Category Archives: College of Liberal Arts

Horror in Fiction

In 2021 Jordan Peele remade the 1992 cult horror classic, Candyman. The 2021 remake received critical success and despite being delayed several times due to the covid-19 pandemic, was a box office success as well. In both the 1992 and 2021 versions, the eponymous main character is a black man. But in the remake, the character deviates from the usual narrative trope of being a menacing black man to a man with complex emotions and feelings. For most viewers, these changes make for a good story, but likely are not things that they dwell on, and certainly are forgettable by the time they have left the theater. But for our guest this week, literature MA student Marisa Williams in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, these differences are what gives them inspiration and are what inform their research. While Marisa has just begun their thesis work, they know that they will examine issues of racism on black bodies within contemporary literature. Specifically, Marisa plans to explore how the legacy of colonialism has remained in the literature of French-Caribbean authors writing in the 21st century despite more than two centuries of emancipation from colonialism. 

In order to do this kind of research, Marisa first has to learn about the history and philosophy of colonialism and post-colonial identity in the Caribbean. They plan to do this by exploring how notions of “Creole-ness,” the monstrosity of whiteness, and identity have all shaped the French-Caribbean experience in today’s literature. This has led Marisa to some interesting literary “rabbit holes,” that has taken them through history, philosophy, and fantasy literature.

To learn more about what is “Creole-ness,” the monstrosity of whiteness, and identity and how they relate to fantasy literature, tune in live on Sunday May 1st, 2022 on KBVR to listen. You can also catch more of Marisa’s story and research when they present as part of OSU’s 2022 Grad Inspire which will be taking place on May 12th

Home Economics as a Science 

Milam, ca. 1919. Courtesy of Oregon Digital.

At OSU there is a building called Milam Hall. It sits across the quad from the Memorial Union and houses many departments, including the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, where our guest this week, History and Philosophy of Science M.A. student Kathleen McHugh is housed. The building is certainly showing its age, with a perpetually leaky roof and well worn stairwells. But despite this, embedded in some of its classrooms, are hints of its former glory. It was once the location of the School of Home Economics, and was posthumously named after its longstanding dean, Ava B. Milam. While no books have been written about Milam, aside from her own autobiography, her story is one worth telling, and McHugh is doing just that with her M.A. thesis where she explores Milam’s deliberate actions to make home economics a legitimate scientific field. 

Home Economics students cooking. Courtesy of Industrial-Arts Magazine.

During Milam’s tenure, home economics was a place where women could get an education and, most importantly, where they would not interfere with men’s scientific pursuits. It necessarily othered women and excluded them from science. But McHugh argues that Milam actively tried to shape home economics so that it was perceived as a legitimate science rather than a field of educational placation. And, as McHugh demonstrates through her research, in part due to Milam’s work, women are able to study science today without prejudice (well, for the most part. Obviously there is still a long way to go before there is full equality). 

But exactly how Milam legitimized a field that–let’s be honest, probably immediately gives readers flashbacks of baking a cake in middle school or learning how to darn a sock –is exactly what McHugh explores in her thesis. Through meticulous archival research, and despite COVID hurdles, McHugh has created a compelling and persuasive narrative of Milam’s efforts to transform home economics into a science. 

Guests waiting outside a tearoom at the 1919 San Francisco World’s Fair run by Home Economics students. Courtesy of Industrial-Arts Magazine.

Listen this week and learn how a cafe at the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair and a house near campus that ran a nearly 50 year adoption service relate to Milam and her pioneering work. If you missed the live show, listen to this episode wherever you get your podcasts.

Two ways of killing bacteria

You’re probably pretty familiar with a thing called antibiotics. You’ve most likely been prescribed them for a number of bacterial infections you may have had over the course of your life. Antibiotics are typically broad-spectrum, which can be good if the exact ailment a person is suffering from is uncertain. However, it can also be bad given that broad-spectrum antibiotics don’t just kill the bad bacteria, but they kill the good ones too. On top of this, antibiotic resistance is a pervasive issue. Alternatively, bacteriophages, which are viruses that attack bacteria, can be used to treat bacterial infections too. Bacteriophages are extremely effective at killing off a specific bacteria that you want to target. For example, there is a bacteriophage that specifically kills cholera, and nothing else. However, you have most likely never been treated with a bacteriophage for a bacterial infection. Why? Well, to understand that we’ve got to go back to the Cold War era (and even a little further). Enter Miriam Lipton, a PhD candidate in the College of Liberal Arts, whose research focuses on exactly this question.

There is speculation that the Cold War is the reason that there are these two ways to treat bacterial infections (antibiotics and bacteriophages), and Miriam is interested in this speculation as well as understanding how U.S. and Soviet scientists dealt with bacterial infections in real time during the Cold War period. To do this, Miriam is examining scientific papers and pharmaceutical trade journals from that time (1947-1991) to understand how scientists on either side thought about bacterial infections, their treatments, and antibiotic resistance. This quest has taken (or will take) Miriam to a number of different research institutions, including the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia, Caltech in California, and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy in Wisconsin. Reading scientific publications can be difficult enough as it is, however Miriam faces an added challenge of having to read many of the Soviet publications in Russian. Luckily, Miriam’s background lends itself quite well for this difficult task as one of her triple major’s during her Bachelor’s degree was Russian and she has a Master’s in Russian Studies from the University of Oregon, all of which have led to a good proficiency of the Russian language.

Miriam’s program at OSU is called History of Science and is quite rare. In fact, it is one of only four such programs in the country and Miriam is one of only four in her cohort at OSU. She is simultaneously a historian and a scientist on a mission to better understand past perceptions and thoughts of scientists about bacterial infections, to hopefully inform the present and future. Especially given the rise of antibiotic resistance across the globe.

Listen to the podcast episode of the show here to dive deep into the history of bacterial infection science!

Perceptions of trust

Imagine a final exam for a college course with hundreds of students. The proctor, a teacher’s assistant who has not interacted with any of the students before, is walking up and down the rows. She sees motion out of the corner of her eye. A small piece of paper is on the floor, covered in tiny print–answers to questions on the exam. She asks the student in the nearest desk, if the paper is his. Should the proctor believe him?

Most of the decisions we make in day-to-day life are unconscious. We don’t make up lists of pros and cons and consult experts when we have to decide what shoe should I tie first, what foot should enter my car first, or whether to I turn on the blinker 5 seconds or 10 seconds before turning. Having to weigh the pros and cons and carefully consider the consequences of every action would be exhausting, and could even be dangerous.

Zoe Alley, PhD Candidate in Psychology at Oregon State

Deciding whether to trust a stranger, however, is not at all inconsequential. Our brains unconsciously process faces to make decisions such as whether a person is, for example, aggressive, or whether they should be trusted. Zoe Alley, a PhD candidate in Psychology at Oregon State, has spent the last three years studying how facial trustworthiness impacts adolescents and new adults.

“People around the world, from many different cultures, from many different ethnicities, tend to hone in on the same facial characteristics when deciding who they want to trust,” Zoe said. Within the first few seconds of seeing a person’s face for the first time, your brain makes judgments of that person’s aggressiveness and trustworthiness (among other traits.) These snap judgements are often inaccurate, but have appeared consistently enough in participants in psychological studies that it is thought by some to be an evolved trait. Nineteenth and early twentieth century scientists went so far as to provide expert witness at trials, describing “typical” features of criminals. Although this view is no longer considered scientific, the human tendency to attempt to draw conclusions from appearances has been measured, with often concerning results.

As Zoe explains it, it is not clear that we have control over how our brain processes faces. And conscious attempts to address these biases can lead to over-correction, which is also undesirable.

Zoe speaking at GradX 2019 at Oregon State University. The faces shown are the Oosterhof-Todorov faces: computer-generated representations of a trustworthy and an untrustworthy face.

However, knowing how the human mind makes judgments is important. “It can help us make decisions about the structure of our society,” says Zoe. She points out some troubling findings looking at the justice system and elections. A 2004 study found that among a random sample of prison inmates, after controlling for race, people with more “Afrocentric” features received harsher sentences. A study from 2007 showed people contenders for Senate and governor’s races in the US and asked them to choose the more competent candidate, making sure that participants didn’t recognize either candidate. The winner of the race was selected 72% and 68% percent of the time, respectively — a far greater success rate than expected by chance.

Zoe’s own work focuses on how people are affected by facial traits such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness, dominance, and exploitativeness. The data comes from a long running longitudinal study of about 200 boys in Oregon that started in the 1980s. Participants in the study were interviewed about once a year from adolescence into adulthood, with a special focus on understanding antisocial and deviant behaviors such as underage substance use and criminal behavior. Along with interviews, photographs of the participants were taken. However, these photographs had not yet been incorporated in any of the many studies based on the data set.

Processing the data was an enormous task. She analyzed facial structure development across 35 years of data for 200 participants. Each photo had to be considered individually, and to protect privacy she had to drive an hour to a secure facility to do the work. “I’m interested in seeing how facial characteristics develop across time, and how these characteristics alter people’s experience,” says Zoe. “Are people who look less trustworthy more likely to associate with deviant peers?”

Hear more about Zoe’s research findings and personal story this Sunday, June 9, 2019 at 7 pm on KBVR Corvallis 88.7FM. Stream the show live or catch the episode as a podcast in the coming weeks.

You can also watch Zoe’s GradX presentation here.

Being the Multilingual, Racialized “Other” in an English Dominated Linguistic Landscape

Jason at the whiteboard

Consider the language and messages you process each day. As you navigate your daily routine, what language do you hear and see most frequently? For folks living in the Corvallis, Oregon, the answer is probably English. In the last month, how many times, when, and where have you been exposed to spoken words or even signs in another language? For those of us on the Oregon State University campus, you could easily overhear or may participate in a conversation in Spanish, Chinese, or Arabic in the Memorial Union or Valley Library. How does the “linguistic landscape” (written or spoken words you encounter in life) affect you? What do you feel and how do you react to hearing a language you don’t understand? Have you been told that you don’t speak English well enough?

Shenanigans in Portland with Pat

Jason Sarkozi-Forfinski, a PhD student in Anthropology, wants to gain insight into the linguistic landscape students at Oregon State University are exposed to and their actions and feelings about about it, especially for students from non-English speaking countries. Jason’s research involves interviewing students and community members about their experiences in the US such as:

  • How do Thai-speaking folks fair when practicing English with a non-American accent?
  • How does a (white) American- English speaker from Roseburg regard different accents?
  • How do Mandarin speakers from Malaysia react to others speaking English with different accents?
  • How does an Arabic speaker from the Gulf region perceive their own accent?
  • How comfortable do Japanese speakers feel speaking a language other than English in the US?
  • How is all of this connected to the institutionalized tool of racism?

Jason has found that folks have preferences or biases about their linguistic landscape. Oregon State recruits both students from around the world and a large multilingual community of more local students. His respondents have reported being discouraged from speaking in a non-English language or facing negative social and professional consequences for speaking other languages or English with a non-(white)American accent. Could a preference for English with a (white) American accent perpetuate division? Or even bigoted practices?

Jason’s current research developed from years of conversations with friends and colleagues about being multilingual in the US. He began exploring language in his undergraduate education where he majored in Spanish and also studied Portuguese. He also studied English in Miami,

Grilled cheese on a school bus in Portland with Veronica (left) and husband, Nick.

Florida, and worked to understand how non-English languages influences local English. Before coming to OSU for his PhD, Jason has worked as a Spanish and English instructor in the US, Spain, Japan, and China.

Tune in to KBVR Corvallis 88.7 FM on Sunday March, 10 at 7 PM to hear more about Jason’s research and his path to graduate school. Stream the show live or catch this episode as a podcast.

Clarification [See Podcast at 25:45]: Asking someone to change their accent, according to Lippi-Green a linguistic who wrote “Speaking with an Accent,” is like asking someone to change their height. It’s doable (with lots of surgery) but would require a lot of intervention. The point here is that it’s not realistic to ask someone to work on their accent. It’s also rather demeaning.

3D Modeling Rock Shape: Archeological Research of the Earliest North Americans

At age 17, like a lot of teenagers, Samuel Burns wanted to go to college. Unlike most college-bound 17-year-olds however, Samuel didn’t have a high school degree. Today, Samuel is a first-year master’s student in Applied Anthropology, within the School of Language, Culture, and Society, and the Department of Anthropology. Also, this is his second master’s degree.

Samuel in the field in the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania. Photo by Samuel Burns.

Samuel works with Dr. Loren Davis to investigate the earliest archeological sites in North America, and there are two big questions to answer: when did humans first arrive in North America, and by what route did the earliest humans arrive? Traditionally, humans are thought to have entered North America through the Rocky Mountains, but more recent evidence suggests that maritime cultures may have arrived first, finding North America via the ocean. The oldest fish hooks in North America are somewhere between ~11,300 to 10,700 years years old and were discovered off the coast of Baja California, Mexico on Cedros Island.

Cedros Island is just one of two archeological sites of interest for Samuel’s research group, and while he has been to Cedros to conduct fieldwork, Samuel’s work focuses on artifacts from one pit in the second site: Cooper’s Ferry in Cottonwood, Idaho, near the Salmon River. From Cooper’s Ferry, seemingly interesting artifacts are brought back to the lab where they are sorted, confirmed to be artifacts, and studied.

L-R: Loren White (OSU), Steve Jenevein (Oregon State Parks), and Samuel Burns on board the flight from Cedros Island, Baja California, Mexico after a successful field session in January, 2019. Photo by Samuel Burns.

Samuel is able to take the artifacts, make 3D scans of the object, and input this information into a computational program. The computer converts the 3D scans into mathematical shapes and 3D models. So instead of looking at a couple things by eye and estimating if artifacts are similar or different, the program can compare large sets of data with discreet numbers and make conclusions about whether or not two artifacts found in different places have similar shapes. This allows researchers to ask questions about tool development over time and place.

To make 3D images, a laser scanner has been used in the past, but this is both expensive and large, so new methods are actively being developed for this purpose. One option is a structured light scanner, which has a light shining through multiple holes. To use a structured light scanner, you place your artifact on a patterned background and take lots of photos at many angles, producing a large amount of data to feed the computer program. Another easier option for 3D modeling is photogrammetry, which only requires a camera and a computer, even just a phone camera will work. This soft ware used is called “GLiMR” (GIS-based Lithic Morphometric Research) and is based on GIS software for modeling geographical landscapes, and the automation and ease of such a program enables archeologists to spend less time collecting numbers and more time assessing these numbers through statistical analyses and asking interesting questions.

Samuel’s crew lining up to conduct a systematic surface survey near Paulina, Oregon. Photo by Samuel Burns.

When you think about ancient North American stone artifacts, megafauna hunting tools like arrow heads and spears come to mind. However, in both the Cedros and Cooper’s Ferry sites, simpler tools are being found that suggest early North Americans exploited a wide range of resources and had a broad-spectrum diet. For example, artifacts found include shell or stone tools for processing fiber to making fishing line.

Samuel using a digital total station to take measurements at a Medieval Christian period site at el Kurru, Northern State, Sudan. Photo by Walter De Winter.

Growing up, Samuel never went to school and wasn’t homeschooled, but always loved history. He lived in an 1850s farmhouse, and spent his childhood going through old objects from his backyard, left behind over the past 100+ years. At age 17, realizing he wanted to go to college but not having the traditional requirements, Samuel applied to a University in Jerusalem and got in. After spending a year there, he ran out of money, and spent next few years working and moving around the world, including in South Korea and Israel. Eventually, he returned to the US and jumped back into school at a community college in Michigan and ultimately transferred to the University of Michigan, where he focused on ancient cultures and language of middle east.

Field camp near Colt, Arkansas, home for 6 months in 2016-2017. Photo by Samuel Burns.

Samuel graduated from UM in 2010 and then got a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, focusing on Egyptian studies. This first master’s centered around Syria and unfortunately, this research project was not able to be pursued further, so Samuel spent the next five years working in cultural resource management in the US. Through this job, he was able to travel around the US and soon became interested in North American archeological research. Samuel had a strong liberal arts background but, wanting to expand his earth science knowledge, came to Oregon State.

Eventually, Samuel wants to obtain a PhD and work in academia, continuing to formulate and direct research projects.

To hear more about Samuel’s path to OSU and experiences in archeological research, tune in Sunday, February 16th at 7 PM on KBVR 88.7 FM, live stream the show at http://www.orangemedianetwork.com/kbvr_fm/, or download our
podcast on iTunes!

 

Davis, L. G., Bean, D. W., Nyers, A. J., & Brauner, D. R. (2015). GLiMR: A GIS-Based Method for the Geometric Morphometric Analysis of Artifacts. Lithic Technology, 40(3), 199–217.
Des Lauriers, M. R., Davis, L. G., Turnbull, J., Southon, J. R., & Taylor, R. E. (2017). The Earliest Shell Fishhooks from the Americas Reveal Fishing Technology of Pleistocene Maritime Foragers. American Antiquity, 82(3), 498–516.

Exploring immigrant identity through poetry

As a 2nd year MFA student in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film, Tatiana Dolgushina is writing her history through poetry as a way to understand herself and the country she came from that no longer exists. Born in Soviet Russia, Tatiana and her family fled the country after it collapsed in 1991. Tatiana grew up in South America and came to the US when she was 12, settling in Ohio. She remarks, “so much cultural history of Soviet Russia is influencing who I am today.” Central to her work are ideas of identity formation and childhood displacement. Through writing, she is digging deeper into her experience as an immigrant growing up in multiple countries.

To better understand the root of her identity, Tatiana is reading about the history that led to the dissolution of Soviet Russia. Reading about the history has helped her to understand the events that led to her family’s displacement. She grew up with silence surrounding why they had left, explaining, “Soviet culture is based on a fear of talking about historical events.” She reflects on feeling shame associated with being an immigrant, and in “not belonging to the old place or the new place.” A fractured in-between place. “As a kid, when you’re displaced, you lose so much: language, traditions, and culture.” She further explains, “you seek assimilation as a kid, and either forget these things, or push them away.”

Tatiana explains that poetry is a catalyst for understanding herself and more broadly, for us to understand ourselves as humans. It’s about connecting the dots. Her family doesn’t speak about what transpired. But reading the history, it begins to make sense. “When you’re a kid, you’re focused on survival.” She reflects that she has been trying to compensate for certain things, and is now understanding how and why she is different. She realized, “the older I get, the more I feel it, my immigrant self emerging.” Her experience growing up in multiple countries has contributed to her identity formation, but she admits that she doesn’t have a space to talk about it. “I blend in, but still feel like an outsider. I am not of this culture, and I realize that I really have no home because my home is not a country.”

Tatiana is still trying to figure out what her writing is about, but articulates that writing is a process of not being able to say certain things in the beginning. It’s about writing through the memory and being able to see the things you need to see when you’re ready, peeling away each layer of experience. Approaching the writing process linearly, Tatiana began writing about early memories, then proceeded beyond to older memories, asking, for example, “why did I write about that nightmare I had when I was 4 years old?”

Originally trained as a wildlife biologist, Tatiana decided to change directions after spending time pursuing a Master’s degree. When she initially began the MFA program, she was shocked at the discussion of subjective ideas, which is so different from many areas of scientific discourse. In science, the focus is not so much on identity. But, she explains, “science and art are coming from the same place. It’s about observation, and understanding through observation.”

As a personal goal, Tatiana is working towards publishing a book. It has been something she has wanted to do for many years. “The hope is that a 15 year old immigrant kid in the library will read it and be able to relate to my story.”

Tatiana studies with Dr. Karen Holmberg and will be graduating this Spring. Tune in on Sunday, February 3rd at 7pm on KBVR 88.7 FM to hear more from Tatiana about her thesis work and experience as a graduate student at OSU. You can also stream the show or download our podcast on iTunes!

Applying medical anthropology: a history of stress in Puerto Rico and its impacts on birth outcomes

Over the course of the last six years, Holly Horan, a doctoral candidate in the Applied Anthropology program at Oregon State University, has developed and carried out a course of research culminating in the largest-ever study measuring perceived and biological maternal stress during and after pregnancy in Puerto Rico. By combining in-depth interviews with Puerto Rican mothers with quantitative analysis of perceived stress and the stress hormone cortisol during each stage of pregnancy, Holly has gained insights into both the perceived and the physiological components of maternal stress that have potential to impact birth outcomes (in particular, timing of birth).

Holly describes herself as an applied medical anthropologist. She strives to take a holistic approach to health, considering not only the physiology of an individual, but external factors as well: the political situation, economics, the culture, and the historical context of the research site. She is passionate about “community-led research.” In community-led research, the community where the research is being conducted takes a role in the development, execution, analysis, and evaluation of the research.

Holly has found a way to combine her personal and professional interests in maternal and infant health with her desire to engage in research with Puerto Rican communities. Holly’s mother is Puerto Rican, and she had long wanted to engage in research that could benefit the island. While completing a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Montana, Holly did preliminary research on the early onset of puberty among Puerto Rican girls. Here at OSU, Holly has been able to use both qualitative and quantitative methods to research maternal and infant health within a community-led framework.

At the beginning of her dissertation research, Holly learned that the cesarean birth rate in Puerto Rico was close to 50% — far higher than the rate in the continental U.S., which hovers around 30%. Both rates are much higher than the rate recommended by the World Health Organization, which indicates that the cesarean birth rate should be no higher than 15%. She also learned that the island struggled with high incidence of preterm birth and low birth weight, both of which are important population-level health indicators. Holly’s advisor, Dr. Melissa Cheyney, is a home-birth midwife and an associate professor within the Applied Anthropology program in the School of Language, Culture, and Society. Dr. Cheyney helped connect Holly to Puerto Rican midwives, who, in turn, connected them to other medical providers in Puerto Rico.

In the summer of 2014, Holly conducted a pilot study, spending six weeks in Puerto Rico interviewing maternal and infant health-care professionals. These interviews allowed her to develop goals for her dissertation research that aligned with the needs of the community. Participant narratives frequently displayed concerns associated with unexplainable high rates of preterm birth.

Holly’s National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded dissertation research examined the relationship between perceived maternal stress, biological maternal stress, and prematurity. After the 2014 pilot study, she moved to Puerto Rico for 16 months, where she used semi-structured interviews and perceived stress questionnaires to develop an understanding of this relationship. In addition to this qualitative component, she also measured the stress hormone cortisol from maternal hair samples. Cortisol is one of the most well-understood biological stress indicators. Up until recently, the primary available way to measure cortisol levels was through blood or saliva samples, which provided only an indication of short-term stress. As it turns out, however, cortisol is also incorporated into hair. Hair cortisol provides a measure of long-term stress — the type of stress that is speculated to impact maternal and infant health outcomes, including preterm birth.

In the summer of 2016, Holly initiated her dissertation research with an extensive series of in-depth interviews with pregnant and recently-postpartum women. At this time, the ZIKA virus was declared a public health emergency, and there was a variety of public health messaging concerning delayed reproduction and the risk of microcephaly. Through these interviews, Holly learned that the U.S. Government’s public health messaging led to an internal conflict for many pregnant Puerto Rican women. Families felt stress and fear about the prospect of infants developing microcephaly. However, the warnings and official recommendations to delay reproduction provided uncomfortable reminders of the island’s colonial past, which includes targeted experimental clinical trials of oral contraceptives and sterilization offered primarily to low-income women. This led many interviewees to be skeptical about the threat of the Zika virus, but did not deter them from being concerned for their fetus’ well-being.

These participants identified sources of stress that varied widely, ranging from socioeconomic concerns, political changes, and gender-based inequalities. For example, in May 2016, Puerto Rico’s government defaulted on over 70 billion dollars of debt. Under the regulations passed by La Junta, the appointed fiscal board, many employees were fired and then rehired for lower pay. Also affected was the secondary public-school system: nearly 150 schools were closed. While these events are structural, the interviews revealed that within the Puerto Rican people, the impact of the events was personal, and the magnitude of impacts depended on individuals social support networks and life circumstances.

After comparing maternal cortisol levels with the perceived maternal stress from the structured surveys, which were collected in each trimester across pregnancy, Holly found a counter-intuitive result: some of the mothers who had most problems with their pregnancies (such as premature birth) had unusually low levels of cortisol. One current theory is the concepts of allostasis or allostatic load and “weathering,” a term which has been in the media in recently describing the cumulative effects of chronic stress on health (discussed in an NPR interview here in the context of race-based discrimination). Normally, the body responds to stress by heightening the amount of hormones such as cortisol. After the stressor is removed, hormone levels shift back to a low-stress state. However, if stress is prolonged over months or years–such as when living under a system of oppression–the body starts to experience “wear-and-tear,” causing the body’s stress response system to become ineffective. This ultimately impacts health outcomes, such as premature birth.

There have been road bumps along the way. In late summer 2017, Holly was nearly three quarters completed with data collection and the project was moving along smoothly. However, Mother Nature had different plans: In September 2017, Puerto Rico was hit first by Hurricane Irma and then by Category 4 Hurricane Maria two weeks later. The hurricanes destroyed the power grid and most of the island’s infrastructure. Holly was evacuated by OSU a week after the storm. Although she was worried about the well-being of her participants, and the impact this storm would have on the research project, NSF and her other funders graciously supported her to return and complete the study, which she did in February and March of 2018. As a separate side-project, Holly plans to return to Puerto Rico this summer to share study results with the community and with community partners.

To hear more about Holly’s research, tune in Sunday, December 9th at 7 PM on KBVR 88.7 FM, live stream the show at http://www.orangemedianetwork.com/kbvr_fm/,  download our podcast on iTunes, or listen to this episode directly!

Exploring the disconnect between humans and the ocean

Unseen associations

We are all connected to the ocean, and organisms living in the ocean are an integral – if often unseen – part of our lives. You might be more connected to the ocean than you think. For example, fertilizer used to grow vegetables is often made from fish, and ingredients derived from fish are often added to processed foods. And amazingly, the ocean produces more than half of the oxygen on the planet, while also being responsible for storing 50 times more carbon dioxide than is found in the atmosphere.

The impact of human activity can be observed in a variety of ways. Run-off from agriculture empties into fragile marine ecosystems, and plastic accumulates in the ocean and cycles back into our food supply, for example. Consequences of human activity disturb a precarious balance that is not fully understood. Within the American mind, there is a fractured connection to the ocean, and it is this disconnect that Samm Newton is studying. As a 3rd year Master’s student in the Environmental Arts and Humanities program in the College of Liberal Arts, she is exploring multiple questions as part of her thesis. What has been the role of science and technology in how we have known the ocean? What has been the relationship between that knowledge and how we have valued and made decisions about marine systems? And, how can scholars approach the study of these relationships in new ways?

Scientific inquiry is a tangled knot: the direction of research is often decided based on narrow criteria

Scientific funding agencies have often determined the direction of research based on the priorities of a moment in time. Some priorities arose from crises, while others might have been derived from a perceived risk to lives in human or animal communities. Other priorities were influenced by what types of technology and datasets were available. Within that structure, it has been difficult for science to be innovative if it doesn’t address a problem that has been classified as relevant by funding authorities. Samm explains further, “we have taken the environment, deconstructed its components, and focused only on certain aspects that we deemed interesting at a given moment, while the rest of the pieces slid into the background.”

Samm studies the ocean using methods traditionally associated with the humanities. She describes her method as an interdisciplinary approach to unpack how we have generated knowledge about the ocean through science. Her approach includes extracting information from scientific history and papers, archives, oral histories, as well as popular literature from sources like National Geographic and the Washington Post.

Different ways to think about our connection with the ocean

How can we encourage people to recognize their connection to the ocean, and direct their attention to how their lives are impacted by ocean issues? Samm indicates how advancements in technology and media have created new ways for people to access scientific knowledge about the ocean. With outlets such as Nautilus live, people can learn about ocean ecosystems by watching videos of organisms living in the sea. They can also interact with scientists in real time (check out this one about a large number of octopus brooding near Monterey Bay, CA. Science videos on the internet have become an engaging and popular way to share knowledge of the ocean and science with a broad audience.

“The ocean is very special to me.”

Samm grew up in the “shadow of the petrochemical industry” in Freeport, Texas, where the sea is brown, and air and water pollution are an everyday reality. Observing these anthropogenic forces impacting her coast and community, and how disconnected people seem to be from the ocean, led her to question the relationship between humans and marine environments. She found that science and technology have played a dominant role in how we have known the ocean—and possibly how we have valued it. Samm also found that methods from the humanities, particularly marine environmental history, as well as science and technology studies, provide a meaningful framework to examine that relationship further.

During her undergrad, Samm studied psychology and behavioral neuroendocrinology, with a focus toward consciousness and philosophy of the mind. She spent 10 years working outside of academia before pursuing a Master’s degree at OSU. Samm credits the Environmental Arts and Humanities program at OSU with providing a flexible framework for people from different backgrounds – including art and science – to decide how they want to study a topic of interest.

After finishing her Master’s degree, Samm plans to pursue a PhD in an interdisciplinary field studying environmental issues. As a graduate student at OSU, Samm has enjoyed working in a “scholarly space, and getting the opportunity to do research.” Beyond grad school, Samm’s goal is to be involved in work that transforms the world, and to contribute to projects that strengthen interdisciplinary associations between diverse, yet interconnected, academic fields.

Check out Samm’s exhibit at Autzen House on the OSU campus:The Need to Know Comes in Waves: Paintings by Samm Newton

On view from Sept. 20th – Dec. 15th, 10 AM – 4 PM at Autzen House (811 SW Jefferson)

Reception Oct. 18th, 4 – 6 PM; mini artist talks at 4:30 and 5:30

Samm will also be the Featured Artist at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR in January 2019. Check out this page for more details!

Challenging assumptions about wellness and illness through the lens of Mad Studies

Our entire environment is built upon assumptions about how someone is supposed to move and interact with/in the world. Although disability studies have been around for a long time, in recent years the field has distanced itself from the medical model of disability, in which people with disabilities are viewed as flawed and in need of cure, instead towards a social model of disability. In the social model of disability, an individual in a wheelchair is not the problem; rather, the problem is the building without a ramp and automatic doors. As a 2nd year PhD student of Dr. Patty Duncan in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at OSU, Lzz Johnk pursues questions posed by Mad Studies scholars, such as, what does it mean to think of Mad, neuroqueer, neurodivergent, and mentally disabled people as self-organizing political agents, instead of individuals who society must deal with to maintain order? The core of Lzz’s research consists of applying a genealogical lens to the root of Mad Studies, which is a field examining the lived experiences and culture surrounding individuals identifying as mentally ill, neurodiverse, mentally disabled, and/or Mad. From a white-dominated, Amerocentric perspective, Mad Studies has been around for ~10 years, although the field actually goes back much further, with its roots in the perspectives of people of color, and more specifically, women of color. Lzz explains, “we need to interrogate who gets to decide what constitutes Mad Studies.”

Framing the history of Mad Studies

Examining and interrogating the history of Mad Studies requires understanding the relationships within that history. The location and history of the institution provides framework for the context of the research being done within, as institutions are saturated in the history of the land. Specifically, what does it mean for a white, European settler at a land grant institution such as OSU to be working and researching in a field steeped in the lived experiences of Indigenous people and people of color? Much of the work being done in Mad Studies is limited to the perspectives of cis-masculine individuals and ignores the work of marginalized peoples.

We are all stigmatized to varying extents based on components of our identities, be it national identity, religion, gender, or social class, which is conceptually encompassed by a theory forwarded by Black and other feminists of colour known as intersectionality. The degree to which these stigmas overlap and compound, can effectively result in more acute and damaging marginalization. Historically, people of color and femme and/or gender-deviant people have been hyper-diagnosed as Mad (think of the stereotype of hysteria applied to women). As an example, in considering borderline personality disorder as discussed by writer Susanna Kaysen, Lzz asks, “where is the border-line? Why do women cross that line so often? That line has historically been set and upheld by white settler cis-masculine doctors who determine the boundaries of Madness and wellness. But, the closer you look at the line, the harder it is to define.”

Implementing change

One reason Lzz cites as motivation to return to the academy is to be part of the conversation to make real change in the lives of people identifying as Mad. Changes are being implemented at an unacceptably slow rate. However, Lzz’s research is not directly associated with generating tailored recommendations about health, and explains, “we should be really cautious about the people and institutions making recommendations, by asking what community they are coming from and what their intentions might be. The tendency of entire fields to broad-brush people, and to distill people’s identities into crude stereotypes that get turned against them in moments of vulnerability – as if it is remotely possible to categorize an individual’s whole life experience – is one reason why Mad and disabled people are so stigmatized in our culture.”

Lzz cites the work of Gloria Anzaldúa, a Chicana feminist, as being a critical influence on their wanting to pursue the study of Madness. Anzaldúa wrote and theorized mind-body differences embodying what gets pathologized as Madness or disability. Lzz relates how the work of Anzaldúa exposed them to the concept of navigating overlapping interstitial spaces – or “the space between things, where things don’t fit; falling between, but not quite fitting into binary systems of identity, such as gender.” In this sense, Mad and disabled people are continually finding ourselves in ambiguous terrain.

Why OSU?

Lzz completed their undergrad at Michigan State University in Cultural Anthropology with a certificate in Asian Studies, followed by completion of an MA at Eastern Michigan University in Women and Gender Studies. Lzz felt they could handle doctoral-level work, and also felt strongly that the institution they ended up pursuing a PhD at would need to embrace their Madness. About OSU, Lzz says, “the faculty in my program, in all of their various subfields, are really stellar. Even faculty who don’t necessarily position themselves within Mad Studies are supportive.”

Future directions

Lzz loves teaching and research and would like to pursue these endeavors after graduate school. They also enjoy community work and plan to be involved in outreach to young people who might need support in navigating their neuroqueerness, Madness, and/or mental illness. As someone who has experienced violent pathologization firsthand – fostering a sense of self-hatred instead of acceptance and celebration – Lzz feels that teaching can be one way to disrupt those violences and impact people’s lives in a tangible and meaningful way.

You will not want to miss our interview with Lzz on Sunday, September 16th at 7pm. Listen live on KBVR Corvallis 88.7 FM or stream live. Also, check us out on Apple Podcasts!