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2009-2010 Focal Point Projects

Global Patterns of Sustainable Consumption

Co-organizers: Zsuzsa Gille (Sociology, faculty), Diana Mincyte (Advertising, visiting assistant professor), Grant Shoffstall, (Sociology, graduate student), Sasha Cuerda, (Geography, graduate student)

Sustainable development has been put forth as a model for continuing to address problems of global underdevelopment while also allowing for citizens in Western nations to maintain existing ways of life. Our group proposes to interrogate recent scholarship on sustainability through specific examination of various sustainable consumption practices. We will treat sustainable consumption as a relational, structural, and transnational issue, but also as one that depends greatly on the technologies in use and thus on the specific networks of humans and nonhumans. Such connections are best studied by fieldwork methods because only by immersing ourselves in the time and place of our informants—farmers, workers, activists, and consumers—can we see what social and material opportunities and constraints exist within a particular site for shepherding our consumption patterns towards sustainability.

Specific research topics within our group include the configuration of power within contemporary supermarket supply chains, the development of consumer oriented metrics such as carbon footprint, notions of eating as an act of conservation particularly with respect to rare livestock breeds, transport in a “post-automobility system”, the emergence of consumption as an explicitly moral practice, the explosion of interest in home organization and time management systems, current challenges in US sewage management particularly in light of recent evidence of pharmaceutical resides within municipal water supplies, and finally the socio-material constraints to sustainable consumption in post-Communist Eastern Europe.

In addition to developing research projects which draw upon a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, we will develop a methodological approach to sustainable consumption useful to graduate students working across social science and humanities disciplines. Our research year will culminate in a research symposium highlighting innovative scholarship on sustainable consumption from the US, Canada, and Europe.

InfoStructure: Intersections Between Social and Technological Systems

Co-organizers: Aimee Rickman (Human and Community Development, graduate student), Matthew Crain (Institute of Communications Research, graduate student), ShinJoung Yeo (Graduate School of Library and Information Science, graduate student), Christian Sandvig (Communication and Coordinated Science Laboratory, faculty), Kyratso Karahalios (Computer Science, faculty)

InfoStructure is a Focal Point project proposed by graduate students interested in technological systems, information and society. This project will bring together participants from FAA, LAS, Engineering, ACES, and Media Studies to examine the ways in which technology reflects and engenders possibilities and constraints for human relations and social action. Designed to complement two upcoming colloquia that explore aspects of this topic, InfoStructure will expand on those public events by facilitating meaningful cross-disciplinary research activity through a year-long seminar on a series of structured subtopics and an additional speaker series.

Incarceration in America: Exploring Carceral Landscapes

Co-organizers: Patrick Berry (English, graduate student), Rebecca Ginsburg (Landscape Architecture, faculty), Rob Scott (EPS, graduate student), William Sullivan (Landscape Architecture, faculty)

Our Focal Point seminar consists of faculty and graduate students from across campus, representing three colleges, who share a commitment to better understanding the nexus between education, incarceration, poverty, and crime in modern America. We speak in terms of “carceral landscapes,” for the term landscapes captures the extent and reach of the problem of incarceration. In that one can speak not only of physical landscapes, but also of political, social, emotional, and historic ones, it conveys the comprehensiveness and depth of the problem. It also draws attention to the systemic nature of the problem of incarceration, as landscapes are best understood as integrated systems that must be disentangled if they are to be understood and then repaired. One of our goals is to set the groundwork for a new interdisciplinary (though based in Landscape Architecture) seminar on carceral landscapes.

Law and Society in China (1800s-present)

Co-organizers: Shao Dan (EALC, faculty), Andrew Morriss (Law, faculty); Xue Ying (JSD student), Jin Gong (EALC, graduate student). Consultant: Charlotte Ku (Law, Assistant Dean)

The proposed project on “Law and Society in China (1644-present)” (hereafter as LSC) aims at transferring knowledge between the domains of Law and East Asian Studies through collaborative teaching, research, and studying. The increasing challenges in this globalized world require our generation of scholars and students to understand and communicate across not only national borders but also disciplinary demarcation lines. Whether it is the Chinese misunderstanding of the US nationality law based on jus sori in the early 20th century, the Chinese-US collaboration in defining terrorism after the 9-11, different approaches to financial regulation and monetary policy, or China’s promulgation of its first Securities Law in 2004, mutual understanding is essential to the increasingly interactive relationship between the two countries. We must cultivate the ability to identify problems arising from globalization and understand macro phenomenon from the local patterns including the influence of recent history.

To promote active conversation and collaboration between Law and East Asian Studies programs on UIUC campus, this project will create boundary-crossing opportunities for both faculty and doctoral students to step out of our routine research zones, to teach students how to trace historical roots of contemporary legal problems in and about China, and to analyze Chinese history through legal documents, as well as to identify problems about cultural differences in people’s conceptualization of the interrelationships between law and society.

The sub-topics to be covered in the LSC project during the year 2009-2010 will include: History of Chinese Legal Concepts and Systems; Chinese adoption of western laws; Comparative Studies of Law and Borderlands in China and the United States; and financial integration within boundaries and across boundaries in both China and the United States. 

Social Interaction and Communicative Competence: Integrating Theory and Clinical Practice

Co-organizers: Julie A. Hengst (Speech and Hearing Science, faculty), Laura DeThorne (Speech and Hearing Science, faculty),  Joshua Hailpern (Computer Science, graduate student); Amie King (Speech and Hearing Science, graduate student)

This Focal Point project is designed to enhance and make visible the translational work of bridging research and clinical practice as well as the practical work of engaging in interdisciplinary team development around the issues that link communicative competence, social interaction and communication disorders. Communicative competence provides the foundation for all aspects of human social interaction, from learning in schools and functioning at work to engaging in family life and participating as citizens in public spaces. Communication disorders disrupt individuals’ abilities to meet their communication needs and manage social interactions, often compromising participation in social, recreational, emotional, educational, and vocational aspects of life. Communication disorders occur across the lifespan and are associated with a wide range of conditions that interfere with individuals’ abilities to hear (e.g., hearing loss), speak (e.g., voice disorders; motor speech disorders), use language (e.g., specific language impairment; aphasia), and/or manage non-linguistic aspects of communication (e.g., persons with autistic spectrum disorder; traumatic brain injury; depression; schizophrenia).

This project leverages ongoing collaborations among faculty, clinical instructors and graduate students from Computer Science, Human and Community Development, Special Education, and Speech and Hearing Science, in order to build formal (e.g., curricular) and informal (e.g., networking) infrastructure that will support graduate students and faculty in the ongoing development and assessment of evidence-based clinical practices related to communication disorders across the life span. It aims to enhance graduate students’ understanding of social interaction and communicative competence, their ability to engage in interdisciplinary teams, and hopefully their interest in pursuing advanced graduate work and research programs.

During the year, project members will meet weekly in either clinical team meetings or full project meetings and will host a summer capstone workshop.

Science, Technology & Security: New Institutions to Manage Global Security in the 21st Century

Co-organizers: Colin Flint (Geography, faculty and Director of Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security), Matthew Rosenstein (ACDIS, associate director), Richell Bernazzoli (Geography, graduate student), Steven Radil (Geography, graduate student), Sang-Hyun Chi (Geography, graduate student), Todd Robinson (Political Science, graduate student), Shweta Moorthy (Political Science, graduate student)

The project has two major components: a graduate seminar and an interdisciplinary graduate conference, both focusing on the myriad institutions that impact global security today. The seminar will consist of weekly lectures from ACDIS faculty members who are experts in such topics as nuclear deterrence, peacekeeping, and cyber security. The lectures and discussions will expose participating graduate students to areas of security studies well beyond their own fields and introduce them to the questions being asked and approaches taken to answering them in a number of disparate disciplines. Participating faculty members also stand to gain new ideas and perspectives by opening up their research and teaching interests to discussion with graduate students from diverse intellectual backgrounds. We will make the lectures and discussions accessible to the public by podcasting them on our project website, and advertising the podcasts on the ACDIS website.

The interdisciplinary graduate conference will bring together graduate students from Midwestern universities who specialize in aspects of international security. The goals of the conference are to: 1) consider the diverse methodological and theoretical approaches currently being applied to security studies; 2) establish an ongoing dialogue between scholars working on divergent aspects of security within varying disciplinary contexts; and 3) identify new and cutting-edge perspectives from which security-related topics are being explored. A selection of the conference papers will be published in a special edition of Swords and Ploughshares, the ACDIS periodic bulletin, which is distributed worldwide in print and online.

We anticipate that this project will have important outcomes for graduate education at the University of Illinois, primarily the development of a framework for a graduate certificate in security studies offered through ACDIS, as well as the identification of new topics to be covered in graduate seminars offered by ACDIS-affiliated departments and faculty.

Race and Campus Climate at the University of Illinois Research Seminar

Co-organizers: Stacy Harwood (Urban & Regional Planning, faculty), Ruby Mendenhall (Sociology and Afro-American Studies, faculty), Jioni Lewis (Educational Psychology, graduate student), Melvin Armstrong (Educational Policy Studies, graduate student)

Over the past few decades, college campuses have become increasingly racially and ethnically diverse. As a result, colleges and universities have initiated policies in order to increase racial representation on campuses and promote multicultural awareness and sensitivity in an effort to create an inclusive and diverse democracy on college campuses. Despite these advances, students of color continue to find college campuses unwelcoming (including the University of Illinois). Recent research suggests that subtle and even unconscious acts of racial harassment or microaggressions undermine campus efforts to promote an inclusive and diverse learning environment. Microaggressions include subtle insults (verbal, nonverbal, and/or visual) directed toward people based on their race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disability, gender, nationality, or citizenship status. It is important to explore the experiences of students of color in order to work to eliminate the negative academic outcomes and health effects of subtle and contemporary forms of racism on college campuses.

Our research seminar will provide (1) an opportunity for faculty and students to explore why members of historically underrepresented groups tend to perceive the general campus climate differently than their majority group peers, despite increases in numerical diversity and research highlighting the benefits of diversity and (2) an opportunity for faculty and graduate students to explore questions about campus climate, particularly racial microaggressions. Our goal is to contribute to scholarly research and literature on this topic, to educate the campus community about the negative impact of microaggressions, and to network and share our findings with researchers at campuses across the United States.