Tag Archives: harvard

Empire of Cotton: A Global History

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 3.06.56 PM

Cotton is everywhere: in clothing, banknotes, coffee filters, soap, and even gunpowder. Cotton has transformed the modern world–from Mississippi’s cotton plantations to the factories of England, from the fields of Africa’s farmers to the merchant houses of Bombay and Buenos Aires, from the workers in Alsatian cotton mills to the spinners and weavers of the Mexican highlands.

Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard University, will tell the epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality in the world economy, and its making and remaking of global capitalism.

Sponsored by Academic Affairs, the Center for Global Studies, and the History Department.

Date: Today!
Time: 4:15 PM
Place: Judd 166
Facebook event

Tonight: Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star:” A Psychedelic Lecture by Dr. Graeme Boone


Mickey Capper ’13 reminded me to post about this. Here’s the blurb from the official Facebook page for this event:

Born and raised in San Francisco—the home of the Grateful Dead—Professor of Music Graeme M. Boone attended the University of California at Berkeley, the Universite de Paris, and Harvard University, where he taught before joining the faculty at Ohio State. Following an overview of the band’s early history and style, Dr. Boone’s talk includes the showing of a “mandala movie” which helps elucidate the Dead’s open-ended song “Dark Star,” conveying a holistic, organic analysis of the tune, and incorporating every salient element in the extended, psychedelically evocative improvisations of its first 150 recorded performances.

With lyrics by Robert Hunter and music by Jerry Garcia, “Dark Star” can cover a broad spectrum of moods and musical ideas—incorporating anything from R&B cover songs to outer-space apocalypse—but the attentive listener can also hear lines of force binding the jams together: structuring devices, strategies, and trajectories that direct each improvisation and also serve as fundamental guideposts. An animated movie with changing colors and annotations follows two specific performances of the song, recorded in London on 4/8/72 and 5/23/72 during the band’s European tour that spring (the original 16-track analog tapes of the entire Europe ’72 tour were remixed, mastered in HDCD format, and released by the band in 2011).

Transitional Justice – Juries – Constitutions

Oh yeah.

Another interesting talk to fill your dull and lonely day. Catherine Chase ’15 writes in: 

Do you like ancient Greece? Do you want to know what ancient Greece can teach us about contemporary institutional design? Are you interested in going to law school?

Then come hear Professor Adriaan Lanni, all the way from HARVARD LAW SCHOOL, talk it.

Date: Wednesday, February 20
Time: 4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Place: Wyllys 112
Price: Free

Henry Abelove to Fill Nation’s First LGBTQ Faculty Position

Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English Henry Abelove retired from Wesleyan in 2011 after thirty-something years, but he’s not done teaching yet. The intensely beloved (err, abeloved) faculty member (whose revered Walden FYI BZOD was lucky enough to take) will instead be making history at Harvard—his alma mater—where he will fill the first endowed faculty position for LGBTQ studies in the United States. A one-semester position, the F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professor of Gender and Sexuality will be tasked with teaching courses on LGBTQ issues. As the Harvard Crimson reports, it was made possible by a $1.5 million endowment raised by the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus:

Lecturer on History and Literature Timothy P. McCarthy ‘93, who has served on the HGLC board since 2006, coordinated the event that honored Abelove as the first Matthiessen visiting professor.

“Since the HGLC took part in the fundraising for the creation of the Matthiessen Chair, I thought it was really important that we have something to welcome professor Abelove back to Harvard after all these years,” McCarthy said. “It’s a big achievement to have raised $1.5 million to endow a chaired professorship.”

Experimental Philosophy with Felipe de Brigard

From that club that brought you Experimental Philosophy with Josh Knobe now comes Felipe de Brigard, a post-doc at Harvard who works in experimental philosophy and cognitive science. This Thursday, he will be presenting a talk entitled “Responsibility and the Principle of Alternative Future Possibilities.” The Principle of Alternative Possibilities states that a person is morally responsible for what she has done only if she could have done otherwise.

Date: Thursday, December 1
Time: 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Place: Downey 113
Cost: the endless and infinite psychological torture that may or may not accompany full knowledge of the alternative future possibilities of your daily moral choices.

Harvard and Princeton To Restore Early Admissions

A brief glimpse outside the Wesleyan bubble (maybe we could all use one of those right now?), courtesy of the Huff Post: Harvard and Princeton have announced plans to restore their nonbinding early admissions programs, which both schools discontinued a few years ago “out of particular concern for students at under-resourced high schools who might not be able to access the early admissions process.”

More from Harvard president Drew Faust:

“We piloted the elimination of early action out of concern that college admissions had become too complex and pressured for all students, and out of particular concern for students at under-resourced high schools who might not be able to access the early admissions process,” said Harvard President Drew Faust in a statement.

“Over the past several years, however, interest in early admissions has increased, as students and families from across the economic spectrum seek certainty about college choices and financing. Our goal now is to reinstitute an early-action program consistent with our bedrock commitment to access, affordability, and excellence,” she said.

Full article here. I can’t fathom how early admissions programs favor the affluent any less now than in they did in 2007, but then again, I also can’t fathom how they get the chocolate into those chocolate croissant things at Pi Cafe. What do I know?

Speaking of Notable Prefrosh: JFK’s Harvard App

John F. Kennedy: outstanding U.S. president, brother of Ted Kennedy P ’83, Hon ’84, mediocre Harvard applicant??

It’s been half a century since JFK (Harvard ’40) was inaugurated president. In commemoration of the occasion, reports the Harvard Crimson‘s Flyby blog, the JFK Presidential Library and Museum has “opened a virtual treasure trove of digitized documents concerning the personal and professional life of America’s 35th president, including Kennedy’s complete 1935 application to Harvard College.”

Shit—and here I was all excited when I only just found out I can access my own application (to Wes, not Harvard) via the dean’s office.  Kennedy’s application is online here—including his astoundingly mediocre high school transcript from The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut (68 average? 50 in Physics? Really, Mr. President?). Among the rest of the contents are a letter of recommendation from family friend Edward E. Moore, an unenthusiastic endorsement from high school principal (“[Jack] can be relied upon to do enough to pass”), and a less-than-inspiring “Why Harvard?” essay, which reads like particularly douchey dialogue from The Social Network (particularly I’m reminded of that especially cringe-worthy scene where the Winkelvoss twins spout all that pompous gibberish about being “men of Harvard“):

The Kaleidoscope of Empire: Reflections on Transcontinental Lives

JasanoffFrom History Chair Professor William Pinch (UVA ’82):

A Lecture by Maya Jasanoff, Associate Professor of History, Harvard University

Professor Jasanoff will draw on her past and current work to discuss new directions in the writing of world history, particularly the challenges that confront the historian of empire when piecing together complex individual lives.

Professor Jasanoff is the author of Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850 (Knopf/Forth Estate, 2005) and the forthcoming Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf/Harper Press, 2011). Her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, The William & Mary Quarterly, Past & Present, and The New York Times Magazine.

  • Date: Wednesday, Dec. 8
  • Time: 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Place: Russell House

Read more about Jasanoff here.

Harvard Student Calls for Randomized Admissions

Here’s some food for thought, at least until many of us dig in to real food tomorrow: should college admissions be reexamined, even moreso than in recent controversy and administrative panels? A Harvard junior argues so, in a Harvard Crimson editorial piece titled “The Lottery: The only fair way to admit people to Harvard is to randomize admissions.” Dylan R. Matthews ’12 argues that the current admissions system used by Harvard and other private universities across the country works against the goals it sets out to achieve:

William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, Harvard’s long-time dean of admissions and financial aid, has said that 80 to 90 percent of Harvard applicants are qualified to be here. Harvard should identify that 80 to 90 percent, and then randomly accept 1600-1700 of them.

Some will no doubt object that this will undermine the “excellence” of Harvard’s student body. It will, and that’s exactly the point. For one thing, “excellence” in the Harvard admissions process—and at Harvard—has a lot less to do with virtuous character traits than with an ability to game the system. By placing a premium on students who go above and beyond in extracurricular realms, Harvard has attracted a number of truly incredible people but has also encouraged a high school arms race wherein kids cram their schedules with activities in an attempt to attract admissions officers.

By selecting for this kind of behavior, the admissions process doesn’t encourage real excellence, but, to use the novelist Walter Kirn’s term from his hilarious book and essay “Lost in the Meritocracy,” “aptitude for showing aptitude.” This may well be of use in students’ careers after college, but it is orthogonal if not antithetical to the goals of a liberal arts education.

The post is already alive with discussion, which are viewable with the full text of the article at the Harvard Crimson’s website. Where do you stand on the proposal? Does this seem fully applicable to Wesleyan’s admissions policy? Would this be a change in the right direction, or is change even necessary at all here? Share your thoughts in the comments, before your post-colonial guilt seeps into the flavor of the systematically butchered turkey and poisons the already genocide-tinged taste of your gluten-free stuffing.

[Article via anonymous Shoutbox tip.]

Adderall Receives Honorary Degree From Harvard

Thanks, Onion:

“Harvard is proud to honor the tremendous merits of Adderall, without which many of you would not be sitting here today,” Faust said in her opening address to the nearly 1,900 unblinking and intensely focused students receiving their diplomas. “I don’t think I’m exaggerating matters when I say that Adderall has been an inspiration to us all.”

The psychologically addictive drug then received resounding applause from the assembled graduates, with many jumping to their feet, clapping in near unison for 25 straight minutes, temporarily forgetting where they were, and then grinding their teeth in celebration of the well-deserved honor.