Fall lectures at Penn talk race, science, and the humanities

Text by Jeanne Leong
Penn offers opportunities to feed your brain through an assortment of fascinating lecture series this fall.
 
The Public Classroom @ Penn Museum,” a series of five free evening classes, brings together internationally renowned experts to discuss race, science, and justice in “Science and Race: History, Use, and Abuse.” 
 
Presented in panel discussions through the lenses of anthropology, biology, genetics, sociology, philosophy, and law, the classes will address issues such as the connection between biomedicine and race, the scientific study of race, and the relationship of race to violence.  
discussion
 
Panelists include the three academic advisers who worked together to develop the program: John L. Jackson, Jr., dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice; Janet Monge, associate curator-in-charge of the Physical Anthropology Section at the Penn Museum; and Deborah Thomas, a professor of anthropology and Africana studies.
 
“We wanted to really confront issues head-on with a group of panelists and a moderator and a group of people asking questions about how this happened and what’s the reality, what’s the scientific basis?” says Monge. “If there’s no scientific basis, what do we do with this? How do we talk about it with our kids?”
 
The series began on Sept. 21 and runs on non-consecutive Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
 
On Sept. 28, Monge and Jackson are among the panelists for the “Biomedicine and Race” discussion, along with Martha Farah, the Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences and director of the Center for Neuroscience & Society, and Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Dorothy Roberts, director of Penn’s Program on Race, Science, and Society. Taunya English, WHYY Radio’s senior health and science reporter, will be the panel’s moderator.
 
Classes are also scheduled for Oct. 26, Nov. 9, and Nov. 16. All classes are held at the Penn Museum, 3260 South St. Advance registration is recommended at www.penn.museum/pmclassroom
 
The Penn Humanities Forum (PHF) offers lectures related to the 2016-17 theme “Translation.” 
 
“We all speak multi-lingually in that we move in and out of different languages and dialects,” says Bethany Wiggin, an associate professor of German and topic director of the PHF. “I tell my students the way I speak with them is different than the type of idiom I speak with my children at home. How do we translate ourselves? What’s the idiom we use when we’re texting our friends? How far do we push this notion of language?”
 
The “Translating Race in Eurasia” conference on Saturday, Sept. 24, features scholars from across the U.S. exploring how race has been articulated, deployed, and translated among the cultures of Eurasia and across the globe.
 
Other PHF topics include how concerns of indigenous peoples might translate into political action in our time of global climate change, how humanists and scientists can “translate” their research to one another and to public audiences, and the series considers human behavior via robots whose capabilities and responses “translate” as human. 
 
The Penn Science Café lecture series, featuring research in the sciences, presents Vijay Balasubramanian, the Cathy and Marc Lasry Professor of Physics, on Tuesday, Sept. 27. The topic of his discussion is “Decoding Your Mental GPS: Transcendental Numbers in the Brain.” Balasubramanian will explain how the brain’s many overlapping grids are connected by a special ratio, organizing them into something akin to the decimal system.
 
The Penn Lightbulb Café, spotlighting social science, arts, and humanities research, features Michael Leja, a professor of history of art, on Tuesday, Oct. 18. In a talk titled, “A History of Print Advertising in the Presidential Race,” Leja will discuss the early use of print advertisement by presidential candidates.
 
The Science Café and Lightbulb Café talks are held at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., at 6 p.m., and are followed by an audience Q&A session.

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