Notes from the Director

Where to with masculinity?

We are looking forward to welcoming Thomas Page McBee to campus next week. He is the author of the award-winning memoir Man Alive and also the first trans man to ever box in Madison Square Garden. McBee’s visit is part of this semester’s Clarke Forum theme, Masculinities. One of my early memories related to masculinity is of when I was probably nine or ten years old and one of my older sisters told me to clear the dinner table and start washing dishes. Because we were going to engage in some consciousness raising! (It was the late sixties.) That was the start of a parallel education, led by my sisters and, increasingly over time, my mother. Some of this education was challenged years later when my then future mother-in-law (a very traditional Spanish woman) strongly reprimanded me for trying to help clear the dinner table. She wasn’t having it. (We worked it out, and she came eventually came to accept and appreciate that detail.) It seems to me those experiences and many similar ones I have lived through were of a low-stakes quality compared to those lived by boys and young men today. And that is a good thing, not only for boys but also for girls and young women. For everyone. But also challenging. I don’t have any sons, but I do have a grandson. For many reasons, but for that one especially, I am very eager to listen to McBee to learn more about masculinity. I hope you will join us next Tuesday, October 15th for his talk.

Surviving the avalanche

Political drama is in high gear this autumn. We certainly have a full schedule of it right now in Washington. In London, too. (Now, if you stop to think about it, there is political drama going on all over the world, but being attuned to most stories requires reaching beyond the main storylines provided by major media.) As part of our “Breaking Issues” series, on Wednesday the Clarke Forum is sponsoring the panel discussion “Brexit: Where it Stands, What it Means”. This will be an informative event and we are privileged to have three outstanding scholars participate (Mark Duckenfield, from the US Army War College, Oya Dursun-Özkanca, from Elizabethtown College, and Ed Webb, from Dickinson). The news on Brexit changes daily, and sometimes hourly. Years ago, it made sense to talk about the “news cycle” but for some time now the cycle has evolved into a ceaseless avalanche. For many of us, the news avalanche can sometimes overwhelm us, to such an extent that we either take a break or suffer the negative health consequences. In this context, the Clarke Forum can offer a truly important counterbalance. Some brief time to stop consuming news so we can start to reflect on it. This reflection is essential to our well-being. We become not only better informed, but better positioned to be receive future news with less anxiety. And I believe it can even help us become more empathetic.

The Dreamers, Stress, and the American Dream

Today the Clarke Forum welcomes professor Kathy Abrams from UC Berkley School of Law. Abrams will speak this evening about her research on undocumented immigrants in Phoenix, Arizona. The many uncertainties faced by undocumented immigrants no doubt produces a great deal of stress. Just two days ago, we learned  about the negative health consequences of stress from professor Zaneta Thayer of Dartmouth College. Thayer’s research focuses on the negative health impacts of inequality and how these impacts are passed on from one generation to the next. The article (link below) below illustrates quite well the intersection of these two issues in the lives of dreamers who risk everything to become doctors. As Abrams will show tonight, narrative is a great tool for understanding complex issues.

https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/daca-students-risk-everything-become-doctors