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Welfare, war, marriage among topics in fall lecture series at Illinois

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Poverty and social justice will be the featured topic for three prominent journalists – Jason DeParle, Leon Dash and Nicholas Lemann – in talks this fall sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Other topics on the CAS schedule for early fall, to be addressed by a wide range of speakers: the war in Iraq, marriage and gays, how artists deal with war, the science of stem-cell research, the Indian software industry, Tennessee Williams, the structure of social networks, global food, and the zoot suit riots of the 1940s.

The lectures, except where noted, are part of the CAS MillerComm series, begun in 1973 and supported with funds from the George A. Miller Endowment and several co-sponsoring campus units. The MillerComm lectures provide a forum for discourse on topics spanning the university’s many disciplines.

All CAS talks are free and open to the public.

The first lecture of the fall semester will take place Aug. 29 and is titled “Social Networks and Social Dynamics in a Small World.” The speaker will be Duncan Watts, professor of sociology at Columbia University and author of “Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age” (2003). Watts will discuss the history of the idea that each person can be connected to everyone else through only six degrees of separation, and how the structure of social networks affects everything from job searches to cultural fads. His MillerComm lecture, also part of the CAS Initiative on “The Age of Networks,” begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.

Subsequent lectures scheduled through September and October:

Sept. 8, “The Global Food Court: Fast Food, Slow Food, Imperial Food,” by John Feffer, independent journalist and author. Feffer will trace the impact of global power on food courts, from the Crystal Place in London in 1851 to the mysterious bourbon chicken that can be found today in almost every food court in the U.S. His talk, part of the CAS Initiative on Globalization, begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

Sept. 12, “A Shot at the American Dream,” by Jason DeParle, senior writer at the New York Times and author of “American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Desire to End Welfare” (2004). DeParle will discuss the complex unfolding of policy changes in the 1990s that led to ending “welfare as we know it,” and the resulting consequences for poor Americans. His MillerComm talk, also part of the School of Social Work’s 60th anniversary, begins at 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

• Sept. 14, “The Indian Software Industry: Managing Change and Growth in the Knowledge Economy,” by N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman of the board and chief mentor for Infosys Technologies Limited. Murthy will talk about how Indian firms have come to the forefront of software services, and what further opportunities and challenges they face in a rapidly changing world. His lecture, the Arnold O. Beckman Lecture in Science and Innovation, begins at 4 p.m. in Foellinger Auditorium, 709 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

• Sept. 14, “Painting Out of Conflict: Velázquez, the Dutch and Painting in the Time of War,” by Svetlana Alpers, professor emerita of art history at the University of California, Berkeley. Alpers will examine how artists have dealt with war, looking at striking instances when attention to the medium of art offered an alternative to strife. Her MillerComm talk, also the Phillipp Fehl Annual Lecture, begins at 5:30 p.m. in Room 62 of the Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign.

• Sept. 22, “After Iraq: U.S. Diplomacy and the Crisis of International Legitimacy,” by John Brady Kiesling, a former career diplomat who publicly resigned from the U.S. State Department prior to the war in Iraq.

Kiesling will discuss strategies for repairing America's damaged international legitimacy and influence in the wake of Iraq and the declared global war on terror. His lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

• Oct. 6, “Marriage as a Human Rights Battlefield,” by Evan Wolfson, executive director of the Freedom to Marry Project and adjunct professor of law at Columbia University. Wolfson will explore marriage and its history, for gays and heterosexuals, and how he believes the current fight over the issue is being used to start a backlash aimed not just at gays and lesbians but also at all nontraditional families. His talk begins at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

• Oct. 7, “Tennessee Williams: Radical of the Heart,” by Christopher Bigsby, professor of American studies and director of the Arthur Miller Center, University of East Anglia, England. Bigsby will trace the growth of the young political writer Tom Williams, beginning with his days in 1930s Depression-era St. Louis, into the dramatic playwright Tennessee Williams, author of “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” His lecture begins at 2 p.m. in the Studio Theatre in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana.

Oct. 11, “Journalism and the Underclass,” by Leon Dash, a CAS professor of journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dash, a former reporter for the Washington Post, will talk about social exclusion, urban poverty and life for those in the underclass, a subset of the poor distinguished by their involvement in petty crime and criminal recidivism. His talk, the CAS Annual Lecture, begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Tryon Festival Theatre in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Oct. 17, “Embryonic Stem Cell Research: A Scientific Overview,” by James Thomson, professor of anatomy, obstetrics, and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison. Thomson, who developed the embryonic stem cell procedure, will discuss the science involved, as well as its ethical, legal and political aspects, in the U.S. and abroad. His talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in Foellinger Auditorium.

Oct. 25, “Zoot Suit Riots Revisited: Meditations on the Politics of Style,” by Kathy Peiss, the Roy F. and Jennette P. Nichols Chair of American History, University of Pennsylvania, and a George A. Miller Endowment Visiting Professor at Illinois. Peiss will look back at the cultural and political symbolism of the zoot suit, an oversized suit popular with young men in the 1940s, and its infamous role in a 1943 Los Angeles riot between white servicemen and Mexican-American “zooters.” Her lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of the Levis Faculty Center.

Oct. 27, “Journalism and Social Justice,” by Nicholas Lemann, dean and Henry R. Luce Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University. Lemann will discuss the role that journalists have played in uncovering and describing social conditions, and ask whether a journalism of social justice can survive in the current media environment, and what direction it might take. His talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in Room 100 of Gregory Hall, 810 S. Wright St., Urbana.

Lemann’s lecture is being given in conjunction with the donation of Leon Dash’s papers to the University Archives. Dash won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for his Washington Post series “Rose Lee: Poverty and Survival in Washington,” and now holds a Swanlund Chair at Illinois. A ceremony marking the occasion will be held at 6 p.m., prior to Lemann’s talk, in the Marshall Gallery of the University Library, 1402 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana.

For additional information, or to confirm scheduling details prior to a lecture, check the events links on the CAS Web site.

Details on CAS lectures scheduled for later this fall will appear in a forthcoming news release.