From the beginning, we have had a lot of talented students in support and development: Yasir Mehboob ‘03, Yaw Nti-Addae ‘04, Kabenla Armah '04, Jingsheng Wang '08, Mark Root-Whiley '09, Tianqi Zhang '11 and Doug Dobrzynski '13, to name the main ones. Not only do the students bring their talent and energy to the process, but they also give us live feedback about the site. They help us not to become stale, to keep our minds open, to never rest. Hopefully, working with us help our students as well: Yasir is now Senior Consultant at Deloitte; Yaw is a software developer with Dow Chemical; Kabenla is a programmer at Wilhelm Imaging Research; Mark has started MRW Web Design, a company specializing in web design for non-profits, and Sheng is the president of INSReady, software company in Shanghai, China, and also, incidentally, a huge TV Star. Qi is in graduate school UW Madisson (unfortunately, in chemistry, not web!) Doug is (luckily) still with us, and we foresee a great future for him already.
Basically, it all started in 2001. Before then, Grinnell didn’t have a website. Well, it did have a web presence, but it was really a collection of unrelated web pages, maintained mostly in Dreamweaver. In 2001, we came up with a system to manage a more unified website, and give it some coherence. We didn’t know then that the type of system we have developed would be soon called “a content management system” (CMS), and that using various CMSs would soon become a de-facto standard in the web world.
But back then, we were happy. We were on the cutting edge. When we switched to 641 area code from 515, it only took seconds to replace it throughout the entire site, which by then had grown substantially. But our own CMS, while way more efficient than the “old ways” had several substantial flaws. First, it was PC-only. Second, you had to be on campus to use it. Most importantly, it completely relied on work and talent of a very small number of people. Finally, we just couldn’t catch up. We were completely in support mode, spending all our effort on patching and fixing bugs. Meanwhile, the world evolved, and so did technology. It was time for us to move on.
If you’re a student-athlete (emphasis on “student”), you will almost certainly love it at Grinnell. Sure, depending on your sport, you can find higher levels of athletic competition at other schools, but to find a place where you can be encouraged to excel in the classroom just as much as you excel on the field (or in the pool or on the court) is a much rarer phenomenon. The key to Grinnell’s success in both the academic and athletic spheres is the support the athletes receive not just from teammates and coaches, but also from professors and the student body at large. All these people care about my development as a human being and push me on multiple levels to achieve beyond my expectations.
I know that at some schools, being a “jock” would be all that defined me, but at Grinnell, people recognize that’s not all I am. Even if I spend much of my time at the athletic center, no one’s stopping me from exploring additional facets of campus life. I get to be a student, a tour guide, a writer, a varsity athlete, and anything else I feel like pursuing, all at once. It’s kind of liberating, knowing that people will let you be you.
And it’s personal here. You can see it in the class sizes (the student to teacher ratio is about 10:1) and within our athletic programs, too. My senior year of high school, when I was applying to colleges, I filled out maybe a dozen athletic inquiries online. In response, I received mostly generic, automated messages thanking me for my interest. But within 24 hours of sending my information to Grinnell, the head volleyball coach e-mailed me personally with some additional questions, like: What was I looking for from a college athletic experience? What was my philosophy of the game? He recommended I come to Iowa and experience the Grinnell community for myself.
I remember that word specifically: “community.” It has been the most relevant word in the last three years of my life while at college. Before I was even officially enrolled at Grinnell, the volleyball and softball teams made me feel welcome with personal e-mails and phone calls. Once I was here, I became part of a culture in which literally everything is an all-campus community event, where everyone, even the soonto- be-graduating seniors, cares about supporting his or her fellow students.
It really hit me during the last home volleyball game of the 2009 season. Looking up into the stands, I realized the gym was packed, vibrating with the crowd’s energy. But it wasn’t only other athletes who came out to support us, and it wasn’t just the student section that was crowded — professors, dining services and facilities management employees, the president of the College, and people from town who had no discernible connection to anyone on the team all turned out for our match, some with painted signs, some with painted bodies. Buoyed by this incredible support system, we won every one of our home conference games that season.
At Grinnell, you don’t have to choose between great athletics and high-quality academics. You can have both, plus a couple thousand people cheering you on the whole way.
Erin Labasan '11 is a Psychology Major from Neotsu, OR.
Author: Lindsay Dennis '08
After spending last summer working as a cashier for a Safeway grocery store in Portland, Ore., I was very adamant about finding a more intellectually stimulating (and less customer service related) occupation for the summer of 2007. From the beginning of my third year, I had been planning to apply for summer research in psychology at Grinnell. I waited for an e-mail from the psychology department notifying me how and when to apply, but no such e-mail was forthcoming.
I got impatient and started trying to look up said information on the school’s website. To my absolute horror, I found that the deadline to apply for summer research was the previous day. I frantically e-mailed my adviser, asking if it would be possible to get an extension, only to be told that the psychology department wasn’t actually hosting any research assistants this summer because of the Noyce construction. My heart sank, and I began to mull over alternate possibilities for summer employment. Perhaps I could wait tables or make pizzas (I do have an extensive background in food service). None of these options sounded very appealing, but I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to spend another summer watching TV at my parents’ house.
In a stroke of tremendous luck, I received a different e-mail the next day saying that psychology professors were, in fact, hosting researchers, and that the application deadline had been extended to the following Monday. Alone in my room, I squealed with joy at my renewed possibilities for academic employment. I quickly but carefully filled out applications for each available research position.
Then, I waited. And waited. And, just for good measure, I waited a little bit more. By the time spring break rolled around, I had pretty much resigned myself to flipping burgers or sprinkling cheese on dough once again. Just as I was about to hit the maximum freak-out point — stuck in April with absolutely no summer plans — I received an e-mail from Professor David Lopatto offering me a position as a summer researcher. In less than a day, I had managed to go from intense stress and disappointment to ecstatic joy. I was going to get paid to do psychology!
Throughout the course of this summer, I have been working with Professor Lopatto and another student, studying the epistemological and vocational impact of the summer research experience on undergraduate students. Yes, you read that correctly. My summer research project is to study other summer research students. We began by reading a series of articles on previous empirical studies in this field, which was a very strange experience. My first day as a summer researcher, I was reading about how the research experience helps students solidify their graduate school plans, increase their sense of belonging to the scientific (or, more broadly, academic) community, and improve their research and communication skills. I had to wonder, would I be receiving all of these same benefits, even though my project was somewhat more unorthodox? Or, would knowing these were the things that were supposed to happen to me prevent them from actually happening? (I mean, a watched pot never boils, right?)
I became more and more interested in the topic. I’ve even caught myself referencing articles about the various stages of epistemological development in casual conversation with my friends. Fortunately, they are all Grinnellians and are willing to put up with my massive nerdiness (with the implicit agreement that I won’t judge them when they excitedly bring up obscure historical details about the Civil War Reconstruction period).
Summer in Grinnell does have the occasional setback. Hot, humid days without air conditioning, the responsibility of having to pay rent and feed myself, and the lovely task of researching in the science library as the cacophony of construction occurs not 20 feet away spring to mind. However, I am still extremely grateful to have been offered this opportunity, and I’m very appreciative of the fact that Grinnell does such as excellent job of providing research experience to its students.
Lindsay Dennis '08 is a Psychology major from Beaverton, Oregon.
Going to college is a big step. When I arrived on Grinnell’s campus as an enthusiastic first-year, I was filled with grandiose visions of the four years that lay ahead. I was eager to immerse myself in the exciting world of higher learning and embrace a new lifestyle. I was ready to become an adult and use the liberal arts education to forge a new identity. I was so caught up in these romantic musings that the simplest of adjustments took me completely off-guard. For the first time in my life, I had to use the Internet!
At first, the challenges of navigating the World Wide Web addled my brain. I don’t doubt that most prospective college students practically think in 0s and 1s. However, there must be a few others out there who have never been to JSTOR or attached a word document to an e-mail. In order to deal with the pressures of college’s technological requirements, some Internet virgins seek refuge in a few frivolous websites. This is understandable; we college students spend so much time in front of a computer screen, it’s healthy to have a few recreational outlets. Internet procrastination seems harmless, but it can be devastating if conducted improperly. Having wasted many hours surfing the web instead of writing papers, I consider myself a procrastinator extraordinaire. I feel compelled to impart some of this hallowed knowledge to future Grinnellians, lest their souls become trapped in the “about me” sections of their Facebook profiles. To this end, I will tell you about a little website called Grinnell Plans.
In January of this year, Plans was reported to have 3,809 members, consisting of current students, alumni, and some faculty, staff members, and, by invitation, other friends of the College. Much like Facebook and MySpace, Plans is a virtual community consisting of individual profiles. However, Plans is different from these run-of-the-mill time-wasters. For one, the profiles are not little boxes for filling in your favorites. Plans members’ pages are akin to blogs: full of opinions, anecdotes, and unadulterated expression. Reading my classmates’ Plans lets me know what’s going on in their lives on a day-to-day basis. This allows me to actually learn about people as unique individuals, as opposed to reducing them to a list of their favorite things, and it can actually inspire real social interactions. In fact, my friend’s witty Plan impressed an admirer so much, she asked him on a date. Surely it’s better to ask someone out because of their scintillating wit, and not simply because he or she is listed as “single” and looks hot in the profile pic.
Facebook claims to be a social networking site, but I consider it a source of insecurity and a vehicle for divisiveness. Friend counts encourage people to quantify their social worth. Exclusive events can make people feel left out. Basically, sites like Facebook and MySpace perpetuate the social dynamics that govern junior high. As a college student, you should seek to expand your social horizons and develop mature relationships with people. Plans fosters this type of social growth by allowing you to connect with the people in your life in meaningful ways. Digital socializing will never replace face-to-face interactions, but in today’s fast-paced world, technology is central to communication. This doesn’t mean we need to interact as robots.
In light of this, I exhort you to spend two minutes on Plans for every minute on Facebook. Wasting time is too important of an activity to be carried out poorly.
Patrick Laine '08 is a Philosophy major from St. Paul, Minnesota.
Most Americans watched events at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, unfold from afar. One Grinnell senior’s own initiative took him to Copenhagen last December to attend the conference in person. Nathan Pavlovic ’10 calls the experience “eye-opening” in many ways.
The conference was an ideal extension of his academic interests, Pavlovic says, which include sustainability relating to the relationship between developed countries and the developing world. At the conference, he rubbed elbows with influential people, including former Vice-President Al Gore. President Barack Obama was also at the conference. “I learned that world leaders are human, too,” Pavlovic explains. “I think that we all too often think of decision makers as larger-than-life people, so to see them talking in person helped me put them in perspective.”
He believes his Grinnell experience gave him an advantage as he analyzed events at the conference. “My time at Grinnell has helped me develop the critical viewpoint that empowered me to question the motives and ideas of speakers at the conference, speakers who were far more ‘important’ than me,” Pavlovic says. “It was reassuring to realize that I’ve learned enough about the issues and politics to question what our leaders are saying and why they’re saying it.”
Pavlovic says, however, that attending the conference was somewhat disillusioning. He calls the process of negotiation “often undemocratic,” and he observed that NGOs were sometimes excluded from events. Pavlovic also cites frustration over what he calls the unwillingness of developed nations to help developing countries, where climate change is likely to have devastating effects. Overall, though, he still found it valuable to gain a fresh perspective. “I've developed a more nuanced and complete understanding of climate change as a political issue rather than a scientific one,” he says.
Back in Grinnell, Pavlovic plans to reach beyond campus and work with the city to both inform individuals and motivate action. He will make a campus presentation and lead a discussion forum, and he also plans to initiate meetings with city leaders and local high school and college student groups. He believes it is critical for the next generation to be engaged in the politics of climate change, so he hopes his program at the high school will help build a significant interest in climate change policy.
Pavlovic was also featured on an episode of The Exchange on Iowa Public Radio in December. The host spoke to Pavlovic in Copenhagen via Skype. “I had expected to maybe have a few short sound bites, but instead they let me talk for 10 or 15 minutes,” he says. “I was pleased at how interested they were in my experiences.”
Pavlovic recognizes he faces a challenge. “Without the resolve of a definitive agreement from the Copenhagen Conference, it’s harder to move forward,” he says. Nevertheless, the conference taught him much about the value of local action, and he is excited to help build upon the commitment to confront climate change.
Issue: Winter 2009
Almost everyone has had that experience — you’re running, or swimming, or working out in the gym. Your mind is relaxed, you’re working hard, and thinking of nothing in particular — when the perfect solution to that exasperating problem magically materializes in your mind.
There seems to be a deep connection between physical fitness and mental fitness. Each supports the other — neither exists as well alone.
We at Grinnell believe so strongly in this mind-body connection that athletics and fitness have become significant elements of the liberal arts experience here — for all the members of our community.
This firm belief in the value of a sound body and a disciplined mind has been around at Grinnell for a long time — in fact, President George Augustus Gates said it in his inaugural address in 1887: “First, a sound body. … I believe thoroughly in the cultivation and encouragement of college athletics of all sorts. In the gymnasium and on the campus, games and sports, rivalries, field days are a tremendous education power.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
President Gates placed a sound body first among the elements of a complete education, and students at Grinnell College today are living proof of this statement’s continued relevance. The women and men who compete and participate in intercollegiate sports, club sports, and personal fitness programs at Grinnell today are engaging in a vital part of their liberal arts education. Participation in athletics doesn’t detract from what goes on in the classroom — on the contrary, many scholar-athletes say the time they spend on their sports makes them more disciplined and focused in their studies.
A dedication to wellness and the quality of life is another of the hallmarks of life in Grinnell. I’m proud to say that it’s reflected in my title: director of athletics and recreation. Students, faculty, and staff (and alumni back for Reunion and other alumni events) can take advantage of the state-of-the-art wellness facilities offered in the new fitness center, including an extensive assortment of strength-training and cardio equipment. Next year, Phase II of the Athletic and Fitness Center will be complete, opening up many new opportunities for the college community. Townspeople, too, can become members of the fitness center, and through membership with Grinnell Parks and Recreation they can utilize the pool and racquetball courts.
We’re really excited about the new facility, created through a unique partnership by two renowned architectural firms, Cesar Pelli and Associates and Sasaki Associates Inc. Those of us on campus watch the construction site north of 10th Avenue as it changes on an almost daily basis. Our new state-of-the-art fieldhouse and natatorium will give our teams a great venue for competition, but they also offer a place for intramural teams, spectators, and people who just want to stay in shape. Many students participate in activities such as dance and club sports, including Ultimate Frisbee and water polo. GORP, the Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program, offers students many opportunities to take part in outdoor activities such as sailing, climbing, and kayaking. Through all these pursuits and more, students have fun while they stay in shape, burn off stress, and make new friends.
Community is a key word in any discussion of athletics and recreation at Grinnell. I see the new Athletic and Fitness Center as a gathering place for the entire community — students, faculty, and staff — where we can meet and get to know one another in the “friendly confines” of the College’s beautiful new facility. In my life I’ve seen that a little sweat and healthy competition can remove many barriers to friendship — I believe that Grinnell’s athletic facilities can bring people together and strengthen our already tight college community.
Grinnell’s richly storied athletic history is something a lot of alumni know well from their own student experiences, whether as competitors or fans. Athletics provide a way for Grinnellians to stay connected across the generations. I am grateful that the College, its trustees, and its alumni have remained committed to our new facilities even through recent economic upheavals, and I invite everyone to help us bring this project to a successful conclusion. If you can make a gift, please do so (http://www.grinnell.edu/car/dev/pioneerfund/ways). You will be a part of a centuries-long tradition of athletics and the liberal arts.
J.B. Grinnell is a towering figure in the history of Grinnell, Iowa. Josiah Bushnell Grinnell -- better known as J.B. -- was born in Vermont in 1821. He grew up a farm boy, working in the fields in the spring and summer and attending school only in the winter. He learned quickly and began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse by the age of 16. After spending a few years teaching, he left Vermont to attend Oneida Institute in New York, a radical institution that opposed slavery. It was there that Grinnell became a staunch abolitionist. He would remain vocally opposed to slavery for his whole life -- even founding the town of Grinnell based on this tenet. He once hosted abolitionist John Brown in Grinnell as Brown was bringing several freed slaves along the Underground Railroad to Canada. After leaving Oneida, Grinnell cycled through many jobs. He studied with a physician and considered a medical career, but then decided to head into the Wisconsin Territory to discover and survey new tracts of land. He went west with the American Tract Society, a religious organization, and while working with this group, he decided to go into the ministry. Returning east, Grinnell settled in Washington, D.C., after being ordained in New York. He started the First Congregationalist Church there and gave the first anti-slavery sermon the city had ever heard. Most people in Washington were strong supporters of slavery at the time, and Grinnell was forced to leave the city because of his opinions. Although the story may be apocryphal, it is said that Grinnell heeded the famous advice to "Go west young man," delivered to him by politician and friend Horace Greeley. At any rate, Grinnell did set out again for uncharted territory. He enlisted the help of Homer Hamlin, a minister; Henry Hamilton, a surveyor; and Dr. Thomas Holyoke to find a location for a new settlement. They looked at different locations in the Midwest, including Minnesota and Missouri, but decided on the divide between the Iowa and Skunk rivers, where the east/west and north/south Rock Island railways were set to cross. On this site, the city of Grinnell was founded. J.B. Grinnell and his three companions commenced building the settlement in 1854 with three temporary log cabins. They began to sell land for $1.62 an acre, and the town quickly grew. The one stipulation on all the deeds sold was that alcohol could never be sold or consumed on any of the properties, as Grinnell strongly opposed the use of alcohol. This rule was upheld for many years, until a court overruled it. With the founding of the town, Grinnell also founded "Grinnell University," although it was a university only in name. He created a board of trustees and listed all the members of town as professors. No buildings were ever built, nor classes held, but after J.B. Grinnell persuaded Iowa College to move to Grinnell from Davenport, Iowa, all of Grinnell University was signed over to the Trustees of Iowa College. Grinnell went on to serve in Congress, where his abolitionist stance often put his life in danger. After winning re-election twice, he lost a third bid and moved back to Grinnell. He remained there until his death in 1891 from bronchitis and asthma after a trip through Texas into Mexico.
Carmen Valentin, newly tenured in Grinnell's Spanish department, also has scholarly and personal interests on two continents -- in her case, Europe and North America. A native of Spain, she received B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Hispanic philology at the University of Valladolid, and cut her teeth as an instructor by teaching the university's courses in Spanish for foreign students.
That she received her doctorate in philology -- the study of the origins of language -- would suggest Valentin came into her area of study through a passion for the nuts and bolts of Spanish. She agrees readily. However, the path she has taken into a deeper understanding of Spanish has led through poetry.
More specifically, she has studied poetry and commentary in Aljamia, a system of writing the Sephardic Jews of the Iberian Peninsula began using during the Middle Ages to write Spanish using the Hebrew alphabet. The Sephardim kept this tradition alive in the new settlements they established in the Ottoman Empire after they were expelled from Spain by an edict of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492.
"The Ottoman Empire was tolerant of other people who worshiped differently, and their communities were permitted to keep their traditions and culture intact," Valentin says. "This included the use of Aljamia."
This formerly Spanish community of Jews continued to use their Middle-Ages Spanish, which then began to evolve linguistically along different lines from the language of Spain -- hence Valentin's interest as a philologist.
"The literary texts the Judeo-Spanish created are the best tool scholars have today to study the evolution of the language," she says. "After their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula, the Sephardim wrote a literature exclusively in Hebrew, reserving Aljamia for mere translations of the Bible, prayer books, treatises on morality, and collections of precepts. We know of only a few Aljamia texts from the 16th century that have no biblical content. The language is barely different from the Spanish spoken at that time in Spain. The 18th century really marks the time when the Sephardim start writing original works in Judeo-Spanish."
Valentin first began to look at a group of poems called coplas and a body of rabbinical commentary called the Me'am Lo'ez. These texts provided a window through which she could look at how Spanish changed under the extreme pressures of exile and encirclement by the dominant Ottoman culture. For her dissertation, Valentin transliterated -- that is, systematically converted Hebrew characters into corresponding Latin characters -- those coplas that had moral content.
"The coplas are the first original poetic expression in Judeo-Spanish, (and) the Me'am Lo'ez is the first narrative," Valentin says. "Both were born to help the rabbis teach the Judaic religious foundations to Jews who could not understand sacred readings written in Hebrew, such as Midrash and Talmud."
It was a wide open area when she began. Almost no other scholar of Spanish had been interested in either the Judeo-Spanish exiles or the body of literature they had produced. Part of the problem lay with the peculiarities of Aljamia itself: the texts, since they were written using Hebrew letters, were mostly ignored by scholars who, though they might have been experts on the Spanish language, mostly could not read Hebrew.
"This has been one of the unknown parts of Hispanic literature," Valentin says. She was fortunate in her mentors. She was introduced to Jacob Hassan, one of the foremost Spanish scholars in the world, who took her under his wing and taught her transliteration.
Though Valentin's field of study has gotten more crowded of late, that's fine with her. She's moved on from the coplas and into uncharted territory again, studying gender and language in Sephardic drama, examining women's representation in these works.
She finds Grinnell the perfect place to do such exacting work: safe, quiet, relaxed -- something she and her husband, Santi, who is an architect, value for themselves and their son Sergio, who's nearly 5 -- and with diligent students who're likely to be interested in more than acing that day's quiz on declension.
"At Grinnell I've learned that what the students were expecting of me as a professor was that I not only be the person who taught them the material, but also that I be a person who could talk to them outside of class," she says. "Really, that was not my experience in Spain. Many of the students here are willing to be challenged. They're motivated, willing to accept risks, and they attach more importance to what they are learning than just getting a good grade.
Shuchi Kapila believes that English is an academic discipline that is anything but merely academic.
"By the time I got to university, the study of English had become a cutting-edge discipline," she says. "I felt that in studying English I would be doing something to change the world of ideas."
Kapila, who grew up in Chandrigarh and New Delhi, came of age intellectually and academically during a time of foment in Indian society, when the roles of women and questions of class were being re-examined from bottom to top.
"The best work in developing world feminism to date came out during the '80s, when I was in college," she says. "It brought together language, ideology, and the law, and the place of women really opened up in these debates. And there was a strong belief that the theoretical skills you acquired by studying English could be used to study the body of culture. I could see that the ideas I was learning about were going to go somewhere."
Kapila received a B.A. in English at the University of New Delhi, in preparation -- as she thought at the time -- for a career in journalism. She even took the exams necessary to winning an internship with theTimes of India.
"They called and said, '"Well, we're waiting for you to come down and do an interview,'" she says. "And I found I just didn't want to." Instead, she went on to complete an M.A. and M.Phil. in English at New Delhi, then became a lecturer at Miranda House, which she refers to as "India's Smith." It was the education she received from her colleagues there, as much as anything else, which confirmed her in her choice of profession.
"There were some amazing women on the faculty there who were reading theory and feminism and making all these wonderful connections," she says. "I remember in particular one Woman's Day, when I was in Calcutta, there was a scholar at Jadavpur -- a Shakespeare scholar -- who went to this park and addressed a crowd of women workers in Bengali, on the history of the women's rights movements from Victorian England to the present day. She was doing all her scholarly work on Shakespeare in English and then she was able to go to a park and do her speech in Bengali, and I formed the idea then that this was the type of versatility that I would like to develop."
Kapila concluded that developing the skills to help her realize this ambition would require her to leave India. She sent out her applications and ultimately decided to do her Ph.D. work at Cornell University.
"It seemed like it would be an adventure," she says. "I'd be able to work with people who'd done all this interesting theoretical work, and be away from my family for the first time -- truly afloat and independent. I thought I'd certainly go back after five years."
But life, as has been famously observed, is what happens when you're making other plans. While at Cornell, she met another Indian grad student, Shankar Subramaniam, a mechanical engineer whom she eventually married and with whom she had daughter Shivani, now 3-1/2 years old. And while she was undergoing changes abroad, change was continuing apace at home.
"I went back in the middle of my Ph.D. work and tried to find a job," she says. "But the university system is changing rapidly in India, and I had been away from it for a while. Here in the U.S., I was in the pipeline; I went on the job market, and after a few years I found a position at Kenyon."
Kapila found she loved teaching at a liberal arts college. However, as so often happens with academic couples, there was nothing close by for her husband. They kept their eyes open and finally a pair of positions opened in relative proximity: a slot for her at Grinnell, a slot for him at Iowa State University. Grinnell's status as one of Kenyon's peer institutions made the move an easy one, at least in concept.
"The reasons I got into the study of English are also the reasons I'm happy as a teacher at a liberal arts school," she says. "What's most exciting for me is when I'm able to talk about these connections and produce a moment in the classroom when everyone is able to see how language and social movements are implicated in each other. When I teach post-colonial literature here, I'm always talking about culture, politics, society, literature and difference -- as in how we structure our world."
Kapila's scholarship is one more extension of this life spent connecting things together -- continents, peoples, histories, languages, and literatures. Her main project now is to finish the manuscript for Educating Seeta: Family Romances of British India.
In more concrete and personal terms, Kapila's interest in various enclaves of people -- religious groups, racially distinct groups, gender, classes, caste -- and their interactions, positive and negative, is leading her to study the literature of the Indian partition, which emerged out of the political convulsion that severed the subcontinent from the British empire, creating India and Pakistan in the process. Kapila's mother's family was displaced during a the forced resettlement of Hindus and Muslims during this period, which cost around a million people their lives in what amounted to a bilateral genocide. Her grandparents arrived in New Delhi after having been displaced from what is now Pakistan, arriving penniless, and with little children in tow.
"The body of literature that has come out of the partition is large, and since the '80s and '90s, even more has been coming out," she says. "It's almost as if after 50 years, people feel comfortable talking about the major trauma of the subcontinent."
Kapila sees her changed status at Grinnell and changes in the world arena as helping her to press on, 17 years after she left India.
"What's made me happy recently is that, after a very long time, with globalization, the links and possibilities of travel and collaboration are greater," she says. "If it's possible to keep my feet planted on two continents, that's what I want to do."