About the Program
SUNY New Paltz’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences boasts a panoply of disciplines from the humanities to the social sciences which engage with questions using everything from poetic prose to laboratory based statistics. While the liberal arts have never been more important in the development of an informed citizenry, it is important to reconsider, reimagine, and reaffirm their place in higher education and civic engagement. Focusing on a distinct theme each year, the "Without Limits" program aims to make connections among the many aspects of the liberal arts while inviting campus and community partners to investigate the meaning and role of liberal education in the twenty-first century.
Citizenship is a complicated issue in the U.S. And yet defining who is a U.S. citizen—who possesses the rights and duties of citizenship—has been the crux of our history and the focal point for many struggles. As Americans, we often base our understanding of national belonging in the establishment of our nation and its constitution. Yet this starting point causes many of us to forget those who have been excluded from citizenship, such as self-governing indigenous groups, immigrant ethnic groups, and enslaved human beings. We have sometimes proclaimed ourselves to be open to waves of new citizens, and at other times closed ourselves off. We have sometimes widened participation in the rights and duties of U.S. citizenship, and at other times constricted such participation. Citizenship also has a powerful metaphorical sense: We often use the idea to talk about the rights and duties of more localized communities. The 2017-2018 Without Limits series will address citizenship at both of these levels and at their interconnections: from the powers and obligations of U.S citizens at large to those inherent on a college campus like SUNY New Paltz.
Contested Memory: Global Monuments, Memorials and the Making of History
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Lecture Center 102
5-6:30 p.m. - To watch the live stream, click on this link.
This panel will explore how communities use memorials to create identity, demarcate belonging, perform citizenship, and produce social power. Panelists will explore these issues across a wide range of geographical regions and historical periods, including Ancient Rome, Buddhist India, postwar Germany, the Jim Crow South, and contemporary New Paltz. These various contexts will shed valuable perspectives for consideration of naming and memorial practices here on our campus and elsewhere.
Andrea Gatzke (Assistant Professor of History), "Politics and the Condemnation of Memory in the Roman Empire"
Monumentalization was a major component of Roman culture, both in the city of Rome itself and in its provinces. Monuments served as a vehicle for giving glory and prestige to the emperor and wealthy elites, but they could also serve to communicate public censure and disapproval when they were desecrated. This presentation will explore the phenomenon of damnatio memoriae (condemnation of memory) in the Roman empire, and will question whether the erasing of names and faces from public monuments was really meant to "erase" history, or rather to comment on history.
Vanessa Plumly (German Lecturer), "E-Recht-ing German History"
Taking us on a brief visual journey through the last 100 years of German history and the powers that produced it, this presentation examines 3 specific contexts of German memory-making (erection) in the past and its remaking (resurrection) in the present. Spanning the collapse of Germany’s imperial empire to the transition from a democratic government into a totalitarian state under the Third Reich and later to a divided nation in the Cold War and a reunited Germany in the present, Germany’s colonial and postcolonial, fascist and post-fascist, and socialist and post-socialist histories are anything but unidirectional. German memory of what is deemed past historical heroism thus opens itself up to dispute, most visible in the erection of counter-monuments and the transplanting of national memorials in the present that attempt to justly depict Germany’s complicated global history. Historical memory in Germany is anything but concrete.
Akira Shimada (Associate Professor of History), "The Buddha's Return: Discovery and Resurgence of Ancient Buddhist Monuments in Modern India"
Represented by the remains of magnificent stupas (mound-like structures enshrining relics), Buddhists of early India (ca. 300 BCE-500 CE) built numerous monuments. These monuments were abandoned and forgotten by the 13th century due to the decline of the religion until they were "discovered" by Europeans in the 19th century. This presentation will discuss how the abandoned Buddhist monuments were interpreted in the later period and how they eventually became the symbol of non-violent India by showing several examples.
Reynolds Scott-Childress (Assistant Professor of History), "Gray Ghosts and White Supremacy: Confederate Memorials and Twenty-First Century Anti-Racism"
Twentieth-century travelers to the American South often passed by the many memorials to the Confederate past barely concerned with their significance. It was easy to think of these works as hoary reminders of a gone past. But in the wake of a series of national controversies over the nature and power of “race” in the twenty-first century U.S., these memorials have taken on a new and disturbing significance. This brief presentation will consider the intended significance of these statues and the problem of what to do with memorials whose meaning has radically changed in a new historical context.
Susan Stessin-Cohn (New Paltz Town Historian), "Forsaken in Life, Forgotten in Death: the Ulster County Poorhouse Monument Project"
In the Fall of 2000, Susan Stessin-Cohn uncovered a lone tombstone that led to the discovery of over 2,300 burials, many of which were excavated and tossed into a landfill during the construction of the Ulster County Pool. Eighteen years after the discovery of these remains, the funding has been raised for erecting a memorial in honor of the indigent that lived and died with no recognition.
Between the years 1828 and 1976, the Ulster County Fairgrounds was the site of the Ulster County Poorhouse. The Poorhouse was a tax-supported residential institution to which people were required to go if they could not support themselves without community assistance. Thousands of individuals, including the indigent, the destitute, the insane, the intemperate, transient farm workers, freed slaves, unemployed canal and aqueduct builders, "debauched" women, unwed mothers, the friendless, the elderly, the disabled and the sick, called this site their home.
In “Forsaken in Life, Forgotten in Death,” a talk by Susan Stessin-Cohn, she will disclose how after years of research, she, along with the support of Mike Heines (County Executive), the Ulster County Legislature, and Assemblyman Cahill’s office, have successfully raised the funds to pay recognition to the forgotten.
The event is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; History Department; Languages, Literatures, and Cultures Department; and Campus Auxiliary Services.
Panelists César Barros, Nicole Carr and Sharina Maillo-Pozo.
The Politics of Belonging: Reflections from New Paltz Faculty
The first event in this year’s “Without Limits: Interdisciplinary Conversations in the Liberal Arts” series raised important questions about how citizenship—both in the U.S. and our campus community—is defined, whom it excludes or marginalizes, and how it might be reconceived through struggle and transformation.
Hosted by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, “Without Limits” is organized annually around a single, vital theme. The October event, “The Politics of Belonging: Reflections from New Paltz Faculty,” gave three assistant professors the opportunity to share their thoughts on this year’s theme of citizenship as it relates to undocumented immigrants, African-Americans, and women of color in the academy.
Speakers included César Barros (Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Latin American and Caribbean Studies), Nicole Carr (Black Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) and Sharina Maillo-Pozo (Languages, Literatures and Cultures; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies).
Citizenship as Politics
Barros framed his remarks by referencing the September rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the White House’s conditions for its reinstatement, which include a proposed wall on the U.S./Mexico border, the creation of new laws that make it easier to deport undocumented minors, and the construction of new detention spaces.
Barros asserted that these facts, coupled with the U.S.’s response to the hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, “all blatantly show the current structure of belonging in this country,” which he defined as principally nationalist in character. Within this framework, Barros asserted, citizenship produced belonging by erasing difference—in race, language, gender, sexuality, class, language—while externalizing this difference in the form of the alien.
Barros proposed an alternative conceptual framework, “citizenship as practice, as politics,” which demands transformation rather than inclusion. This framework finds expression in the celebrated intellectual, author, and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois’ 1905 Niagara Movement speech, in which he said, “We claim for ourselves every single right that belongs to a freeborn American, political, civil and social; and until we get these rights we will never cease to protest and assail the ears of America. The battle we wage is not for ourselves alone but for all true Americans. It is a fight for ideals, lest this, our common fatherland, false to its founding, become in truth, the land of the thief and the home of the slave, a byword and a hissing among the nations for its sounding pretensions and pitiful accomplishment.”
Barros found contemporary echoes of Du Bois’ speech in former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s interrogation of the gulf between America’s ideals and racial realities, as well as the fearless, unapologetic claims to citizenship made by undocumented immigrants in the film “Undocumented and Unafraid,” which he excerpted.
“The door has already been traversed…she’s not asking for the static, American nation to be opened,” Barros said of the immigrant featured in the film’s clip. “She’s asking, while out, while in the open, here, for citizenship and its limits to be transformed so they may become what they should be.”
Citizenship, Barros argued, cannot be based on simple acceptance, rather it should be constantly constructed, analyzed, and fought for, so that a society can realize its true potential for community.
Citizenship as Exclusion
Arguing that “American citizenship is forged, predicated and sustained on anti-blackness,” Carr described lynchings as “spaces of belonging” for white audiences and revealed the hidden assumptions in the language used to describe the presidencies of Barrack Obama and Donald Trump.
In the post-Jim Crow south, whites flocked to see the sights of black men, women and children hanging from trees and telephone poles, and proudly reported back to their local communities all the gruesome details of what they observed. Carr described these gatherings as spaces of belonging structured along socioeconomic, gender and educational lines.
Northern whites who denounced lynchings were content to attribute the practice to the south’s “backwardness,” rather than addressing the nation’s structural racism, a phenomenon Carr likened to the “new master narrative” that attributes Donald Trump’s rise to the White House to his support among poor, uneducated whites.
Carr, referencing the work of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, said Trump’s supporters “ran the gamut of whiteness,” and by denying their part in Trump’s victory, liberal whites attempted to absolve themselves of their role in the anti-black structure of the nation.
Carr unpacked the meanings of three often-repeated political buzzwords, “post-racial,” “white lash,” and “normalize,” all of which she believes to be rooted in the “negation of black humanity.”
Saying that Obama’s victory as the first African-American president ushered in a post-racial era ignores the fact that a majority of white voters voted for opponents John McCain and Mitt Romney. Likewise, attributing Trump’s victory to white voters’ reaction to a loss of power and privilege presupposes that they actually lost power under the Obama administration, an idea Carr forcefully rejected.
Finally, to normalize Trump, one must first believe that Trump is abnormal or an aberration, a proposition Carr disputed, saying this was not the first time the nation elected a virulently racist president.
“Black people have always been living in the era of Trump,” Carr concluded. “It is as normal as the air we breathe and the water we bathe our children in. It is as normal as black men, women, and children hanging from trees and telephone poles in the post-Jim Crow south, so normal that Billy Holiday sang a song called ‘Strange Fruit.’”
As the campus continues to grapple with issues pertaining to diversity and inclusion, Maillo-Pozo shared her personal experiences within the academy, a space she described as feeling unfamiliar to women of color.
“When we enter this world, we come with the awareness that this is quite foreign to us—that perhaps most of us women of color are the first to enter these academic spaces,” she said.
Maillo-Pozo’s students have questioned why she uses the title of “doctora” (doctor), falsely assuming that she has not completed her doctorate. Maillo-Pozo interprets this question as symptomatic of how students read her body as a woman and person of color, recognizing that she is an atypical citizen of the academy, which suffers from a lack of representation of faculty of color, and particularly, women of color.
Maillo-Pozo’s personal experiences shape her contributions to the academy. In her work, she seeks to shed light on little-known performers and intellectuals of color, primarily those who share her Dominican heritage. She champions efforts to bring diverse voices to campus—having organized many such events during her short tenure at New Paltz—and is a member of the campus’ Women of Color network.
As she addressed the structural inequalities that prevent women of color from feeling a sense of belonging within the academy, Maillo-Pozo offered the classroom as an example of a “space of empowerment” that should be replicated in both the academic community and society at large.
Maillo-Pozo shared the responses from a recent course assignment, in which she asked her students to reflect on what it means for them to be Latinx in their communities within today’s highly-charged political environment. The narratives, Maillo-Pozo said, were “not self-defeating,” but instead spoke of overcoming prejudices and achieving dreams unavailable to their parents.
“They conceptualized their being here at a higher education institution as an opportunity to change the narrative, as a way to belong and be part of places that their families could not access, as a way to become citizens and diverse voices of SUNY New Paltz,” she noted.
The students’ responses were to Maillo-Pozo a “confirmation that my presence and that of my fellow faculty of color and women of color here is necessary, a validation of the need to continue the efforts to diversify the faculty body and curriculum to foster a supportive environment for faculty and students.”
During the Q&A, Maillo-Pozo stressed the need for talking about “uncomfortable truths” when discussing campus citizenship. Seconding his colleague, Barros cautioned against complacency, saying citizenship must not “have the structure of a club.”
“If SUNY New Paltz is an institution with citizenship, it cannot be static; it should always become,” he said. “It should be a constant becoming and that means conversations, struggles, discussions, fights—maybe a little bit—but we can’t get comfortable. If we are too comfortable in a place…then there’s something wrong,” he said.
Watch the recording of the lecture.
For more information, contact committee members Heather Hewett (firstname.lastname@example.org), Reynolds Scott-Childress (email@example.com) or Nicole Carr (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Food has become a significant domain of inquiry for a wide range of disciplines in the arts and sciences: it is political, it is ecological, it is cultural, and it is economic. In recent decades, the simple questions of what we should eat, how we should eat, when we should eat, and even where our food comes from have developed into profoundly complex issues. How do our choices shape the environment? What government policies should we adopt regarding our food chains? What is the connection between diet and disease, food and behavior? Should we eat locally? Globally? What are the ethical boundaries of our eating choices? Thinking about food consumption and production requires that we consider how histories of colonialism meld with the happenings of modern day capitalism (or late capitalism). In a fundamental way, it unites the natural world with the humanistic. As Michael Pollan writes in his widely read book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds.” This lecture series will invite faculty and outside speakers who can address any of the range of questions related to food culture in the twenty-first century. We hope that the location of New Paltz in New York’s Hudson Valley, a geographic region with a rich history of agriculture and culinary innovation, will support a vigorous discussion of the present and future of food studies.
Panelists Vanessa Plumly, Vicki Tromanhauser and Kenneth Nystrom
Food and the Liberal Arts: A Smorgasbord of Approaches
Spring programming began with the event "Food and the Liberal Arts: A Smorgasbord of Approaches," on March 9, 2017, from 5-6 p.m. in Lecture Center 104.
A panel of LA&S faculty members from different disciplines discussed how their research addresses food-related topics. Panelists included: Kenneth Nystrom (Anthropology), "Archaeological Diet Reconstruction as it Informs Debates about Modern Diets;" Vicki Tromanhauser (English), "Eating Well: Food Studies in British Literature;" and Vanessa Plumly (German), "Food as Floating Signifier: Orienting Race, Gender, and Sexuality."
The event was sponsored by The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Department of English, Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, and Campus Auxiliary Services.
Getting to Zero Hunger Globally by 2030 – the Role of the UN World Food Programme
Brian Bogart, an External Relations Advisor on Governance and Sustainable Development in the United Nations World Food Programme's New York office, gave a talk entitled "Getting to Zero Hunger Globally by 2030 – the Role of the UN World Food Programme” on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium.
Bogart is responsible for defining the organization's strategic engagement in key global initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Humanitarian Summit, and Habitat III. Prior to his current position, Bogart acted as a Policy Advisor in the Office of the Director of Policy and Programme in WFP Headquarters. He has also held a number of positions in the field, including as an Advisor in the East and Central Africa Regional Bureau and Head of Operations in the South Darfur and Abyei regions of Sudan. Bogart joined WFP in 2005 as a Congressional Hunger Fellow in Kampong Speu, Cambodia. Prior to joining WFP, he worked for the Office of Food for Peace in the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, DC. He holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Kent at Canterbury and a BA in Political Science from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
The event was sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, SUNY Global Engagement Program in NYC, World Affairs Council of the Mid-Hudson Valley, UNA-USA Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter and Campus Auxiliary Services.
A Systems Exploration of Food Security in the Northeast
“Without Limits” concluded with a keynote address by food systems consultant Kate Clancy. Clancy’s talk was entitled, “A Systems Exploration of Food Security in the Northeast.” The event was held on Thursday, April 27 from 4-6 p.m. in Lecture Center 104.
Clancy is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Adjunct Professor at Tufts University, and Senior Fellow in the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. Clancy earned her doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked as a nutrition and policy advisor at the Federal Trade Commission, and at several nonprofits such as the Wallace Center. Clancy developed a graduate course on food systems in 1982 and since then has published, taught, spoken, and consulted widely on sustainable agriculture, food systems, and food policy with government agencies, universities, and nonprofits around the country. She has promoted the idea of sustainable diets since 1983. She has served on many boards including the Food and Drug Administration Food Advisory Council. She is the deputy director of the USDA-funded six-year EFSNE systems project in the Northeast United States, and engaged with many initiatives including Agriculture of the Middle and It Takes a Region. She publishes a column in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development on topics related to the application of systems concepts to food systems.
The event was sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Campus Auxiliary Services.
Classroom to the Farm: The Liberal Arts and Food
The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences flagship speaker series “Without Limits” kicked off its 2016-17 season on Nov. 17 with “Classroom to the Farm,” a panel conversation between three SUNY New Paltz alumnae who have found fulfilling careers in food production and distribution.
Panelists Jamie Levato ’03 (Elementary Education – Psychology), ‘06g (Literacy Education), Katy Kondrat ’11 (Adolescent Education – Social Studies) and Stiles Najac ’03 (Sociology) addressed an audience of more than 50 students, faculty and staff about the work each does in the food industry, and how their liberal arts education prepared them for these careers, sometimes in unexpected ways.
While the three panelists represent three distinct areas of the regional food industry (Levato as Education Director at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Kondrat as manager of the Kingston Farmers Market and Najac as Food Security Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County), they all shared similar narratives of the connection between their classroom experiences and their passion for working toward the physical, moral and intellectual nourishment of their communities.
One comment from Kondrat, discussing her experience as co-founder and president of Students for Sustainable Agriculture at New Paltz, was representative of the broader themes of the program.
“It’s so hard for me to divorce the work I was doing in food and social justice from my coursework,” she said. “What’s important about the liberal arts is that they give a holistic vision of the world. Everything I learned in class deepened my curiosity, and I just can’t say how inspiring and important those courses were to me, how critical they were to my understanding of how the world works.”
Panel moderator Brian Obach addressed the liberal arts’ unique ability to fuel this kind of passion in students and graduates, and prepare them to work in a variety of disciplines and occupations.
“In my mind the greatest value of the liberal arts education is that it makes good citizens: well-rounded, critically thinking people capable of effective, informed contributions in a democratic society,” Obach said. “But it’s of obvious importance to employers as well. Most are not looking for narrow specialists. They are looking for employees who can bring a range of skills to the table, who have experience working with others, who are capable of problem solving and have knowledge of the world and its people.”
Illuminating the versatility of the liberal arts and sciences education is the core goal of the “Without Limits” speaker series. As it continues into the spring 2017 semester, organizers will invite students and community members to find new ways of observing that versatility through the lens of food creation and consumption.
“What makes this theme particularly intriguing is its seeming disconnection with the liberal arts,” said Linda Barrett, dean of the College Liberal Arts & Sciences. “But what we continue to discover is that our faculty’s and students’ disciplines are only the beginning of their work, the springboards from which they approach and create solutions for our current questions, issues and crises. That tonight’s panelists, having majored in the social sciences, have shaped careers in the Hudson Valley’s vibrant agricultural community speaks to the scope of our influence in society.”
The “Without Limits: Interdisciplinary Conversations in the Liberal Arts” series is coordinated by Associate Professor of English Cyrus Mulready and Associate Professor of Anthropology Kenneth Nystrom, with support from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
2015-16: Screens and Scenes
Screens have become an omnipresent part of our daily lives: we find them in our offices, classrooms, cars, and, of course, even in our pockets. Screens are therefore sites of work and play, entertainment and education, art and information. Yet even as the technologies and content associated with our screens have come to be definitive markers of our modern world, our understanding of their cultural, social, psychological, even ethical impacts has lagged behind their mass appeal. This series is intended to explore how the different disciplines within College of Liberal Arts and Sciences approach these issues.
An academic panel discussion entitled "The Liberal Arts and the Digital World" served as the inaugural event in the SUNY New Paltz College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ year-long series, “Without Limits: Interdisciplinary Conversations in the Liberal Arts.” The event was held October 28, 2015, in the Lecture Center.
The slate of “Without Limits” programming has been planned to highlight the College’s proud heritage of faculty expertise and vital education in the humanities and social sciences, while inviting campus and community partners to investigate the meaning and role of liberal education in the twenty-first century.
“The liberal arts have been the foundation of higher education for centuries, and they have been at the heart of higher education in the United States since its inception,” said Laura Barrett, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “’Without Limits’ is designed to highlight connections among disciplines, to explore themes through the multiple lenses of the humanities and social sciences and to enhance connections between our work and the world, in order to make more visible the contributions of the liberal arts to SUNY New Paltz and to our community.”
Each of the four panelists (faculty members Wendy Bower, instructor of Communication Disorders, Thomas Olsen, associate professor of English, and Lauren Meeker, associate professor of Anthropology, as well as student Megan Doty ’16 [graphic design, French]) at the Oct. 28 launch event considered the “Screens and Scenes” theme from the perspective of his or her own disciplinary background and research. What ensued was a thoughtful dialogue about the role of technology in our professions, our education and our personal lives.
“In determining what we could talk about that would both be topical and touch upon the strengths of the liberal arts, we came up with ‘Screens and Scenes’: that is, technologies, representations, content, all of which seem to be so central to our lives,” said Cyrus Mulready, associate professor of English and series co-chair. “We as a society have divided feelings about our technologies and their place within our culture. On the one hand, we feel triumphant and elated at the launch of the new iPhone that comes every year; our devices are part of our lives and help us create and think about the world in new and exciting ways. On the other hand, we find they generate alienation, anxiety and worry about what the future holds. We’re happy to present this panel of scholars to carry on this conversation about these topics.”
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences concluded its “Without Limits” series in the spring with two events and a live mural painting on campus by a renowned Chilean artist.
On April 25-26, 2016, Pau Quintanajornet painted a mural, entitled KRA, in the concourse between the Sojourner Truth Library and Fine Arts Building. Pau sees the mural, which incorporates Latin American iconography and aesthetics, as a way to “bring something of the southern hemisphere up to the northern to establish an exchange, a dialogue between the America’s, connecting people through unifying visual imagery.”
Following the mural installation, Quintanajornet joined Jessica Pabón (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) and César Barros (Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Latin American and Caribbean Studies) for a panel discussion on “Street Art and the Digital World,” on April 27, 2016, in the Coykendall Science Building (CSB) Auditorium.
“Without Limits” wrapped up with a lecture by Brittney Cooper entitled “Dis-Respectability: Towards A Ratchet Black Feminism” on April 28, 2016, in the CSB Auditorium. Cooper, an assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, used Hip Hop music, television, and film as a backdrop for addressing the limitations of respectability politics as a productive framework for thinking about representations of race, gender, and sexuality in popular culture. Cooper’s talk argued for a distinct turn away from the politics of respectability, and for an intentional embrace of "ratchetness," as a form of feminist celebration and resistance.
Spring events were sponsored by: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The Office of Academic Affairs; The College of Fine and Performing Arts; Campus Auxiliary Services; James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program; Languages, Literatures and Cultures Department; and Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.
You can view videos of all the presentations by clicking on the titles above.