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Translating the Rig Veda

Published set of the Rig VedaThe Rig Veda, the oldest Sanskrit text, remains one of its most challenging and enigmatic. Consisting of over a thousand intricate praise hymns dedicated to a variety of divinities, it showcases the work of its many poets, who proudly display their skill and verbal trickery in service of their gods and mortal patrons.

These poets are inheritors of the Indo-Iranian and Indo-European poetic tradition, but they also are self-conscious innovators and manipulators of that tradition. The boast "I make new the song born of old" (RV III.31.19), one of many such statements in the text, encapsulates this dual focus.

Professor Stephanie W. Jamison will present a “Discussion on Translating the Rig Veda” at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, in ARH Room 120.

Jamison was trained as a historical and Indo-European linguist, but for many years has concentrated on Indo-Iranian, especially (Vedic) Sanskrit and Middle Indo-Aryan languages and textual materials.

She works not only on language and linguistics, but also literature and poetics, religion and law, mythology and ritual, and gender studies in these languages, and she is also interested in comparative mythology and poetics, especially with Greek materials.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations and Events.

Grinnell Supports Scholarly Open-Access Publishing

Grinnell College is among nearly 40 liberal arts colleges joining forces with Amherst College Press and the University of Michigan Library to create Lever Press, a new collaborative peer-reviewed, open-access scholarly publishing enterprise.

Grinnell College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are the only Iowa colleges currently supporting Lever Press. Both are members of the Oberlin Group, a consortium of libraries in America’s top liberal arts colleges. Also backing Lever Press are Allegheny College and Ursinus College, which do not belong to the Oberlin Group.

As part of its dedication to complete open access, Lever Press will first make all works freely available to readers on the Internet. The works also will appear in print form wherever possible.

Lever Press is unusual because it will require neither authors nor readers to pay for publication costs. This is made possible by the participating colleges committed to contributing a total of more than $1 million to the work of Lever Press over the next five years. Supported by these pledges, Lever Press aims to acquire, develop, produce and disseminate a total of 60 new open-access titles by the end of 2020.

Grinnell’s Libraries and the Dean’s office will share the cost of contributing $8,000 a year to Lever Press for five years for a total of $40,000.

Investing in Lever Press provides a great opportunity for Grinnell faculty and students, and for the wider world, said Julia Bauder, interim librarian of the College and social studies and data services librarian.

“For faculty,” Bauder said, “it provides an opportunity to publish peer-reviewed, digital books that incorporate media and data in ways that are not possible with printed books, opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the digital liberal arts. For students, my hope is that initiatives such as Lever Press will help to reduce textbook costs by making scholarly books of the sort that Grinnell faculty often assign freely available to them.

“And even after they graduate, Grinnell students and others who are interested in reading great research in the social sciences and humanities will be able to read these books, no matter where they live, what kind of job they have, or by what libraries they are served. Lever Press is truly a win for everyone involved.”

Lever Press is launching as an imprint of Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library. Michigan Publishing will focus on distribution, the publishing platform, and other technical matters, while Amherst College Press will take the lead on the editorial side.

In addition to its novel approach to open access, Lever Press is distinguished by its editorial alignment with the mission and ethos of liberal arts colleges, as well as its digitally native production processes designed to support innovative projects that go “beyond the book.”

“This is an exciting initiative because of the benefit to pioneering humanities and digital humanities work which comes with the space and scale that online formats provide,” said Matthew Johnson, assistant professor of history at Grinnell.

“In the past,” he added, “if you wanted to publish a book that was rich in images, for example, you needed a companion website, as my co-editors and I did with our volume Visualizing Modern China. Given that many small liberal arts colleges are ahead of the curve in terms of adoption of digital resources for teaching and research, Grinnell and other consortium faculty will benefit from being able to integrate similar approaches more seamlessly into their publication strategies, while connecting their work with a far larger audience than has been the case previously.”

Lan-Chang Fellowship Opportunity

The purpose of the Lan-Chang Fellowship is to promote cultural understanding of China and award initiative, originality, and creative exploration. 

Two Grinnell College students shall be awarded support for the expenses of traveling to and from and living in China for six to eight weeks during the summer (each $3,500). Recipients will complete a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) or other independent research project focused on China with a strong experiential component, requiring interaction with a variety of Chinese individuals and sites.

Students of any major who have completed their second year with at least one remaining semester to be completed on the Grinnell College campus before graduation are eligible. Knowledge of Chinese language or culture is not required; in fact, those without such experience are encouraged to apply. 

2015 recipient, Rosie O'Brien ’16 shares her experience: 

“My inquiry into rural  anesthetics was informative, life-changing, and successful. There are many ways to say that a thing is beautiful, and many ways to achieve a particular kind of beauty, but 21st—century China’s rate of exchange from rural to urban apace is too quick for artists and viewers to settle on any one of them. ... Thanks to the Lan-Chang Fellowship, I was able to center myself in the confusing world of contemporary art and the capitalist rhetoric of development and growth.”

Learn more about the Lang-Chang Fellowship (login required). 

A Conversation about the Iowa Caucuses

Grinnell College will host "A Conversation about the Iowa Caucuses with E.J. Dionne Jr. and David Shribman" at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

The Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights is sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public.

"We are so lucky to be in a position at Grinnell to hear from these distinguished journalists as part of our preparation to participate in the historic Iowa Caucuses," said Sarah Purcell, director of the Rosenfield Program and professor of history.

E.J. Dionne Jr.Dionne is a syndicated columnist, National Public Radio commentator, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a noted author. His books include Why Americans Hate Politics and Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond, scheduled for release this week by Simon & Schuster.

His new book "provides a sweeping, sophisticated and shrewd analysis of the radicalization of the Republican Party from the defeat of Goldwater to the rise of the Tea Party and the bizarre twists and turns of the GOP's presidential contest in the fall of 2015," according to a review by Glenn Altshulter in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

David ShribmanShribman has been executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette since 2003. Before joining the Post-Gazette, he covered politics for several other distinguished newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. His column, "My Point," is nationally syndicated. He received the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for his coverage of Washington in 1995.

This will be Shribman's second appearance at Grinnell in recent months. He served on a panel with a Des Moines Register political reporter and political columnist at another Rosenfield event on Dec. 7 titled "Journalists Talk About The Iowa Caucuses."

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

2016 SCMS Undergraduate Conference

The January 29th deadline is fast approaching for submissions to the 2016 SCMS Undergraduate Conference, to be held April 14-17 on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.

This is a wonderful opportunity for students to experience the intellectual and social exchange that professionals enjoy at conferences. Please email your submission to Tiel Lundy.

Find the proposal form and more information on the SCMS Undergraduate Hub

Scholars' Convo: Katherine Verdery

Katherine VerderyLeading anthropology scholar Katherine Verdery, who studied her own surveillance file from Romania’s secret police force, will discuss the anthropology of the Romanian secret police during the first Scholars’ Convocation of the spring semester on Thursday, Jan. 28.

The free, public event, “Surveillance Techniques of the Romanian Secret Police” begins at 11 a.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Verdery is the Julien J. Studley Faculty Scholar and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In addition to CUNY, she has taught at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Michigan.

A past president of the American Association of Slavic Studies, Verdery is considered one of the world’s leading anthropologists of Eastern Europe and has been doing fieldwork in Romania since 1973. Her work, emphasizing themes of inequality, nationalism, and political economy, has earned seven book prizes, including the 2013 Society for Romanian Studies Biennial Book Prize.

Her research on the secret police began in 2008 when she obtained a copy of her own surveillance file from the Securitate, Romania’s secret police force. She read the files as if they were field notes of an anthropologist, seeking to reproduce the attitudes, worldview, and goals of the officers and informers who spied on her.

Verdery noted that the Romanian secret police always assumed she was a spy, not a scholar, because her research methods closely resembled their own tactics. She concluded that the methods of the police in tracking suspects and seeking dissidents often closely resembled the modern technique of social network analysis, since the police force was extremely interested in disrupting the social networks of potential dissidents and reincorporating them into the more politically acceptable sphere of Romanian life.

Verdery has published a book on her findings, Secrets and Truth: Ethnography in the Archives of Romania's Secret Police, and is working on a second, My Life as a Spy: Memoirs of a Cold War Anthropologist.

Turandot, Live in HD

Grinnell College will present a "Live-In-HD" broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Puccini's Turandot at noon Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Harris Center Cinema, 1114 10th Ave., Grinnell.

Set in "legendary" China and featuring characters that wander from Italy to China, the opera satirizes Venetian politics. Nina Stemme stars as the Princess Turandot, who rejects every suitor until Marco Berti, as Calaf, steals her heart.

Soprano Randye Jones, a doctoral student in vocal literature at the University of Iowa and media room supervisor at Grinnell College's Burling Library, will give the opera talk at 11:30 a.m.

Refreshments will be available for sale in the lobby of the cinema before each opera and during intermission.

Opera tickets are available at the Pioneer Bookshop, the Grinnell College Bookstore and at the door on the day of the show. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, children and Met Opera members.

The Office of the President has generously funded tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff and students, and tickets are available for free at all locations. Family members not employed by the college are required to purchase tickets.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Visitor and accessible parking is available in the lot to the east of the Harris Center. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Les Pecheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers), Live in HD

Les Pêcheurs de PerlesGrinnell College will stream six of the Metropolitan Opera’s productions live and in high-definition from January through April at the Harris Center Cinema, 1114 10th Ave., Grinnell.

The Met celebrates its 10th anniversary of “Live-in-HD” movie theater transmissions this season, starting the New Year with Georges Bizet’s Les Pecheurs de Perles at noon on Saturday, Jan. 16. Don Smith, professor emeritus of history at Grinnell College, will give an opera talk at 11:30 a.m. at the Harris Center.

Set in the Far East, Les Pecheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers), centers on Leila, the beautiful Hindu priestess courted by competing pearl divers. Soprano Diana Damrau stars as the priestess with tenor Matthew Polenzani and baritone Mariusz Kwiecien as her suitors. Gianandrea Noseda conducts the opera, which will grace the Met’s stage for the first time in 100 years.

Four of the next five broadcasts will feature opera talks by faculty and staff members.

All of the talks will start at 11:30 a.m. in the Harris Center Cinema. Each live broadcast will begin at noon.

The five additional spring semester operas are:

Puccini’s Turandot
Saturday, Jan. 30
Set in “legendary” China and featuring characters that wander from Italy to China, the opera satirizes Venetian politics. Nina Stemme stars as the Princess Turandot, who rejects every suitor until Marco Berti, as Calaf, steals her heart.
Soprano Randye Jones, a doctoral student in vocal literature at the University of Iowa and media room supervisor at Burling Library, will give the opera talk.
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut
Saturday, March 5
The opera tells the story of desperate love, starring soprano Kristine Opolais as a country girl who transforms herself into a Parisian seductress, and Jonas Kaufmann as the student who tries to win her love.
Jennifer Brown, associate professor of music, will present the opera talk.
Puccini’s Madam Butterfly
Saturday, April 2
Madam Butterfly is set in the Japanese port city of Nagasaki, one of the country’s only ports open to foreign ships. Soprano Kristine Opolais stars in the title role and has her heart broken by naval officer Pinkerton, portrayed by tenor Roberto Alagna.
Mariko Schimmel, associate professor of Japanese, will deliver the opera talk.
Gaetano Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux
Saturday, April 16
Set in Westminster Palace in London between 1599 and 1601, the opera follows Queen Elizabeth I as she is compelled to sign the death warrant of the nobleman she loves, Robert Devereux. Soprano Sandra Radvanovsky plays Queen Elizabeth I, and tenor Matthew Polenzani portrays Devereux.
There will be no opera talk before this broadcast.
Richard Strauss’s Elektra
Saturday, April 30
Originally set in Greece after the Trojan War, this production is modernized to an unspecified contemporary setting. Soprano Nina Stemme, a maven of Strauss and Wagner’s heroines, stars as Elektra as she works to avenge her the murder of her father, Agamemnon.
Angelo Mercado, assistant professor of classics, will present the opera talk.

Refreshments will be available for sale in the lobby of the cinema before each opera and during intermission.

Tickets are available at the Pioneer Bookshop, the Grinnell College Bookstore and at the door on the day of the show. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, children, and Met Opera members.

The Office of the President has generously funded tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff and students, and tickets are available for free at all locations. Family members not employed by the College are required to purchase tickets.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Visitor and accessible parking is available in the lot to the east of the Harris Center. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

New Exhibitions Feature Feminist, Siberian Art

Beverly Semmes, RC 2014

Beverly Semmes, "RC" 2014. Velvet, 119 x 35 in. Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College Art Collection.

Building on its last exhibition theme of asking questions, Grinnell College's Faulconer Gallery will be showing a variety of feminist works alongside a collection of historic Russian photographs.

These exhibitions provoke inquiry from artists and viewers alike, including questions such as "Are feminists supposed to support open depictions of sexuality?" and "What can photographs of rural Siberia teach us about Russian society and history?"

The simultaneous exhibitions, "Beverly Semmes: FRP" and "Siberia: In the Eyes of Russian Photographers," open Friday, Jan. 29, with a reception from 4 to 5 p.m. at Faulconer Gallery in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. The exhibitions and opening reception, which includes refreshments, are free and open to the public.

"Both exhibitions present critiques of contemporary assumptions about gender politics, landscape, history, and everyday life," said Lesley Wright, director of the Faulconer Gallery.

In her Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP), Semmes simultaneously conceals, reveals, and otherwise colorfully intervenes in pornographic scenes from vintage Hustler and Penthouse magazines. The exhibition also features Semmes’s striking work in other media: glass, ceramic, and video, as well as three of her signature dress pieces, including one acquired by the Faulconer Gallery in 2014. This exhibition is co-organized with the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College.

"Siberia: In the Eyes of Russian Photographers" is a geographical portrait that has the potential to alter stereotypes about a famously remote region. The photographs, taken by Siberians, span more than 130 years, from the late 19th century to the present. The images include rural and urban scenes, landscapes, native peoples, agriculture, and industry, Russian frontier settlements, the Gulag, religion, and everyday life, and offer an insider’s view of unique and often isolated places.

The project is timely as Siberia's role grows on a world stage. The region's military, political, and economic possibilities have intrigued individuals and nations for centuries. They do so now with renewed vigor as Siberia's energy and mineral resources and strategic location draw global attention.

Leah Bendavid-Val curated the traveling exhibition, organized by Foundation for International Arts & Education (FIAE) and presented in honor of Greg Guroff, (1941-2012), who held a doctorate in history, founded FIAE, and also taught Russian history at Grinnell College from 1968 to 1977.

Programs and Events

The exhibitions, which continue through March 20, include a variety of free public programs and events, all in Faulconer Gallery unless otherwise noted. For the complete listing, visit Faulconer Gallery. Highlights include:

Gallery Talk: "The Political Construction of Siberia: Geography, Industry, and Identity in Post-Soviet Russia"
By Assistant Professor of Political Science Danielle Lussier.
Feb. 4, 4 p.m.
20 Minutes @ 11: "Doing it right? Feminist approaches to sex, censorship, and pornography"
By Assistant Professor of Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies, Leah Allen,
Feb. 16 at 11 a.m.
Special Event: "Russia and the West: Conflict, Diplomacy and the Future"
By retired U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle and Eric Green ’85, Director of Russian Affairs, U.S. Department of State.
Beyrle and Green will discuss Russia's evolving and complicated relations with the West during a dialogue moderated by Associate Professor of History Ed Cohn.
Feb. 24, 4 p.m.
Bad Feminists/Bad Critics: A Sex Wars Debate
Featuring Grinnell students from two sections of Allen's senior seminar in gender, women's and sexuality studies, who will explore pro- and anti-censorship feminism.
March 1, 4 p.m.
Slavic Coffeehouse and Maslenitsa Celebration
Hosted by the Russian Department with sweet and savory ethnic foods prepared by faculty and students available for purchase at a nominal cost in the Bucksbaum Center.
Attendees will celebrate Maslenitsa, which marks the end of winter and the beginning of Lent, by eating blini (Russian crepes) that represent the sun and burning a chuchelo (scarecrow), a symbol of winter.
Outside the Bucksbaum Center, March 5, 5:30-7 p.m.
Gallery Talk: Beverly Semmes on her Feminist Responsibility Project
A chance to hear from the artist herself about her career as a feminist artist.
March 8, 4 p.m.

Both exhibitions will be on view through March 20. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and admission is free.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Bucksbaum Center for the Arts has accessible parking in the lot behind the building north of Sixth Avenue. You can request accommodations from the Faulconer Gallery or Conference Operations and Events.

Lilianna Bagnoli ’15 Earns Clinton Fellowship in India

Lilianna Bagnoli ’15 is one of 35 young professionals from India and the United States to receive the American India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in 2015.

The fellowship matches participants with leading nongovernmental organizations and social enterprises in India for 10 months to accelerate impact and create effective projects that promote civil society, development, and social justice. To help build a lasting bridge between the United States and India, the Clinton Fellowship has expanded to incorporate young professional Indians to work side by side with fellows from the United States.

Bagnoli works in New Delhi with Social Cops, a social enterprise that collects and analyzes data to highlight critical issues in India such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure. She then collaborates with other NGOs and representatives from government to organize and execute development initiatives to address issues highlighted by the data collected.

Bagnoli's enthusiasm for the role of research to inform social initiatives in the developing world stems from the international immersion experiences she had in Ghana and India while a student at Grinnell. In the summer of 2013 she interned with Challenging Heights in Winneba, Ghana. The anti-child trafficking organization received a $100,000 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize in 2011.

She devoted much of 2014 to pursuing academic coursework and Hindi language instruction in India. She also interned with the Akanksha Foundation, conducting a policy review of the school's educational methodology.

Bagnoli received a Wilson Grant from Grinnell College for an internship with Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd. in Mumbai, where she served on the corporate social responsibility team.

After returning to Grinnell College, Bagnoli furthered her interests in corporate social responsibility and the informal economy through independent studies. She used Geographic Information Systems to visually illustrate her analysis of informal labor activity, presenting her research at the Central States Anthropology Society Conference and the spring 2015 Grinnell College Student Research Symposium.

A native of Berea, Kentucky, Bagnoli graduated in 2015 from Grinnell College, where she received honors in International Development Studies. She also founded Students for Equality in Education and served as senior gift class chair and philanthropy chair of the Student Alumni Council.

After completing the Clinton Fellowship, Bagnoli hopes to work in South Asia and continue to use data to inform development efforts, especially those related to the informal economy and economic development.