Campus News & Events

Matesan’s New Book Explores Political Violence, Islamist Mobilization in Egypt and Indonesia

The Violence PendulumIoana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, is the author of The Violence Pendulum: Tactical Change in Islamist Groups in Egypt and Indonesia, published by Oxford University Press, September 2020.

The Violence Pendulum challenges the notion that democracy can reduce violence, or that there is anything exceptional about violent Islamist mobilization in the Middle East. It also addresses an ongoing puzzle in the study of political violence, and shows why repression can sometimes encourage violence, and other times discourage it. Matesan also investigates escalation and de-escalation in an inter-generational and cross-regional study of Islamist mobilization in Egypt and in Indonesia.

The Violence Pendulum is currently featured in Oxford University Press’s collection on Peace Studies.

Ellis Neyra Pens New Book on Latinx, Caribbean Poetics

Book by NeyraRen Ellis Neyra, associate professor of English, is the author of The Cry of the Senses: Listening to Latinx and Caribbean Poetics, published by Duke University Press, 2020.

Weaving together the Black radical tradition with Caribbean and Latinx performance, cinema, music, and literature, Ellis Neyra highlights the ways in which Latinx and Caribbean sonic practices challenge anti-Black, colonial, post-Enlightenment, and humanist epistemologies.

Krishnan’s Book Receives Special Citation from the Dance Studies Association

DSA awardA book written by Hari Krishnan, professor and chair of dance, received a special citation by the awards committee of the Dance Studies Association.

Krishnan’s Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam (Wesleyan University Press, 2019) was honored with the 2020 de la Torre Bueno® First Book Special Citation for being an “invaluable addition to scholarship on Bharatanatyam in the crucial period between the 1930s and 1950s, offering an impeccably researched and well-argued revision of the common recounting of this phase of the dance’s history.”

Krishnan’s archival work “is impeccable,” the citation reads, “combining interviews with readings of key films and reconstructions of lost works using songbooks. Throughout, he is deeply attuned to gender, class, and caste, especially in charting devadasi genealogies in early cinematic works. He includes invaluable reflections on the complexity of working artists’ lives in these crucial periods, and argues persuasively that specific dimensions of some lives undergird the cinematic invention of ‘classical’ Bharatanatyam as a middle-class form.”

Dollinger ’22: Pandemic Year in College Brings Pride, Purpose

Dollinger

An essay on campus life during the pandemic, written by Shayna Dollinger ’22, was recently published by J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

When religion major Shayna Dollinger ’22 imagined her college experience, it never involved mandatory quarantining, weekly virus testing, attending concerts—solo—in a 6-by-6-foot square space, and wearing masks at a socially distanced tashlich on Rosh Hashanah. But this was the true reality of her junior year at Wesleyan.

“But weirdly enough, I don’t miss what could have been. I am proud and grateful every day for the lengths my university has gone to keep its students safe and engaged during these turbulent times,” Dollinger wrote in an essay titled “My Pandemic Year in College Has Brought Pride and Purpose.” The essay, which was an assignment in her BIO 107: Global Change and Infectious Disease course, was later published in the Dec. 3 edition of J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

“There is a culture of mutual respect for the health of our peers,” Dollinger described. “We wear masks at all times, except when in our own residences, and we try to hold as many events outdoors as possible. We genuinely want to be here and stay here, and the only way that is possible is if we all agree to keep our campus safe and healthy. We are young people who care not only about our own health, but the health of our peers, the older members of our community, and the health of our country and world.”

Dollinger wonders what the outcome would be if the entire country were able to implement Wesleyan’s “Keep Wes Safe” strategy on a larger scale, as well as create a culture of joint responsibility. Perhaps, she writes, “this pandemic would ease its course and we might be able to prevent the next.”

“Until then, I will rock my Wesleyan University mask and find joy in my very own college experience.”

Read the full essay online at jweekly.com.

15 Seniors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

phi beta kappa

Fifteen seniors were inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society on Dec. 2. Phi Beta Kappa means “love of learning is the guide of life.”

During a virtual ceremony on Dec. 2, 15 members of the Class of 2021 were inducted early decision into the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

The oldest scholastic honor society in the nation, Phi Beta Kappa at Wesleyan is limited to 12% of the graduating class each year.

Fall-semester election is based on grades through the end of a student’s junior year and fulfillment of the General Education expectations. The minimum grade point average for the fall election is 93, and students are nominated by their major departments.

“Your families, teachers, fellow students, and others at Wesleyan couldn’t be prouder,” Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 said during the initiation ceremony. “We’re delighted to recognize your achievements, even in this world of Zoom, and acknowledge your good work and your strong character. I am honored to be among those who honor you today. Thank you for your many contributions to Wesleyan, and congratulations on this extraordinary achievement.”

The students and their major(s) are below:

Jacob Barabas, College of Social Studies, economics
Kian Caplan, neuroscience and behavior, science in society
Julia Gyourko, history

Employees Recognized for Years of Service to Wesleyan

Joyce Topshe

Associate Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe is celebrating her 20th year working at Wesleyan. She credits her love for the job to a “lifelong passion” for design and construction. LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, and Etch A Sketch were among her favorite childhood toys. “I am so lucky to be getting paid to do the things I love and with people that I care about,” she said.

For 19 years, Joyce Topshe took on the role of managing Wesleyan’s construction services, environmental services, rental properties, and Physical Plant-Facilities.

Now in her 20th year of working at Wesleyan, the associate vice president for facilities is powering through “the most challenging year of my career,” she said. “As we approach the end of the fall semester during a raging pandemic, I am feeling like we almost won the World Series. My entire team has worked exhaustively to make our campus safe during the pandemic, and I am so grateful to every member of my team for staying the course despite the challenges and concerns that the pandemic brought.”

Topshe, a member of Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee and the Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT), helped oversee the COVID-19 testing operation on campus and was heavily involved with the University’s reopening plans last fall.

Despite the pandemic, Topshe “continues to love coming to work every day because I enjoy the people that I work with,” she said. “Many of us have been working together for the entire time and we have this incredible sense of ownership and loyalty to our Wesleyan community, to each other, and even more so to the students that we serve. I enjoy working as a team and I am grateful for my talented colleagues who have contributed to the wonderful accomplishments that our team has achieved. I can’t believe that it has been 20 years since I joined Wesleyan. It is true that time flies when you are having fun.”

Books by Meyer, Smolkin Translated and Distributed in Russia

meyer book

Two books written by Wesleyan faculty have recently been translated to Russian, where they are now being distributed.

Nabokov and Indeterminacy: The Case of the Real Life of Sebastian Knight was originally written by Priscilla Meyer, professor emerita of Russian language and literature, and published by Northwestern University Press in 2018. Renowned translator and Nabokov expert Vera Polishchuk translated Meyer’s book, which is now available in Russian by Academic Studies Press.

Nabokov and Indeterminacy shows how Vladimir Nabokov’s early novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight illuminates his later work. Meyer explores how Nabokov associates his characters in Sebastian Knight with systems of subtextual references to Russian, British, and American literary and philosophical works. She then turns to Lolita and Pale Fire, applying these insights to show that these later novels clearly differentiate the characters through subtextual references. Meyer argues that the dialogue Nabokov constructs among subtexts explores his central concern: the continued existence of the spirit beyond bodily death. She suggests that because Nabokov’s art was a quest for an unattainable knowledge of the otherworldly, knowledge which can never be conclusive, Nabokov’s novels are never closed in plot, theme, or resolution.

sacred space

A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism was written by Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history, and published by Princeton University Press in 2018. Olga Leontieva translated the book, which is now available by New Literary Observer.

A Sacred Space Is Never Empty presents the first history of Soviet atheism from the 1917 revolution to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Smolkin argues that to understand the Soviet experiment, we must make sense of Soviet atheism. She shows how atheism was reimagined as an alternative cosmology with its own set of positive beliefs, practices, and spiritual commitments. Through its engagements with religion, the Soviet leadership realized that removing religion from the “sacred spaces” of Soviet life was not enough. Then, in the final years of the Soviet experiment, Mikhail Gorbachev—in a stunning and unexpected reversal—abandoned atheism and reintroduced religion into Soviet public life.

The translation was already featured in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, in the media project STOL, in The Journal Republic, and the media platform polit.ru.

Kottos Awarded Simons Collaborative Grant to Advance Wave Transport Research

kottos

Professor Tsampikos Kottos is one of 11 researchers worldwide to receive funding from the Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences Initiative. Simons is awarding $16 million total in funding over the next eight years.

With support from the Simons Foundation, Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics, will work on groundbreaking wave transport research, ultimately benefiting a broad range of technologies ranging from wireless communications and efficient energy harvesting, to biomedical and avionics sensing technologies.

Kottos is one of 11 principal investigators (PIs) from 12 universities and research institutions across the globe to receive funding from the Simons Collaborations in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences Initiative. The group’s project, “Harnessing Universal Symmetry Concepts for Extreme Wave Phenomena,” is based at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. (Read Kottos’ ASRC bio online here.)

During the first four years, Simons is awarding ASRC $8 million, out of which Wesleyan is receiving $600,000. In the second phase, Simons will award an additional $8 million.

The grant aims to stimulate progress on fundamental scientific questions of major importance in mathematics, theoretical physics, and theoretical computer science. This research aims to further the fundamental understanding of and ability to manipulate light and sound waves in order to facilitate the development of novel wave-based technologies.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Wesleyan to be part of this international coalition, which hopefully will address the next generation’s needs of classical wave-based technologies,” Kottos said.

Kottos’s research interests include linear, nonlinear, and non-Hermitian wave transport, mesoscopic transport, and mathematical physics. He has published more than 140 papers. During the 2020–21 academic year, Kottos is teaching PHYS 324: Electricity and Magnetism; PHYS 521: Physics Colloquium; PHYS 214: Quantum Mechanics; and PHYS 510: Theoretical Physics Seminar II.

In addition to participating in the research, Kottos also is serving on the Simons Collaboration Initiative steering committee.

Tan ’20 Honored by Geological Society of America for Poster Presentation

GSAOn Nov. 23, the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) Geobiology and Geomicrobiology Division awarded earth and environmental sciences graduate student Yu Kai Tan ’20 with a student presentation award.

Tan presented his poster, “Freshwater Mussels in North America: Museum Collections and Pre-Industrial Biogeography,” on Oct. 29 during the GSA’s annual (virtual) meeting. Andy (Dick Yee) Tan ’21 collaborated with Tan ’20 on the poster. Their advisors are Ann Burke, professor of biology, and Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences.

Judges commended Tan’s poster for being “beautifully organized” and having a “terrific use of time and space.” They also noted that “the digitalization and processing of these collections is incredibly important to maintaining them and making them accessible for future research,” and the work “plays a vital role in understanding past and present biodiversity.”

poster

(click to enlarge)

Wickham ’21 Awarded Rhodes Scholarship for Post-Graduate Study

Fitzroy "Pablo" Wickham is the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham is the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham ’21 has been named the Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar.

The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, international scholarship programs in the world. Each year, it provides about 100 fully-funded scholarships to students around the world for post-graduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. According to the website, the “Rhodes Selection Committees are looking for young people of outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service.”

At Wesleyan, Wickham is a double major in theater and neuroscience and behavior. At the University of Oxford under the Rhodes Scholarship, he plans to pursue an MPhil and DPhil in neuroscience. Later, he plans to attend medical school and ultimately hopes to establish his own neuroscience research laboratory and practice in Jamaica.

Wickham’s selection as the Jamaica Rhodes Scholar was announced by Jamaica’s Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, on Nov. 22.

Wickham grew up in a single-parent household in the Jamaican countryside, on the northern part of the island in the parish of St. Ann. He and his sister were raised by their mother, Florence Wickham, a high school mathematics teacher. Wickham notes that St. Ann is birthplace to such acclaimed talent as world-renowned musician Bob Marley; political activist Marcus Garvey; and father of the U.S. Vice President-elect, Donald Harris (Kamala Harris reportedly spent her summers there), yet “remains very underdeveloped and rural, boasting a rich agricultural history.”

After completing fifth and sixth grade in North Carolina, Wickham longed to return to the United States for college. He chose to attend a small liberal arts school given his interest in both neuroscience and theater, and said Wesleyan’s generous financial aid package made it possible for him to afford college in the U.S.

Hot Off the Press: Meere, Tulchin ’20 Explore Identity, Exile in Kacimi’s Plays

AFLMichael Meere, assistant professor of French, and Sophie Dora Tulchin ’20 are the co-authors of “Filling In the Gaps: Identity, Exile, and Performance in 1962 and Babel Taxi by Mohamed Kacimi,” published in the Journal of the African Literature Association, Vol. 14, Issue 3, on Nov. 12, 2020.

This article explores issues of identity, exile, and performance in 1962 (1998) and Babel Taxi (2004), two foundational plays by the Algerian-born author Mohamed Kacimi. 1962 is an autobiographical play written during Algeria’s “black decade” about the effects of Algeria’s independence on two particular characters, while Babel Taxi allegorically retells the legend of the Tower of Babel in modern-day Iraq at the start of the Iraq War. In these plays, the characters’ pasts and memories are full of gaps (trous). The article argues that the characters’ attempts to fill in these trous with performance illuminate their experience of exile as a permanent psychological state. This endeavor not only applies to Arabic-speaking, Islamic characters, but also to those from Argentina, Israel, France, China, India, and beyond. Further, both plays highlight the transformative power of performance. However, whereas the characters in 1962 use performance to elevate their personal narratives of the past and resist the domination of official history, the resurrection of biblical legend through performance in Babel Taxi ends in violence and disunity. Performing the past can facilitate connection and offer solace from the confusion of exile, but it can just as easily sow discord in the present.

Campus Urged to Stay Vigilant; COVID-19 Testing Site Moved Indoors

covid testing

Wesleyan’s COVID-19 testing site moved to Beckham Hall for the winter season. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

With the holiday season approaching, Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee (PPC) reminds students, faculty, and staff to remain vigilant and safe.

“We have made it past the election and the Thanksgiving holiday is in sight,” wrote Wesleyan’s Medical Director and PCC member Dr. Tom McLarney in an email to the campus community on November 16. “As you are undoubtedly aware, the coronavirus pandemic has entered an alarming new phase, with cases rising sharply in most parts of the country and moderate increases in Connecticut. Despite the rigorous testing and safety protocols the University put in place, we are not immune from these trends, as we have also seen an increase in cases recently, though our positivity rate remains quite low.”

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont rolled the state back to “phase 2.1,” reinstating many restrictions on both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Wesleyan continues to follow state and federal guidance closely. Wesleyan’s own campus alert level is currently YELLOW, and students are advised against any unnecessary travel off campus. In addition, the Freeman Athletic Center remains closed.

To keep campus as safe as possible, Dr. McLarney urges everyone to continue to follow COVID safety guidelines, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and practicing careful hand washing. “The current evidence supports that face coverings—whether surgical masks or multilayered cloth masks—protect both the person wearing them along with those around them,” he wrote.