In the latest issue of Life and Letters, several faculty from the College of Liberal Arts offer their perspectives on “Rebooting Our Lives After COVID-19.” Among the faculty included are two of our Difficult Dialogues professors: Robert Crosnoe, Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Professor of Sociology, whose Difficult Dialogues course is called “Race and Policy in the U.S.,” and Ken-Hou Lin, Associate Professor of Sociology, who teaches “Two to Tango: The Sociology of Interpersonal Relationships” for the program. Another faculty member who contributed to the article, Heather Houser, Associate Professor of English, is collaborating with the Humanities Institute on our new theme, The Humanities in the Environment/The Environment in the Humanities.
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
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?
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
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.
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.