Of men, women, and space

first_imgSpace, the three-dimensional expanse in which the world rests, is everything that is not you.On the other hand, space is everything that is you — everything under your skin and everything in and on your mind. Space is all.Space is also something we share with other people (which can be difficult). Sometimes those other people represent the other gender (more difficult).Welcome to the kind of tangled, terror-making, topical issues the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study likes to tackle in its annual conferences on gender, a staple since 2003. Previous events have looked at the intersections of gender and what seem like third-rail basics: war, race, reproduction, the law, food, and religion.Now come gender and space. This year, Radcliffe tapped international scholars from various disciplines to puzzle over “Inside/Out: Exploring Gender in Life, Culture, and Art.”Though there was a lot of talk (eight events over two days), there was also some quiet exploration — space flights, of a sort, as artists chimed in on the issue.In a first for these Radcliffe conferences, said Dean Barbara J. Grosz in opening remarks April 15, an artist was explicitly included in every session.Simon Leung — whose eclectic art has interpreted  everything from surfing to Edgar Allan Poe — lent perspective to a panel on exteriors.During a session on borders, Yael Bartana, an Israeli independent artist, showed vignettes from a film in progress. She is trying to capture a fantasy: Polish Jews, post-Holocaust, stream back to their native land by the millions.On the first day, New York City dancer Christine Dakin, RI ’08, followed a panel on gender and space with a wordless contribution: Martha Graham’s 1930 “Lamentation,” in which writhing and suffering seem to transcend gender. “It was her art,” Dakin said to her audience afterward, perched alone on a stool on stage at the Agassiz Theater. “It wasn’t men and women.”Still, she added, “Lamentation” was never performed by a man. Graham, whose views of gender ran to the conventional, meant it as a spatial picture of the feminine.Both genders share a nongendered obligation in art, said Dakin, who once took the stage with dancer Rudolf Nureyev. There is “the necessity to move the air, to fill the space.”On the second day, during a morning session on interior space in the Radcliffe Gymnasium, visual artist Janine Antoni, a tightrope walker and onetime MacArthur Fellow, moved the air with a wordless and kinetic “lecture.” In a test of intimacy within a public space, she walked through the audience on the backs of chairs, relying for balance on the outstretched hands of men and women.“That was so happy,” said panel moderator Nicholas Watson, RI ’09, a professor of English at Harvard. “One barefoot person … transfixes a whole room.”“Artists offer us another mode of thinking,” said Ewa Lajer-Burcharth during the conference’s first session. She is Radcliffe’s senior adviser in the humanities and Harvard’s William Dorr Boardman Professor of Fine Arts.Issues of space and gender are not new. But the conference was intended to expand that discourse, she said. It brought up gender- and space-related issues of migration, non-Western perspectives on personal space, architecture, borders, sexual violence, and new digital communities that for better or for worse test gender’s meaning.During the panel on interior space, Judith Donath, a Berkman Faculty Fellow at Harvard Law School, said the Internet has not lived up to the ideal that it would usher in a new age on post-gender space, in which men and women could roam freely without the burdens (or expectations) of gender identity.For one, she said, the Internet is a place that people — suddenly bodyless — can lie about gender for excitement, comfort, or fun. But their words may betray them, said Donath. Even online, men remain more aggressive than women.Space is a battleground in the gender wars, in part because of a cultural norm accepted for centuries: Men filled up space like Zeus, and women like a quiet wraith.The feminine was to be either invisible, or, as University of Leeds social critic Griselda Pollock put it, “equated with what cannot be thought.” The feminine was not just meant to be invisible, but was a signal of absence, even of death.The conference was informed by a notion of the shy female that persisted well into the 19th century, when American feminists awoke. They had to fight the cultural norms of retiring demeanor — near absence — that Emily Dickinson captured in an 1862 letter to a male friend. “I have a little shape,” she wrote. “It would not crowd your desk, nor make much racket as the mouse that dens your galleries.”Women felt the weight of the same norms in the 20th century. In the keynote panel on April 15,  “Conversation on Gender and Space,” Princeton University design professor Beatriz Colomina told the story of architect Eileen Gray (1878-1976) and her run-ins with architect and artist Le Corbusier (1887-1965).In 1938, Le Corbusier was given the use of Gray’s remote seaside house near Nice, and proceeded to paint eight murals that Gray came to view as invasions of her personal domestic space, and an affront to her own design. “The mural for Le Corbusier,” said Colomina, “is a sort of weapon against architecture, a bomb.”The act matched the violence of the later occupation of the house by German troops, said Colomina, and was rapelike, done with the arrogance of a conquerer. She said of Le Corbusier’s unwanted art: “Like all colonists, he does not think of it as an invasion, but as a gift.”The effect of the murals, and their sexualized context, said Colomina, was heightened by the fact that Le Corbusier apparently painted them while naked. Her presentation included the only images of an undressed Le Corbusier known. (Historians take note: He is not someone easily seen naked.)The controversy of gendered space reaches into the realm of science, too. On the same April 15 panel was Temple University psychology researcher Nora S. Newcombe, Ph.D. ’76. She was out to bust a few myths, among them the idea that males — by virtue of biology — have superior abilities to females.Such differences in ability show up as early as age 4, in part because boys seem to gesture more. “Gestures take up space,” said Newcombe, and enable boys to develop a better sense of themselves as spatial actors. By middle school, the gap in spatial ability means that boys are more likely to stream into what she called “the stem occupations,” such as engineering and mathematics.But spatial ability is plastic, not fixed, and can be improved by training, by restoring spatial equality between the genders. Such training “is not just part of a gender agenda,” said Newcombe. “It’s part of a social agenda.”“Inside/Out” was also the beginning of a collaboration between Radcliffe and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Dean Mohsen Mostafavi helped to moderate the first panel.A Harvard professor of visual and environmental studies got the last word, with the impossible task of summarizing the conference at a final April 16 gathering.Space is a place of transformation, said Giuliana Bruno, a place to test our senses of travel, dwelling, borders, privacy, and the act of living with others. Examining the notion of space, personal and private, is a way to test ourselves in the world, and our relation to it, like a tightrope artist walking on the backs of chairs.“I would invite Janine to every conference we have,” said Bruno of Antoni, the visual artist. “After all, space is a fabric.”last_img read more

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Scientists hit on universal theory of bubbles

first_imgBubbles don’t just disappear when they pop but deflate in a rapid cascade of ever-smaller “daughter” bubbles, scientistsreported on Wednesday.There was an element of serendipity in the discovery, according to lead researcher James Bird, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences…last_img

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Six Harvard affiliates receive Damon Runyon fellowships

first_imgThe Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting exceptional early-career researchers and innovative cancer research, has selected six Harvard affiliates to receive Damon Runyon fellowships.The 18 total recipients of this prestigious three-year award are outstanding postdoctoral scientists conducting basic and translational cancer research in the laboratories of leading senior investigators across the country. The fellowship encourages the nation’s most promising young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding ($156,000 each) to work on innovative projects. The recipients were announced at the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation’s spring Fellowship Award Committee review.The fellows and their areas of studies are listed below:Niels Bradshaw, with his sponsor Richard M. Losick, at Harvard University, is studying the regulation of an enzyme called protein phosphatase that acts in specific cells to promote cellular differentiation. Protein phosphatases are required for many processes, including cell growth, division, differentiation, and stress adaptation. Bradshaw hopes that understanding phosphatase regulation will clarify the role of these enzymes in cancer and potentially aid in the development of anti-cancer therapies that target phosphatases.Sujun Hua, with his sponsor Ronald A. DePinho, at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, aims to complete a comprehensive, genomewide assessment of regulatory networks governing self-renewal and fate-determination programs in normal and malignant neural stem cells. Tumor progression of certain tumor types, including glioblastoma, depends on a subpopulation of cells within the tumor called tumor stem cells. Understanding the shared and distinct features of normal and malignant stem cells is critical to develop novel therapies that selectively target tumor stem cells but spare their normal counterparts.Kristin A. Krukenberg, with her sponsor Timothy J. Mitchison, at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is studying the role of a molecule called poly(ADP-ribose) in cell division and mitotic spindle formation. By understanding poly(ADP-ribose) function and regulation in both cancer and noncancer cells, she will investigate new avenues for the design of more effective and selective cancer therapeutics.John R. Lydeard, with his sponsor Jeffrey W. Harper, at HMS, is interested in studying how proteins are targeted for destruction. Defects in maintaining the balance between newly made proteins and those to be destroyed are often linked with cancer progression. Better understanding of how these processes are regulated will help to develop more effective anticancer therapeutics.Ian Y. Wong, with his sponsors Mehmet Toner and Daniel Irimia, at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, is developing a new experimental platform for characterizing how cancer cells migrate in response to biochemical signals and 3-D structural architectures. This approach may yield novel insights into how malignant cancer cells invade, which would aid the development of anti-metastatic therapies.Dong Yan, with his sponsor Norbert Perrimon, at HMS, is aiming to generate profiles of phosphorylation for each kinase and phosphatase enzyme in the genome, and to relate these profiles to their in vivo functions during development. Given the large number of kinase mutations associated with various cancers, understanding the phosphorylation network could prompt treatment tailored to aberrant signaling of specific pathways.To read the full release.last_img read more

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Advances in type 2 diabetes drugs

first_imgResearchers from Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla., report they have created prototype drugs having powerful anti-diabetic effects, yet apparently free — at least in mice — of dangerous side effects plaguing some current diabetes medications.The researchers say that their “proof-of-principle” findings could lead to safer medications for type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 25 million children and adults in the United States. Their findings are being published Sept. 4 by the journal Nature as an advanced online publication and later in a print edition.One of the drug prototypes proved capable of reducing disease symptoms in diabetes-prone mice without triggering weight gain or fluid retention, potential side effects of current drugs such as rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) that can have had fatal consequences in some patients.Bruce Spiegelman of Dana-Farber and Patrick Griffin of Scripps led the scientific group that developed a series of related compounds and tested them in overfed and genetically obese mice. While these novel compounds would not be suitable for use in human patients, the scientists say the results showed that they had succeeded in building selective anti-diabetic molecules that minimize the risk of severe side effects.“This insight shows how you can make new compounds that appear to be safer, but you don’t know for sure until a drug is developed that you can give to patients,” says Spiegelman, the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Professor of Cell Biology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School.Avandia and Actos are members of a drug class called thiazolidinediones (TZD) that have proven to be effective, oral diabetes drugs and are well tolerated by most patients. In a minority of patients, however, Avandia and Actos have been linked to cardiac complications, including fatal heart attacks and loss of bone density. The drugs are under close scrutiny by federal regulators, and are prescribed cautiously by physicians.TZD drugs target a metabolic “master regulator” of fat cell development, called PPAR-gamma, which is a transcription factor controlling the behavior of a host of genes and proteins related to diabetes. Spiegelman’s lab discovered the role of PPAR-gamma as a regulator of fat cell development in 1994. The new experimental compounds also target PPAR-gamma, but through a different mechanism discovered this past year.Actos and Avandia are so-called “agonists” of PPAR-gamma. That is, they bind to the molecule, like a key fitting into a lock, and activate it. When activated, PPAR-gamma causes changes in an unknown number of “downstream” genes and proteins. This cascade treats diabetes by improving cells’ response to insulin and helping the body to control blood sugar. However, the researchers believe this series of molecular events initiated by PPAR-gamma agonism also causes the harmful fluid retention, weight gain, and loss of bone density.Until recently, it had been assumed that Avandia and Actos worked exclusively by agonizing PPAR-gamma. But in 2010, Spiegelman and Griffin reported that they had discovered a second, unsuspected effect of the drugs on PPAR-gamma. The TZD drugs, they said, also block a process called phosphorylation, by a molecule known as Cdk5, that modifies PPAR-gamma in a manner that is entirely separate from agonism.  This mechanism, they said, might in fact be more critical to combating diabetes — and, to their surprise, apparently seemed not to cause the worrisome side effects.In the new report, the team describes the development of synthetic small molecules “that bind tightly to PPAR-gamma yet are completely devoid of classical agonism, and effectively inhibit phosphorylation.”These findings suggested that it might be possible to develop new diabetes drugs that work entirely by blocking the phosphorylation of PPAR-gamma, thus separating wanted from unwanted effects.Griffin, who heads Scripps’ Department of Molecular Therapeutics, and his team devised a plan for concocting the prototype drugs. They searched the literature for compounds known to bind with PPAR-gamma, and chose one to serve as a scaffold which they modified in hundreds of ways. The researchers sifted through these modifications until they found several that blocked phosphorylation of PPAR-gamma.The most effective of these candidates, labeled SR1664, was tested in cultured cells and insulin-resistant mice in the Spiegelman laboratory. It was found to have potent anti-diabetic properties but caused no fluid retention or weight gain. When compared with Avandia, SR1664 showed equivalent anti-diabetic effects, confirming the scientists’ hypothesis that diabetes can be treated by drugs that target PPAR-gamma but don’t agonize the molecule.These studies illustrate that the development of entirely new classes of PPAR-gamma-targeted drugs is feasible, concludes Spiegelman, who is the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Professor of Cell Biology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues.The co-first authors of the paper are Jang Hyun Choi and Alexander Banks in the Spiegelman lab. Support for the research came from the National Institutes of Health.last_img read more

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Easy like Lionel Richie

first_imgOn a rare balmy December night, a superstar swept through Harvard. He was tall and handsome, and came with a legendary musical repertoire that even your parents knew.One doesn’t immediately associate Lionel Richie with “Harvard.” But the same sentiment applied to the award-winning artist, who remarked that when he learned he’d be visiting the University, he expected to hear the grand, sweeping sounds of Bach.But Richie heard instead the traditional sounds of Mexico as performed by Mariachi Véritas de Harvard, which ushered the legendary singer into Kirkland House’s Junior Common Room Monday evening for a special question-and-answer session and reception with Harvard College students.Richie, in town to receive the Harvard Foundation’s inaugural Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award, looked dapper and ageless and answered questions about his sprawling career in entertainment with a down-to-earth demeanor.Originally an economics major at Tuskegee Institute, Richie and his band the Commodores went on tour with the Jackson 5, which halted Richie’s studies. Because he missed classes, his grades fell.“I went in and met with the dean, who told me I was making more money than him. He said, ‘School is a place to develop a scheme to make money, if you don’t already have a scheme,’ ” said Richie. “But I returned four years later, with a No. 1 record with the Commodores, and I went back to school and finished that last year.”Alongside the late Michael Jackson, Richie famously co-wrote “We Are the World,” a charity single to help alleviate the famine crisis in Africa that featured dozens of singers, including Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan. The song was repurposed in 2010 to raise money for victims of the Haitian earthquake.“I do believe there’s a higher calling for all of us,” Richie said. “When ‘We Are the World’ came along, it was the best opportunity for me to show off all this talent and give some money back to some lives. So in terms of my most valued period, Michael and I with ‘We Are the World’ was just amazing.”After the Harvard reception, Richie was treated to a dinner with Harvard students and performances by the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College and Harvard College KeyChange. Harvard Foundation Director S. Allen Counter emceed the event and presented Richie with the 2011 Gomes award for his worldwide humanitarian contributions, which include raising more than $3 million for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation after seeing his grandmother suffer from, but ultimately survive, the disease. She lived to be 103.“I thought, in her name, in her honor, it was necessary to get on board, necessary to be a support unit for this life-altering disease,” said Richie, whose grandmother was a close friend of Gomes, who was the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, and who died from a stroke in February.“He watched me grow up,” Richie revealed.Richie and his family, who hail from Tuskegee, Ala., first encountered Gomes while he taught for two years at the institute.“My grandmother and he would get together and talk about things, and I was surrounded by his genius and his humor,” said Richie. “He put a real, everyday face on a subject like religion. He made it real.”“Rev. Gomes served Harvard for over 40 years … and I cannot begin to tell you all that he did for this University,” said Counter.Richie, who tossed his planned speech aside, said: “I had no idea about this experience. I didn’t realize at Harvard I’d get a gospel group, a jazz group, a mariachi group, all this talent. … I had a speech designed, but it’s not necessary because you’ve all upstaged me completely.”“To me, ‘humanitarian’ means only one thing. It means lover of people, all people, for no other reason but for the fact that they’re alive. We find so many times in life that we travel the world criticizing why people are not like we are. And what I’ve learned, if nothing else, is that you live for the fact that we’re different,” he said, adding, “I write about three corny words that will never go out of style: I love you.”Edwin Magema ’15 (left) is called up to meet Lionel Richie after Magema admits that Richie is a reigning superstar in his homeland of Kenya.last_img read more

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With a little help from our ancient friends

first_img[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It-pHyDrkTM]Ancient humans may not have had the luxury of updating their Facebook status, but social networks were nevertheless an essential component of their lives, a new study suggests.The study’s findings describe elements of social network structures that may have been present early in human history, suggesting how our ancestors may have formed ties with both kin and non-kin based on shared attributes, including the tendency to cooperate. According to the paper, social networks likely contributed to the evolution of cooperation.“The astonishing thing is that ancient human social networks so very much resemble what we see today,” said Nicholas Christakis, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and professor of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and senior author on the study. “From the time we were around campfires and had words floating through the air, to today when we have digital packets floating through the ether, we’ve made networks of basically the same kind.”“We found that what modern people are doing with online social networks is what we’ve always done — not just before Facebook, but before agriculture,” said study co-author James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, who, with Christakis, has authored a number of seminal studies of human social networks.The findings will be published Jan. 26 in Nature.Roots of altruismThe natural world, red in tooth and claw, has a gentle side. While individuals compete fiercely to ensure the proliferation of their progeny, a few animals, including humans, also cooperate and act altruistically. Researchers have wondered if human social networks are a product of modern lifestyles, or if they could have emerged under the kind of conditions that our distant ancestors faced. This question has been challenging for classic evolutionary theory to explain neatly.For cooperation to arise, an altruistic act, like sharing food with a nonrelative, must have a net benefit for the sharers. Otherwise, purely self-serving individuals would outcompete and eventually replace the selfless. All theoretical explanations for the evolution of cooperation — kin selection, reciprocal altruism, group selection — rely on the existence of some system that allows cooperators to group together with other individuals who tend to share.“If you can get cooperators to cluster together in social space, cooperation can evolve,” said Coren Apicella, a postdoctoral research fellow in Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School and first author on the paper. “Social networks allow this to happen.”While it is not possible to quiz our distant ancestors about their friendships or habits of sharing and collaborating, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Cambridge have characterized the structure of social networks among the Hadza, an ethnic group in the Lake Eyasi region of Tanzania, one of the last surviving groups of hunter-gatherers. (There are fewer than 1,000 Hadza left who live in the traditional way.)Getting connectedThe Hadza lifestyle predates the invention of agriculture. The Hadza eat a wide range of wild foods, foraging for tubers, nuts, and fruit and hunting a great variety of animals, including flamingos, shrews, and giraffes. Honey is one of their favorite foods, known by half a dozen different names in Hadzane, their primary language.Apicella took the lead in collecting the data for the study, interviewing 205 adult Hadza over the course of two months, measuring their tendency to cooperate and mapping their friendships.Apicella, Fowler, and Christakis designed the study and experiments, working with Frank Marlowe, lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology of the University of Cambridge, and author of the only book-length ethnography on the Hadza in English.Collecting the data was not easy. The nomadic Hadza roam over 4,000 rugged square kilometers. Apicella and her research assistants traveled the region by Land Cruiser battling mud-drenched trails — at one point forcing her and her colleagues to pave the ground with felled trees — and, on an earlier trip, even fleeing a horde of marauding elephants.“The astonishing thing is that ancient human social networks so very much resemble what we see today,” said Harvard Professor Nicholas Christakis, senior author on the study. File photo Jon Chase/Harvard Staff PhotographerIn order to construct a social network, Apicella and her colleagues took a dual approach. First, they asked Hadza adults to identify individuals they would prefer to live with in their next encampment. Second, they gave each adult three straws of honey and told them they could give these straws as gifts to anyone in their camp. This generated 1,263 campmate ties and 426 gift ties.In a separate activity, the researchers measured levels of cooperation by giving the Hadza additional honey straws that they could either keep for themselves or donate to the group.When the networks were mapped and analyzed, the researchers found that cooperators and noncooperators formed distinct clusters.The researchers also measured the connectedness of people with similar height, age, handgrip strength, etc., and other characteristics, such as food preference. They also analyzed the transitivity of friendship — the likelihood that one’s friends are friends with one another, and other network properties.The structure and dynamics of the Hadza hunter-gatherer social networks were essentially indistinguishable from existing social network data drawn from modern communities.“We turned the data over lots of different ways,” said Fowler. “We looked at over a dozen measures that social network analysts use to compare networks, and pretty much, the Hadza are just like us.”“Human beings are unusual among species in the extent to which we form long-term, nonreproductive unions with other members of our species,” said Christakis. “In other words, not only do we have sex, but we also have friends.”Previous work by Christakis and Fowler, who are co-authors of the book “Connected,” has shown that our experience of the world depends on where we find ourselves within social networks. Particular studies have found that networks influence a surprising variety of lifestyle and health factors, such as how prone you are to obesity, smoking cessation, and even happiness.For the researchers, the Hadza offer strong new evidence that social networks are a truly ancient, perhaps integral part of the human story.This research was funded by the National Institute on Aging and by the Science of Generosity Initiative of the University of Notre Dame.last_img read more

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Senior talks offer last word

first_imgAddressing an audience of students and staff during Morning Prayers in the Memorial Church, Jillian Lubetkin ’13 recalled how, earlier in her life, dancing made up her entire identity. “Dancing was what I did,” she said. “It was who I was.”But when she was a senior in high school, that intuitive ability began slipping away. Diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, an autonomic nerve system condition, Lubetkin was “robbed of her passion,” and became “a girl who danced no more.”Deferring her first year at Harvard, Lubetkin initially despaired when she realized she was now a “former” dancer. But while she may no longer be able to perform, Lubetkin said choosing to let go of that former self, while still celebrating that former identity, allowed her to reconnect with the creative spirit that made her want to dance in the first place.“My passion for free and authentic expression — that very passion which attracted me to dance in the first place — still lives,” she said, during the first in a series of “Senior Talks” on April 30.“Life will make ‘formers’ out of all of us at some point,” she said, adding that it would be reductive to suggest that loss is a gift. “But I can say that letting go … bestows upon us the freedom to sculpt new selves.”The Adams House resident’s inspiring story was the first of the 13 “Senior Talks” scheduled during Morning Prayers, held at 8:45 a.m. Monday through Saturday in the Memorial Church.Nathaniel Katz, Epps Fellow at the Memorial Church, said that although undergraduates often speak at Morning Prayers, the “Senior Talks” series gives seniors the opportunity to reflect upon their time at Harvard.In a Morning Prayers address the day before “Senior Talks” began, Katz, who coordinated the series, said that it evolved out of discussions with seniors in an effort to help them say goodbye to Harvard and return to “the big real world.”“This year, these questions hold special importance for me because, like our seniors, I am preparing to say goodbye to this extraordinary place,” said Katz, whose fellowship at the church is coming to an end. By saying goodbye, Katz said, we acknowledge and show gratitude for the impact we have on one another’s lives: both for the ways in which others have changed us, and the ways in which we have changed them.“These 13 mornings will provide an opportunity for wisdom to be passed down from seniors to underclassmen, and for the entire campus to celebrate the contributions of the Class of 2013 to our Harvard community,” Katz said. “We’re hoping that each House will bring its unique spirit to the Porch for all to experience and enjoy.”The “Senior Talks” initiative follows the recent inauguration of the steps of Memorial Church as the Porch, a new common space dedicated to “the grace that comes from simply spending time in community,” Katz added.One senior from each of Harvard’s Houses will speak over the next several days. The May 9 speaker is Fred-Ivo Baca of Leverett House. The talks conclude with Cassandra Thomson of Winthrop House on May 16. For a full list of speakers, visit the Memorial Church’s website.last_img read more

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Harvard Judaica in the 21st century

first_imgThe Judaica Division’s latest publication — “Harvard Judaica in the 21st Century” by Charles Berlin — was recently published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Division. In 1962 the Division was established with the appointment of Charles Berlin, Lee M. Friedman Bibliographer in Judaica and Head of the Division.Alan Garber, Harvard’s provost, noted in his foreword, “ ‘The Harvard Judaica Collection’ has grown into one of the most extensive, and eclectic, collections of cultural and intellectual records of the Jewish world that can be found anywhere.… To partake of even a small part of its riches is to begin to understand how vigorously Charles Berlin, his colleagues and their predecessors have pursued the Collection’s mission of ‘the documentation of the Jewish people throughout history.’”As one would expect of an anniversary volume, it chronicles the Division’s history and achievements. It includes an account of the growth of the “Judaica Collection” from Harvard’s earliest days, through the first half of the 20th century when several major collections of Judaica were acquired, to the recent half-century, the period in which the Judaica Division undertook the systematic development of Harvard’s Judaica collection into a world-class resource.last_img read more

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Uncovering history, via shovel

first_imgThe skies above the white tent in Harvard Yard were overcast. The roped-off area near Matthews Hall marked another year in search of history.Staff accompanied students who were joined by Native American community leaders, each bringing a unique perspective to the 10th annual Yard dig. All in attendance were focused on filling in the history of Harvard’s Indian College, established in 1665 with the mission of educating Native American students alongside Puritan students. Having the opportunity to be present at the 2014 Yard dig, I could not help but imagine what life must have been like for a native student in the 1600s.The teaching fellow held up a bag of artifacts unearthed at the 2013 dig, explaining their importance and their collective role in piecing together the story of the Indian College. He passed around a few objects, examples of what could be found in this year’s dig, and explained how each piece was significant.The tiny piece of metal type I held in my hand could be a link between Harvard’s Native American college in 1655 and present-day life in the Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP) and the community as a whole. The first Holy Bible translated into the language of the Massachusett Indians was printed here, and this piece of type may have helped produce a piece of history. The pieces of brick being passed around to students and faculty may have been part of the original Native American college, of which key elements were uncovered in the 2009 Yard dig.Matthew DeShaw (left): “To think that I am part of this history is nothing short of remarkable.”Built in 1655, the first brick building in the Yard, the college was erected to educate native youth free of charge. The evolution of Native American education at Harvard is a long one, and not without historical gaps. Much is left to learn about the struggles faced by early native students, as well as the college’s journey from the original charter to its present-day goals of preserving native cultures and embracing their varied histories.To think that I am part of this history is nothing short of remarkable. As I stand in the trench, watching the sifters go through shovels of dirt, I am literally following in the footsteps of all indigenous people at Harvard. When I consider the significance of not only the dig, but of elucidating the actual history of the Indian College, I become aware of how far native education at Harvard has come. It started with the desire to teach students Greek, Hebrew, and religion, but has grown and developed into a program that nurtures each native student’s culture and language, celebrating their history within a larger cultural context. Embracing issues within the native communities and bringing them to the forefront on campus has become HUNAP’s hallmark, changing the face of native education.Observing the dig’s progress led me to a newfound respect for archeologists and historians. Progress is slow and deliberate, every inch of earth charted, excavated, and examined with painstaking precision. It felt extraordinary to be a small part of historical advancement, one that features dirty hands and sore muscles. But what is even more exciting is how Native American history at Harvard College has developed into an example of preserving the past, educating in the present, and preparing for the future.I cannot help but appreciate the struggles and triumphs of generations of indigenous students before me. To appreciate their history is to recognize their contribution in hopes of ultimately making my own. Watching the Yard dig unfold allowed me to witness the front lines of academia. The sifters hummed, kicking out shovel after shovel of excavated material. A crowd assembled around the receptacle containing potential finds. Among the artifacts, I saw a few pieces of coal, aggregates of rock, shards of glass, and an MBTA token. In the age of Charlie cards, even that is an artifact now.Matthew DeShaw ’18 is a member of HUNAP. He will write an occasional column about his student experiences.last_img read more

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A walk on the wild side

first_imgCan a botanical garden have an alter ego? If so, what would it look and sound like?Peter Del Tredici, retired senior scientist at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, and artist Teri Rueb think the Arnold Arboretum’s alter ego sits nearby in Jamaica Plain, just across South Street, in the 24-acre Bussey Brook Meadow.The site looks like a natural forest, thick with trees, shrubs, and undergrowth, but it’s a modern concoction of native and non-native species, of escaped plantings from the surrounding city — the Forest Hills T stop is just across the street — and even fugitive specimens from the Arboretum’s collections.Rueb, a resident artist at the Harvard metaLAB, and Del Tredici, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, share their take on the meadow through a new mobile sound tour, Other Order, developed by Rueb over the last two years and available as an app for iPhone and Android phones.“I consider it as an alter ego of the rest of the Arboretum,” Rueb said of the meadow. “Peter says it’s the Arboretum gone wild.”Set to launch on Saturday, the tour takes advantage of smartphone technology to share with visitors the natural and cultural history of the meadow. Once downloaded from the Apple or Google Play store, the app uses GPS to identify where in the meadow the visitor is, and then narrates the story of that spot, fading in and out as the user moves through the site.The tour goes beyond science, said Rueb, who included music, snippets of cultural history, and even conversations with passersby. And there is plenty of material for repeat visits, with 1½ hours of audio for the 15-minute walk.“It’s really an ‘other’ aesthetic. It’s a very structured environment in a way, with the underlying natural order expressing itself,” said Rueb, a professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, who drew on her experience designing mobile sound tours for other venues.Del Tredici was blunt about the area’s past, calling it “a history of abuse and neglect” and acknowledging that some parts of the land had been used for unofficial and often unwanted activities, as evidenced during a recent stroll by a fire pit surrounded by empty beer cans. Those uses are nonetheless part of the meadow’s cultural history and represent the way that some residents interact with the land, he said.About half of the narration comes from Del Tredici, who described the land as an “urban wild.” The site’s deeper history has it as part of the original Bussey Farm, the bulk of which became the Arnold Arboretum.But Bussey Brook Meadow wasn’t acquired by the Arboretum until 1996, and it has an interesting timeline before then. The meadow has been home to an 8-foot sewer line since 1901; an illegal landfill operated there during the 1950s; and a former MBTA parking lot sits under nearly 20 feet of a fill from a construction project at the T station in the mid-1980s.The wetland that forms the centerpiece of the meadow has been slowly hemmed in by the surrounding neighborhood, raised areas, and the visitors’ footpath, part of which was built on imported fill.Del Tredici’s enthusiasm for the site is apparent, in conversation and through his descriptions on the walking tour. Often, he said, places like Bussey Brook are considered from a builder’s perspective, and tend not to last long — a decade or two, perhaps — before being converted to another use. The Arboretum, however, has shown a strong interest in the meadow’s natural potential.“It’s actually very hard to find places where there’s a long-term commitment to leaving urban wilds as they are,” Del Tredici said.Despite the mix of native and non-native species, Bussey Brook Meadow has developed into a functioning ecosystem, Del Tredici said. It is not only home to wildlife — including deer, fox, and pheasant — it is also the site of one of Boston’s two remaining aboveground streams. In addition, its wetlands absorb stormwater, helping to protect nearby homes from flooding.“The goal of the Other Order app is to change people’s attitudes about a site, to help people see it as a valuable piece of land,” he said.last_img read more

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