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Humanities Center has scheduled talks to be held during the Fall and Winter semesters. These talks are held mainly on Tuesday and Wednesday, but occasionally on other weekdays as well. Because of COVID-19 all Fall 2021 Brown Bag talks will be virtual. Depending on the status of the pandemic, speakers may be allowed to choose between virtual or on campus talks held in 2339 FAB for the Winter 2022 semester.

Since the inception of the weekly Brown Bag Colloquium Series, literally hundreds of Wayne State humanities and arts faculty and students have participated either as speakers or as members of the audience. Each new year brings an increase in the number of faculty volunteering to present talks. As a result, the Center regularly hosts talks twice a week throughout the academic year. Brown Bag talks are free and open to the public. We are inviting junior and senior scholars in the humanities and arts as well as those working in the natural and social sciences whose work overlaps with the humanities.

Join us on Zoom Tues and Weds from 12:30pm - 1:30pm

Zoom Meeting ID: 924 - 2581 - 5409

Password: 244113

Click here for Zoom Link

Please click here for the Brownbag Schedule


September 15 - John Corvino,ph.D
Dean, Irvin D. Reid Honors College, Professor, Philosophy

How to Be a Raging Moderate

Abstract: Moderates get a bad rap these days. After all, shouldn't we be radical in pursuit of what's right? Nevertheless, I argue here in favor of the stance of the "raging moderate". The raging moderate is fiercely committed to proportion and de escalation. Raging moderates do not merely "split the difference". Indeed, they may advocate positions that are quite far from the "center". But they do so in a distinctively moderate way, which I will sketch and defend in this talk.


September 21 - Fred Vultee
Associate Professor, Communication

How Media Routines Change and How Audiences Respond

Abstract: News is not a naturally occurring substance. After it's found, it has to be refined, processed and packaged into a familiar form. So, what happens to audiences when news is processed and packaged under a new set of rules, driven by changes in technology and the support structure of professionalized journalism? This project discusses how practices like click baiting or generic illustrations come about and how they affect perceptions of credibility, quality, professionalism, and value-as well as how they affect memory for details or grasp of an article's big picture. The findings provide insights into how different parts of the audience approach the information that helps them decide how to vote or how much to trust an article about the benefits of mask-wearing. Does bad writing really make people recall specifics of an article better? You won't believe the results!


September 22 - Aaron Retish
Associate Professor, History

Imagining Russia: How National Geographic Created Russia for

Abstract: This is a story of how National Geographic created Russia for Americans and how in turn Russia's revolution and the first world War created National Geographic. In the beginning of the 20th century, Gilbert Grosvenor, the editor of the upstart magazine produced visually stunning images of Russia that worked alongside text to present a land both distant and exotic and familiar and inviting. National Geographic's Russia was on course to become the next America but the bolsheik Revolution stopped the country's progression. Using photos and archival documents, I showhow those behind National Geographic employed photography and text to create an alternative reality for its readers to imagine a country where Communism did not exist. The magazine's portrayal of Russia in the early 20th century entered into the American imagination of Russia and lingers to this day.


September 28 - Peter Staroverov
Assistant Professor, English, Program in Linguistics

Unnatural patterns in phonology: documentation and analysis

Abstract: This talk introduces the problem of unnatural patterns in phonology --the patterns that seem to lack a direct motivation in perception, articulation, or other properties of language sounds. I argue that unnatural patterns present a challenge for any theory of how language works in the mind, and that these patterns should be thoroughly documented and studied in detail. I then present two case studies from my work on understudied languages illustrating how different kinds of unnatural patterns can be described and proposing an analysis that advances our theoretical understanding of each of these patterns.


September 29 - Lance Gable
Professor, Law

Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19

Abstract: Despite years of legal preparedness efforts and the development of detailed plans to guide the response to a public health emergency, the COVID 19 pandemic response in the United States has repeatedly faltered. This presentation explores what went wrong and provides a set of ideas that could lead to better responses for this and future pandemics, drawing on recommendations from two rapid COVID-19 legal assessment reports published in August 2020 and March 2021. The legal assessments detail how policymakers can best respond to and recover from the current pandemic, reimagine the nation's health care and public health systems to better prepare the nation for future infectious disease outbreaks, and explore how legal frameworks could help dismantle the structures of racism and inequality that produce unjust health outcomes.



October 5 - David Goldberg
Associate Professor, African American Studies

General Baker Jr: The Evolution of a Revolutionary

Abstract: General Baker Jr: The Evolution of a Revolutionary, " is a section of a larger biography of Baker that I am currently working on. Baker was a Detroit based revolutionary and activist who is most famous for organizing and leading the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM)and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW) in 1968 and 1969, respectively. In my talk, I use audio clips from oral histories to examine Baker’s political evolution and activities during the late 50s to the mid 1960s. I pay particular attention to racial and economic conditions during this period, Baker’s engagement with local civil rights, student, and Black nationalist groups, the transformative trip he took to Cuba in 1964, and his association with the revolutionary nationalist group, the Revolutionary Action Movement(RAM).


October 6 - Suzette Bristol
Graduate Teaching Assistant, English

Learning the Learner: Labor-Based Grading as a Pathway to Understanding Our Students

Abstract: During the stay-at-home order of 2020, caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, our students were suddenly removed from the leaning environment of the classroom, and we no longer had access to the person who was doing the work we asked them to complete. While Covid 19 devastated our lives in many ways, it also provided a learning experience that changed the way I view who I am as an instructor, how I assess my classroom practices, and how I grade my students. This presentation will present a unique way to become more aware of our students as individuals who learn in specific ways and increase our understanding of how our own instruction can change to meet the needs of our students. The integration of labor logs can help instructors to see the whole student. They can also reveal that our world and our students word are very different and therein lies the value of labor logs as tools of assessment to create a more equitable classroom ecology.


October 12 - Elizabeth Evans
Associate Professor, English

Gender, Space, and Geography in British Fiction, 1800-2009

Abstract: In this talk I examine the relationship between gender space, and geography in over 20,000 volumes of fiction published in Britain, 1800-2009 I reveal how computational analysis helps to answer persistent and thorny questions in literary and cultural studies: How does gender (among other cultural identities) affect the geographic and spatial imagination of authors and characters? What locations are differently representable to various groups and to what extent have those groups representational geographies changed over the past two centuries?

Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches, this talk provides new information about 19th-and 20th century literature and intervenes in longstanding debates about gender, space, and mobility. I show, for instance, that separate-sphere ideology had a more complex spatial expression than is frequently assumed that we have underestimated women s ties to metropolitan space, and that we have overestimated historical progress toward gender parity, as measured by geographic mobility. I argue that patterns detectable across many thousands of books provide important new contexts for understanding the intersection of geography, gender identity, and narrative over time.


October 13 - Zachary Brewster
Associate Professor, Sociology Kenneth Gourlay , Graduate Student

Face Masks and the Color Red: Restaurant Tipping Behaviors During the Pandemic

Abstract: In this talk, we present results from two survey experiments that we fielded last spring. In the first experiment. we wanted to learn more about how a face mask affects the tips that restaurant customers leave the servers and bartenders. In contrast to our prediction our results suggest that wearing a mask is not likely to, on average, have a meaningful effect on the tipping practices of restaurant customers. However, consistent with our predictions we d id observe a negative indirect effect of a mask on customer reported tip amount through diminished perceptions of a hypothecical servers friendliness . In the second experiment, we wanted to learn more about how the color red affects customers tipping practices. The color red has been associated with sexual attraction, especially when applied to female lips, and tipping. Our data show that red lip color does not directly correlate with higher tips, but it does increase perceptions of attractiveness which could indirectly lead to higher tips. Red face masks, however, were not found to be associated with customers perceptions of server attractiveness or tipping practices. Instead, the color red, when applied to a face mask , may operate as an indicator of professionalism or authority.


October 19 - Ljiljana Progovac
Professor, Linguistics and English ,Marilyn L. Williamson Distinguished Faculty Fellow

Language Evolution, Self-Domestication, and Verbal Aggression

Abstract: This lecture is about the evolution of grammar, but also about the evolution of our species, advocating a gradual emergence of human language / cognition, as subject not only to cultural innovation, but also to selection forces. I present a precise linguistic reconstruction of the initial, pro- to-grammar stage, characterized as flat, two-slot mold, unable to distinguish subjects from objects. The particular uses to which this proto-grammar can be put even today reveals why this cultural invention would have been highly adaptive at the dawn of language (e.g. for insult crybaby, kil-oy, cut-throat, scatter-brain naming: rattle-snake, stink- bug, tumble/dung) Using these proxies of the reconstructed early stage of grammar , a specific sexual natural / selection scenario will be discussed . as well as fMRI experiments conducted to test this hypothesis. By identifying insult (verbal aggression) as relevant in early human evolution, this proposal crosfertilizes with the recent hypothesis in biology that invokes human self-domestication ( SD ) , ultimately leading to our proposal that ( i ) taming of aggression ( related to SD ) , ( ii ) metaphoricity in language ( related to cross-modality ) , and ( iii ) language structure ( grammar ) co-evolved, engaged in a mutually reinforcing feedback loop . This feedback loop enabled, and was enabled by, enhanced connectivity in the cortico-striatal networks, implicated in all three dimensions above. Cognitive disorders involving language also exhibit a clustering of disturbances in these dimensions.


October 26 - Jonathan Flatley
Professor, English

Everybody Hates the Police :On Hatred for the Police as a Political Feeling

Abstract: In the summer of 2020, I saw the police beat, tear, gas, insult, threaten, and arrest my friends, my comrades, my colleagues, and my students Filled with rage and grief after the brutal police murder of George Floyd, we had come into the streets of Detroit to protest racist police violence. As the police met our protests racist police brutality with racist police brutality, and then lied about it, I certainly came to hate the police as never before, a hatred that only grew more intense as the summer went on. While this hatred was my own subjective reaction to the actions of the police, it was also widely shared. Indeed, it seemed for a time as if everybody hates the police. The slogan, as the Invisible Committee observes, doesn’t express an observation which would be false. but an affect which is vital. This paper examines the nature of this vital affect and considers its political implications. What kind of world might all those who hate the police create to gather?


October 27 - John Sase
Instructor, Economics

Cities of Plato

Abstract: In this short, accessible, and profusely illustrated presentation, we explore the writings of Plato and Pythagoras. Throughout this presentation, we will suggest a path toward a comprehensive, universal approach to Ancient Teachings through the unification of Humanities and Science and whatever else helps to float our polymath boat back to Atlantis. We will review pertinent math brought to Western Thought through Pythagoras and consider the application of his geometry to four types of cities of Plato discussed in Laws Timaeus and Critics, and the Republic. My ongoing study of this topic dates from the late 1980s through the present. Through my research, I have discovered that the four models developed by Plato appear as mathematical allegories. I hypothesize that Plato intended to communicate loftier concepts of life rather than descriptions of actual ancient cities. Though his two versions of Athens appear as hills resembling Athens, the layout of the actual Magnesia bears little resemblance to his monocentric radial model that contains 12 subcenters. Though his description of Atlantis remains elaborate. We have yet to agree upon an actual location or even the existence of perhaps his best-known city.



November 3 - Fred Pearson and Layton Mandle
Professor and PhD Graduate Student Political Science/Peace and Conflict Studies

Latest Trends in International Arms Trade and Transfers

Abstract: The decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War have been marred by the increased occurrence of civil war, the rise of powerful non-state armed groups, and changing geopolitical strategy by world powers, all of which are related to an Increasingly saturated economy of arms and munitions. This paper seeks to explain these trends by examining changes in the intemational trade and transfer of arms through shifts in arms manufacturing and exporting by key states such as the United States. Russia, and China. The arms exports of these states not only indicate changing trade relationships with key importers, but also shifts in geopolitical grand strategy. Additionally, this paper seeks to explain changes in arms regulations in the previous two decades in response to the growth of unconventional markets and the increased access to advanced armaments of nonstate actors, as well as advancements in dual-use technologies like artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and pharmaceuticals which serve commercial and civil functions, but can be applied to military use often with devastating effect.


November 9 - Bruce Russell
Professor, Philosophy

Some Thoughts On Reparations and Conscientious Exemptions

Abstract: Examples play a variety of roles in philosophy. I use the example of a relay race to shed light on our current situation where some think that descendants of slaves, people wrongly interred, and others severely exploited deserve reparations. I argue in Rawisian fashion that the least well-off deserve fair equality of opportunity regardless of the causes of their plight but that the history of past injustices based on race, gender and ethnicity should be taught in the schools and shown on TV in specials devoted to those issues. When it comes to conscientious exemptions, I start with clear cases where exemptions should be allowed in the law and conclude that an exemption is permissible only if there is some plausible moral grounds that is the basis for the exemption. A pharmacist’s refusing to fill a prescription for the morning after pill could meet this condition and that refusal would be justified if there was not an undue burden on the woman for her to get the pill and the refusal was respectful and discreet. A refusal to bake a cake for a gay or divorced couple on religious grounds would not qualify.


November 10 - Hannah Schacter
Assistant Professor, Psychology

Why Peer Relationships Matter for Adolescent

Abstract: During adolescence, peer relationships take on heightened developmental significance. Whereas feeling accepted and supported by peers promotes adolescents psychological and physical well-being, being the target of peer aggression or rejection can take a considerable toll on adolescent health. In this talk, I will discuss my findings from two recent studies that seek to understand why and under what conditions expenences of peer stress interfere with adolescent mental and physical health. The first study investigates associations between daily peer stressors and health symptoms among youth with asthma and considers sleep as an undeflying mechanism. The findings demonstrate that youth experiencing greater daily peer problems (e.g., exclusion; conflict) report more severe daytime and nighttime asthma symptoms, and such associations are partially explained by elevated sleep disturbances. The second study examines variations in peer victimization and mental health symptoms as a function of adolescents’ changing schooling formats (i.e., in- person vs. online) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from longitudinal data collected from ninth graders during the 2020-202 1 academic year suggest that online schooling environments provide some protection against peer victimization and its emotional consequences. Together, these findings underscore the relevance of peer relationships for understanding adolescent health and provide insights into developmentally sensitive intervention approaches.


November 16 - Marsha Music
Writer, Cultural Historian, and Former Labor Organizer

Joe Von Battle and Hastings Street Blues

Abstract: A study of the life and work of mid-century, preMotown, Detroit blues and gospel record producer, Joe Von Battle (191 5-1 973), exploring his historical importance after decades of relative obscurity; following the dislocation and destruction of his businesses due to the Chrysler Freeway construction of 1960, and the ‘67 rebellion, respectively.

This includes investigation as to Battle’s production of the sermons and songs of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, and Battle’s role as the first to record the voice of Aretha Franklin. There have been over fifty interviews on the operation of Battle’s record business, personal life and times, with historians and direct sources, on and off camera; and years of online correspondence and social media engagement.

Within the international community of Blues record collectors, there has been a synergistic exchange of stories, data, and record business arcana. The research and work has as its focus the determination that Joe Von Battle was, if not the first, was one of the most important, post-WWII independent African-American record producers in the U.S.


November 17 - Kyu-Nahm Jun
Assistant Professor, Political Science

Fiscal Crisis, Austerity, and Prospects of Participatory Governance: Evidence from US Municipalities

Abstract: Restoring fiscal stability has been a difficult challenge for many municipalities. States have implemented intervention programs to resolve local financial emergencies. In 2012, Michigan adopted a stringent ‘emergency manager” law that dramatically increased its functions to provide state intervention mechanisms to address local financial emergencies. The powers bestowed upon emergency managers are greater than those of democratically elected local officials. This research examines the following research questions: (1) Does the fiscal emergency of a municipality affect the level of local participation?; (2) What has been the impact of the state takeover of municipal finances and management on public participation in local jurisdictions? To address these questions, we employ a difference-in-differences method to compare local participation at the individual level in cities with state takeover to cities without state intervention. Local participation will decrease in municipalities with state takeover systems that limit democratic representation. Electoral participation may decline; however, due to the limits on the democratic representation of locally elected officials, different forms of participation may increase. Empirical findings suggest that although there were preexisting differences in the participation level, there were no additional changes in cities after the state takeover compared to cities without such intervention.



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