Faculty Shop Talks

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Fall 2021

Presenter: Carlos Mejia
Title: “Fishing in a Lunar Crater: Writing and Translating Chapter Zero into English”
Time and Place: September 17, 2021 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract: This is a presentation on the process of fictionalizing scenes of public corruption, close family relations, and life sacrifices that take place in an industrial city in the riverbanks of the Magdalena river in Colombia. I will read an excerpt from the novel Fishing in a Lunar Crater –Pesca en un cráter lunar–, and address how the aforementioned themes are weaved into the narrative. In particular, I will be emphasizing how the text changed in the process of translation, in which professional translator Andrea Rosenberg (previous translations include The Storm and Difficult Light by Colombian author Tomás González) was involved. As early readers have emphasized the “Colombianness” of the text, the translation process has entailed a serious reflection on strategies to include and, also, exclude, specific types of readers. How can this text manage the specificity of its personal source and the aspiration of reaching a wider readership through imagery of personal accomplishments, failures, and fantasies? The excerpt I’ll be reading, called “Chapter 0”, serendipitously, turned out to be a somewhat premeditated effort to call attention to the exotism underlying magical realism –there are clear callbacks to One Hundred Years of Solitude’s family saga–, so closely associated with Colombian literary production (in international circles). In this process, I hope this text –as Derrida would put it in Specters of Marx– dialogues with the ghost of magical realism (and his figure García Márquez) to in some way surpass that exotism and invoke new ways in which imagination can connect us. This project was supported by a RSC grant provided by the Kendall Center for work carried out during the summer of 2020.

Presenter: Sean Easton
Title: "The Plundered Footage of a Fascist Film in Sohrab Modi’s Anti-Colonialist Sikandar (British India, 1942)"
Time and Place: October 15, 2021 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract: It has recently come to light that Indian director Sohrab Modi’s pre-Indian Independence Bollywood epic Sikandar, dramatizing Macedonian King Alexander III (‘the Great’)’s invasion of northwest India in 326 BCE, makes substantial use of footage taken from the Italian Fascist spectacular Scipione l’Africano (Carmine Gallone, 1937). Scipione was an historical epic -- and thinly veiled celebration of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini – about Scipio Africanus, the Roman conqueror of Carthage. In this talk I examine how Modi uses the footage from the Fascist film to further both Sikandar’s anti-colonialist agenda (vis-à-vis Great Britain) and its World War II, anti-Axis agenda.

Presenter: Scott Bur
Title: "Discovering natural and unnatural ligands for the bromodomain of PfGCN5." 
Time and Place: October 22, 2021 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract: The epigenetic regulation of gene expression is complex and involves a series of proteins that write chemical "marks" on the chromosomes, others that read those marks, and still others erase those marks. One of the proteins critically involved in the regulation of gene expression is GCN5. We are studying the "reader" function of the GCN5 homolog in Plasmodium falciparum, the protozoan responsible for the majority of malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa. Although the mark that the human GCN5 protein reads is known, our research suggests that the P. falciparum homolog does not read the same mark. We are using solid-phase peptide synthesis to discover the mark that is read by this homolog. In addition, we are using a fragment-based ligand design approach that is guided by protein-observed 19F NMR to discover small, drug-like molecules that could inhibit the protein from reading its mark, thus disrupting critical regulatory processes in the organisms gene expression.

Presenter: Laura Triplett and Valerie Banschbach
Title: "Pipeline Pedagogy: Teaching about Energy and Environmental Justice Contestations"
Time and Place: November 5, 2021 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract: The proliferation of pipelines to transport oil and natural gas represents a major area of contestation in the landscape of energy development. Battles over energy pipelines pit private landowners, local community representatives, and environmentalists against energy corporations and industry supporters, sometimes drawing opposition and attention from well beyond the impacted regions, as in the case of the Standing Rock/Dakota Access Pipeline. Stakeholders must navigate complex government regulatory processes, interpret technical and scientific reports, and endure lengthy and expensive court battles. As with other forms of environmental injustice, the contentious construction of pipelines often disproportionately impacts communities of lower economic development, people of color, and indigenous peoples; pipelines also pose potential short and long-term health and safety threats. With the expansion of energy pipelines carrying fracked oil and gas across the United States and abroad, the moment is ripe for teaching about pipeline projects and engaging students and community members in learning about methods for mobilization. Valerie Banschbach is co-editor (with Jessica Rich) of a volume 1 examining pedagogical opportunities, challenges, and interventions that campus-community engagement produce in relation to infrastructuring in the form of pipeline development. Valerie will share some of the strategies for teaching and community engagement from that volume. She will discuss her experiences leading a program-wide effort, to teach about the Mountain Valley Pipeline controversy in Virginia. Laura Triplett has become embroiled in the fight against Enbridge Line 3 in Minnesota, serving as an expert witness for groups like the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Sierra Club. She has engaged her students in her work on the science, and will discuss the challenges she has experienced teaching about this controversial project.

Presenter: Amanda Nienow
Title: "Understanding the Environmental Chemistry of the Troubling Herbicide Dicamba" 
Time and Place: November 19, 2021 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

Abstract:. Agrochemicals are widely used around the world. For over 50 years, dicamba, 3,6-Dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid, has been one of the agrochemicals used in the United States, historically mostly on corn or grain crops. These early formulations of dicamba were listed as a restricted use herbicide due to high potential to volatilize, leach from soils, persist in ground water, and to cause widespread contamination of ecosystems. The use of dicamba decreased upon the rise of glyphosate (Round Up) in the early 2000s, but the recent development of glyphosate resistant weeds means dicamba use is increasing again. In 2016, Monsanto announced Roundup Ready 2 soybeans that can tolerate both dicamba and glyphosate. In April 2016, the EPA allowed the use of dicamba in sprays for these soybeans for five years. Despite conditional approval and restrictions on use, growing season 2017 saw the first use of Xtend soybeans in the US - and by the end of the summer, there were thousands of complaints from farmers on farms adjacent to fields where Xtend soybeans were used. Herbicide drifting appeared to be causing crop damage in adjacent fields. Despite the widespread damage (farmers in 21 states had been impacted), on October 13, 2017, the US EPA approved future use of Monsanto, BASF, and Dupont dicamba containing herbicides “over the top” of soybean and cotton in 2018. Dicamba continues to be used throughout the US, including here in Minnesota, on both soybean and corn crops. Farmers need to follow strict guidelines on how and when dicamba can be applied to try to prevent the big problems of drift (drops from the sprays landing outside of the field) and volatilization (resuspension of dicamba in air after application).

Though herbicide companies have to comply with EPA guidelines and have been conducting their own research into dicamba drift and volatilization, they do not focus on the fundamental chemistry dictating the problems or the environmental effects of post-application chemical reactions. For several years, my group has analyzed the chemistry of dicamba – in water, on plant surfaces, and, most recently, in air and soil samples. This Faculty Shop Talk will share the background story of dicamba in more detail, as well as provide some of my group’s chemical analyzes.

Spring 2022

Presenter:  Maria Kalbermatten
Title: "Teaching Political Humor and Manipulation in Times of COVID-19"
Time and Place: February 18, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

During Spring 2020 I was a Visiting Professor at Kansai Gaidai University, in Osaka, Japan. After a week of adjustment to a new time zone and a completely new culture for me, I was so excited to start teaching my two courses on humor. At that time, I didn’t expect that the Covid-19 outbreak would give me such a large amount of material to use in my teaching. The title of one of the courses was “Political Humor and Manipulation in Japanese and Western World Media.” I designed the syllabus based on research I had made about political humor and manipulation in two Argentinian newspapers (Kalbermatten, 2015. “Humor político y manipulación en dos diarios argentinos”). I always wanted to teach a class that introduces students to the relationship between political humor and manipulation that occurs in editorial cartoons and comic strips. I finally had the opportunity to do it in Osaka with a multilingual group of international students from Estonia, the USA, Martinique, and Japan. During the semester the students analyzed and discussed mainly editorial cartoons and socio-political comic strips that commented on the current worldwide political and economic situation, especially in their own countries. We also read related news stories that provided context for the cartoons and comic strips. Throughout this analytical process, the students recognized how ideologies are disseminated and manipulated by the political humor published in the newspapers and online. When the semester ended, it was surprising to see how the use of political humor and its analysis promoted not only political understanding of current events around the world, but also generated critical thinking among my students about important issues related to those events. In this presentation, I will discuss the main topics (political humor, political satire, irony, sarcasm, and manipulation) that we covered in class as well as what I learned by teaching this course to a group of students with such different backgrounds and levels of proficiency in English, their second language. 

Presenter: Ursula Lindqvist 
Title: “Unsettling Swedish-American Trauma Narratives in Dakota Ancestral Lands” 
Time and Place: March 4, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Presenter: Betsy Byers
Title: Scaffold: Time, adaptation and response to climate change through the lens of an abstract painter
Time and Place: March 18, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

My studio practice explores the symbiotic relationship between our bodies and the surrounding environment. In the past year, I expanded my practice to include sound, moving image and installation based work to explore our subjective experience of climate change through glacial loss. This faculty shop talk will offer a brief contextualization of my work within the larger field of art and detail the development of my new work for my upcoming solo exhibition, Scaffold. The exhibition utilizes survivalist aesthetic, imagery of changing ice, sound collected directly from glacial melt and livestream images of the artic to explore personal responses and cultural adaptations to our rapidly shifting climate. Scaffold opens March 19 at Kolman & Pryor Gallery in Minneapolis, MN.


Presenter: Jeff La Frenierre
Title: Mapping Middle Turtle Island: The Cultural Landscape of the Upper Midwest in 1800
Time and Place: April 1, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

The names people give to the geographic features prominent in their daily lives, “toponyms”, weave a complex story about the physical landscape, historical events in that landscape, and the cultural identities that emerge from both. A modern map of the upper Midwest tells us about a natural environment of grass (Eden Prairie, Long Prairie, Rice River), forest (Pine City, Maple Grove), and water (Lake City, Granite Falls) that is (or was) rich in bird (Swan Lake, Loon Lake) and wildlife (Moose Lake, Rabbit River, Elk River); centuries of French exploration and proselytization (Duluth, Hennepin, St. Croix); the political and economic dynasties that helped drive American colonization (Ramsey, Sibley, Weyerhaeuser); and waves of European immigration (Finland, New Ulm, Lindstrom). Of course, embedded within this cultural landscape are memories of peoples living here prior to Euro-American settlement (Shakopee, Menominee, Chippewa Falls) and while many of their stories remain imprinted on the landscape (Minnesota, Mississippi, Mankato), much of it is obscured behind direct (Red River; Leech Lake) or badly misinterpreted (Rum River) translations of their indigenous names. In this talk, I will discuss my effort to map the toponyms of the Oceti Ŝakowiŋ (Dakota or Sioux), Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Chippewa), Mamaceqtaw (Menominee), and Hočągara (Ho-Chunk or Winnebago) native peoples who lived here, at the center of our continent (Turtle Island), in the decades prior to the onset of widespread Euro-American settlement. By peeling away the more recent names on our collective map, we can begin to better understand the rich cultural histories and traditions that existed – and continue to exist – in this resource-rich and highly-contested landscape.

Presenter: Sharon Marquart
Title: Irony without Victims: Humanitarian Encounters in Guy Delisle’s Burma Chronicles and Jersusalem Chronicles
Time and Place: April 8, 2022 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center

This talk examines the works of Québecois graphic novelist Guy Delisle, a stay-at-home dad who spent the better part of the early 2000s traveling to humanitarian conflict zones with his partner in Doctors without Borders.