Epistemic Gatekeeping, Pride or Prejudice?
Joseph Ulatowski, Senior Lecturer of Philosophy, The University of Waikato – New Zealand
October 23, 2019 – 4 to 5PM (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor South)
The continuous growth of intellectual ecosystems leads to an environment populated by mutually uncomprehending hyperspecialised groups. That there are such groups can be taken, quite rightly, to reflect the way that human knowledge has expanded and deepened to such an extent that one person can only have a detailed grasp of a very narrow field. People no longer specialise in medicine and law but hyperspecialise in endocrinology and patent law. They occupy a niche that has its own epistemic standards and only those hyperspecialists make appropriate use of its standards. Enter gatekeepers whose sole responsibility it is to assist new entrants to navigate these standards, so that novices not be left stranded upon remote cognitive islands. Whilst they may be highly skilled practitioners, epistemic gatekeepers are not free from acting upon their own cognitive biases and prejudices. In this excerpt from my project, Why Facts Matter, I argue that facts should serve against not only stranding novices on cognitive islands but also privileging biased gatekeepers.
Director of the Humanities Institute and the Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Michael Lynch, has been named winner of the 2019 George Orwell Award. This award, which has been granted annually since 1975 by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), recognizes distinguished contribution to honesty and clarity in public language. Michael joins the ranks of other prestigious George award winners such as linguistic and political activist Noam Chomsky (1987), comedian and host of the Daily show Jon Stewart (2005), and Michael Pollan author of Food Rules (2010). Chief among the works of Michael Lynch recognized by this award is his latest book Know-It-All Society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture. The book is an in-depth examination of the role that our blind political convictions play in fanning the flames of our public divisions and grounding us in our tribal affiliations.
The Digital Humanities and Media Studies (DHMS) initiative of the Humanities Institute officially launched its new website last week. According to this website, “DHMS seeks to engage the UConn community in explorations and exchange about all aspects related to the digital humanities and media studies, particularly as they pertain to knowledge production in the humanities.” DHMS was founded in 2016 and began its work under the directorship of Anke Finger, professor of German Studies at the University of Connecticut (UConn). In 2019 Yohei Igarashi, associate professor of English at UConn, became its new director. This initiative, which also offers a Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities and Media Studies, is a unique interdisciplinary resource at UConn as it brings together faculty and students already working in either or both fields of digital humanities and media studies.
DHMS has also launched a speaker series this year beginning with three invited guests. On October 2nd, UCHI played host to Annette Vee from University of Pittsburgh for a talked entitled Algorithmic Writers and Implications for Literacy, co-sponsored by the Aetna Chair of Writing and the Neag School of Education’s Reading and Language Arts Center. DHMS is also co-sponsoring talks by Nancy Baym of Microsoft and Hal Roberts of The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society in the Winter and Spring of 2020, respectively,
For more information or to subscribe to the DHMS mailing list, please contact Yohei Igarashi.
Korean Peasants and the Struggle over Land Reform in U.S.-Occupied Korea
Kornel S. Chang, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University – Newark
October 16, 2019 (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor North)
This talk captures a slice of Korea’s “Asian Spring,” by examining the different ways Korean peasants imagined liberation, sought to actualize their aspirations, and clashed over its meaning in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the collapse of the Japanese Empire ushered in a moment ripe with hope, idealism, and uncertainty. It also looks at how the entry of American forces complicated, and, ultimately, narrowed possibilities for agrarian reform. This touched off a struggle with Korean peasants, who, despite their differences, held more far-reaching visions of emancipation. Focusing on land rights, my talk reveals the vitality and complexity of Korea’s “Asian Spring,” by highlighting the emancipatory opportunities that inspired, mobilized, and fractured Korean peasants, while recounting the ways Americans foreclosed many of its possibilities in an effort to establish control in Korea and rebuild a postwar social order in Asia.
Michael Lynch, The University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) director and UConn Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Philosophy is author of a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times in which he explores the psychological and philosophical reasons why the concept of “Fake News,” despite having lost its original function through incessant use and abuse, remains such an effective social phenomenon.
Consider what your bookshelf might look like if you were to remove every book that has been translated—every Homer, Sappho, Rumi, Li Po, Szymborska, Neruda, or the Bible. Imagine removing every book by an author whose work has been influenced and shaped by a translation. Exceptional literature needs exceptional translators to bring it to life in a new language.
The University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) is proud to announce World Poetry Books (WPB) as a new collaborative initiative with Dr. Peter Constantine, professor of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at the University of Connecticut (UConn). Based at UConn, WPB is the only publisher in the United States dedicated solely to publishing books of international poetry in English translation. As a press, our goal is to champion poets and translators from all stages of their careers by creating new communities of readers both inside and outside of the university. We believe every language has its Walt Whitman, its C.P. Cavafy, or Anne Carson, yet most world poetry—especially poetry from underrepresented languages—remains under-published and undiscovered. Our mission is to publish and promote books of vital world poetry from languages other than English. We invite our readers to celebrate the art of translation, so essential to the vibrant circulation of words and ideas. To find out more, and to purchase books, please visit us at: www.worldpoetrybooks.com
University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) is co-sponsor of the 2019 “Unprogramming Asian American Studies” Conference on October 5-6 at UConn Hartford (Harford Times Building, Room 145). The conference is focused on “rethinking the futures of Asian American studies within and without programed home. Click here for further information and detailed conference program.
Current Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and former Humanities Institute (UCHI) faculty fellow (2013–2014), Sarah S. Willen, has a new book out entitled Fighting for Dignity: Immigrant Lives at Israel’s Margins (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019). UCHI is joining UConn Human Rights Institute and the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life to host a book launch and discussion with migration studies scholars Tally Amir of Harvard University, Heide Castañeda at University of South Florida, and Jennifer S. Hirsch at Columbia University. The Launch is free and open to the public and will take place on Thursday, October 17, 2019 from 4–5:30PM in the Babbidge Library Heritage Room (4th floor).
Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures Reconsidered:
From “Me Too” to “Fake News” in the Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of an Anti-Catholic Genre, 1845-1960
Daniel A. Cohen, Department of History, Case Western Reserve University
September 25, 2019 (UCHI Conference Room: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor)
Contrary to the conventional view of Awful Disclosures (1836) as a great triumph of antebellum U.S. nativist propaganda, Maria Monk’s bogus account of sexual abuse, torture, infanticide, and murder in a Canadian convent was actually a disaster for the anti-Catholic cause. Despite its sensationalism, Monk’s exposé struggled to match the extraordinary sales of Rebecca Reed’s earlier Six Months in a Convent (1835); and, after being utterly debunked in 1836–37 as “fake news” by that era’s “mainstream media” (reputable secular and religious newspapers), it was not reprinted again in the U.S. until 1855. More broadly, the public exposure of Maria Monk as an outright fraud largely discredited the entire convent exposé genre, dragging down Reed’s far more credible narrative with it. Only during the century after 1860, did Maria Monk (who had died in disgrace in 1849) complete her posthumous comeback. By the early 1900s, huge numbers of anti-convent narratives, including Awful Disclosures, were being churned out by specialized nativist and anti-Catholic presses based in such cultural backwaters as Aurora, Missouri, and Milan, Illinois, which catered to the tastes of rural Protestant traditionalists and other bigoted, prurient, or unsophisticated readers. These widely dispersed nativist publishers—at least one of whom also peddled stereopticons, slide shows, and even motion picture projectors—constituted a massive communications empire apart from the “mainstream media,” arguably foreshadowing the rise of right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and white nationalist websites in our own time.
The Digital Humanities & Media Studies initiative of the The University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) will co-sponsor a lecture by Annette Vee, associate professor of English at University of Pittsburg, entitled “Algorithmic Writers and Implications for Literacy.” Her talk will take place on Wednesday, October 2 at 2 PM in the UCHI Conference Room (Babbidge Library, 4th Floor). Annette Vee is also the director of the Composition Program at Pitt, and is involved in various initiatives that connect the humanities, digital media, and computation. She is also the author of Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming Is Changing Writing (MIT Press, 2017). Other co-sponsors of this event are the Aetna Chair of Writing and the Neag School of Eductation’s Reading and Language Arts Center. Below you will find the abstract for Vee’s talk.
“Algorithmic Writers and Implications for Literacy”
Writing today is inextricable from computation: we write on and for computers. But computers are no longer just word processors or distributors of our writing. Algorithms, which enter our lives through computers and crowd our writing spaces, affect what we write, who reads it, and how. Algorithms read our emails in order to write our emails. They correct our grammar, they can summarize and simplify texts, and they choose what we read online. If you write on or with computers (and you do), your algorithmic coauthors influence what you write and how you write it. Algorithms are more active agents than pencils or coffeeshops—other materialities that affect our writing processes—and they have complex relationships to the humans who produce and use them. What is literacy when it’s learned, performed, and subjected to algorithmic writers? And how should literacy be taught in the context of ubiquitous algorithmic writing? In this talk, Annette Vee will describe contemporary scenes of algorithmic writing, place them in the history of literacy and computation, and present some implications and applications for literacy learning now.