Said and Done

April 2018
Published by the Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences


“Morris was an epoch-defining figure in the history of modern linguistics. He was also the soul of our program, whom we loved and turned to for direction and advice as students and for years thereafter.”

— David Pesetsky, Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics


Insurance and individualism in the U.S. | 3Q with historian Caley Horan
Horan's research explores the development of the private insurance industry and its role in shaping American institutions during the second half of the twentieth century. "By masking the inherently collective nature of insurance," she writes, "the industry helped discourage Americans from believing that their own fates were tied to those of others.”
Human Factor Series | Interview by SHASS Communications

A magician’s imperial missionGraham Jones
In his new book, Magic's Reason, MIT anthropologist Graham Jones explores the ways that early anthropologists' encounters with magic “contributed actively to the ideological apparatus of Western imperialism.”
Story by Peter Dizikes at MIT News

At one with the universe | Alan Lightman
A scientist on a quest to understand the spiritual: Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine is a new book by MIT's Alan Lightman, physicist, humanities professor, and "the poet laureate of science writers." The starting point for his latest book is an epiphany Lightman experienced on a starry night in Maine.
Review at The Washington Post | Review at The Guardian | Conversation on WBUR


New knowledge and analysis, innovation and insight, guidance for policy, and nourishment for lives: vsit the MIT SHASS Bookshelf.

Magic's Reason, An Anthropology of Analogy, Graham M. Jones, University of Chicago Press, 2018; Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, Alan Lightman, Pantheon, 2018; Calculated Values: Finance, Politics, and the Quantitative Age, by William Deringer
Harvard University Press, 2018.

Fright makes right | Eugenie Brinkema
An expert on the formal properties of films, Brinkema studies the techniques that make thrillers and horror films compelling to many viewers — while also grappling with the moral issues that arise in many of these works.
Story by Peter Dizikes at MIT News

How often do medical problems lead to bankruptcy?Amy Finkelstein
Poor health is a less common cause of bankruptcy than commonly thought, finds a new study co-authored by MIT economist Amy Finkelstein. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t really adverse economic consequences from adverse health,” Finkelstein says. “They’re much more about lost employment and earnings.”
Story by Peter Dizikes at MIT News

Stopping a bullet with a summer job
Summer youth employment programs that provided minimum wage summer jobs to mainly disadvantaged youth in New York City and Chicago reduced arrests for violent crimes, incarceration, and premature deaths.
Read the report


Institute Professor Emeritus Morris Halle, innovative and influential linguist, dies at 94
Morris Halle's influence "was seminal in turning linguistics from a descriptive discipline...into the first explicit theory of the defining feature of homo sapiens, the ability to formulate and express an infinite number of thoughts," said Professor Emeritus Samuel Jay Keyser. "In this respect, the revolution wrought by Morris Halle and Noam Chomsky was akin to the Galilean revolution of the 17th century. Both led to profound changes in the way scientists thought about their domains."

Remembrance by Jay Keyser at the MIT Press  |  In memoriam by Peter Dizikes at MIT News

Register for the Saturday, May 5, 2018 memorial service

Morris Halle (1923-2018); photo by Professor Kai von Fintel

“Morris Halle's contributions to modern linguistic science are incalculable, not least right here at MIT … he was primarily responsible for creating what quickly became, and has remained, the center of a research enterprise that has flourished all over the world.”

— Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics


Malick Ghachem moderates KSA panel on diversity with Boston Globe Spotlight team
At the Kendall Square Association's annual meeting, MIT historian Malick Ghachem spoke with members of The Boston Globe Spotlight team about their investigations into racism, equity, and inclusion in Greater Boston. Invoking the "inclusion riders" used in film contracts, Ghachem asked the team: Could inclusion riders work in the tech world too?
Story by Rob Matheson at MIT News

From blank verse to blockchain | Ryan Robinson ’17
The founder of a startup at the cutting edge of computer science, Robinson says that his joint degree in humanities and engineering (21E) helps him understand and engage with the human dimensions of the world’s great challenges.
Story by SHASS Communications

Ryan Robinson '17, 21E, Humanities and Engineering, Founder and CEO of Conduit

Fellowship/Associate in the Digital Humanities
SHASS is accepting applications for two postdocs to work within the newly created, Mellon-funded SHASS Digital Humanities Lab to pursue their own research and enable the creation of digital tools to assist in other faculty research and pedagogy.
Details at the MIT SHASS website

Picturing languageSarah Hulsey PhD ’08
Hulsey, who practices as a professional artist continues to be deeply engaged with linguistics, reading papers and books in the field, thinking about many of the same things she did while at MIT, and now expressing them in a visual medium. 
Story by Sharon Lacey


Six SHASS staff members receive 2018 Infinite Mile Awards
The awards recognize members of the SHASS staff who have exhibited excellence in their work. Bravo to: Thomas Dattilo, Economics; Alicia Mackin, Literature; Nicole Paschal, Music and Theater Arts; Meghan Pepin, History; Kalina Schloneger, Music and Theater Arts; Andrea Wirth, Office of the Dean.
RSVP for the May 2nd reception

Professors Nancy L. Rose and Parag A. Pathak elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Among the eight MIT faculty members elected to the AAAS for 2018 are two members of the MIT-SHASS faculty: Parag Pathak, the Jane Berkowitz Carlton and Dennis William Carlton Professor of Microeconomics, and Nancy Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics, and Head of the Department of Economics.

L to R: Nancy Rose, Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics, and Head, Department of Economics; Parag Pathak, Jane Berkowitz Carlton and Dennis William Carlton Professor of Microeconomics

Rona Wang, Selam Gano win 2018 De Courtivron Writing Prizes
The De Courtivron Writing Prizes recognize student writing on topics related to immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual, and/or multi-racial experiences.
Story at MIT News

Deborah Blum receives award from the Endocrine Society
Of Blum’s article “The Great Soy Formula Experiment, the judges wrote: "The article did a fantastic job educating the public in an understandable way." Blum's article explains that soy milk and soy formula contain potent human hormone disruptors, and that scientists don’t yet know what this means for child development.
Endocrine Society website | Blum's award-winning article: The Great Soy Formula Experiment


To see all featured SHASS media stories, visit the complete In the Media, April 2018.

Civil rights and restorative justice | Melissa Nobles
In this CBS news video, Dean Melissa Nobles and Margaret Burnham, who lead the Civil Rights & Restorative Justice project, discuss their work on anti-civil rights violence in the U.S. between 1930-1970. "We are beginning to change the narrative," said Nobles, "such that families who had that violence visited upon them can now talk about it — and it can be understood."
Story on CBS Evening News (disturbing image) | Related: 60 Minutes: National Memorial for Peace and Justice

How John Bolton helped kickstart the new nuclear arms race | Jim Walsh
“If we build a missile defense, the only way they can respond is to build new missiles,” said Jim Walsh, a nuclear-strategy scholar at MIT. “That's why we had an ABM Treaty in the first place, because we knew missile defense leads to arms races and creates strategic instability.”
Commentary in The Daily Beast

Amid gun debates, colonial reenactors march a fine line | Merritt Roe Smith
“Guns in [colonial] days were iffy propositions,” says MIT historian Merritt Roe Smith: front-end-loaded, flintlock muskets were inaccurate over 60 yards; rifles, the latest technology at the time, fired only one or two times a minute. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, ratified with such weapons in mind, is at the center of today’s debate over 21st century gun policy and public safety.
Story in The Boston Globe

Sudbury Militia and Fourth Massachusetts Regiment; Photo: Matthew Healey, The Boston Globe


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Said and Done is published by SHASS Communications
Office of the Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Editor and Designer: Emily Hiestand
Publication Associate: Daniel Evans Pritchard
Published 19 April 2018