Tag Archives: public policy

How Do Collectives Come to Believe Collectively?

Dr. Priscilla Wald discusses our society’s “mythistories” in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley

Last week’s Faculty Fellows Seminar was led by our Distinguished Visiting Lecturer Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Professor of English at Duke University. The seminar followed Dr. Wald’s Wednesday evening lecture, “Cells, Genes, Stories: HeLa’s Journey from Labs to Literature,” in which she discussed the cultural

Cell Culture of HeLa Cells
Culture of HeLa Cells

narratives around the immortal HeLa cell line developed from the cervical cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks. Dr. Wald sees the narratives about Henrietta Lacks and the HeLa cell line—particularly the racist language of contamination used to describe the cells themselves—as what she calls a “mythistory,” a mythic belief or story shared by a collective that produces conventional narratives and sets of belief beneath the level of conscious thought. Dr. Wald came to her current project by way of a central question running through her research: how do collectives come to believe collectively?

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The Discovery of Hunger in America

Dr. Laurie Green discusses the politics of race, hunger, and poverty in 1960s America in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Clare Callahan
Robert Kennedy F. Kennedy touring the Mississippi Delta
Robert F. Kennedy touring the Mississippi Delta

In 1967, Bobby Kennedy toured the Mississippi Delta and, as the story goes, “discovered” hunger in America. This is where Dr. Laurie Green’s new book project—“The Discovery of Hunger in America: The Politics of Race, Hunger, and Poverty, 1967-1977″—begins. Dr. Green’s rich and complex study looks at the politics of hunger, specifically how hunger became integrated with racial discourse, during this ten year period. Last week’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on “Health, Well-Being, Healing,” focused on an important thread in Dr. Green’s work-in-progress: the testimony by liberal doctors at the 1967 hearings held in Jackson, Mississippi by the Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Manpower, and Poverty. These hearings followed from Bobby Kennedy’s tour of the Mississippi Delta, the publicity around which triggered a burst of attention to hunger and malnutrition in the U.S. Addressing the impact of hunger not only on the physical body but also on brain development and mental health, Dr. Green is particularly interested in how these doctors’ testimony influenced a discourse on race and social behavior at the time. That many of the individuals who had testified at the 1967 hearings in Jackson were also voting rights activists and labor activists, many of whom had lost work as a result of the mechanization of the cotton industry, led Dr. Green to realize that the question of health was fundamental to her work on civil rights and the struggle for freedom.

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Why Public Investment in Higher Education Is Good for the Economy

By Lauren Schudde

Social mobility—where an individual rises above his or her social and economic origins—is a key feature of the American Dream. Today, education, particularly a college education, is the means through which a person “works hard” to “get ahead.” The individual stands to benefit from both the skills and the credential gained through higher education, reaping higher earnings and prestige through new opportunities.

But does higher education only offer private returns? Or does society—the public—stand to gain something from an individual attaining more education? This question is at the heart of the constant battle over state budgets across the country. Educational allocations have been among the first on the chopping block in the name of fiscal conservatism. The narrative that pursuing a college degree is the best way to advance one’s career bolsters support for the usefulness of higher education, but also undermines the understanding that public higher education serves the greater good.

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Documenting the Power Struggle on College Campuses

Director Steve Mims discusses the making of Starving the Beast
By Steve Mims

Easily the best part of working on any film is that is thrusts you out into a world populated with potentially fascinating people. Documentary and fiction projects put you into proximity with people you otherwise would have never met, and sometimes in the company of experts in their respective fields. When Joe Bailey, Jr. and I made Incendiary: The Willingham Case, we got to spend an afternoon with fire scientist Gerald Hurst, a brilliant, personable, and opinionated expert in arson evidence and every imaginable explosive device.  We realized at the time that we were in the presence of a kind of genius. In our film he emerged not only as an impeccable expert, but a voice of wisdom that added a surprising, profound dimension to the film.

On the documentary film Starving the Beast (The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Public Universities), producer Bill Banowsky and I got to hang out with and pick the brains of brilliant people well above our intellectual pay-grade: nationally recognized political strategists and academic experts who left us in a real sense of awe.  Among those were the University of Virginia’s brilliant media expert Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s poverty center director and activist Gene Nichol, and political strategist and wit James Carville. We would have never met them without the effort to make the film. Their contributions to the film are absolutely vital, but our opportunity to spend to time with them and get to know them was an equally profound personal reward. Continue reading Documenting the Power Struggle on College Campuses