2018 Colloquia

The 2018 speakers and topics are listed below by month. Because we webcast most colloquiums and archive the results, many are available to view online. Click the blue titles to view.


Monday, January 22 
“The Vanished People of Northern Malawi: Ancient DNA and Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways in Prehistoric Africa”
Jessica Thompson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Kendra Ann Sirak, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology

Archaeological evidence, linguistic data, and DNA from living people clearly show that between 4000 and 2000 years ago there was a massive migration of early farmers and herders across sub-Saharan Africa. Indigenous hunting and gathering lifeways came to an end everywhere this migration reached, but many mysteries remain. What was life like for hunter-gatherers then? Did they mix with the incoming farmers or vanish completely? New archaeological work and advances in the study of ancient DNA in northern Malawi (east-central Africa) begin to answer some of these questions. And Emory’s own Jessica Thompson and Kendra Ann Sirak have been at the center of that work and study (with the help of some of our undergraduates, as well). They’ll report on their experiences and their findings to us today.



Monday, February 5
Frankenstein: How A Monster Became an Icon”
Sidney Perkowitz, Candler Professor of Physics Emeritus
Eddy von Mueller, Former Senior Lecturer, Department of Film and Media Studies

In the new book that shares the title of their presentation today, Sidney Perkowitz and Eddy von Mueller have brought together scholars, scientists, artists, and directors (including Mel Brooks) to celebrate the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s marvelous creation and its indelible impact on art and culture. And given that the two hundred years since the novel’s publication have brought scientists closer to actually now doing what Shelley’s scientist supposedly did then, consideration of the ethical issues involved in the creation of life such as the novel prompts has never been more timely. It’s no wonder Emory itself has declared this “the year of Frankenstein.” And this colloquium is our way to honor that designation.

Monday, February 19
“Phillis Wheatley: Poetics and Politics”
Dwight A. McBride, Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of African American Studies, and Distinguished Affiliated Professor of English

Dwight McBride, a leading scholar in race and literary studies, currently is working on a volume about Phillis Wheatley, the 18th-century poet who was the first African-American to publish a book. He will share insights from that work with us.


Monday, March 5
“Hearing the Trees: Works from an Exhibition”
Katherine Mitchell, Artist, Senior Lecturer Emerita, Visual Arts Department

Katherine Mitchell will speak about works from her recent exhibition at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University, an exhibition funded in part by one of the Bianchi grants awarded by Emeritus College. The original inspiration for these two-dimensional mixed media drawings and paintings was a beloved white oak on her property that had become diseased. The works serve as talismans for the tree, for Katherine herself, and for all of the endangered environment.

As always, these works show Mitchell's interest in architectural form, and the layering of systems and patterns as well as her interest in the natural world. In this case, the layers include texts taken from her journals, from poetry, and from various prose readings, including quotations from Henry David Thoreau, Gregory Bateson, and others.

In the fall, the exhibition will be on view again at the Circle Gallery at the University of Georgia. We of the EUEC hope to arrange a field trip for those who’d like to see it. 

Monday, March 19
“Black and Blue: Exploring Racial Bias and Law Enforcement in the Killings of Unarmed Black Male Civilians”
Erika V. Hall, Assistant Professor of Organization and Management, Goizueta Business School

“Intersectionality” is the word that best characterizes Erika Hall’s research, focusing as it does on the influence of race, gender, and class-based implicit biases on interactions within the workplace and society as a whole. However, her presentation for the colloquium will center on one kind of bias in particular, namely racial bias, and how the attitudes associated with skin color affect interactions between the police and members of the public whom they’re charged to “protect and serve.” She will share the results of others’ studies of this complex subject (and her own)—results she earlier shared with (other) scholarly colleagues in an article published in American Psychologist.


Tuesday, April 10
“Finding Flow: Stories from the Nantahala Outdoor Center”
Payson Kennedy, Founder and Retired President of the Nantahala Outdoor Center

In 1972, Emory alumnus Payson Kennedy was working at Georgia Tech and with his wife, Aurelia, was raising four young children in suburban Atlanta. A year later, he had given up this conventional life and was living with his family in a new community located on the Nantahala River in the mountains of western North Carolina, working as a raft guide and helping to found the Nantahala Outdoor Center that has since become one of the largest and most successful outdoor recreation businesses in the world.

Payson will talk about his decision to make this change in his search for more frequent experiences of “the flow state,” while also sharing stories from many other recent and former NOC employees, all of which he has compiled in a book due out this very April, NOC Stories: Forty-five Years of Changing Lives at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Our own Stewart Roberts will introduce his lifelong friend.


Monday, May 7
“Contemporary Challenges to Christianity in India”
Thomas Thangaraj, D. W. and Ruth Brooks Professor Emeritus of World Christianity, Candler School of Theology

Thomas Thangaraj plans to address four questions with regard to Christianity in India, the country of his birth and upbringing (as a Christian), where he has returned to reside much of each year since his retirement from Emory in 2008. Is Christianity in India purely a product of Western colonial enterprise?  Is Indian Christianity predominantly governed by "membership drive" or "religious conversion efforts" as Hindu nationalists in India would like to portray? How do we understand the various incidents of Hindu-Christian conflicts in various parts of India? As an Indian Christian theologian how does he envision possibilities for the future?

Monday, May 21
“Pursuing Law in the Public Interest:  Fighting the Good Fight”
Monica Modi Khant, Executive Director, Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN)

Recently honored by Emory School of Law for the pro bono work she and the other attorneys she supervises do on behalf of members of the immigrant community in Georgia, Monica Modi Khant will speak about the grim realities that make such work necessary including the violence immigrants so often suffer, sometimes through the horrors of human trafficking (the subject of a course she teaches at Georgia State University).


Monday, June 4
“Pediatric Concussion Biomechanics: What We Need To Know”
Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Injury Biomechanics

No one knows better than Susan Margulies how challenging research in the area of pediatric concussion biomechanics is. She’s been involved in it for decades now.  Work with human subjects, even adults, is affected by issues with patient awareness of and willingness to report symptoms. And though animal models can and do provide a controlled laboratory setting for relevant investigation, most animal models involve more severe brain injuries than concussion, limiting their applicability to the human situations we care most about. Of late, work with animals is proving more applicable, however. And emerging research in objective, involuntary neurofunctional metrics and biomarkers is bridging the gap between human and animal research and providing important insights into the biomechanics of concussion, offering a rational foundation for both prevention and treatment.

Monday, June 18
“Keeping Up with the Latest on Big Pharma, Drug Costs, and the Salutary Story of Cialis”
Al Padwa, William P. Timme Professor of Chemistry Emeritus

Few know more about the shenanigans that determine the cost of the medicines we take—and the science behind those shenanigans—than our own Al Padwa. It’s no wonder he was called as an “expert witness” when Vanderbilt University and Lilly Pharmaceuticals got to arguing about the rights underlying the use of Cialis for erectile dysfunction. Al can share the nitty-pretty-gritty on that and place it in the context of larger issues that arise when one is considering generic versus brand-name drugs.


Tuesday, July 10
Kein Geld, Kein Schweizer: No Money, No Swiss”
Larry Taulbee, Associate Professor of Political Science Emeritus

Larry Taulbee, winner of a Heilbrun Fellowship for research on the topic of mercenary forces, tells that the topic has many different aspects. But as a teaser for his talk, he asks one to consider the following: The French Foreign Legion has long been considered a mercenary force. Although commanded by officers from the regular French Army, it consists of noncitizen enlistees. The Legion formed the French contribution to allied forces during the 1991 Gulf War. The question is, during the same war, what truly distinguished the French “mercenaries” from the American all-volunteer Army, which also included a considerable number of noncitizens. He would have us note also that the Economist wryly characterized the Gulf War as a  “nice little earner for the United States.” That’s a teaser, for sure.

Monday, July 23
“Developing Faculties: The Power of Contemplative Pedagogy”
Patti Owen-Smith, Professor of Psychology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Oxford College

Long since confirmed by an Emory Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching (and other such awards as well), Patti Owen-Smith is a top-notch teacher. More to the point, she is also a top-notch scholar of teaching and a national leader in the field called the scholarship of teaching and learning, or SoTL. It was SoTL work that led to Owen-Smith being named a Carnegie Scholar in 2001, and ever since much of her research has focused on affective development in college students as it intersects with learning. In the last decade, Owen-Smith has become an active participant in the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, devoting much of her scholarly work and research to the integration of contemplative pedagogies into the college classroom. She’ll share insights with us from her most recent book, The Contemplative Mind in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, speaking specifically to the introduction of contemplative practices in the secular university and the challenges inherent in what many would consider a radical pedagogical approach.


Tuesday, September 4
“Why Montaigne Matters: Recovering the Lost Virtue of Civility
Ann Hartle, Professor of Philosophy Emerita

Over the past few decades, we have heard repeated calls for greater civility in our public discourse. At the same time, the demand for greater civility is often exposed as a mask for an attempt to silence one’s opponents and shut down free speech, confusing us over what civility is and is not. Understanding requires we see civility in its origins and emergence as a new moral character at the beginning of the modern era. This character was first displayed and given expression in the Essays of Michel de Montaigne. And no one is better suited to share what Montaigne had to say than Ann Hartle, who has already published several books on this major thinker and is working on another one.

Monday, September 17
“Genes, Climate, and Consumption Culture: Connecting the Dots”
Jagdish Sheth, Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing, Goizueta Business School

Drawing from decades of research, Jagdish Sheth’s new book, Genes, Climate, and Consumption Culture: Connecting the Dots, demonstrates how climate dictates culture and consumption. Sheth shows how human genes are climatic adaptations over thousands of years of evolution, resulting in the dramatic differences between people’s food, clothing, and shelter choices. Most important, he’ll explain how many of the fundamental differences between cultures with respect to time, space, friendship, and technology are responses to their particular climates, ranging from the arctic, to the temperate, to the tropical.


Monday, October 1
“The Ecology of Infection: Zoonotic Transmission at the Human-Livestock-Wildlife Interface“
Thomas Gillespie, Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Environmental Health

Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Environmental Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, Thomas Gillespie has published widely on how and why anthropogenic disturbance of tropical forests alters disease dynamics in resident wildlife and places people and animals in these ecosystems at increased risk of pathogen exchange. Through his research and conservation activities in Africa and Latin America, Gillespie strives to promote human and wildlife health, while simultaneously ensuring the sustainability of the ecosystems in which they live. He was named a Distinguished STAR Fellow of the US Environmental Protection Agency and was recently elected a fellow of the Linnaean Society for his contributions at the nexus of biodiversity conservation and global health.

Monday, October 22
“Crowd-sourcing ‘Return to The Wasteland’: Margate and Coventry in 2018”
Sheila Cavanagh, Professor of English and Director, World Shakespeare Project

In recent years, discussions surrounding concepts of public scholarship have been gaining prominence in academic circles and beyond. Such examinations recently interacted with Eliot scholarship at the Turner Gallery in Margate. In 2018 Professor Mike Tooby oversaw a “crowd-sourced” exhibition related to Eliot’s composition of The Wasteland in this English coastal town in 1922. The exhibition closed in May, but a new version will be mounted in Coventry in September. In this talk, Sheila Cavanagh will address the process and its outcome within the context of theories associated with public scholarship, considering the advantages and pitfalls of encouraging non-specialists in this kind of endeavor most commonly restricted to experts.


Monday, November 5
“Just for the Thrill of It: An Inside Look at Sensation Seeking”
Ken Carter, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology, Oxford College

Thrill seekers, people with high-sensation-seeking personalities, crave exotic and intense experiences, even when physical or social risks are involved. They jump from bridges, run from bulls, or skydive. But sensation seeking is a trait we all have, even if we’ve never done (or been tempted to do) such wild and crazy things. It includes other versions of the search for complex and new experiences, some involving mental and sensual explorations that even old folks can enjoy. Ken Carter discusses the psychological factors that shape why thrill seekers of many kinds do the things they do. His book on the topic, Buzz! Understanding Thrill Seekers and the High Sensation Seeking Personality, will be published in the summer of 2019 by Cambridge University Press.

Monday, November 19
“Biology and Buddhism: What I've Learned about Life during a Decade Teaching Science to the Dalai Lama’s Monks and Nuns”
Arri Eisen, Professor of Pedagogy, Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Teaching Chair in Science and Society

When the 14th Dalai Lama invited Emory to shape and lead the first significant change in six centuries to his monastics’ academic curriculum, little did anyone imagine what all involved were in for. But we’ll hear from a person well-equipped to tell us. Arri Eisen, who has been teaching in biology, interdisciplinary studies, and the Center for Ethics at Emory for 28 years, has been involved in the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative for more than a decade. He is the author, with Yungdrung Konchok, of The Enlightened Gene: Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence That Explains the World (ForeEdge, 2018). 


Monday, December 3
“Samothrace and Beyond: Excavating the Secrets of the Ancient World”
Bonna Wescoat, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Art History

Bonna Wescoat, who has been pursuing her work in archaeology on Samothrace since she was a student in 1977, was named director of excavations there in 2012. She and her interdisciplinary team of scholars and students have done much to uncover the history and legacy of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. The value of these collaborative efforts was recognized when she was honored as the recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America’s 2017 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. This year, she was recognized again by receiving a $246,000 Getty Foundation grant to facilitate further scholar-student research (with participants from many institutions and countries) from northern Greece into the regions of Thrace and the Black Sea. Who better to help us explore the seminal site she has explored for so many years already—and give us a glimpse of the Getty-funded work to come, both there and “Beyond the Northern Aegean?”