To Walk and Think Among the Trees

October 17, 2018

photo of Janet Polasky

Janet Polasky, Presidential Professor of History, delivered an address at the faculty convocation held in honor of UNH’s new president, James Dean, on October 11, 2018. In the speech, Polasky touched on the birth of UNH and, with it, the conviction that has guided UNH since: that a liberal education is at the core of what UNH does — it is advantageous to students, integral to professional education and the foundation for civic engagement.

Read Janet Polasky’s address here.


Metaphysics of Mind and More

August 13, 2018

photo of Willem deVries

The University of New Hampshire has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to fund a four-week seminar for college faculty on philosophical responses to empiricism in Kant, Hegel and American philosopher Wilfrid Sellars, to be held summer 2019 in Durham.

The award is one of 218 announced recently by NEH, totaling $43.1 million in support for humanities projects across the country. Only ten grants were awarded in the category of summer seminars and institutes for college and university teachers.

“It’s a tremendous honor to receive one of these NEH awards,” says project co-director Willem deVries, professor of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts at UNH. “Summer seminars like ours have a lasting impact on the participants and the profession, so it speaks to the quality of UNH’s program to get an award like this. Our program will also have a bit of an international spin, because James O’Shea [project co-director and professor of philosophy] teaches at University College Dublin. Indeed, we hope to be able to take UNH to Europe in 2020 with another seminar for European scholars.”

The focus of the 2019 seminar will be on Sellars (1912-1989) and his tussles with empiricism, the idea that all knowledge and meaning arise solely from experience. Sellars’ attempt to develop a more adequate empiricism was profound and set the stage for philosophic debates that persist today, according to deVries. Moreover, his philosophic framework has been the basis of an explosion of scholarship in recent years.

“We’re going to be looking into questions concerning the structure, reach and methods of human knowledge, known as epistemology. We’ll also be looking at the fundamental metaphysics of mind: how do minds relate to the material world around us? Empiricists do not, traditionally, have a strong story to tell about the mind-matter relation. We’ll be exploring a line of thought that stems from Kant through Hegel to Sellars that makes normativity — that is, something like rule-following — a central pillar of what it is to have a mind” says deVries.

Both deVries and O’Shea have written books on Sellars’ philosophy, edited anthologies drawn from conferences devoted to his work, and published essays dealing with Sellars and with aspects of German Idealism, including monographs on Kant and Hegel.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the NEH and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.


UNH Receives Mellon Foundation Grant to Take the Humanities to the Public

May 30, 2018

Thompson Hall

The University of New Hampshire has received a three-year $724,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will be used by the Center for the Humanities to host residential summer institutes that will train humanists to work in the public realm and embrace community engagement.

“We’re thrilled to have this support from the Mellon Foundation,” said Burt Feintuch, director of the UNH Center for the Humanities and professor of folklore and English. “The humanities help us think about how to live good lives in complicated times. This work is critically important in public life, and our week-long boot camps will help faculty and students think about how to contribute to the public good, how to reflect on social issues, how to think about the present in the context of the past, how to figure out what matters in the face of massive change. Our goal is to help humanities faculty develop innovative and meaningful ways to connect to civic life and for students to think about real-world applications of their classroom experiences and about possible career paths.”

The New England Humanities Consortium, a network of academic humanities centers and institutes in the region, will co-sponsor the boot camps. Member institutions will nominate participants and the boot camps will also include faculty and students from Howard University, building on a history of successful collaboration between UNH and Howard.

“The humanities are vital to our democracy and for addressing the grand challenges of our age, such as health care, urbanization, food sovereignty and the role of technology in human relations and discourse,” said Heidi Bostic, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We have a well-established history of engaged scholarship and the summer boot camps are a natural next step for the university in the evolution of our public-facing trajectory. We are grateful for the support of the Mellon Foundation as we continue to prepare our students for professional success and meaningful lives that support the wider society.”

This grant is part of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s continued support for academic institutions as they endeavor to demonstrate, through counter-narratives offered by public humanities programs and initiatives, the essential relevance of the humanities to productive civic dialogue.

Post written by Erika Mantz.


Outstanding Teacher-Scholar

March 6, 2018

Paula Salvio, chair and professor of education, has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Lindberg Award, given annually to the outstanding teacher-scholar in the College of Liberal Arts.

Appointed to the faculty in 1992, Professor Salvio is an interdisciplinary scholar who focuses on the cultural and historical foundations of education with a specialization in psychoanalysis, life-writing and the impact that marginalization, trauma and war have on women, children and youth in formal and informal educational settings. She explores transitional moments in history and society – reform, wars and revolution and their aftermaths – and how these affect the relations of education, culture and politics.

“Professor Salvio epitomizes the kind of interdisciplinary work that is a hallmark of Liberal Arts at UNH,” says Heidi Bostic, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “She works skillfully across several areas of expertise to address educational reform. She represents core values of UNH such as excellence and inclusion.”

Professor Salvio’s publications reflect an innovative and broad approach to educational studies, applying diverse theoretical frameworks and modes of inquiry to a variety of educational situations and settings. Her most recent book is “The Story-Takers: Public Pedagogy and Contemporary Italy’s Non-Violent Resistance Against the Mafia” (University of Toronto Press, 2017).

Professor Salvio teaches a wide range of courses to both undergraduate and graduate students, and has served on or chaired dozens of dissertation committees in the departments of Education, English and Psychology. Students say she goes above and beyond, working vigorously to advise and advocate for them in their professional development.

“Professor Salvio is a true teacher-scholar, bringing her work to the classroom and to the world,” says Bostic. “The kind of work she does prepares young people to face the grand challenges of today and tomorrow.”


The Truth About Marijuana

January 16, 2018

book cover

A dangerous gateway drug? A harmless recreational substance? Something in between? In their new book “Marijuana: Examining the Facts,” Karen T. Van Gundy and Michael S. Staunton look at the data that can help provide answers to these questions and more.

“It’s the sort of book I thought I would want to write, and it was time for us to have a book like this,” explains Van Gundy, associate professor of sociology, core faculty in justice studies and faculty fellow at UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy. “But we didn’t realize how timely it would be with the current state and national debates.”

ABC-CLIO, a publisher of reference and professional development resources, contacted Van Gundy about writing the book as a go-to source for information on the positive and negative impacts of marijuana. Van Gundy invited Staunton, a doctoral candidate in sociology who has also worked as a graduate research assistant at the Carsey School, to collaborate on the book with her.

“I like to collaborate with graduate students,” she says, adding. “I would not have been able to write this book without Michael.”

“And I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do this without Karen,” Staunton echoes.

Over many months, Van Gundy and Staunton pored over research from fields including medicine, criminology, psychology and sociology to examine claims made about marijuana. “We came at the topic with no agenda,” Van Gundy explains. “Our goal was to do the research into the medical and legal implications.”

The book focuses on key topics — patterns and trends, risks and benefits and policy considerations — and examines data on marijuana use and misuse trends in the country. “We organized the book around questions such as whether marijuana use is more widespread than ever before,” Van Gundy says, adding she and Staunton evaluated claims about medical risks, examined the history of marijuana legislation and looked at potential causes and consequences of marijuana use. “We came up with questions that could be taught in classes,” says Van Gundy, who is in the process of developing a course around the book. “It really gets at that critical thinking.”

“We wanted it to be readable without falling into the trap of oversimplifying. This was the challenge,” Staunton adds. “We did a fair bit of delving into the methods used to get specific statistics.”

And there were many discoveries in their research. For example, the patterns and trends they examined indicate marijuana use among adults has increased in the past decade, but marijuana misuse has not. “No matter what the laws are, we generally don’t see misuse fluctuate that much,” Van Gundy says, “and youth are using and misusing at lower rates.” For the purposes of the research, “use” refers to any self-reported use of marijuana during a period of time while “misuse” refers to self-reported symptoms that qualify respondents for marijuana use disorder, such as abuse or dependence.

“The myths, realities and perceptions have changed dramatically over time,” Staunton adds, but he notes there have always been misconceptions, ranging from the marijuana-makes-murderers theme of cult classic Reefer Madness in the 1930s to the perception that marijuana use brings a complete lack of motivation that was pervasive in the 1960s.

Van Gundy and Staunton’s research also indicates medical marijuana laws have not contributed to increases in the use of other psychoactive substances or opioid overdose rates, while a large number of studies show the therapeutic utility of the drug for certain kinds of conditions. As for the perception that marijuana is a gateway drug, Van Gundy notes the research does not support the idea that marijuana use causes misuse of more dangerous substances, with the indication that drug abuse typically has more to do with toxic environments.

With so many Americans having personal experience with marijuana either by trying it themselves or knowing people who have, “research means challenging personal assumptions,” Staunton says.

“It’s not about what you think. It’s about what the science says,” Van Gundy adds. “You can’t take just one story and say it is the end-all be-all.”

Learn more about “Marijuana: Examining the Facts.”

post source: article written by Jennifer Saunders in UNH Today


The Story-Takers

January 8, 2018

book cover

In Italy, shrines stand as testament to those who have been murdered by the mafia, and the trauma of those left behind has inspired a movement by educators, activists, artists and journalists striving for justice.

That movement has inspired Paula M. Salvio’s latest book, “The Story-Takers: Public Pedagogy, Transitional Justice, and Italy’s Non-Violent Protest Against the Mafia.”

Salvio, professor and chair in COLA’s education department and affiliate faculty in classics, humanities and Italian studies, shares the story behind her book and the discoveries she has made in her research and writing process.

UNH: What was the inspiration for this book?

Paula Salvio: Italy has a long history of non-violent protest against the mafia. In fact, while the mafia has generated enormous public attention, the antimafia has kept a very low profile. When I began this study in 2008, I wanted to understand the ways in which non-violent practices used by community organizers, educators, photo-journalists and artists were used to educate their communities about mafia violence in an age of neoliberalism. The source of inspiration for this work emerged from the ingenuity, sense of solidarity and courage of antimafia activists working in Sicily. Their work is particularly timely, given that the global and financial ambitions of today’s mafia are difficult to distinguish from that of global corporations.

UNH: Could you describe the research process involved in preparing to write this work?

Salvio: My research process is firmly grounded in archival research, which includes Facebook, blogs, spontaneous shrines and Tweets, and post-colonial narrative inquiry. It’s been said that the modern allure of the archive has much to do with a Freudian romance of finding all the lost things and names, whatever they might be: Things gone astray, lost, squandered, wasted. Jules Michelet described the archive as a site where the scholar breathes in the dust of the dead, communes with them and makes them live again. While this description remains open to serious critique, I admit that it calls out to me and influences my research process.

In the archive, I look not only for what is there but for what is absent or disappeared. This is evident in my chapter on antimafia activist Francesca Morvillo’s Facebook site. While the site was established to keep Morvillo’s memory alive, within weeks it was flooded with images and memories of her husband, antimafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone. Her absence calls attention to the ways in which subjects left unprotected by the state and marginalized by society and culture can be cast into the oblivion of history, thus depriving future generations of the value of their memories and legacies. This is far too often the case when remembering female antimafia activists.

My approach to narrative research places a high value on the collaborative process of building narratives with the community members I write about. This process raises serious questions about who has the right to speak, the right to tell the story and the ethics of representation. The book’s title, “The Story-Takers,” takes its cue from the joint project of story-making between the one who listens and the one who tells a story that is vulnerable to being forgotten. Given the prevalence of omerta — the law of silence — where communities live under mafia rule, stories of resistance are far too easily lost.

UNH: Did you make any particularly unexpected discoveries in the process?

Salvio: Yes, I made several unexpected discoveries, but here, I’ll limit them to three.

First, I did not expect that the work of antimafia activists would challenge the pedagogical impulse of transitional justice in such a profound way. Too often, transitional justice narratives focus on experiences of victimhood rather than including narratives of non-violent resistance. The history and contemporary practices of the antimafia movements in Italy recognize and learn from those who took action, who engaged in dissent and who resisted and continue to resist state sanctioned violence.

Second, while I began this project with an understanding of the strong masculine presence in mafia and antimafia studies, I did not set out to write a feminist perspective on antimafia literature, but in many ways, that’s what I did. As the study unfolded, I found myself more and more focused on the ways in which women’s perspectives were absent from mainstream antimafia studies. I also began to understand the extent to which antimafia movements, like the mafia, have a masculine face that silences the unspectacular, but meaningful, cultural practices of fighting for legality in daily living.

Third, citizen and open-source journalism play major roles in antimafia education, particularly in an era when global media is becoming increasingly privatized.

While significant questions remain about the extent to which social media can impact social change, the citizen journalists working in Italy present compelling challenges to claims made by skeptics of citizen journalism that new media practices, such as blogging, posting, tweeting, function to neglect organization and revolt. In my research, I found that citizen journalists provide well-researched, in-depth exposés posted online, and in doing so, they insert themselves into the current news production process as curators of collective memory formation.

Of course, the mafia is expert at using the internet as well. Mafia violence knows no limit as it circulates on the ground and through communication channels on the net. They do track people down. Recently, one antimafia group, Libera, found their site hacked. The mafia left a skull and a cascade of death threats. Yet Libera carries on. They recognize — and here I paraphrase Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates — that you have to find peace within the chaos; you have to find some sort of mission in the chaos; you have to devote yourself to the struggle within the chaos, with no assurance that you will see any victory within your lifetime.

post source: UNH Today story written by Jennifer Saunders


2017 in Books

December 22, 2017

3 book covers

Faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts published a range of books this year, shedding light on Hollywood’s fascination with Hawaii, the history of credit bureaus such as Equifax, and the intersection of public health and democracy, among other topics. Here’s the roundup.

book coverLGBTQ Politics: A Critical Reader
edited by Marla Brettschneider, Susan Burgess and Christine Keating
NYU Press; Critical edition (September 19, 2017)
book coverQueer, Latinx, and Bilingual: Narrative Resources in the Negotiation of Identities
by Holly R. Cashman
Routledge Critical Studies in Multilingualism Series
Routledge (November 15, 2017)
book coverHealth and Freedom in the Balance: Exploring the Tensions among Public Health, Individual Liberty, and Governmental Authority
edited by M. Girard Dorsey and Rosemary M. Caron
Public Health in the 21st Century Series
Nova Science Publishers, Inc. (July 2017)
book coverA Dictionary of Literary Symbols, Third Edition
by Michael Ferber
Cambridge University Press; 3 edition (May 27, 2017)
book coverHollywood’s Hawaii: Race, Nation, and War
by Delia Malia Caparoso Konzett
War Culture Series
Rutgers University Press (March 1, 2017)
book coverCarl Wilhelm Frölich’s “On Man and his Circumstances:” A Translation of “Über den Menschen und seine Verhältnisse”
translated, with introduction, by Edward T. Larkin
Peter Lang (May 29, 2017)
book coverCreditworthy: A History of Consumer Surveillance and Financial Identity in America
by Josh Lauer
Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism Series
Columbia University Press (July 25, 2017)
book coverMinimum Contract Justice: A Capabilities Perspective on Sweatshops and Consumer Contracts
by Lyn K. L. Tjon Soei Len
Hart Publishing (May 4, 2017)
book coverWriting across Culture and Language: Inclusive Strategies for Working with ELL Writers in the ELA Classroom
by Christina Ortmeier-Hooper
National Council of Teachers of English (November 6, 2017)
book coverLinguistically Diverse Immigrant and Resident Writers: Transitions from High School to College
edited by Christina Ortmeier-Hooper and Todd Ruecker
ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series
Routledge (2017)
book coverThe Story-Takers: Public Pedagogy, Transitional Justice, and Italy’s Non-Violent Protest against the Mafia
by Paula M. Salvio
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division (November 6, 2017)
book coverMarijuana: Examining the Facts
by Karen T. Van Gundy and Michael S. Staunton
Contemporary Debates Series
ABC-CLIO (August 2, 2017)

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