Library Prize Interviews, 2014

Here are the interviews with this year’s two winners of the Library Prize for Undergraduate Research. Take some time to listen to these two accomplished undergraduate scholars discussing their research. Congratulations to both of them!

Cassandra Emmons, “Ambiguous Attacks on Democracy in Europe and the Americas: What Can Intergovernmental Organizations Do?”
Political Science 4891: Senior Honors Scholar Project, Fall 2013
Faculty Sponsors: Andrew Pollack and Hillel Soifer

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Evan Hoskins, “Pigs in the Promised Land: The Russian Great Aliyah and non-kosher meat as a secular symbol against Orthodox Rabbinical hegemony in Israel”
History 4997: Honors History Seminar, Spring 2014
Faculty Sponsors: Beth Bailey and Elliot Ratzmann

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—Fred Rowland

 

April Glaser talks about civil liberties in the digital world

Organized in 1990, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to defending civil liberties in the digital environment. EFF engages in litigation, advocacy, and technology development to help secure individual rights online. Whether legal protections simply have not caught up to rapidly changing technologies or governments and corporations overreach in pursuing their goals, EFF stands ready to put the public first in digital policy debates and legal proceedings. Perusing the EFF web site offers a quick entree into the most important legal and policy issues concerning digital communications and technology: free speech, fair use, innovation, privacy, and transparency. Just recently EFF sued the NSA, in First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, for First Amendment violations of freedom of association based on revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. EFF also develops digital tools and recommendations for enhancing online privacy (see Surveillance Self-Defense).

2012 Temple graduate April Glaser joined EFF in the fall of 2013. From her home in San Francisco, she frequently travels around the country giving talks and participating in discussions on the work of EFF. Before studying at Temple, April worked at the Prometheus Radio Project as an advocate for community radio. She testified on several occassions before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and her work contributed to the passage of the Local Community Radio Act of 2010.

On a recent swing through the Keystone State, April stopped by my office to speak about her work at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. We spoke on March 27, 2014.

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—Fred Rowland

 

 

Jesus, Jobs, and Justice

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As Bettye Collier-Thomas explains, there were female African American preachers in the nineteenth century who could pack a church or revival meeting with their inspirational Gospel sermons. At the same time, they were excluded from leadership positions. Bishops, pastors, and other leaders of African American churches and denominations recognized that women preachers were good for business. After all, females frequently accounted for a supermajority of church membership and were the most active fund raisers and organizers. The work of these women preachers and church organizers left traces in the historical record, but given the twin barriers of race and gender their contributions often went unrecognized.

In Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion, Temple University professor Bettye Collier-Thomas rescues these women – and many of their sisters in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – from history’s slumber. Working within and outside their churches, cooperating across racial and gender lines, African American Women of faith have worked tirelessly for abolitionism, suffragism, anti-lynching legislation, civil rights, and women’s rights.

Although there are many books about the historic sweep of the Black Church, Jesus, Jobs, and Justice – in the words of reviewer M. Shawn Copeland writing in the Women’s Review of Books – “is the first [book] to comprehensively research and analyze the interplay of gender, race, and religion in the lives of African American women from the period of enslavement to the present…”

I spoke with Bettye Collier-Thomas on March 14, 2014.

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—Fred Rowland

Ain’t No Trust

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The official name of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act makes the legislators’ motivations very clear: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. On signing it, President Clinton fulfilled his campaign pledge to “end welfare as we know it.” Clearly fronting personal responsibility and work, the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 came right as the country’s economy was entering an unprecedented boom. The dot.com bubble was in its most expansive stage, with employment tight and wages rising. The “new economy” offered a bright horizon as Internet entrepreneurs would transform the economy and lift all boats on a turbulent but exciting sea.

The intent and the rhetoric surrounding the 1996 Welfare Reform Act was consistent with an American tradition of individualism. Looking at low-income individuals from this perspective, they simply lacked either the motivation or the personal characteristics necessary to thrive in our economy. The plan was to establish a program of carrots and sticks to encourage changes in personal behavior.

Judith Levine brings a different perspective to this debate in her new book Ain’t No Trust: How Bosses, Boyfriends and Bureaucrats Fail Low-Income Mothers and Why It Matters (University of California Press, 2013). Consistent with an alternative tradition that “no man [or woman] is an island, she is interested in social factors that influence personal behaviors, in this case trust and distrust. Looking at two different cohorts of interviews with low-income women in the Chicago area, one before and one after the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, she studied how trust and distrust emerge and shape low-income mothers approach and response to life events. She feels that this is a perspective lacking from the 1996 Act.

I spoke to Judith Levine on February 20, 2014.

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—Fred Rowland

Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith

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Originally, enslaved Africans in Saint Domingue (renamed Haiti) brought with them religious practices and traditions that blended with the Catholicism of French colonists to form Vodou. Later, Protestantism was introduced and spread by white and black missionaries. Today, all three religions are practiced in Haiti. According to Terry Rey, co-author of Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith: Haitian Religion in Miami, Haitians share a similar religious orientation influenced by Vodou and the alleged spiritual power of Haiti, whether they self-identify as Catholic, Protestant, or Vodouist. The heavy denigration and stereotyping of Vodou in large measure began during the U.S. occupation of Haiti between 1915 and 1934, as soldiers and administrators misunderstood and misinterpreted the religious and social practices they witnessed on Haiti. (Popular usage of the word “zombie” spiked during this period.) These distortions, so entrenched in Hollywood films and popular literature, must be overcome in order to gain a real understanding of Haitian religion.

Temple religion professor Terry Rey and Alex Stepick, director of the Immigration and Ethnicity Institute at Florida International University, have produced a history and ethnography of Haitian religion in Miami. By surveying the religious institutions in Miami’s Little Haiti and surrounding areas, interviewing community members, and investigating the primary and secondary literatures, Rey and Stepick explain what happened to Haitian religion when it “crossed the water” to the shores of Florida. They describe Notre Dame de Haiti Catholic Church, the epicenter of support for Haitian immigrants, the shrines in and around Miami that Haitians visit for spiritual sustainance, and the annual festivals that bring the Haitian community together in celebration.  Protestant churches small and large, both storefront operations and established denominations, have filled in around Notre Dame de Haiti, along with the less prevalent Vodou botanicas, to create a religious marketplace for Haitian Americans in search of salvation goods.

Unlike the Africans who originally came to Saint Domingue, Miami’s Haitian residents stay in frequent contact with their place of birth, through modern communications and transportation technologies. I spoke with Terry Rey on January 13, 2014.

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—Fred Rowland

The Digital Rights Movement

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Hector Postigo is the author of The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright, in which he presents three case studies of a broad group of loosely knit organizations and individuals that address issues concerning fair use, free speech, privacy, and innovation in the digital environment. None of these concerns are new but the digital medium has changed the social, legal, and economic configuration in which the stakeholders operate. Users are no longer simply passive receivers of content but producers as well. Anyone with a computer can generate new and original online content, or can reuse and remix content in creative ways. This is a real watershed for creation and innovation and the digital rights movement is motivated by a vision of culture as shared and participatory. Expanded conceptions of fair use and free speech are essential to facilitate this vision. Individuals, organizations, and businesses that “own” content through government-granted copyrights have an interest in maintaining control in their works, for commercial and other reasons. The lines dividing users, creators, and content owners are very fluid, so much of this story is about the evolution of legal rules – government regulation – with regards to copyright and digital technology.

By looking at three different cases in which the nascent digital rights movement struggled with the owners and producers of technology and commercial media over the meaning of fair use, free speech, and cultural production, Hector Postigo provides a unique perspective on the profound changes that digital technology has set in motion for cultures, economies, and polities.

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—Fred Rowland

Box Score: An Autobiography

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Introducin’ Kevine Varrone, baseball bardster over iTunes way   five and a quarter ounces avoirdupois   leaving his ancestral home: Goodin, Strawberry, Casey Stengall       amazing  a walk is as good as a hit    we used to say   that’ll be a rope in the boxscore   Pete Gray Nanticoke brief bloom back to cobblestone streets   city of hills & stars & sky & all of it falling or held in the firmament somewhere beyond the outfield fence  Center City rises up as the light fades waiting, sea gulls, plastic bags   the eephus turns instinct on its ear (1-3) a country life & estate Penn wrote to his wife   Sacrificing, converting, teaching, mixing, blending, bleeding   it seems odd don’t you think that we run the bases clockwise & inconceivable to do so   my sister is a Red Sox fan  a glove should feel like an extension of yr hand   my dad used to say    an experimental poet, everyone reads even the kids   Bill Lee, Mark Fidrych, Harry O’Neill  rewriting history is is pretty much what baseball is all about   in 1964 the mets began playing at shea stadium   walking through the Italian Market Paul stunned it was light   in 1945 a throw by athletics outfielder hal peck hit a pigeon flying over fenway park   does my sister know this, how could she   our world is just a hanging curveball   bill lee sd   the eephus is a quaker pitch   read, listen, extras, subplots edgar alllan poe   in most reckonings the world begins in thinking   & action is a derivative miracle   Kevin Varrone made history when he spoke to Fred Rowland   & then god said when did it become night

[bolded italics by Kevin Varrone, plain print by Fred Rowland]

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—Fred Rowland

 

Bury Me In My Jersey

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In 2010, Tom McAllister published a memoir entitled Bury Me in My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly (Villard Books) in which he describes the critical role that the Philadelphia Eagles football team played in the shaping of his young years. Like many who spend Sundays watching football, this ritual helped him to cement bonds with family and friends. Unlike many, it become an obsession that, as I was to learn, took many years and one book to untangle. The fateful 39th Super Bowl plays a central role in his narrative, an event that few Philadelphia sports fans will ever forget. (It was February 6, 2005, and we were finally going to win what had been denied to us for so long…) In addition to leading us through his career as an Eagles fan, Tom also reflects on the role that his father played in his life, sometimes but not always tied to their mutual devotion to the Eagles. Bury Me in My Jersey is full of very funny, unlikely, and sometimes disturbing stories, as well as thoughtful meditations on the search for identity.

Tom is also the non-fiction editor of Barrelhouse magazine and the co-host, with Mike Ingram, of the podcast Book Fight: Tough Love for Literature.

I interviewed Tom McAllister on October 23, 2013.

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 —Fred Rowland

Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities

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Maia Cucchiara’s new book, Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities: Who Wins and Who Loses When Schools Become Urban Amenities (University of Chicago Press, 2013), is a very timely intervention into the current debate about the troubled Philadelphia public school system. Most of the research for this book took place between 2004 and 2007 as part of her doctoral dissertation during the Philadelphia Center City Schools Initiative (CCSI), which sought to market and promote Center City public schools in an effort to retain middle and upper middle class Center City families from fleeing to the suburbs in search of better schools. She shines a light on this initiative by focusing on one school and one neighborhood, which she pseudonymously names “Grant Elementary School” and “Cobble Square”. In the course of her research, she interviewed parents, administrators, teachers, and local civic and business leaders, as well as participated in many events at Grant Elementary School.

One of the most important and illuminating aspects of Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities is the way it highlights the tensions between an urban area’s economic and civic space as citizens are increasingly seen as customers and consumers. What rights and duties do we have as citizens and how are those rights and duties constrained or enhanced when they are interpreted from a narrow economic perspective? On the one hand, retaining Center City families grows the tax base and potentially benefits all Philadelphia schools, given that schools are financed primarily through real estate taxes. On the other hand, how does one justify directing additional resources to Center City schools at a time when there are so many disadvantaged schools in the outlying neighborhoods? The tensions that Maia Cucchiara investigates in Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities are still very much with us today and make this book a “must read” for anyone interested in Philadelphia public schools and the future of public education.

I spoke with Maia Cucchiara on September 19, 2013.

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—Fred Rowland

 

 

 

Samuel and the Shaping of Tradition

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The deuteronomistic (or deuteronomic) history is a scholarly theory about the way in which Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel (1 and 2), and Kings (1 and 2) were redacted into a narrative describing the rise of Israel from a loose grouping of tribes and cults into a monarchy. The biblical figure Samuel plays a significant role in this story, from his early priestly training in the temple of Shiloh to his later, profound influence on the kingships of Saul and David. Temple University religion professor Mark Leuchter has recently published a work on Samuel entitled Samuel and the Shaping of Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2013), in which he examines Samuel’s “liminality” in his different roles as priest, prophet, and judge. In the course of discussing his own theories and perspectives on Samuel, Professor Leuchter also explains the deuteronomistic history, redaction, liminality, and the chronology of ancient Israel.

I spoke with Mark Leuchter on September 12, 2013.

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—Fred Rowland