Department of History, UMass Amherst — Feinberg Lecture Series Website/Log

August 25th, 2008 by Editor

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The 2008-09 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted by the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will take as its theme “Measuring the Value of Human Life,” which will engage scholarship in history, bioethics, legal studies, the arts, and other realms to explore how value has been ascribed to human lives in courtrooms, labs, archives, boardrooms, and universities. Public lectures, panels, and film screenings will consider subjects ranging from the role of war and sacrifice in ancient societies to contemporary reparations movements. Events will examine efforts to compensate individuals and families for lives and limbs lost on the battlefield and in the workplace. We will consider attempts (from the religious to the technological) to purchase eternal life, and reflect on ways in which historians have measured and valued life stories. In sum, this exciting series investigates the many and varied approaches to the questions, what is life worth?

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Next Event:

Portraits on the Other Shore:
The International ‘Reminders’ Photojournalism Project

August 5th, 2008 by Editor

11_bulisova_iraqirefugee.jpgCo-sponsored by The Lively Arts program, Fine Arts Center, and the Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst
Wednesday, April 8, 7:30 p.m., 601 Herter Hall
GABRIELA BULISOVA, George Mason University and Corcoran College of Art and Design
SAYA NAMIKAWA, Translator for the Reminders Project A panel discussion on the power of photography to shape the value placed on the human lives in global politics. For more on the Reminders project, see http://reminders-project.org/

The 2008-09 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series will present Portraits on the Other Shore:The International ‘Reminders’ Photojournalism Project, a lecture and panel discussion led Professor Mary Wilson, Modern Middle East historian, UMass Amherst, and Gabriela Bulisova, originally from Czechoslovakia, a documentary photographer for the International Reminders Project of the “Guests” in Syria—Iraqi refugees who have fled the war and sectarian violence and relocated to Damascus.  Bulisova teaches photography and photojournalism at the George Mason University in Virginia and the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC.


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The series is grounded in the work of University of Massachusetts Amherst alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg, Special Master of the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 and author of the book What is Life Worth? The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11. Mr. Feinberg’s distinguished and wide-ranging career in mediation has included cases involving Agent Orange and the Dalkon Shield; most recently he oversaw Virginia Tech’s Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund.

This program is affiliated with The Feinberg Institute, a center for research and scholarship that will guide policymakers, the legal community, decision-makers and others as they grapple with the question, “How Much is a Life Worth?” To learn more about this initiative, see: www.umass.edu/feinberginstitute

UPDATE 9/14/08: See Hampshire Gazette.com Sean Sullivan’s Coverage of Ken Feinberg’s Keynote Address on the anniversary of September 11.

UPDATE 9/12/08:Losses lend purpose to UMass institute” By Sean Sullivan Gazette Contributing Writer

UPDATE 9/12/08: “New Feinberg Distinguished Scholar in Residence to examine value of human life”

Download a 2008-09 Feinberg Lecture Series Brochure here!

PLEASE SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE “COMMENTS” BUTTON HERE!

Keynote Address

August 25th, 2008 by Editor

Kenneth R. FeinbergThursday, September 11, 2008 – 4:30 p.m. — PLEASE NOTE NEW TIME — Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell BuildingFree and Open to the Public

KENNETH R. FEINBERG, Special Master, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund“The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund: Private Pain and Public Compensation”From the Provost’s Office: “Mr. Feinberg will address the circumstances surrounding Congressional enactment of this Fund, unique in American history. Mr. Feinberg will also address why the Fund succeeded in its mission but also why it is unlikely that the Fund will ever again be replicated or used as a precedent. It was a unique response to an unprecedented historical tragedy. In providing eligibility for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, but no others, the statute creating the Fund raises important philosophical and political issues about the appropriate role of government in compensating innocent victims of life’s misfortunes.”This year’s Keynote Speaker is University of Massachusetts Amherst alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg, Special Master of the Federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 and author of the book What is Life Worth? The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11. Mr. Feinberg’s distinguished and wide-ranging career in mediation has included cases involving Agent Orange and the Dalkon Shield; most recently he oversaw Virginia Tech’s Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund.

Listen to Kenneth Feinberg on NPR’s This I Believe

UPDATE 9/16/08 Ken Feinberg ’67 Speaks on the Value of a Human Life. Feinberg directed the $7 billion fund to assist the families of those killed or injured in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Watch video of his lecture.

UPDATE 9/14/08: See Hampshire Gazette.com Sean Sullivan’s Coverage of Ken Feinberg’s Keynote Address on the anniversary of September 11.

UPDATE 9/12/08: “New Feinberg Distinguished Scholar in Residence to examine value of human life”

UPDATE 9/12/08:Losses lend purpose to UMass institute” By Sean Sullivan Gazette Contributing Writer

Please read featured respondent Margo Shea’s comments on Ken Feinberg’s Keynote Address. Please share your comments as well by clicking the comment button below.

“On September 11, 2008, Chancellor Robert C. Holub welcomed Kenneth Feinberg to campus and introduced his keynote address, a talk that kicked off a year-long series of events and lectures centered around the theme Measuring the Value of Human Life? Holub lauded Feinberg as “the country’s best known mediator,” and said that the 1967 UMass graduate is an example of “how far someone with a degree” from the university could go.Feinberg opened his remarks by reflecting that the seventh anniversary of 9/11 was a somber day, but also a glorious one, because it gave him an opportunity to give one day back to UMass, an institution that has meant so much to his personal and professional growth. He thanked UMass faculty, including Milton Cantor, Mario DePillis and Shelly Goldman, who taught him to think as an historian and to grapple with some of the most problematic and thorny issues facing a democracy by looking through an historical lens…”
Read More

Margo Shea is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Read the rest of featured respondent Margo Shea and other’s takes on Ken Feinberg’s Keynote by clicking on Comments below!

PLEASE SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE “COMMENTS” BUTTON HERE!

Martyrdom and Sacrifice in Ancient Worlds

August 24th, 2008 by Editor
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Thursday, September 18, 4 p.m., Lincoln Campus Center, Rm. 917

DANIEL BOYARIN, Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, University of California at Berkeley; author, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism
CARLIN BARTON, Professor of History, UMass Amherst; author, Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones

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Please read featured respondent Michael Shapiro’s comments on this panel. Please share your comments as well by clicking the comment button below.

“Martyrdom and Sacrifice in Ancient Worlds was a spirited joint-paper delivered by Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic Culture at the University of California at Berkeley, and Carlin Barton, a professor of Ancient History at UMass Amherst. Centering their discussion on the mass suicide of Jewish rebels at Masada while under siege by Roman troops in the first century, Drs. Boyarin and Barton described how the story was interpreted in ancient Jewish and Roman cultures respectively. They did not focus on the suicide, however, as many historians have done, but on the massacre/sacrifice of the women and children by the Jewish men before they killed themselves. The question they posed was why did Josephus, the Roman historian responsible for telling the story of Masada, portray the murder of these women and children as noble? The professors argued that Josephus’s Roman and Jewish audiences would have agreed that the acts were noble, but for very different reasons.” Read More

Michael Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

                      C Barton and D Boyarin

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Sustainability: Measuring the Impact of Climate Change on Future Generations

August 23rd, 2008 by Editor

Co-sponsored by The Environmental Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst

3_sustainabilityimageumass.jpgWednesday, September 24, 4 p.m., The Commons, 2nd floor, Studio Arts Building

CYNTHIA E. ROSENWEIG, Senior Research Scientist, Columbia University and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
JAMES K. BOYCE, Professor of Economics; Director, Program on Development, Peace-building and the Environment, Political Economy Research Institute, UMass Amherst
DAVID GLASSBERG, Professor of History, UMass Amherst

UPDATE: Read Respondent Michael Shapiro’s comments on the event:  “Cynthia E. Rosenzweig, a biophysical scientist working on global climate change, opened her talk at the Feinberg Family Series panel, Sustainability: Measuring the Impact of Climate Change on Future Generations, by stating, “Anthropological warming is ‘unequivocal.”  Luckily for me, she explained what she meant.  Climate change is happening now and it is affecting people all over the world.  James K. Boyce, a professor of economics, began his presentation by asking three questions about climate change: Who benefits from the economic activities that cause the problem? Who bears the cost? And why can the “winners” impose these costs on the “losers”?  Rosenzweig and Boyce are both scientists, and their presentations focused on the science and economics of climate change, but they both stressed that morality needs to be interjected into discussions of the issue.  Decisions about how to mitigate and adapt to climate change go the heart of the question, what is the value of human life?…”  Read More

Michael Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

PLEASE SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE “COMMENTS” BUTTON HERE!

Nuestra Abuelas: Su Esperanza, Nuestra Fortaleza (Our Grandmothers: Their Hope, Our Strength)

August 23rd, 2008 by Editor
17_nuestrasabuelas.jpg12_livelyarts.gifExhibition

September 25 – October 25, Central Gallery (Located in Wheeler dormitory in the Central residential living area. Please see the campus map link located in the “Links” sidebar for more information.)

UPDATE: Read Margo Shea’s comments on this exhibition that ends soon. Be sure to check it out!

“The “Nuestras Abuelas/Our Grandmothers” exhibition is a celebration of the legacy of Latina and Puerto Rican grandmothers’ struggles, responsibility, work, and love through the eyes of their granddaughters. By their focusing on their experiences as women, as workers and immigrants and survivors, as wives, mothers and grandmothers, the exhibition endeavors to offer a glimpse of the world and times in which they lived, the stories of which continue to inspire and motivate.

Installed at the Wheeler Residence Hall’s Central Gallery until October 26, 2008, Nuestras Abuelas is designed to honor relationships and what they teach us; the exhibition explores and celebrates the connections between generations of Latina women and between the past and present. As associate curator Waleska Santiago explains, the exhibition endeavors to preserve history by telling stories in a new historical language, a unique form of expression born out of the experiences and sensibilities of the women who participated in the project by sharing memories and photographs. What began as a conversation among friends became a creative testimony to family and identity. At the same time, it is an intervention that disrupts traditional histories that ignore women’s contributions and stories as the fabric of our lives.” READ MORE

Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North

August 23rd, 2008 by Editor
12_traces_ofthe_trade.jpgCo-sponsored by the Lively Arts program, Fine Arts Center and the Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst.
Thursday Film Series

Thursday, September 25, 7:30 p.m., in Herter Hall 227.

Shown in commemoration of the bicentennial of U.S. abolition of the slave trade.

UPDATE: Holly Fulton and her husband Bill Peebles will be in attendance to introduce and discuss the film!bill-peebles-and-holly-fulton-at-umass-screening.JPG

Please click here for more information on Holly Fulton.

From the filmmakers: “In Traces of the Trade, Producer/Director Katrina Browne tells the story of her forefathers, the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. Given the myth that the South is solely responsible for slavery, viewers will be surprised to learn that Browne’s ancestors were Northerners. The film follows Browne and nine fellow family members on a remarkable journey which brings them face-to-face with the history and legacy of New England’s hidden enterprise.”

Please click here for more information on Traces of the Trade.

UPDATE: Read Mike King’s comments on the recent screening and discussion: “The imperfect process of recording history has a tendency to develop a selective memory and ignore the darkest little secrets – though some are not so little. Descriptions of the early years of the American republic noted in textbooks and classrooms tend to focus on the United States’ gradual development into a world power. Yet one of the primary drivers of its contemporary economic and social circumstances is categorically ignored: slavery and the international slave trade. The film, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” directly attacks such historical inaccuracies. The pursuant discussion, conducted by Holly Fulton (one of the film’s participants) and her husband Bill Peebles, after the documentary’s viewing broached a series of wide-ranging historical and social topics…”  READ MORE

Mike King is BA candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Dialogue 2.0 Framing the Negotiation

August 22nd, 2008 by Editor
21_lodestar.gifMediation Workshop for Historians

Saturday, September 27, 1-5 p.m., Herter Hall 601

ROBIN DIGIAMMARINO, President and Founder, Lodestar Mediation
Free, but pre-registration is required.
Email: publichistory@history.umass.edu

From the Lodestar Mediation website: “Lodestar Mediation works with individuals, groups and organizations to resolve difficult issues and problems impacting the workplace and the board room. By creating opportunities to discuss concerns in a confidential and impartial environment, Lodestar Mediation provides a setting and a process for clients to identify problems, explore options and create outcomes satisfactory to all involved parties.”

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UPDATE: Read Margo Shea’s comments on the Mediation Workshop for Historians!

“On Saturday, September 27th, Robin DiGiammarino led a useful and interesting workshop for fifteen public historians and graduate students with the aim of developing participants’ understanding of conflict, mediation and negotiation and providing opportunities to practice some skills that are crucial to effective negotiation and mediation. DiGiammarino, an alumna of the UMass BDIC (Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration) program, was introduced by Marla Miller, Public History program director. Miller explained that she had long thought mediation should be a part of graduate education in public history since practitioners are often confronted with projects that highlight competing aims and motivations of people who have a stake in the interpretation of the past. As public historians become more involved in controversial issues, it’s only going to become more important that we become adept at mediating between groups with competing agendas, at enabling all parties to a project to be heard and at navigating successfully through the murky political waters of presenting the past. Miller saw the History Department’s Feinberg lecture series as the perfect opportunity to introduce mediation to public historians…” READ MORE

Margo Shea is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE “COMMENTS” BUTTON HERE!

What Price Immortality? From Indulgences to Cryogenics – The Cost of Eternal Life

August 22nd, 2008 by Editor

4_mercury-offering-the-cup-of-immortality-to-psyche-raphael-214648.jpgThursday, October 2, 4 p.m., Herter Hall 601

JENNIFER HEUER, Assistant Professor of History, UMass Amherst
BRIAN OGILVIE, Associate Professor of History, UMass Amherst
ANNA TAYLOR, Assistant Professor of History, UMass Amherst
MELISSA MUELLER, Assistant Professor of Classics, UMass Amherst

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(Left to Right) Jennifer Heuer, Brian Ogilvie, Anna Taylor, and Melissa Mueller

How do you pay for eternal life? Men and women have long sought the means that would allow them to acquire immortality, from heroic deeds to religious indulgences, or from the sorcerers’ stones to frozen heads. But how people in the past thought about the price of immortality is often very different from what we might expect in the twentieth-century. Drawing particularly on stories of ancient Greece, the medieval undead, and Renaissance alchemists, we will look at some of the ways people have imagined eternal life and will look at some of the ways people have imagined eternal life and its costs — both for those who obtain immortality and for those who help pay for its acquisition, whether willingly or unwillingly.

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UPDATE: Read commentator Michael Shapiro’s analysis of this very well attended and lively discussion! “The bulk of the Feinberg Family Lecture Series panels and films consider the value of life on earth. How much should a family be paid when a breadwinner dies? When is it worth sacrificing one’s life? How much are slaves worth and what emotional prices do the decedents of slaves and slave traders pay? How much are societies willing to pay to keep the effects of global warming from killing millions of people around the world? These are important and provocative questions. On Thursday, October 2, three UMass historians and Melissa Mueller from the Classics department asked a different question, “What Price Immortality?” They examined the prices people have paid to get to heaven; what sacrifices people have made to be written about and discussed generations after their deaths; and what lengths people have gone to to prolong life on earth…” READ MORE

Michael Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE “COMMENTS” BUTTON HERE!


				

Unnatural Selection: Eugenics, Race, and Ideas of Biological Value

August 21st, 2008 by Editor

5_eugenics.jpgWednesday, October 15, 7:30 p.m., The Commons, 2nd floor, Studio Arts Building

RICHARD LEWONTIN, Alexander Agassiz Research Professor, Harvard University
DIANE PAUL, Associate of Zoology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
LAURA LOVETT, Associate Professor of History, UMass Amherst

This panel will consider attempts by eugenicists in this country and elsewhere to place value on biological or supposed biological differences.  Early twentieth-century programs to sterilize the “unfit” in this country are now the subjects of official apologies in several states.  Yet the spread of genetic testing, new reproductive technologies,  and inexpensive DNA sequencing threatens to allow a resurgence of “selective” reproduction in many countries. This panel would address the history of eugenics, its intersections with scientific racism, and its possible resurgence today with the Human Genome Projects.

UPDATE: Read Michael Shapiro’s comments on the recent packed-house event!  “Richard Lewontin, a Harvard biologist and geneticist, ended his presentation by saying, “Buyer beware.”  As the final speaker in the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series panel “Unnatural Selection: Eugenics, Race, and Ideas of Biological Value,” he was arguing that people have been led to believe that genes determine our traits, and that simply is not true.  He conceded that genes do influence some traits, but cautioned that there are many other factors, like environment and randomness, to consider.  Keeping with the theme of the panel, he was arguing that genetics is the eugenics of today.  To this day, many people believe that our bloodlines make us who we are and eugenics was the “scientization” of that idea in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and genetics is the “scientization” of that idea today. But science tends to simplify complex phenomena in sometimes dangerous ways.  Fortunately, for those at the panel, eugenics had already been explained.  For that we had the first two presenters.”  READ MORE

Michael Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History.

PLEASE SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE “COMMENTS” BUTTON HERE!

Gattaca

August 20th, 2008 by Editor
13_gattaca4.jpgCo-sponsored by the Lively Arts program, Fine Arts Center and the Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst.
Thursday Film Series

October 16, 7:30 p.m., in Herter Hall 227.

Please join us for a screening and discussion hosted by Laura Lovett, Associate Professor of History, UMass Amherst, and director of the Five College Women’s Research Center.

UPDATE: Read Mike King’s comments on the recent screening of Gattaca and post-film discussion!

“Though much of the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series focuses on human life valuation by examining the past, the recent screening of the film Gattaca and the accompanying discussion delved into how the value of human life could be determined in the future. The event, hosted by Laura Lovett, Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts, remained grounded in historical precedent to evaluate future possibilities.”READ MORE

PLEASE SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BY CLICKING ON THE “COMMENTS” BUTTON HERE!


What is She Worth? How (or How Not) to Value a Woman’s Life

August 19th, 2008 by Editor

6_eugenics_motherchild.jpg Wednesday, October 22, 7:30 p,m., The Commons, 2nd floor, Studio Arts Building
NANCY FOLBRE, Professor of Economics, UMass Amherst; author, Valuing Children: Rethinking the Economics of the Family

How Much are You Worth? How (or How Not) to Value a Human Life.

From Professor Folbre: “This presentation will recount a history of efforts to estimate the value of human lives, ranging from early nineteenth century economic debates through the development of wrongful death suits and life insurance to the Feinberg Commission ‘s decisions regarding public compensation for the families of victims of 9/11. Gender differences play a surprisingly consistent role over this period.  Reluctance to value unpaid family work and lower projected lifetime earnings for most women typically lead to lower levels of compensation for the death of women compared to men. Exploration of this particular valuation issue illustrates the gender bias deeply embedded in conventional economic accounting frameworks.”

Read Michael Shapiro’s comments on Prof. Folbre’s very well attended and stimulating discussion: “Nancy Folbre, a University of Massachusetts professor of economics, identifies herself as a feminist economist who recommends that societies assign a monetary value to unpaid work.  In her lecture, “What is She Worth? How (or How Not) to Value a Woman’s Life,” she described how Kenneth Feinberg’s 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was unable to fairly compensate some victims’ families because it based its calculations on expected earnings over an expected lifetime. Congress mandated a formula used by courts to determine accidental death settlements that stated that each family received at least $250,000 for emotional pain and suffering, $50,000 for each dependent (which was offset by life insurance payouts), and a percentage of expected earnings.  The families of women ended up receiving an average of 63% less than the families of men.”  READ MORE

A Healthy Baby Girl

August 18th, 2008 by Editor
14_healthybabygirl.gifCo-sponsored by the Lively Arts program, Fine Arts Center and the Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst.
Thursday Film Series

October 23, 7:30 p.m., in Herter Hall 227

Hosted by Jennifer Hamilton, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies, Hampshire College.

From the filmmaker’s website: “A Healthy Baby Girl is an intimate, humorous, yet searing exploration of what happens when science, marketing, and corporate power enter our deepest family relationships. A Healthy Baby Girl is an inter-generational story of one family’s response to an ethical and technological crisis, experienced from their home in Merrick, Long Island.

In 1963, filmmaker Judith Helfand’s mother was prescribed the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), meant to prevent miscarriage and ensure a healthy baby. But technology is rarely a benign midwife. In 1990, at age twenty-five, Helfand was diagnosed with DES-related cervical cancer. She went home to her family to heal from a radical hysterectomy. There she picked up her camera. Her video diary, A Healthy Baby Girl, was shot over five years and goes beyond loss to document mother-daughter love, family renewal, survival, political awakening, and community activism.”

Please click here for more information on A Healthy Baby Girl.

Read Mike King’s comments on the film: “Though the overarching concept of how to value human life can have a profound impact on society, it also can significantly affect individuals and families. The screening of the 1996 film, A Healthy Baby Girl, raised this issue by examining the experiences of one family, as a part of the Feinberg Distinguished Lecture Series.
The documentary follows the lives of filmmaker Judith Helfand and her mother. The elder Helfand was prescribed the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) prior to giving birth as a means to prevent miscarriage and effectively guarantee a healthy birth. Yet the film focuses on Helfand’s experience once she is diagnosed with cervical cancer – a side-effect from the DES her mother took some 25 years earlier.”  READ MORE

Democratization at $130 per barrel: The Value of Human and Political Rights in Post-Soviet Azerbaijan

August 17th, 2008 by Editor

7_bulisova_azerbaijan.jpgWednesday, October 29, 4 p.m., Herter Hall 601

AUDREY ALTSTADT, Professor of History, UMass Amherst

From Professor Altstadt: “Post-Soviet, oil-rich Azerbaijan borders Iran and Russia. The recently completed export pipeline, the BTC, was funded by a consortium of Western oil companies with the support of their home governments to draw Azerbaijan away from Russia and closer to Turkey and the West. Despite increased ties to Western states and laws that nominally protect human rights and foster democracy, Azerbaijan’s corruption and democratization ratings remain poor. This talk will examine the struggle for democratization and protection of human rights in the context of regional politics and high oil demand.”

Read Michael Shapiro’s comments on the recent talk: “Valuing human life is not just about life and death, but also about quality of life.  What is freedom worth?  Are wealthy nations more democratic than poorer nations?  What role does oil play in the equation? Audrey Altstadt, a professor of history at the University Massachusetts, tried to answer some of these questions in her lecture “Democratization at $70 per barrel: The Value of Human and Political Rights in Post-Soviet Azerbaijan.”  The lecture was originally titled “Democratization at $130 per barrel,” but she decided to change its name because oil prices had dropped.  She stressed, however, that shifts in oil prices will have little impact on the political situation in Azerbaijan because it is run by an elected dictator named Ilham Aliyev who has the machinery in place to suppress dissent.”  READ MORE

Sweet Honey in the Rock

August 16th, 2008 by Editor
18_sweethoney.jpgPerformance

Saturday, November 1, 8 p.m., Fine Arts Center Concert Hall

The power of this a cappella ensemble of African-American women transcends all the technologically enhanced music of the day. They seamlessly blend lyrics, spirited movement, and stirring narrative interpreted in American Sign Language. Since its founding in 1973, Sweet Honey in the Rock has performed around the world, raising their voices in hope, love, justice, peace, and resistance. Sweet Honey invites its audiences to open their minds and hearts and think about who we are and how we interact with our fellow creatures on this planet.

Read Christopher Benning’s comments on Saturday’s performance:  “Last Saturday’s performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock was a rocking and rolling event glowing with “positivity.”  The Fine Arts Center was filled to the rafters, literally, and I felt proud to be part of such an enthusiastic display of community.  But, what does Sweet Honey in the Rock have to do with the theme of this year’s Feinberg Lecture Series: Measuring the Value of Human Life? 

The wide-ranging, interdisciplinary approach of this year’s program is impressive.  “Measuring the value of human life” is, after all, hardly a straightforward proposition.  The events range from panel discussions on “Martyrdom and Sacrifice in Ancient Worlds” and “Unnatural Selection: Eugenics, Race, and Ideas of Biological Value” to Thursday film screenings, featuring the likes of Gattaca and Traces of the Trade, which are opportunities to think synthetically, to build new connections, and to develop insights into life’s difficult questions.  Sweet Honey in the Rock was just such an event: an opportunity to think synthetically about what Sweet Honey’s life affirming message, shared in an enthusiastic communal atmosphere, has to do with what we value individually and collectively.  Tuesday’s impending election only added to the Concert Hall’s energy and the sense of possibility.” READ MORE

Injury: New Perspectives on American Ideas of Suffering and Compensation

August 15th, 2008 by Editor

8_actuarialtable.gifWednesday, November 5, 4 p.m., Herter Hall 601

JENNIFER HAMILTON, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies, Hampshire College
DANIEL GORDON, Professor of History, UMass Amherst
GARY GARRISON, Ph.D. candidate, History Department, UMass Amherst

From Professor Gordon: “Sometimes we refer to personal injury lawyers as “ambulance chasers” as if this is not a serious field.  But in personal injury law, the most serious issues concerning the value of human life are at the forefront.  How much does it take to compensate for the loss of a limb?  How do we put a dollar sign on the cost of a death?

As Kenneth R. Feinberg shows in his book “What Is Life Worth,” the issues are profound and agonizing.  This panel will examine American conceptions of value in a historical and other social scientific contexts.  What kinds of changes have taken place in our compensation system over time?  How does our current system of compensation for injury compare to other nations?  The speakers will offer both a legal primer for beginners and some in-depth analysis.  Discussion will follow the presentations.”

Read Margo Shea’s comments on the recent panel discussion: “On Wednesday, November 5, 2008, the Feinberg Series continued with a panel entitled “Injury: New Perspectives on American Ideas of Suffering and Compensation.” Hosted by UMass History Department faculty member and BDIC interim director Dan Gordon, the panel included Gary Garrison, a doctoral student in history as well as part-time professor and attorney, and Jennifer Hamilton, a cultural anthropologist and professor in the Legal Studies department at Hampshire College.

Gordon opened the discussion by defining the field of tort – or personal injury – law within the broader realm of questions explored by the Feinberg series. He offered thoughtful comments on the ethical dilemmas Feinberg faced after 9/11 when he opted to offer differential disbursements for the injured and for families of those who died, basing financial rewards on earning histories and projections of earning.  If the notion that “what life is worth is a practical issue,” Gordon suggested that our legal system offers interesting insights into the value we place on individual lives and well-being.”  READ MORE

The House We Live In

August 14th, 2008 by Editor
15_thehousewelivein.jpgCo-sponsored by the Lively Arts program, Fine Arts Center and the Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst.
Thursday Film Series

November 6, 7:30 p.m., in Herter Hall 227.

(From Race: The Power of an Illusion, a series on race in society, science and history), hosted by Wilson Valentin-Escobar, Assistant Professor of Sociology and American Studies, Hampshire College.

From the filmmakers: “If race doesn’t exist biologically, what is it? And why should it matter? Our final episode, The House We Live In, is the first film about race to focus not on individual attitudes and behavior but on the ways our institutions and policies advantage some groups at the expense of others. Its subject is the “unmarked” race: white people. We see how benefits quietly and often invisibly accrue to white people, not necessarily because of merit or hard work, but because of the racialized nature of our laws, courts, customs, and perhaps most pertinently, housing.

The film begins by looking at the massive immigration from eastern and southern Europe early in the 20th century. Italians, Hebrews, Greeks and other ethnics were considered by many to be separate races. Their “whiteness” had to be won. But who was white? The 1790 Naturalization Act had limited naturalized citizenship to “free, white persons.” Many new arrivals petitioned the courts to be legally designated white in order to gain citizenship. Armenians, known as “Asiatic Turks,” succeeded with the help of anthropologist Franz Boas, who testified on their behalf as an expert scientific witness.”

Read Margo Shea’s comments on the film and discussion: “On Thursday, November 6, 2008, the Feinberg Series screened “The House We Live In, ” the third and final episode of the miniseries, “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” which was created in order to examine the notions of race we all hold and their implications. Larry Adelman, the series’ producer, asserted that the intent of the documentary was to show how the institutions and policies we create give race social meaning and power by offering advantages to white people.

Wilson Valentín-Escobar, assistant professor of sociology at Hampshire College, introduced the film and facilitated a discussion afterwards. Valentín-Escobar underscored the significance of the film; The House We Live In examines not simply the constructions of race , but its materiality – particularly the opportunities, life chances and privileges that emerge out of the values of those who hold and wield social, economic and political power.”  READ MORE

Mexican Days of the Dead: From the Aztec City of Sacrifice to Chicano/a Murals

August 13th, 2008 by Editor

9_day_ofthe_dead.gifWednesday, November 12, 4 p.m., Lincoln Campus Center, Rm. 917

DAVID CARRASCO, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, Harvard Divinity School; author, City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Role of Violence in Civilization

Drawing on twenty years of research in the excavations and archives associated with the sites of Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Professor Carrasco’s work explores ritual violence and sacred space; his work makes special emphasis on the religious dimensions of Latino experience: mestizaje, the myth of Aztlan, transculturation, and La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Read Michael King’s comments on the recent event:”The process of valuing human life manifests itself in many different forms while varying significantly across cultures. At a recent Feinberg Lecture Series event, David Carrasco, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, delivered a presentation regarding the valuation of life in Mexico. Speaking to a packed room in the Campus Center with more than 100 attendees, the lecture focused on how human life and death are ritualized in Mexican culture. Using case studies of specific aspects of Mexican culture, Professor Carrasco gave the audience insight into how one culture values human life through its respect, reverence and actions toward the dead.” READ MORE

Michael King is a BA candidate at the University of Massachusetts.

The Sweet Hereafter

August 12th, 2008 by Editor
The Sweet HereafterCo-sponsored by the Lively Arts program, Fine Arts Center and the Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst.
Thursday Film Series

November 13, 7:30 p.m., in Herter Hall 227.

Hosted by Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College.

Director Atom Egoyan’s haunting adaptation of Russell Banks’ novel follows a grieving Canadian mountain community in the wake of a tragic school bus accident. Lawyer Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm) arrives in town to persuade the survivors to initiate a class-action lawsuit, driving apart the once tight-knit hamlet. Meanwhile, a teen crippled in the crash (Sarah Polley) must choose between mourning and getting on with life.

“This is one of the best films of the year, an unflinching lament for the human condition.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times, December 23, 1997.

Read Michael Shapiro’s insightful comments about the film and discussion: “The Sweet Hereafter is an incredibly moving film.  In addition to director Atom Egoyan’s beautiful and respectful presentation of the sadness that accompanies life after loss, the film forces viewers to confront the complexities of law, community, and the value of human life.  A lawyer travels to a small town after a bus accident kills all of the town’s children to convince the parents of the victims and the bus driver to sue an unnamed entity.  The lawyer, played by Ian Holm, argues, “There is no such thing as an accident.  That word doesn’t mean anything to me.  As far as I’m concerned, somebody somewhere made a decision to cut a corner.  Some corrupt agency or corporation accounted the cost variance between a ten-cent bolt and a million dollar out-of-court settlement.  They decided to sacrifice a few lives for the difference.”  It reminded me of a previous Feinberg discussion about global warming.  Economists tabulate how much it is worth to spend now to avert future disasters, and they often conclude that it would be too expensive and that future generations should deal with it themselves.  They argue that there is a limit to how much should be spent to save lives.  A moralist would say that we need to spend whatever it takes to avert a future disaster, and the debate continues.  So, should the families find someone to blame or should they accept that some things are accidents of fate?  Does one approach value life more than the other?” READ MORE

Forty Acres and a Mule in the 21st Century

August 11th, 2008 by Editor

10_williamdarity.jpgMonday, November 17, 4 p.m., The Commons, 2nd floor,
Studio Arts Building

Co-sponsored by the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of
Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst

WILLIAM DARITY JR., Arts & Sciences Professor of Public Policy Studies, Professor of African and African-American Studies and Economics, Duke University

Read Michael King’s comments on the William Darity talk: “Long has the United States collectively scoffed at the idea of financial compensation as a form of reparation for slavery. But Professor William Darity, Jr., a professor of African-American Studies and Economics at Duke University, believes that reparations should take a different form. In his recent Feinberg Series lecture “Forty Acres and a Mule in the 21st century,” Darity argued that the federal government has the obligation to issue a formal apology for slavery and make a legitimate effort to mitigate its long-term consequences.”  Read More!

Soweto Gospel Choir

August 10th, 2008 by Editor
19_sowetogospel2.jpgPerformance

Wednesday, December 3, 7:30 p.m., Fine Arts Center Concert Hall

Every now and then a group comes along with the rare ability to transcend cultural boundaries and connect diverse audiences through the power of music. The Soweto Gospel Choir is such a troupe. This glorious 25-member choir sold out the Concert Hall three years ago and returns again to perform its inspirational blend of tribal, traditional, and popular African gospel music in eight different languages. Earthy rhythms, rich harmonies, and charismatic a cappella delivery combine to uplift the soul and give voice to South Africa’s hopes for a bright future.

Don’t Talk About That!!!: Measuring the Value of Life Stories

August 9th, 2008 by Editor
The Eastern Door/ [Kahnawake newspaper], vol 8, no. 41, Nov. 12, 1999.Oral History Conference

Wednesday, December 3, 2008,

1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Herter Hall 601

In determining compensation for the families of 9/11 victims, Kenneth Feinberg relied in part on oral interviews, recognizing the limits of written documents to convey personal experience. This conference brings together two compelling sets of speakers to talk about subjects that are difficult to pin down in the documentary record, either because the topics are intensely personal, and therefore hard to speak of, or because of external factors that make silence seem necessary.

The first panel, “Youth at War,” offers two perspectives from Vietnam and one from a current UMass History major who spent time in Afghanistan.  For the second panel, “Turning Points: Sex and Self,” speakers will talk about what it was like to need an abortion before Roe v. Wade, to make transsexual choices, and how legal marriage can change the experience of being in a same-sex relationship.

img_4425_2.JPG

(L to R) Melvin Zacharie, Alice Nash (moderator), Leah O’Leary, and Matthew Lemieux

Panel 1 (1:00 to 3:00) — Youth at War

Leah O’Leary, former Red Cross volunteer
Melvin Zacharie, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake
Matthew Lemieux, UMass History Major

Panel 2

(L to R) Margaret Cerullo, Martha Nelson Patrick, Joyce Berkman (moderator), and Enoch Page

Panel 2 (3:30 to 5:30) — Turning Points: Sex and Self

Margaret Cerullo, Hampshire College (Sociology)
Enoch Page, UMass (Anthropology)
Martha Nelson Patrick, UMass staff

Melvin Zacharie

Melvin Zacharie

Read Margo Shea’s comments on this workshop:  “Ever since I saw the schedule for the Feinberg events of December 3rd I was hesitant to use the term “oral history conference” to describe, “Shh! Don’t Talk About That!” While I normally consider it reasonable and respectful to defer to the terminology chosen by an event’s organizers, I find myself still struggling with the language. Having spent so much time in academia, an environment in which people are careful and intentional about their uses of language, the description of the event continues to challenge me in interesting ways. The event itself, two panels with three speakers each, was powerful, provocative, informative and occasionally painful and difficult.  In particular, the first panel, “Youth at War,” left me humbled, stimulated, disturbed and hopeful all at once.  So, given all that, does language matter? Is it important that we call this “oral history?”  If so, the event opens up an important conversation about the process of expanding the definition of oral history.  And it raises another question – are there parameters we might need to put in place in order to gain the most from this kind of expansion?”  Read More!

A Menace to Society

August 8th, 2008 by Editor
20_baird.jpgPerformance

December 12-13, 7:30 p.m., Curtain Stage, Fine Arts Center

From Massachusetts prisoner to Supreme Court victor, Bill Baird, crusader for Women’s Reproductive Rights, is the focus of a new work resulting from collaboration among the History, Theater, Women’s Studies and Legal Studies departments.

UPDATE:Please check out the new A Menace to Society companion website, a historical docudrama based on the life of Bill Baird.

Staged Reading: A Menace to Society

A collaboration between the UMass Amherst Departments of History, Theater, Women’s Studies, Legal Studies, and Special Collections and Archives.

On April 7, 1967 Bill Baird, father of four, was declared “a menace to society” and sentenced to three months in a rat-infested Charles Street Jail, Cambridge, Mass. for giving a can of contraceptive foam to an unmarried coed during a lecture tour on birth control. A year later, Baird led a demonstration at Zayre’s department store in Hadley, Mass, which sold contraceptives without legal consequence. In highlighting the arbitrariness of the law’s enforcement, Baird’s activism contributed to profound changes in our society, eventually leading to a Supreme Court ruling that extended the right to use contraceptives for all unmarried individuals.

Faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from the departments of History, Theater, Women’s Studies, Legal Studies, and Special Collections and Archives will collaborate in creating and performing a new work, presented as a script-in-hand staged reading, that explores this key moment in the history of reproductive rights.

Dec. 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m.
$5 general, $3 students/seniors
The Curtain Theater

Related Events:

Audience members are invited to remain after the performance for an extended Q&A session following both performances with members of the entire team involved in creating the production, as well as special guests.

Read Michael King’s comments on the recent production:  The medium of the theater – with its ability to transform typically ordinary situations into captivating stories interlaced with underlying meaning – is a unique method to teach about the past. A recent event of the Feinberg Lecture Series, a play entitled Menace to Society performed at the Fine Arts Centers’ Curtain Stage, provided a brief insight into the history of reproductive rights in the United States. The intentionally dramatized historical documentary (docudrama) recounted the life of Bill Baird, an oft-ignored historical figure whose efforts contributed to a woman’s ability to use contraception. His work also helped to set the stage for the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

This docudrama was presented not as a finished product, but as the initial stage of a potentially excellent piece of theater. The remarkable speed of the play’s development (writers began drafting a script just two months ago in early October) underscored its potential. The power of the production’s message was strong despite the limited amount of rehearsal time and script-in-hand aspect of each character’s line delivery.

The story of Baird’s life is delivered through flashbacks of carefully chosen events scattered amongst the conversation of a mother and daughter discussing birth control and Baird’s impact on women’s rights. While the actor playing Baird remains consistent, a group of six generically-dressed actors and actresses fulfill varying roles through the production’s many scenes.

The play establishes a morbid and graphic tone in the opening scene as Baird recounts a story of a young woman perishing from a botched coat hanger abortion and how that experience precipitated his quest for female reproductive rights. The audience is then taken chronologically through events that culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court case Baird v. Eisenstadt that legalized birth control on March 22, 1972. The production rapidly moves from the depiction of a younger Baird holding makeshift contraceptive workshops in the projects of New York and Boston to more high profile public lectures. It’s here that Baird effectively tests enforcement of the Massachusetts’ “Crimes Against Chastity, Decency and Good Order” law with the intention of being arrested. One of the production’s most chilling scenes is the dramatized interpretation of the protagonist’s three months spent enduring the deplorable conditions of Boston’s Charles Street Jail.

Finally, the production recounts Baird’s court victories, his simultaneous condemnation by many, and exaltation by few, as he achieved his goals. The audience is left with the scene of the same mother-daughter tandem marveling at Baird’s accomplishments through countless obstacles and a perpetually fierce opposition.

As the play explores Baird’s crusade against these archaic laws, we learn more about the individual – who through a lifetime of personal sacrifice – helped to drastically alter women’s reproductive rights. The production established the motivation for Baird’s seemingly revolutionary intentions early in the first act. It’s evident from Baird’s opening monologue that his extreme passion for pro-choice is derived from his belief in women’s rights and the concept that “to be wanted and loved is the fundamental right of every child.” He believes that it is a mistake to bring an unwanted child into the world, as he strives to strengthen the family unit by controlling something as fundamental as its size. Moreover, Baird interprets the law as a set of hard rules that nevertheless retains a malleable and evolutionary quality. The protagonist’s phrasing of “the law is below the people” during one of his many tirades against anti-birth control law creates a powerful image.

The post-play discussion featured Massachusetts State Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst), as well as Mr. Baird himself. The wide-ranging discussion touched on issues such as the value of using oral histories as a means of research and the social issues associated with overpopulation, including the country’s maldistribution of wealth and resources. It also offered some historical background on the dichotomy between the state’s progressiveness on nearly all social issues with the exception of sex.

More significantly, it afforded Baird the opportunity to provide his own perspective directly to the audience. Baird reached out to the women in the audience with cautionary advice about the female civil rights struggle: “be aware that not all women are your supporters and that not all men are your enemies.” He also alluded to a key concept about human life valuation in the United States. He argued that women should be empowered and trusted by society to make decisions about their own bodies. Restricting a woman’s ability to use contraceptive, he argued, relegates the value of a typical female life to a decidedly lower status.

Much of the Baird’s words after the performance underscored the secondary theme of public memory’s lack of regard for the man who made birth control a fundamental right of every U.S. citizen. The play recounts some of his higher profile confrontations (prominent feminist Betty Friedan labeled him a “CIA agent” and the organization Planned Parenthood characterized him as an “embarrassment” and a “nut”). Moreover, it effectively communicates Baird’s personal feeling of betrayal at being rendered an overzealous revolutionary during the prime of his crusade. Baird suggested that individuals with problematic personalities are the only people capable of forcing significant change. We learn of Baird’s unconventional tactics and abrasive actions throughout the performance. The audience is consequently left to wonder how much of his success can be attributed to the nature of that conduct and if he could have attained similar results through different means.

What is Life Worth? Explorations in Various Media

August 7th, 2008 by Editor
23a_umassart_gallery_johnsolem.jpgPerformances and Exhibitions

Made possible by support from the Graduate Student Senate, the Student Government Association, and the UMass Arts Council.
An exhibition of theme-based work in various media.

April 6-17, Student Union Art Gallery
Opening Reception: Tuesday, April 7, 4-6 p.m.
Open Mike, Poetry, Prose and Music Performance:
Wednesday, April 8, 7-9 p.m.

Portraits on the Other Shore: The International ‘Reminders’ Photojournalism Project

August 5th, 2008 by Editor

11_bulisova_iraqirefugee.jpgCo-sponsored by The Lively Arts program, Fine Arts Center, and the Department of Music and Dance, UMass Amherst
Wednesday, April 8, 7:30 p.m., 601 Herter Hall
GABRIELA BULISOVA, George Mason University and Corcoran College of Art and Design
SAYA NAMIKAWA, Translator for the Reminders Project A panel discussion on the power of photography to shape the value placed on the human lives in global politics. For more on the Reminders project, see http://reminders-project.org/

The 2008-09 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series will present Portraits on the Other Shore:The International ‘Reminders’ Photojournalism Project, a lecture and panel discussion led Professor Mary Wilson, Modern Middle East historian, UMass Amherst, and Gabriela Bulisova, originally from Czechoslovakia, a documentary photographer for the International Reminders Project of the “Guests” in Syria—Iraqi refugees who have fled the war and sectarian violence and relocated to Damascus.  Bulisova teaches photography and photojournalism at the George Mason University in Virginia and the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC.

From the Reminders Project website:

The reminders (something or someone to make one remember) project was inaugurated in 2000 as a website and series of photo exhibitions. Reminders is a name that refers simultaneously to the photographer, the subject and the people who see it.  By simply reading a paper or watching the news on TV, people can consider what is happening elsewhere in the world as somebody else’s business. Even though problems remain unsolved, people forget about the issues very quickly. Or, if an issue does not attract attention in the first place, it is as if nothing happened at all.

The reminders project, however, aims to tell as many people as possible what really happens around the world. We show images taken by  photojournalists who understand their subjects deeply and continue to cover issues through their own viewpoints. In addition to covering these stories, The Reminders Project creates slide shows, workshops and both national and international photo exhibitions. For more on the reminders project, see http://reminders project.org.

Closing Performance: World Premier: Salvatore Macchia, Amaterasu—Omikami

August 4th, 2008 by Editor
24_macchia.jpg Performance

Based upon four poems written for the occasion by Faith Conat.

Thursday, April 16, 8 p.m., Bezanson Recital Hall, Fine Arts Center

AYANO KATAOKA, percussionist, with SAYA NAMIKAWA, percussionist and translator for the International Reminders Photojournalism Project.