that?” Questions like these "opened the floodgates for understanding the non-engineering aspects of the energy problem,” says Tim Grejtek, a mechanical engineering major.
Dean Fitzgerald joins President Hockfield and Chancellor Clay in welcoming the Class of 2014
"If you have a great and innovative idea, we want to help you make it happen. It does not matter whether your field is electrical engineering or French culture or architecture or biology or economics. You are here, and not at some other university, because you are both brilliant AND a little quirky, disciplined AND restless, dedicated AND idealistic. That is what it will take to change the world. Welcome — you have a home at MIT." — Dean Deborah Fitzgerald
CMS | GAMBIT Game Lab releases seven games that push video game boundaries
What's possible with video games as a medium? Can games communicate the frustration of depression? Can they teach the themes of Greek plays? These are among the questions the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a program of Comparative Media Studies, are answering. In early September 2010, GAMBIT released seven new games that push gaming’s traditional boundaries.
Full story by Andrew Whitacre and Daria Gilfanova
History | "Brilliant" — Washington Post reviews Dower's Cultures of War
"'We need some great failures,' the muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens wrote in his autobiography. 'Especially we ever-successful Americans—conscious, intelligent, illuminating failures.' What Steffens meant was that a people confident in righteousness need occasionally to be reminded of their fallibility. The past 50 years have produced failures aplenty... Washington Rules [by Andrew Basevich] and Cultures of War [by John Dower] are two excellent books made better by the coincidence of their publication. In complementary fashion, they provide a convincing critique of America's conduct of war since 1941." — Excerpt from The Washington Post review
John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures
This yearlong seminar explores how social sciences and humanities scholars study the unseen. Joining the more familiar attention to material culture with an innovative focus on immaterial culture, presenters pose such questions as: How should we describe the similarities and differences between that which is invisible and that which is as yet unvisualized, that which is unrepresented and that which may be unrepresentable. The seminar is organized around six species of the unseen: The Elusive, The Unaccounted, The Occult, The Invisible, The Evanescent, and The Obscure. Four areas are keyed to sensory modes: listening, feeling, tasting, and seeing. The other two areas relate to questions of how the unseen is measured and managed, at scales from the sub-visible to the geopolitical.
Undergraduates | Why I am a history major at MIT
Excerpt from MIT Admissions Student Blog | Guest Blog by Dora '11, double major in course 8 and Ancient and Medieval Studies. She writes: "There are lots of people here who love the humanities, and who approach subjects in humanities with the same excitement and fervor that they approach their technical fields.... humanities at MIT carries a distinctly MIT feel: challenging, stimulating, and entirely fulfilling.
HyperStudio | Influence of the Humanities on Data Visualization
Tools developed by Martin Wattenberg and his associate Fernanda Viégas, have changed the way people look at and use visualizations, by empowering and equipping users with the methodology needed to ask different questions. In this lecture hosted by the HyperStudio, Wattenberg asks how the humanities have influenced the evolution of data visualization, and shows examples from his own work. This lecture was part of HyperStudio's humanities+digital conference on visual interpretations.
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