Check out Occidental faculty members’ scholarly accomplishments from 2021!
- Articles, Essays & Chapters
As part of a large collaborative team, Professor Carmel Levitan explored the influence of brief interventions on emotions. Their new paper in Nature Human Behaviour, “A multi-country test of brief reappraisal interventions on emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” starts with the fact that the pandemic has increased negative emotions and decreased positive emotions. Can reappraisal, an emotion-regulation strategy that modifies how one thinks about a situation, reduce negative emotions? They find that participants who experienced interventions related to rethinking (finding new ways of thinking about a situation) or repurposing (finding something good in a situation) reported significantly fewer negative emotions and increased positive emotions relative to those who only reflected.
In a new article, “Learning Evolution by Collaboration,” Professor of Psychology Andrew Shtulman and his co-author Andrew G. Young ask whether peer collaboration can help teach evolution by natural selection, a topic on which students often have divergent reviews. Their study shows that peer collaboration is a particularly powerful means of learning, yielding long-term improvements in understanding across several topics and tasks. Students who hold different views of evolution are able to collaborate effectively, and such collaboration yields long-term learning gains for partners with lower levels of understanding.
In a new article in the journal Exemplaria: Medieval, Early Modern, Theory, Associate Professor of English Ross Lerner unearths the history of the legal and religious doctrine of civil death (mors civilis), meaning the loss of citizenship privileges for convicted criminals. Lerner looks at how civil death in medieval and early modern Europe shaped the literary depiction of imprisonment, bondage, and criminality in seventeenth-century England and its emerging colonial system. “Civil Death in Early Modern England” shows that civil death renders criminals inanimate, but also can become an instrument of revolutionary resistance.
An article by Associate Professor Martha Matsuoka and community activist, artist/photographer John Urquiza, “Building Community Knowledge, Resilience and Resistance through Research,” documents community experiences of gentrification in LA. The article, published in GeoJournal, incorporates community knowledge into understanding gentrification, displacement, and neighborhood change. Students in UEP 303 (Sustainable Development) and SOC-UEP 395 (Visualizing Gentrification) contributed to the research, as did Matthew Gonzalez, Jaquelyne Rodriguez and Occidental Students United Against Gentrification and Jessica Blickley and Lilly Eluvanthingal Linden at Oxy’s Center for the Digital Liberal Arts. The work was also supported by a grant from the California Endowment to the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Oxy. Community partners like the Northeast Los Angeles Alliance, El Sereno Against Gentrification, and Chinatown Communities also participated in research and data gathering.
Professor of Cognitive Science Carmel Levitan has two new articles! First, Levitan been supporting local restaurants during the pandemic by getting a lot of takeout. This inspired her to co-author a narrative review paper looking at some of the emerging trends in the food industry and how people might maximize the experiential components of dining at home. Published in Frontiers in Psychology, “Delivering the Multisensory Experience of Dining-Out, for Those Dining-In, During the Covid Pandemic” asks how diners can--or cannot-- reproduce the dining-out experience from the comfort of their own homes. Second, in a review paper published in Summer 2021, Carmel Levitan and a co-author explore the associations between colors and basic tastes. “Explaining Crossmodal Correspondences Between Colours and Tastes,” published in i-Perception, looks at how people associate the basic tastes (e.g., sweet, bitter, salty, and sour) with specific colors. The article offers a historical overview, covers some of the key empirical findings in the field, and explores how these translate to an applied context.
Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Politics, Bhavna Shamasunder has two new articles out! First, her new study on women and personal care products appeared in The Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. “Personal Care Product Use Among Diverse Women in California: Taking Stock Study” surveyed 357 women living in California about their use of personal care products, focusing on women of reproductive age. Women in the study reported using on average eight products a day, with some using up to 30 products daily. 70 percent of women preferred scented products, a concern given links between scent and hormone disruption. They also presented their findings in a fun infographic. econd, her piece in Environmental Research examines the effects of living near urban oil and gas development sites. Los Angeles, California is home to the largest urban oil field in the country with thousands of active oil and gas wells in very close proximity to homes, schools and parks. In “Respiratory Health, Pulmonary Function and Local Engagement in Urban Communities Near Oil Development,” Shamasunder and coauthors find that residents living near wells report lower lung function, which may contribute to environmental health disparities. Her research was reported in the news (via The Conversation) and shared in another fun infographic.
Professor Peter Dreier in Urban and Environmental Politics examines Jackie Robinson’s predecessors and legacy in two recent publications. In the book chapter, “Jackie Robinson: The First Famous Jock for Justice” (From 42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, New York University Press), Dreier discusses how Robinson was the first post-WW2 pro athlete to use his celebrity to push for social justice. The recent upsurge of activism by pro athletes is part of Robinson's legacy. In "Before Jackie Robinson: Baseball's Civil Rights Movement” (From Jackie: Perspectives on 42, Society for American Baseball Research), Dreier looks back in time: before Jackie Robinson came on the scene, a coalition of civil rights groups, progressive politicians and other leftists waged a long campaign to integrate major league baseball starting in the 1930s. They laid the groundwork for Robinson, who integrated baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Professor of Urban and Environmental Politics, Peter Dreier, wrote about the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, one of the nation's most successful community-labor-environmental coalitions. "LAANE Brain: Understanding the Model and Future of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy” (In, Seeking Social Justice and Progressive Power: The Partnership for Working Families Cities, Routledge Press) looks at how progressive organizations can make change in Los Angeles.
In his new article "'I’m sick of doing nothing:' how boredom shapes rape crisis center volunteers’ social movement participation," Sociology Prof. Ben Weiss shows that political action -- here, volunteering for a rape crisis center -- can be boring. The consequences of boredom, however, vary between volunteers. For some volunteers, boredom leads to decreased social movement participation, while for others boredom is just part of the experience. Weiss uses these findings to argue that particular emotions, like boredom, do not necessarily either increase or decrease people’s social movement participation. Instead, how people make sense of their emotions better predicts their political action.
Indra Sinha's novel Animal's People provides a fictional account of the 1984 Union Carbide toxic gas leak in Bhopal, India. Animal, who is severely injured in the disaster, guides the reader through both the post-apocalyptic social landscape, as well as the community's failed efforts to hold the 'Kampani' accountable for the consequences of the leak. In a new article, English Prof. Leila Neti reads Animal's story through the lens of what she identifies as its historical precedent. She traces the continuities between the Union Carbide Corporation and the East India Company in order to reveal in both moments a shared substitution of the corporation for the human. Bringing Animal's People into dialogue with this broader legal history, Neti argues that the terms of humanity set forth in the British colonial era rationalize the portrait of disposable humanity that Sinha paints. The guiding question of the paper is how does the legal realm shape and guide the imaginative possibilities of the human as represented in literature?
Economics Prof. Andrew Jalil’s study, "Changing Hearts and Plates: The Effect of Animal-Advocacy Pamphlets on Meat Consumption," was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Using a randomized controlled trial and dataset spanning 200,000 meal purchases, the study examines the effects of animal-welfare pamphlets on meat consumption at a college campus. Their baseline regression results, covering two academic years, indicate that the pamphlet had no statistically significant long-term aggregate effects. However, as they disaggregate and merge with survey data, they find small statistically significant effects within the semester of the intervention for subsamples of participants.
Events that violate the laws of nature are, by definition, impossible, but recent research suggests that people view some violations as “more impossible” than others. When evaluating the difficulty of magic spells, American adults are influenced by causal considerations that should be irrelevant given the spell’s primary causal violation, judging, for instance, that it would be more difficult to levitate a bowling ball than a basketball even though weight should no longer be a consideration if contact is no longer necessary for support. In a new study, "The plausible impossible," Psychology Prof. Andrew Shtulman and co-authors sought to test the generalizability of these effects in a non-Western context—China—where magical events are represented differently in popular fiction and where reasoning styles are often more holistic than analytic. Across several studies, Chinese adults (n = 466) showed the same tendency as American adults to honor implicit causal constraints when evaluating the plausibility of magical events. These findings suggest that graded notions of impossibility are shared across cultures, possibly because they are a byproduct of causal knowledge.
In their contribution to the anthology Cases on Applied and Therapeutic Humor, Philosophy Prof. Clair Morrissey and Kayla Heinze '22 explore how humor, as a kind of play, can be used by medical providers to recognize and connect with their patients as the individual people they are. In this way, the use of humor can demonstrate a kind of "respect for persons" that goes beyond "respect for autonomy."
Black Studies Prof. Erica L. Ball's newly published chapter, “Performing Politics, Creating Community: Antebellum Black Conventions as Political Rituals,” examines the alternative state conventions organized by northern free Black Americans who were barred from participation in electoral politics in the decades preceding the Civil War. Focusing on the rites and rituals of these proceedings, this chapter argues that "Colored Conventions" required careful attention to structure, presentation, and form, elements that elevated the gatherings from simple meetings to recognizable political rituals. Organized around a set of familiar procedures, customs, and rhetorical strategies, and relying on the active participation and public performances of spectators and delegates alike, conventions served as civic rituals for the northern free Black population, events that simultaneously situated people of African descent within the political culture of the United States and as the vanguard of a diasporic Black nation.
The biological world includes many negatively valenced activities, like predation, parasitism, and disease. A new paper, “Whitewashing Nature: Sanitized Depictions of Biology in Children’s Books and Parent–Child Conversation,” by Psychology Prof. Andrew Shtulman and co-authors (Andrea Villalobos, '14 and Devin Ziel '14) ask: Do children’s books cover these activities? And how do parents discuss them with their children? In a content analysis of children’s nature books (Study 1), they found that negatively valenced concepts were rarely depicted across genres and reading levels. When parents encountered negative information in books (Studies 2–3), they did not omit it but rather elaborated on it, adding their own comments and questions, and their children (ages 3–11) were more likely to remember the negative information but less likely to generalize that information beyond the animal in the book. These findings suggest that early input relevant to biological competition may hamper children’s developing understanding of ecology and evolution.
In Politics Prof. Jennifer Piscopo's new article, Chile’s Constitutional Moment, she discusses an October 2020 referendum in which nearly 80 percent of Chileans voted for a new constitution. A special assembly with equal representation of men and women will now attempt to replace the 1980 dictatorship-era constitution. Getting to this point was a major win for workers, students, leftists, feminists, Indigenous peoples, and the poor, all of whom were involved in leading 2019’s widespread protests over social and economic inequality. Chile now embarks on the fraught process of writing a new constitution that must satisfy diverse stakeholders while reforming the political and economic systems that, until now, preserved the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship
Through a stepwise multi-method and controlled evaluation of a large-scale playground greening project at a Title I Los Angeles elementary school, Kinesiology Prof. Marci Raney and co-authors (Abbie Bowers '18 and Amanda Rissberger '18) were able to determine the long-term impacts of playground greening on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels and social interactions at an individual and population-level during unstructured recess periods. Specifically, their paper, "Recess behaviors of urban children 16-months after a green schoolyard renovation" presents the 16-month observation and accelerometer follow-up data from Eagle Rock and Buchanan Elementary schools in Northeast Los Angeles. Eagle Rock Elementary underwent a green renovation while Buchanan remained an asphalt schoolyard. Ultimately, results suggest that replacing large areas of asphalt with quality green space results in persistent positive changes in recess behavior that are characteristic of a more collaborative community and counteract age-related declines in physical activity, particularly for girls.
In his recently-published article, “‘When you’re here, you’re not a militant feminist’: volunteer professionalization in a rape crisis center,” Sociology Prof. Ben Weiss tracks volunteers’ identification with competing “institutional logics” — or patterned sets of beliefs, rules, and norms — in a rape crisis center (RCC). Activist-identified RCC volunteers understand sexual violence as a problem of patriarchy and envision broad, structural change. Professional-identified volunteers, conversely, commit themselves to supporting individual victims in collaboration with law enforcement and medical professional partners. Weiss shows that logic-identification is temporally patterned. Volunteers enter the organization activist-identified but, through training, become professional-identified. Because volunteers’ professionalism strengthens the RCC’s relationships with its organization partners, this article shows that low-level organization members bear responsibility for long-term organizational success.
English Prof. Ross Lerner’s new article, “Racialization and Allegorization in The Faerie Queene (1590/1596),” is part of a special issue focused on the topic of race in the works of the Elizabethan poet and colonial bureaucrat Edmund Spenser. Examining the complex presence of Irish and Muslim rebels in Spenser’s works, the article traces the connections between race making, colonial violence, and the poem’s experiments with genre, especially personification allegory.
For nearly 60 years, sea urchins have been overrunning and destroying kelp forests—a three-dimensional marine habitat that supports more than 700 species of animals, including numerous commercial and sportfishing species. As a new article co-authored by Vantuna Research Group professors Jonathan Williams, Jeremy Claisse, Dan Pondella, Chelsea Williams, Matthew Robart, Zoe Scholz, and Erin Jaco shows, a massive die-off of purple sea urchins off the Southern California coast in 2015 provided new evidence that deliberate efforts to cull urchins can be a key strategy to bring back giant kelp forests and the high-value commercial marine species they support. Rocky reefs returned to a kelp-dominated condition just six months after the first signs of the urchin die-off appeared and remained that way through the remaining five years of the study. These results were based on a decade of annual surveys off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where kelp beds had shrunk by about 80% over the past century—and has implications not just for Southern California but the entire Pacific Coast north to Alaska, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Part of the survey data on which the study is based was gathered by Oxy undergraduates, illustrating that provides not only a classroom-based education, but hands-on experience that produces real, actual data and results that have consequences and can inform environmental and ecosystem management decisions in the real world. Read more here!
Turbulent convection processes in nature are often found to be organized in a hierarchy of plume structures and flow patterns. In Physics Prof. Janet Scheel's newly published paper, the gradual aggregation of convection cells or granules to a supergranule which eventually fills the whole horizontal layer is reported and analyzed in spectral element direct numerical simulations of three-dimensional turbulent Rayleigh-Bénard convection for a periodic box of dimensions 60x60x1. The formation proceeds over a long time span and occurs only when the turbulence is driven by a constant heat flux which is imposed at the bottom and top planes enclosing the convection layer. The resulting gradual inverse cascade process is observed for both temperature variance and turbulent kinetic energy. As a consequence, successively larger convection patterns grow until the horizontal extension of the layer is reached.
Cognitive reflection is the tendency to override an intuitive response so as to engage in the reflection necessary to derive a correct response. In a new article, Psychology Prof. Andrew Shtulman and colleagues examine the emergence of cognitive reflection in a culture that values nonanalytic thinking styles, Chinese culture. The authors administered a child‐friendly version of the cognitive reflection test, the CRT‐D, to 130 adults and 111 school‐age children in China and compared performance on the CRT‐D to several measures of rational thinking (belief bias syllogisms, base rate sensitivity, denominator neglect, and other‐side thinking) and normative thinking dispositions (actively open‐minded thinking and need for cognition). The CRT‐D was a significant predictor of rational thinking and normative thinking dispositions in both children and adults, as previously found in American samples. Adults’ performance on the CRT‐D correlated with their performance on the original CRT, and children's performance on the CRT‐D predicted rational thinking and normative thinking dispositions even after adjusting for age. These results demonstrate that cognitive reflection, rational thinking, and normative thinking dispositions converge even in a culture that emphasizes holistic, nonanalytic reasoning.
In a newly published essay, "The Fight for Climate Justice and the Biden-Harris Administration," UEP Prof. Mijin Cha discusses the prospects for climate justice in the Biden Administration. She argues that while it is likely there will be ambitious climate policy, whether or not equity and justice concerns will be included is less clear. Prof. Cha argues that advocates must continue to organize and put pressure on the Biden Administration to ensure climate action is equitable.
In her article “The State of Restorative Justice in American Criminal Law” Politics Prof. Thalia González presents a comprehensive empirical analysis of the development of a restorative justice scheme in juvenile and adult criminal justice systems in the United States. Her findings show that while some uniformity exists across the country, the vast majority of restorative justice laws are highly localized with significant discretion in decision-making. Additionally, given the absence of a universal definition of restorative justice, each jurisdiction must interpret what is or is not a “restorative” in its attempt to reach aspirational goals of system reform. Her study affirms that there remain continued risks for participants (offenders, victims, and practitioners) in restorative justice processes, in part because of the significant absence of formal, state-level confidentiality protections. Results also indicate an emerging trend: the use of fees to access restorative justice (e.g., “pay to play”). In isolation, these findings would warrant consideration; however, when viewed in totality and contextualized in the contemporary social and political landscape, her research demands careful examination of the risks and benefits of the rapid legalization and expansion of restorative justice in law and policy. Ultimately, her article demonstrates that reformists think carefully about the existing legal landscape of restorative justice to ensure that the construction and refinement of restorative justice laws do not yield undesirable state and local practices.
In scientific and popular literature, piloerection (e.g. goosebumps) is often claimed to accompany the experience of awe, though this correlation has not been tested empirically. Using two pre-registered and independently collected samples (N = 210), Psychology and Cognitive Science Prof. Andrew Shtulman and co-authors examined the objective physiological occurrence of piloerection in response to awe-inducing stimuli. Stimuli were selected to satisfy three descriptors of awe, including perceptual vastness, virtual reality, and expectancy-violating events. The stimuli reliably elicited self-reported awe to a great extent, in line with previous research. However, awe-inducing stimuli were not associated with the objective occurrence of piloerection. While participants self-reported high levels of goosebumps and “the chills,” there was no physical evidence of this response. These results suggest that piloerection is not reliably connected to the experience of awe—at least using stimuli known to elicit awe in an experimental setting.
In many developing countries, theft remains a significant obstacle to ensuring proper public service provision and access. Using a conjoint experiment, Economics Prof. Jason Wong and co-authors study perceptions of theft in the form of using illegal wires, katiya, among rural and urban households in Uttar Pradesh, India (n = 1800). In their new article, they find that social acceptability of theft is influenced by the income and electricity supply quality contexts of offenders. For a 1000-rupee (approx. 15 USD) income difference between hypothetical vignette agents, the odds of choosing a higher acceptability rating for an offender increases by 11%. While there exists a sense of social reprimand for stealing power, desired punishment is nuanced and context-dependent.
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to a global curtailment of human activity, many conservationists noticed a direct positive impact on nature as early signs of a strong recovery provided a silver lining to the dark cloud of economic ruin, sociopolitical turmoil, and psychological despair of 2020 (Henriques 2020, Watts 2020). An indirect negative impact not noticed so quickly is that essential research and education in off-campus locations have been nearly halted. In a newly published article, "Growing Threats to the Scientific and Educational Legacies of Research Stations and Field Courses," Biology Prof. Beth Braker and her co-authors argue that support of these activities is essential to promote equitable and inclusive education in STEM and that halting support for field courses and research stations will result in fewer early-career scientists with the tools necessary to manage the environmental challenges of today and even more importantly, of tomorrow.
How do mass publics react to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) advocacy efforts in socially conservative societies? In a new article, "Pride amid Prejudice," DWA Prof. Philip Ayoub and his co-authors consider how the first-ever LGBT+ Pride in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina influences ordinary citizens’ attitudes and behavior regarding LGBT+ support. Using nationwide and local panel surveys, they find that support for LGBT+ activism increased locally after the Pride but did not diffuse nationwide, signaling how proximity mechanisms reinforce Pride effects. In survey experiments, they show that subjects are responsive to both mobilization and counter-mobilization appeals by local activists. They also find evidence from a behavioral experiment that the Pride had a positive effect on shifting the allocation of financial resources toward local pro-LGBT+ activists and away from opposition groups. Finally, in-depth interviews with local LGBT+ activists underscore the challenges facing LGBT+ activism in socially conservative societies but also point to the substantial possibilities of collective action on behalf of minorities at risk.
Open Global Rights published a series of three online fora, Cross-cutting approaches to human rights, drawn from a workshop held in at Occidental in September 2019: 1) Sexuality, Sexual Rights, and Reproductive Rights (Curator: Sofia Gruskin, Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, USC); 2) Feminism and the “Triple Bind” (Curator: Pardis Mahdavi, Arizona State University); 3) Cosmopolitanism and Sub-state Actors (Curator: DWA Prof. Anthony Tirado Chase, Occidental College). The series includes a piece Prof. Chase co-authored with Oxy alum Gaea Morales, "Cosmopolitanism and lived realities: Beyond global-local binaries."
As Biology Prof. Beth Braker's new article demonstrates, the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) has played a pivotal role in our understanding of tropical ecosystems’ structure and function. For more than fifty years, OTS has contributed to the training of three generations of tropical biologists and facilitated, supported, and promoted leading-edge research in its field stations. Plant reproductive ecology and genetics have been a significant focus of OTS research since the early 1960s, and Dr. K.S. Bawa made a significant contribution to the advancement of this field. His work improved our understanding of the diversity and evolution of breeding systems in tropical forests, their phenology and pollination ecology, and their mating and genetic structure. Prof. Braker and her co-author argue that his work inspired other tropical biologists’ work and used the work of one of the authors for illustration when appropriate. We point out the need for research in critically important topics to slow down biodiversity loss, prevent the collapse of tropical systems in a changing climate, and the emergence of zoonotic disease. They suggest future research topics for the OTS field stations,including in plant reproductive biology.
- Books & Edited Volumes
The new book by Associate Professor Brandon Lehr of Economics will be released on August 11! Behavioral Economics: Evidence, Theory, and Welfare provides an engaging and accessible introduction to the motivating questions, real-world evidence, theoretical models, and welfare implications of behavioral economics concepts.
Situated at the intersection of law and literature, nineteenth-century studies, and postcolonialism, English Prof. Leila Neti's new book, Colonial Law in India and the Victorian Imagination, draws on original archival research to shed new light on Victorian literature. Each chapter explores the relational ways in which the shared cultural logic of law and literature inflect colonial sociality. The book approaches the legal archive in a distinctly literary fashion, attending to nuances of voice, character, diction, and narrative, while also tracing elements of fact and procedure. Reading the case summaries as literary texts reveals the common turns of imagination that motivate both fictional and legal narratives. What emerges is a different political analytic for understanding the entanglements between judicial and cultural norms in Britain and the colony.
History Prof. Nina Rattner Gelbart's new book, Minerva's French Sisters: Women of Science in Enlightenment France (Yale University Press) brings to light the stories of a sextet of female producers of knowledge about nature: the mathematician and epistemologist Elisabeth Ferrand, the astronomer Reine Lepaute, the botanist and botanical illustrator Madeleine Basseporte, the field naturalist Jeanne Baret, the anatomist and wax modeler Marie Marguerite Biheron, and the chemist Genevieve d'Arconville. Their independent contributions to their respective fields have been, until recently, largely written out of the scholarly literature, and their stories have never been told together. By adjusting our lens they emerge from invisibility. This ensemble treatment provides a picture greater than the sum of its parts and reveals a female scientific presence in a period often dismissed as intolerantly patriarchal. Just as these six women defied the gender conventions of their day in various ways, this book is written in an unorthodox style testing the boundaries of the biographical genre.
Madam C. J. Walker—reputed to be America’s first self-made woman millionaire—has long been celebrated for her rags-to-riches story. Born to former slaves in the Louisiana Delta in the aftermath of the Civil War, married at fourteen, and widowed at twenty, Madam Walker spent the first decades of her life as a single mother, a domestic worker, and a migrant, laboring in conditions that paralleled the lives of countless poor and working-class African American women. By the time of her death in 1919, however, Madam Walker had refashioned herself into one of the most famous African American figures in the nation: a philanthropist, an activist, and the owner and president of a hair-care company wealthy enough to own a country estate near the Rockefellers in the prestigious New York town of Irvington-on-Hudson. During the last fifteen years of her life, as her hair-care empire expanded, Madam Walker fashioned herself into a celebrity, a public figure with a platform to model her brand of freedom, political engagement, beauty, and success for people of African descent in the Americas. In an illuminating new biography, Madam C.J. Walker: The Making of an American Icon, Black Studies & History Prof. Erica L. Ball places this remarkable and largely forgotten life story in the context of Madam Walker’s times.
Mathematics Prof. Ron Buckmire is co-editor (with Jessica Libertini) of a newly published book, Improving Applied Mathematics Education. The edited volume is a collection of articles presented at a symposium Prof. Buckmire co-organized at the at the 2019 International Congress of Industrial and Applied Mathematicians (ICIAM) in Valencia, Spain on applied mathematics education. The chapters focus on a diverse set of contemporary topics in applied mathematics education of interest to instructors and researchers in undergraduate mathematics education. Prof. Buckmire’s lead chapter, "Who Does The Math?" has hard-to-find data and important analysis of the profound nature of the underrepresentation by race and gender in the U.S. mathematics community to highlight an important issue in applied mathematics education.
The 1980s and ‘90s saw Latin American governments recognizing the property rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities as part of a broader territorial policy shift. But the resulting reforms were not applied consistently, more often extending neoliberal governance than recognizing Indigenous rights. In Negotiating Autonomy, Politics Prof. Kelly Bauer explores the inconsistencies by which the Chilean government transfers land in response to Mapuche territorial demands. Interviews with community and government leaders, statistical analysis of an original dataset of Mapuche mobilization and land transfers, and analysis of policy documents reveals that many assumptions about post-dictatorship Chilean politics as technocratic and depoliticized do not apply to Indigenous policy. Rather, state officials often work to preserve the hegemony of political and economic elites in the region, effectively protecting existing market interests over efforts to extend the neoliberal project to the governance of Mapuche territorial demands. In addition to complicating understandings of Chilean governance, these hidden patterns of policy implementation reveal the numerous ways these governance strategies threaten the recognition of Indigenous rights and create limited space for communities to negotiate autonomy.
- Grants & Fellowships
Assistant Professor of Biology Amber Stubler has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to study how sponges contribute to the breakdown of oyster reefs under climate change scenarios. “Understanding Bioerosion from Individuals to Ecosystems: the Impacts of Biotic and Abiotic Stressors on Sponge Erosion of Oyster Reefs” is a three-year project that uses experimental investigations, transcriptome sequencing, and mathematical modeling to evaluate the responses of bioeroding sponges to abiotic and biotic stressors. This project strategically links undergraduate students at Oxy with collaborators at an R1 institution (Louisiana State University) and an R2 Hispanic-Serving Institution (University of California Merced), and will incorporate over ~40 undergraduate students in various aspects of the project, including intensive field and lab experiences, bioinformatics workshops, and classroom-based projects.
Biology Prof. Shana Goffredi recently received an award from the National Science Foundation to examine the role of deep-sea organisms--large and small--in determining the fate and footprint of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, on Pacific continental margins, including deep waters off of Alaska. She, along with 3 other principal investigators, will take the human occupied submersible Alvin to it’s deepest limits ~5500 meters (or 3.5 miles). They propose to evaluate the deep ocean methanosphere defined by the microbial communities that consume methane, the animals that directly feed on or form symbioses with methane-consuming microbes, and the transitional animal communities that gain energy indirectly from methane or take advantage of the carbonate rocks produced from methane consumption in seafloor sediments. By applying diverse chemical, isotopic, microscopy, and DNA-based analyses to the seep microbes and fauna, they hope to enhance our understanding of the contribution of methane to deep-sea diversity and ecosystem function, information that can inform management and conservation actions in US waters.
For the past several years, Kinesiology Prof. Marci Raney has been collaborating with non-profits to secure funding for large-scale greening renovations at Title I elementary schools in Los Angeles County. In April, the California Natural Resources Agency awarded a $764,852 urban greening grant to Amigos de Los Rios for the "Emerald Necklace Jackson Watershed Discovery Campus" project, a project Prof. Raney has been collaborating on in the Pasadena Unified School District. She serves as the research partner for the grant and will be assessing the impact of the greening project on elementary school student recess behaviors, student motor skill development, and use of the outdoor space for teacher-led instruction in all subject areas.
UEP Prof. Seva Rodnyansky's project "Early Measures of COVID-19’s Impact on Municipal Fiscal Health in the Los Angeles Region" was awarded a 2021 Haynes Faculty Fellowship. His research will examine the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local governments in Southern California, including cities, counties, and school districts. Read more here!
History Prof. Jane Hong was awarded a $40,000 sabbatical grant from the Louisville Institute, funded by the Religion Division of the Lilly Endowment.The grant will support a year-long sabbatical during which Hong will write her second book (under contract with Oxford University Press), which considers how post-1965 immigration changed U.S. evangelical institutions and politics. The Louisville Institute awards grants and fellowships to those who lead and study North American religious institutions, practices, and movements.
Prof. Hong was also awarded a Visiting Scholar Fellowship (in residence) at UCLA's Institute of American Cultures (IAC) for the 2021-2022 academic year. She will be housed at the IAC's Asian American Studies Center. As a Visiting Scholar, Prof. Hong will work on her second book project exploring intersections of race, religion, and politics after 1965, present talks from her original research, and participate in IAC events.
Sociology Prof. Mai Thai's project's "Youth Outcomes at the Intersection of Criminal Justice and Education" was awarded a 2021 Haynes Faculty Fellowship. Her research will examine the educational and occupational trajectories of youth who have participated in junior police programs. Read more here!
UEP Prof. Bhavna Shamasunder’s research team was selected for the Robert Wood Johnson Interdisciplinary Leadership Fellowship. Their community-academic partnership—with mark! Lopez (East Yard Communities for EJ) and Dr. Jill Johnston (USC Keck)--is titled, "Get the Lead Out!:" Promoting Community Resilience in the Face of Environmental Injustice." Their project goal is to build resilience in the context long-term lead poisoning. They ask: 1) What are soil lead levels in the community a) in untested homes and b) after state-funded cleanup? 2) What does a community need to build long term resilience and health in the context of pervasive lead contamination from an industrial site? Exide, a lead-acid battery recycling plant in Los Angeles County processed ~40,000 batteries daily. Despite known violations, regulatory agencies allowed the facility to operate on a temporary permit for over 30 years, resulting in a large-scale environmental disaster in a Latinx community already struggling with environmental injustice and health disparities.
- Exhibits, Performances, Films, Scripts & Compositions
Art and Art History Prof. Kenturah Davis opens (a)Float, (a)Fall, (a)Dance, (a)Death on view from May 8–June 19, 2021 at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery. This project began with a very open-ended question about how the apparatus of language might function as a kind of choreography for how we exist and move through the world. Prof. Davis initially began with identifying pragmatic ways that language structures our movements. In the way that architecture can guide how one moves through space, or the placement of a handle on a cup suggests how to pick it up, language that constructs the fabric of a given society similarly tries to choreograph our activities. Embedded in this is Prof. Davis’ interest in thinking about how we, as actors in a society, negotiate that choreography (conforming, resisting and improvising) to pursue freedom. This new work is an effort to consider how language produces conditions of contingency, blurring the personal and the political. Large-scale drawings show figures shifting and drifting against a backdrop of texts embedded in the paper. They suggest that the structures that shape our experience in the world extend from the ways we use language. The implications of this language are activated through our bodies
Theater Prof. Will Power Wylie's new play, Seize the King (a new crazy adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III) will have its NY premiere this summer in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. Produced by Classical Theater of Harlem and directed by the ever-innovative Carl Cofield, the play will run for 4 weeks in July-and the price? Free to all! We hope to see you there!
Music Prof. Jongnic Bontemps was featured in March 10th's issue of Variety for his work scoring projects around the Black Lives Matter Movement.
- Awards, Appointments & Other Accomplishments
Moore Lab of Zoology Director John McCormack featured in a 4-minute video from Scientific American on the Moore Lab's effort to create 3D models from the bird specimens. Occidental College has a unique collection of bird specimens from North America and beyond. Watch Professor McCormack show off the Moore Lab’s beautiful, colorful birds and walk through the process of digitizing the specimens.
Associate Professor of Politics Jennifer Piscopo was quoted in two recent articles about women’s political representation in Latin America. In The Washington Post, she highlights recent gains in Mexico, especially Mexico’s recent constitutional reform requiring gender parity in all branches of government. In Bloomberg, she highlights where gender gaps still persist, talking about her recent research showing that women still lack equal access to campaign funds.
Professor Peter Dreier in Urban and Environmental Politics wrote about Joe Black for the Society for American Baseball Research’s biography project. The first African American pitcher to win a World Series game and the National League's Rookie of the Year in 1952, Black went on to become a civil rights activist when his playing days were over
Assistant Professor of UEP Seva Rodnyansky’s research was featured in The Los Angeles Times. COVID-19 has transformed where people live in California, with more people moving inland--but Professor Rodnyanksy’s research shows that their arrival transforms local communities, heightening fire risk. Occidental students Jada Jo, Ina Mortan, Ellie McKinney, and Emilio Pardi worked on research for this project.
In 2020-2021, DWA Prof. Lan Chu was appointed as an inaugural member of the Western Political Science Association's Publications Committee for the 2019-2020 year by chairing the committee in Spring 2020. The Association has two official journals: Political Research Quarterly (PRQ) and Politics, Groups, and Identities (PGI). In Fall 2020, Chu was invited to join the Editorial Board of PGI. In May 2021, she was then invited to join the journal's Best Article Award Committee to help determine the best article published during the prior calendar year.
History Prof. Jane Hong was appointed to the editorial board of the Journal of American History, the flagship journal for historians of the United States across all subfields and time periods. As a board member, In this capacity, Prof. Hong will help shape the direction of scholarship in the field.
History Prof. Marla Stone has been appointed the next Andrew W. Mellon Humanities Professor at the American Academy in Rome. “As the Mellon Humanities Professor, I envision fulfilling three critical roles,” Stone said. “First, as a mentor to the Academy’s community of scholars; second, as an ambassador between the community and the wonders of the Roman past and present; and third, as a member of a leadership team that ensures effective administration, engaging programming, an environment of intellectual and artistic exchange, and a flourishing creative community. I look forward to returning to the Academy in this new position."
Religious Studies Prof. Kristi Upson-Saia is a founding member of the editorial board for a new book series, Religon, Medicine, and Health in Late Antiquity (Routledge Press).
Kinesiology Prof. Marci Raney was recently interviewed by a reporter at KCRW about her work and perspective on outdoor learning, physical activity, and green schoolyards. The piece titled "Outdoor learning started as a COVID safety measure. Schools say it's here to stay" aired on April 29th.
The Vantuna Research Group (PI: Biology Prof. Dan Pondella) has been planning and designing an artificial reef off of Palos Verdes Peninsula for more than a decade. This last summer it was finally built using 58,000 tons of quarry rock over a 4 month span. This project was funded primarily by money from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, a program that was created to restore marine ecosystems and species damaged by DDT contamination from the 1940's to 1970's. The reef has received national attention--Prof. Jonathan Williams was interviewed about the new reef during a segment about DDT contamination on "CBS This Morning." And recently, the VRG commissioned a short film about the project, "Rebirth of a Reef."
History Prof. Jane Hong published an op-ed in the Washington Post tracing how the Republican Party has made inroads among women and voters of color. The piece focused on California's Orange County and the GOP's historical efforts to court Asian American voters, who today make up more than 20 percent of the county's electorate. Post-1965 immigration, U.S. Cold Wars in Asia, religion, and Southern California's multiracial demographics and history have all played a part. Although American conservatism remains largely White, it has slowly but surely become less so.
New York Stage and Film, one of the preeminent incubators for theater and film in the country, invited MAC Prof. Aleem Hossain to join their new NEXUS Initiative that brings together 20 multi-hyphenate artists to explore the question “Where does story exist at the intersection of stage and film?” Through this inaugural program, NYSAF will offer direct support to these artists – each participant receives $5,000 and will take part in a series of conversations focused on the needs of new and expanded forms of storytelling that resonate with our time. Participants were recommended by 14 leading artists of stage and film for their accomplishments in exploring new forms of storytelling. The leading artists selection committee includes Ayad Akhtar, César Alvarez, Luis Castro, Elsie Choi, Marcus Gardley, Zach Helm, Beth Henley, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Patricia McGregor, Lila Neugebauer, Madeline Sayat, Shelby Stone, Regina Taylor, and Chay Yew.
The UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies hosted a book launch for the new book Bodies and Maps: Early Modern Personifications of the Continents (Brill, December 2020), co-edited by History Prof. Maryanne Cline Horowitz and Louise Arizzoli. Watch a video of the book launch here! Following a brief presentation of the book, its aims, stakes, and contents by the co-editors and contributor Bronwen Wilson, there will be an open discussion.
In an episode of CBS This Morning, Esquire Chef of the Year Omar Tate presents a cuisine inspired by Black history. His dessert, "antebellum hoodo," is an homage to an enslaved woman healer named Elsey, which he created after reading a book about healing in enslaved communities: that is, History Prof. Sharla Fett's book Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations!
Computer Science Prof. Kathryn Leonard is serving as co-Editor-in-Chief of a new mathematics journal, La Matematica, that publishes high quality research in computational areas. The editors have instituted an equitable review process with a short review period. Accepted papers will be at least in part understandable to a wide range of mathematicians, and computational results will be reproducible when appropriate.
Black Studies & History Prof. Erica L. Ball was elected to a second term as the Far West Regional Director of the Association of Black Women Historians.
How has COVID-19 affected local government budgets? UEP Prof. Seva Rodnyansky's new research project shows the pandemic is adding major fiscal stress to municipalities and school districts across Northern and Central California. These results come from a survey of local government budget officers in 29 California counties which contain 35% of the state's population. The results have been published in an OpEd in CalMatters.
Religious Studies Prof. Kristi Upson-Saia was the guest historian on an episode of the BBC podcast, "You're Dead to Me." The episode focused on ancient Greek and Roman medicine, which is the subject of her forthcoming book.
Black Studies & History Prof. Erica L. Ball co-authored an Op-ed with Tatiana Seijas (Rutgers) and Terri L. Snyder (Cal State Fullerton). The Op-ed places Vice President Kamala Harris's election in the context of Black women's historical quest for freedom.