Wolfhart Peter Heinrichs

first_imgWolfhart P. Heinrichs was one of the leading Arabists of his generation. A tenured professor at Harvard since 1978, he succeeded Muhsin Mahdi as the James Richard Jewett Professor of Arabic in 1996. He trained an entire generation of Arabists and Islamicists in his thirty-five years teaching here. His Arabic philology course was, over all these years, the gateway course for Harvard students to all serious work in Arabic. Not only a beloved teacher, he was a treasured colleague.Born in Cologne, Germany, on October 3, 1941, Wolfhart was the son of a lecturer in Old Norse, Anna Heinrichs, and a professor of Old Germanic studies at Giessen, H. Matthias Heinrichs. He was schooled in an unusual secondary school in Cologne that offered Hebrew, which gave him his first contact with Semitic studies. In his university studies in Semitic languages, Arabic and Islamic studies, and philosophy at Cologne, Frankfurt, London, and Giessen, he worked under major scholars of the previous generation such as Werner Caskel, R. B. Sergeant, Ewald Wagner, and Rudolf Sellheim. He took his Ph.D. degree in 1967, and after a post-doctoral appointment to the German Oriental Institute in Beirut in 1967-1968, he held a faculty position at Giessen from 1968 until 1977, when he came as a visiting professor to Harvard, where he would remain as a tenured professor from 1978 until his death. He established his scholarly reputation early in his career when he worked with Fuat Sezgin in Frankfurt to produce the monumental first volume of Geschichte des arabischen Schriftums (1967), which Sezgin dedicated to him. From 1989, he served as a co-editor of the major second edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, for which he himself wrote over fifty entries. He was known internationally as a world authority on Arabic literature and language. His encyclopedic knowledge was stunning, and he had a remarkable command of an awe-inspiring number of languages, including German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, not to mention Berber, Hebrew, Aramaic, Ethiopic, and the African San tongue, Mbarakwengo. In his scholarship, he ranged with disarming modesty, magisterial learning, and trenchant incisiveness across varied fields of Islamic learning, from poetry, literary theory, and dialectology to jurisprudence and theology—a range reflected also in the variety of courses he offered his students.Wolfhart never saw languages as an end in themselves, but always as a key to understanding the history, thought, and culture of those who used them in a given period or context—their particular and crucially important Sitz im Leben. In all of his work he was keenly aware ofthe changes over time in the semantic fields of terms and concepts and the agents of those changes. For example, in his classic article, “On the Genesis of the Haqīqa-Majāz Distinction,” he showed how the evolution of the meaning of the Arabic term majāz from “idiomatic usage” to “figurative usage” stemmed from the efforts of early theologians to make sense of apparent anthropomorphisms in the Qur’ān. His masterly 1977 work, The Hand of the North Wind, showed vividly how the central term, ist’ārah (“metaphor”), developed new meanings as the focus of medieval literary theorists shifted from analysis of early Arabic poetry to demonstrating the stylistic inimitability of the Qur’ān. Wolfhart’s findings on the importance of the literary theorists’ ideas to the broader concerns of their time are of immediate relevance to anyone working on the early history of Qur’ānic exegesis, jurisprudence, and rational theology.Those who knew Wolfhart as colleague, teacher, or friend (or all of these) can testify not only to his venerable international standing as a scholar, but also to his deep humanity, so evident in his unfailing patience, supportiveness, and generosity of spirit. In the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, he had unfailingly cordial relations as well as substantive intellectual exchanges with all of his colleagues, whatever their fields of study. Always modest, even self-effacing, Wolfhart was at every moment ready to offer his help or guidance to any student, colleague, friend, or even stranger who approached him. He did not try to mold his students in his own image but rather to open up to them a range of possibilities to suit their interests. Many of his graduate students are today among the leading lights of Arabic and Islamic studies in universities and colleges around the world. He loved poetry and humor, not least when both involved multiple languages as well as translations among them. He could compose in, or translate into, Arabic almost as well and rapidly as into German or English, and he took great delight in word play, not least in limericks (again in several languages). He shared his love for language and his specialization in Arabic and Islamic studies—not to mention his affection for animals ranging from cats to rats to rabbits—with the love of his life, his wife, Alma Giese Heinrichs, herself an Arabist and translator of note, whom he wed in 1980.Wolfhart Heinrichs died on January 23, 2014, and is survived by his wife, Alma, as well as three siblings in Germany. He was taken from us too soon after a brief hospitalization only months before his planned retirement. With his passing all who knew him have lost much and feel that loss keenly; but all will always have also many happy memories of a remarkable scholar, dedicated teacher, gracious and generous human being, and steadfast mentor and friend.Respectfully submitted,Khaled El-RouayhebWilliam GranaraPeter MachinistRoy MottahedehWilliam Graham, Chairlast_img read more

Political climate, changed

first_imgChinese President Xi Jinping announced a new commitment on Friday to adopt a cap-and-trade plan to cut carbon emissions. The move by the world’s second-largest economy is one the United States has so far resisted.The agreement, effective in 2017, came as Xi sat down with President Obama in Washington for policy discussions two months before a scheduled Paris conference designed to hammer out a new international agreement against climate change.Michael McElroy, the Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies and chair of the Harvard China Project, has studied the country’s energy and environmental issues and has met with its leaders to discuss clean-air measures. The nation of 1.3 billion has had problems reducing its large quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide. In addition, the particulates released from coal-burning power plants and auto tailpipes have intensified pollution.  The Gazette asked McElroy about Chinese’s new climate commitment, about how it might affect the Paris talks, and about whether that agreement might make U.S. officials more open to a national plan to curb carbon emissions.GAZETTE: How important is the cap-and-trade plan that China announced Friday?McELROY: It’s certainly a headline issue. Making this announcement on a visit to Washington is a big deal. The Chinese had a number of trial cap-and-trade systems; seven of them in fact. This is a national cap-and-trade system. It’s my understanding that it doesn’t apply to the transportation sector, it applies mostly to stationary sources: the power sector, iron and steel, cement, and so on. They’re the easiest ones to deal with, and are also what the Europeans have focused on.The ideal cap-and-trade system would be one in which the government defines the total emissions of carbon that are permitted and auctions off rights to those emissions. That would then set a market price on what the emissions are going to cost and allows individual sources to trade — either sell permits when they have made investments that cut their emissions more than they expected, or buy from another organization. That’s the ideal system, but we’re a long way from having that.The way this is really going, in Europe, in the U.S., and in China, is that individual sectors are allocated an emission quota. Let’s take the power sector. You have lots and lots of CO2 producing plants, so you have to allocate the permits to individual plants and then allow trading to take place. How do you do that? There certainly is great opportunity for preference to be given to particular plants or particular regions. Politics can play a big role. But in principle, if you’ve allocated the permits fairly, the trading can provide economic incentives for plants to reduce their emissions.GAZETTE: Is this a fulfillment of the agreement that was previously made between the U.S. and China? Is it an add-on to that agreement? How does this fit into it?McELROY: I think this is new. In the November statement between the two presidents, both expressed their commitment to reducing emissions according to different schedules. And that was hailed as a very big deal, and it was a very big deal. It meant that for the first time, the Chinese government was making a specific statement about what they were going to do in the future, including getting to the point where their emissions were going to peak in — what, 2025 or sooner? — and more than 20 percent of their primary energy would come from non-carbon sources.And President Obama made a commitment to reduce U.S. emissions by a significant amount by 2025, relative to 2005. He talked also about a more aggressive commitment by 2050. That was a big deal because it addressed a lot of the opposition to dealing with the issue in the United States. People on the right have frequently made comments along the line of, “Why should we do anything because the Chinese are the big polluter and they’re not going to do anything?” This agreement made the statement that the Chinese, in fact, were going to do something, and that was pretty impressive.So I think that the announcement today is significant.GAZETTE: What impact do you see it having on the coming Paris talks?McELROY: The idea that the world’s largest emitter and second-largest economy is prepared, by 2017, to move toward putting a price on carbon, that is a big deal.GAZETTE: And might that influence other nations at these talks to do something similar?McELROY: I haven’t had a chance to study the press release in detail, but there’s another issue: the plan for developed countries to essentially invest in carbon-saving activities in developing countries.I think, aspirationally, the idea was that up to $100 billion would be made available by 2020. In association with this meeting today, I think that Xi actually made a Chinese commitment of close to $3 billion for this same function. China is not putting its commitment into that same commitment by developed countries. It plans to do it on its own, through bilateral agreements with individual countries.GAZETTE: Might this increase the likelihood of broad U.S. action on cap and trade, and have the Chinese taken the moral and practical high ground on this issue?McELROY: To some extent, both are true. The situation here is, obviously, that the ability of the administration to act is limited by politics — the right’s opposition to climate change and actions to deal with it. We’ve always known the Obama administration is committed to trying to do this. They’re trying to do it under the Clean Air Act, with the Supreme Court ratifying that CO2 is a pollutant. But this is very difficult [in the U.S.], and I think it is probably easier for China to live up to its commitment. In the United States, we still have this argument about whether it’s a serious issue or not, not based on facts but based on rhetoric and based on prejudice. They say it’s not an issue or … talk about whether this is just a natural fluctuation. They talk about whether the sun is responsible for the recent warming. It goes on and on and on. But the scientific evidence is compelling.The positive thing, in my opinion, is that individual states and individual cities are making commitments. They had this very interesting meeting last week in Los Angeles with mayors and state organizations, including the Chinese side. A number of U.S. cities made very specific commitments. A typical commitment was to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Los Angeles  — even Houston  — was involved in making such a commitment. California, aggressively so, and Massachusetts.GAZETTE: So states are maybe bypassing the intransigence?McELROY: You know the positive spin here would be to say that, despite the lack of consensus in Washington, there’s a broad-based support that exists across the country about the importance of the issue and the need to do something about it. Look at California. It’s not a political issue in California. It’s not a Republican and Democrat issue in California. There’s a general consensus that something has to be done about it.GAZETTE: I know the China Project has made a variety of policy recommendations for China. Did you have any influence on Friday’s announcement?McELROY: I would hope that the work that we’re doing with Chinese partners is consequential. We had the opportunity to spend an hour briefing the former premier, Wen Jiabao, on the work that we’re doing. What we’re trying to do is come up with creative ways in which energy can be used more effectively in China while reducing the emissions of CO2. We’ve done a lot of work to define what are the real opportunities of wind power, solar power, hydropower, nuclear power, and what are the problems in implementing it.We have published papers that show, for example, that China’s wind potential would be enough to meet its entire energy commitment if it could be usefully deployed. But we’ve also highlighted the fact that there are difficulties in doing that, one of which is that the wind doesn’t blow all the time.Another difficulty that we addressed is in northern China in winter. China has a very significant investment in wind farms, but when the wind is really blowing on cold winter days, often those wind farms are idle. They’re idle because the requirement to heat homes is being met largely by hot water. And the hot water is produced by coal-fired power plants that are also producing electricity. So if you need hot water, you can’t turn off the electricity that would be generated in the process. So the demand for electricity is being met to a large extent by these coal-fired heat and power plants, and you can’t use the electricity from the wind farms. We have been doing serious work to see how you can resolve that issue, and we have some good ideas of how to do that.In that sense, we’re working to try to provide the kind of expertise that will allow smart decisions on the Chinese side that will reduce the emissions.GAZETTE: People have said in the past that the climate change issue really can’t be resolved without China. Is this the kind of step that may have significant impact in the skies over the coming decades?McELROY: I have a book on climate and energy in press at the moment. What I tried to do in that book is, while talking about the whole global energy issue and the whole global climate issue, to point out that if the U.S. and China were able to seriously cut back on emissions, that would take us more than halfway toward solving the problem.The U.S. and China are responsible for more than 50 percent of the emissions. The theme of a lot of the work we’ve been doing in the China Project is to try to understand what options really exist. Our current target is to develop a strategy by which China effectively de-carbonizes its energy economy by 2050. That’s our prime scientific goal, doing that with our own people and in combination with colleagues on the Chinese side.GAZETTE: Do you feel more hopeful today than you might have yesterday that climate change is a solvable problem?McELROY: Yes, I do. I think that the issues raised by the pope for example, on his visit cast this in a very interesting moral framework. Then, having President Xi immediately come along and have this joint announcement from the White House is very significant. And what happened last week in Los Angeles with localities and mayors coming together from both the Chinese side and the U.S. side, that’s a really big deal.last_img read more

Summit brings together U.S., China health leaders

first_img Read Full Story Public health practitioners, policymakers, and industry representatives from China and the U.S. gathered September 28–29, 2015, to share experiences and ideas around health system reform. The 5th U.S.–China Summit, hosted by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, included for the first time a forum and innovation competition for young public health leaders. This year’s summit speakers touched on topics such as linking health information systems across institutions and increasing the number of primary care doctors in both countries.The summit grew out of the School’s China Initiative, and has been held alternately at Harvard Chan School and in China since 2011.The year’s event highlighted China as one of the success stories of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which expire this year. The country reached 95% health insurance coverage, and has reduced under-five mortality by at least two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters.Acting Dean David Hunter and other speakers observed that attendees from China and the U.S. were coming together just days after the U.N. adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to foster international cooperation and knowledge sharing to address pressing challenges including achieving universal coverage and improving health.Sun Zhigang, vice minister of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission and director of the State Council Office of Health Reform, pledged that by 2020 every Chinese family would be registered with a general practitioner.last_img read more

A call to build on differences

first_imgPromoting a global society that celebrates both its common humanity and its differences is the antidote to the world’s deepening divisions, the Aga Khan — the worldwide spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims — said in a visit to Harvard Thursday.“In every corner of the planet, the word ‘fragmentation’ seems to define our times,” the Aga Khan told a packed house at the Memorial Church, citing “a more fragile European Union, a more polarized United States, a more fervid Sunni-Shia conflict, intensified tribal rivalries in Africa and Asia, or other splintering threats.”But the Aga Khan, a 1959 graduate of Harvard College who resides in France, said embracing an approach he terms the “cosmopolitan ethic” offered a way out of mounting polarization.“A pluralistic, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it — and to learn from it,” he said. “In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.”As the 49th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis — a branch of Shia Islam — the Aga Khan leads a multi-ethnic community with members in Asia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and North America.Since assuming the hereditary role in 1957, when he was a 20-year-old College junior, the Aga Khan has engaged in global efforts to bolster the economies and the quality of life in developing nations, working through his Aga Khan Development Network.“Leadership in the spiritual realm — for all imams, whether Sunni or Shia — implies responsibility in worldly affairs,” he said.His Harvard talk was part of the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture Series presented by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. This year’s event was co-sponsored by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program.The Aga Khan’s visit marked a return to a school where he has deep ties.During a visit with President Drew Faust, the Aga Khan looked through a photo book inside her Massachusetts Hall office. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerIn addition to his bachelor’s degree, he received an honorary degree from the University in 2008. He endowed the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT, and Harvard’s annual Aga Khan Award for Architecture. His brother and daughter are Harvard graduates.The Aga Khan said that since its inception, his development network has worked to expand opportunity through a “truly pluralistic outlook” that seeks to leverage the best experiences of local communities into an international program.He said the network’s early efforts coincided with a surge of international cooperation in the industrialized West, and a feeling that technological change “would bring us more closely together.”But while becoming more interconnected, the world “has also become more fragmented,” he said, linking the increased pace of human interaction with wider conflict.The Aga Khan suggested that the concept of globalization has compounded the discord by advancing a “superficial view of homogenized, global harmony.”But by following a cosmopolitan ethic, he said, “We can address the dysfunctions of fragmentation without obscuring the values of diversity.”His talk was peppered with references to his days at Harvard, including having been part of two Ivy League champion soccer teams. He also noted that the Jodidi Lecture Series began during his freshman year, though he could not recall attending one.“I was probably having too much fun at Wigglesworth — or Leverett House — to venture out to something so serious,” he joked.The Aga Khan (from left) met with Harvard President Drew Faust, Mark C. Elliott, vice provost for international affairs, and others prior to his talk at the Memorial Church. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff PhotographerMichèle Lamont, director of the Weatherhead Center, said prior to the event that the Aga Khan’s lecture “could not be better timed,” noting that the center is shifting to a broader agenda that encompasses comparative global and transnational themes, with a focus on inequality and social inclusion.She observed that it also came in a U.S. presidential election season that has seen a leading contender, Ben Carson, say that a Muslim should not be elected president.“To the extent there is a lot of fear among the American population about Islam, his message is very much an antidote,” Lamont said of the Aga Khan.last_img read more

Soy-rich diet may offset BPA’s effects on fertility

first_imgRegularly eating soy may protect women undergoing infertility treatments from poor success rates linked with bisphenol A (BPA), according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It is the first study to show a possible interaction between soy and BPA in humans.The study was published January 27, 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.BPA is a widely used chemical found in plastic food containers, water bottles, and in can linings. More than 96% of Americans have BPA in their bodies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The chemical can mimic estrogen, one of the two main sex hormones found in women. Many previous studies have linked BPA with health problems, including reproductive disorders.Researchers looked at the relationship between BPA exposure, diet, and success rates among 239 women who underwent at least one in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center from 2007 to 2012. The study found that among women who did not consume soy, higher urinary BPA levels were associated with lower chances of embryo implantation, fewer pregnancies advancing to the point where the fetus could be seen on an ultrasound, and fewer live births. However, BPA had no impact on IVF outcomes among women who routinely ate soy.“Our study highlights the need to consider the possibility that the health effects of environmental chemicals can be modified by lifestyle factors such as diet,” said Jorge Chavarro, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard Chan. Read Full Storylast_img read more

Pharr honored by Japan Foundation

first_imgSusan J. Pharr, Edwin O. Reischauer Professor of Japanese Politics and director of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, has been honored by the Japan Foundation for her contribution to the study of the island nation and its international ties.Recognized for her “richly balanced and fair stance of understanding for Japan and for her humble and sincere character,” Pharr will receive her Japan Foundation Award at an Oct. 18 ceremony in Tokyo, to be presided over by Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida.“It’s deeply gratifying to receive this recognition,” said Pharr, who called the prize of 3 million yen (about $29,500) “totally unexpected.”“It’s a privilege to be a part of one of the world’s great centers for the study of Japan and Asia,” she added.Pharr described her initial interest in Japan as “happenstance.” As a first-year graduate student at Columbia University, she took a recreational judo class with Japanese black belts. The friendships she made in the class led to sushi dinners, and, ultimately, courses on Japanese society and politics. She has been on the faculty at Harvard since 1987, and traveled in 2010 to Japan with President Drew Faust.Pharr’s research has examined gender and politics, foreign policy, political corruption, and the role of media in politics. The illustrious honor puts her in the company of past winners such as Sen. William Fulbright, conductor Seiji Ozawa, and novelist Haruki Murakami.last_img read more

The future of public health under President Trump

first_img Read Full Story How might the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president impact public health over the next four years? John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health at Harvard Chan School, who worked in the Senate on the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), offers his perspective in this Q&A.Many are worried that Obamacare will be in deep trouble—and likely be repealed—once Donald Trump is in the White House, working with Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. A week after the election, Trump appears to be hedging on his prior pledge to completely do away with the health reform law. What do you think will happen to the ACA—and to the millions of people who gained health insurance because of it?The likelihood for total 100 percent repeal of the ACA is unlikely for two reasons: One is that this would have to be accomplished through regular legislative order in the U.S. Senate and Republicans would not be able to attract the necessary eight votes needed from Democratic senators to do this. Of course, if Republicans choose to abolish the filibuster, that would change. A second reason that repeal is unlikely is that many Republicans appreciate many non-controversial provisions in the ACA and repealing them would be backward steps they would not want to make happen.Instead, and for now at least, Republicans appear to be moving toward a two-track process of “repeal and replace.”last_img read more

Hard time gets a hard look

first_imgWestern was at Princeton University in the mid-1990s, studying employment-to-population ratios and trying to count prisoners as part of the jobless population. A research assistant reported back that 30 percent of people in U.S. prisons were African-American men who had dropped out of high school. Convinced the numbers were wrong, Western asked that they be reviewed. He was stunned when the results came back the same.The statistics led him to a two-decade project to “understand the penal system in American society — its place in race relations and its intimate connections to problems of poverty and social inequality.”Gertner was simply doing her job, but she knew she was making the problem worse.“Eighty percent of sentences that I was obliged to impose in drug cases were unjust, disproportionate, and inequitable,” she told the class of working as judge within a strict sentencing framework ushered in by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. After retiring in 2011, she embarked “on a trajectory of wanting to know more,” she said, and pressing for change.As a social psychology student at Binghamton University in the late 1970s, Schiraldi worked nights at a home for juvenile offenders run by New York State. A few years later, after earning a master’s in social work from New York University, he was hired by Jerome Miller, a social worker and noted proponent of deinstitutionalizing the criminal justice system in favor of small, community-based programs. Schiraldi embraced his boss’ anti-institution stance as he watched incarceration rates soar.They were “fierce, ugly, nasty years,” said Schiraldi, both for those who worked to try to change the system, and above all “for those who were getting incarcerated.”Enrollment in the new seminar suggests a strong interest in the subject across campus. The course was at its 30-student capacity well before its registration deadline, with more than 100 students on waiting list. In addition to students from HKS, HLS, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the class attracted interest from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Harvard Divinity School.One student is the Law School’s Maya Cohen, who worked for the Close to Home initiative, a juvenile justice program in New York designed to keep youth close to their families and communities, when it was run by Schiraldi. Like her instructors, Cohen hopes the interdisciplinary nature of the course will help shine a light on how to end mass incarceration.“It will take a lot of creativity and collaboration in order to shift it, transform it, get rid of it,” she said. “Bringing together smart people from across the University to focus on it in an active way is probably our best bet.”SaveSaveSave Less crime, and fewer incarcerations Related On a recent afternoon Vincent Schiraldi watched students file out of a Harvard classroom. Then he made an incisive comparison.“If you think about it, this age cohort of 18- to 25-year-olds — what most of the people in the room are — is pretty much the entrance-age cohort for prisons, too,” said Schiraldi, who worked for years in criminal justice before arriving in Cambridge last year to head the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management. “There’s a real kind of fork in the road that people take in life that either sends them to prison or sends them to productive lives, and in America the vast majority of those productive lives are going to involve some level of college.”Stats on U.S. incarceration paint a troubling picture. Prison population began a steady rise in the 1970s, peaking in 2009. The U.S. imprisons more citizens (2.2 million) than any other nation, and despite having only 5 percent of global population holds almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Among African-American men who don’t finish high school, almost two-thirds will spend part of their lives behind bars.This fall, a new Harvard course has helped students become part of the effort to reform the nation’s criminal justice system. Schiraldi, Harvard Law School lecturer Nancy Gertner, and Harvard sociologist Bruce Western are teaching a graduate seminar examining the origins of U.S. mass incarceration and helping students craft workable solutions for getting, and keeping, people out of prison.“I think there is a massive appetite for this conversation on the part of students and I worry that we are not doing enough to meet the demand for that conversation,” said Western, the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice. “I think universities as institutions are only coming to this problem slowly … in some ways our students are out in front of where we should be.”The effort aims to harness that interest and embraces the idea that such an entrenched problem as mass incarceration requires an eclectic approach, one shaped by years of experience in academia, public policy, and the courtroom.Michael Huggins (from left), Harvard Kennedy School, Juliana Ratner and Maya Cohen, both from Harvard Law School, listen during the seminar. “There is a massive appetite for this conversation on the part of students,” said sociologist Bruce Western. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer“Each of us in different ways has been teaching and working on the problem of criminal justice policy,” said Gertner, who served as a federal judge in Massachusetts for 17 years. “We thought there would be some unique value in bringing together three perspectives: the social science on problems of crime and criminal justice, the perspective of policy research and analysis, and law.”The course comes at a time when attitudes about criminal justice policy have begun to shift. Democrats and Republicans have united in their desire to overhaul criminal justice laws in recent years and the House Judiciary Committee is currently heading a bipartisan effort to craft a range of bills aimed at improving the system.“None of us ever believed that we would be in a world in which people are talking about reducing incarceration and letting people out of prison,” said Gertner. During the class, she added, the instructors have ensured “the discussion goes from the abstract to the concrete.”Course requirements include a two-page white paper outlining reform recommendations written “for a high-ranking White House or Justice Department official.” There’s a good chance key decision makers will see some of those proposals. The course’s organizers are compiling a briefing for the Trump administration with suggestions about how to reduce incarceration at the local, state, and federal levels, and they plan to include material generated by the class in their report.Even if the new president balks or moves slowly on mass incarceration, Schiraldi said he is hopeful for reform at the state level.“Incarceration rates plummeted in New York City under Rudy Giuliani and in New Jersey under Chris Christie, and Newt Gingrich has openly called for reducing incarceration so there’s some room for guarded optimism in this area.”Students have engaged in a deep analysis of the history of the problem and the key changes in drug and sentencing policies that led to fivefold growth in U.S. incarceration. Class topics have included the origins of the American prison boom, the impact of race and poverty on mass incarceration, prison conditions, areas of reform involving youth and young adults, and social policy.Keeping the human dimension in mind has been a priority.“This was, and is, happening to real people,” said Schiraldi. “We should never forget that.”To start their first class the instructors discussed how they became interested in the topic. As New York became a safer city, prisons closed too, study says last_img read more

Modern opera with an old soul

first_imgYou could never accuse Matt Aucoin ’12 of lacking creativity. Among the young artistic marvel’s many College accomplishments were a prize for his senior thesis — a poetry collection — and a fellowship to study conducting at La Scala in Milan. Now he is returning to the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) with his latest venture — a fusion of music, song, and dance.Similar to the A.R.T.’s drive to “expand the boundaries of theater,” the mission of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) is to “reimagine the experience of opera from conception to performance.”Pianist-composer Matt Aucoin ’12 returns to Harvard and the A.R.T. as co-artistic director of the American Modern Opera Company.“We define opera as the point where every artistic discipline collides,” said Aucoin, a pianist-composer and co-artistic director of the company, which is made up of 17 dancers, musicians, choreographers, directors, and composers in their 20s and 30s who are “the ungodly offspring of a traveling theater troupe, a rock band, and a new-music ensemble,” according to the AMOC website.While the concept and name are modern, the company honors opera’s deep history, Aucoin explained by phone from his home in California, where he is artist in residence with the Los Angeles Opera.“At its heart, opera is this idealistic striving toward the union of all the human senses,” he said. “That was the kind of crazy ambition of the people in 17th-century Florence who first tried to make this happen.”Behind the company’s founding ethos, Aucoin added, “was the idea that it was possible to pay deep attention to not just the music, not just the poetry, not just the sets … but to treat it holistically.”That approach will be on view Dec. 15-18 during “Run AMOC!” at the Loeb Drama Center, Oberon, and the Harvard Dance Center. Performances in the festival will include “Were You There,” a tribute to victims of police brutality featuring bass-baritone Davóne Tines ’09 singing spirituals and a new composition by Aucoin, and “A Study on Effort,” a mix of music and motion with dancer Bobbi Jene Smith and violinist Keir GoGwilt.Creating an ensemble that could develop artistic connections while breaking new ground has long been a goal for Aucoin. The transient nature of the opera circuit, which requires singers and musicians to perform each month with different collaborators, and the rush to perfect new works with union-controlled orchestras on tight schedules has frustrated the young composer.,“It’s difficult to forge really deep artistic relationships in this world,” said Aucoin. “And I knew who my closest friends and favorite colleagues were, and so I wanted to gather a bunch of them together and make stuff.”One of those friends is Zack Winokur, choreographer, dancer, Juilliard graduate, and co-artistic director of AMOC. He and Aucoin grew up only a few miles apart in suburban Boston, but never met until they were introduced in their mid-20s at a lunch hosted by a mutual friend. The connection was instant.“He felt like an artistic soul brother,” said Aucoin, “and here we are.” “We define opera as the point where every artistic discipline collides.” Matt Aucoin Juilliard, the famed New York conservatory, is one artistic thread that runs through the company (Aucoin has a graduate diploma in composition from the school). Harvard, whose robust arts scene has inspired many students to pursue creative careers, is another.Tines took part in the Dunster House Opera Society (today Harvard College Opera), and was also president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra. The singer appeared in Aucoin’s “Crossing,” which premiered in Boston in 2015 under the direction of the A.R.T.’s Diane Paulus, and most recently with the San Francisco Opera’s premiere of “Girls of the Golden West,” by composer John Adams ’69, A.M. ’72, and librettist Peter Sellars ’80.AMOC’s managing director is Jennifer Chen ’11, who served as general manager of the Bach Society Orchestra at Harvard. She met Aucoin while working on the Dunster House Opera Society’s staging of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress.” The Harvard production remains a favorite among those she’s played a part in, said Chen, and was a “testament to both what students are able to achieve and what a container the University is for allowing students to do so.”,“A lot of these collaborations that germinated during that time have clearly lived on,” Chen added, “and these are people who I am still working with this many years later.”Chen landed a job at the Boston Symphony Orchestra after graduation. Soon after, a project at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, where Aucoin was a resident artist, led to a reunion. That collaboration, Chen said, was a “prelude to AMOC.”“Through that process I was evaluating what my next career step would be and decided to go to business school to gain some of the hard skills and a different perspective of what our work was in the arts,” said Chen who got involved with AMOC during her second year at the Yale School of Management, in 2016, and came on full-time after graduating this past May.Company members share a vision for what the future of opera can be, Aucoin said, and have been “working in the world long enough both to get the lay of the land and to form opinions about what might be done better.”And for the composer and his fellow artists, better can take many shapes and forms.“A piece of ours [may] just have a violinist and a dancer and yet for us we hope that the way we stage it will feel like opera, for me in the way that some of the later Beckett plays feel like opera because they make you so intensely aware of pure sound and gesture,” said Aucoin.AMOC will be back on campus Feb. 23 through March 4, leading workshops and performances and engaging with students during a 10-day residency sponsored by the Office for the Arts and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities.“We are just going to make ourselves available and will be doing the work that we would be doing otherwise,” said Aucoin, “but with the doors wide open.”last_img read more

Material interests

first_imgGaylord says she never sketches a plan in advance, but usually starts with the “cradle,” then determines paper, size, and beaded patterns, all while trying “not to be too conscious.” Each book takes her at least 20 hours.While color and texture primarily drive Gaylord’s paper choices — amate from Mexico, lokta from Nepal — there are other considerations. “A lot of Western art papers are made from rags and linens, but most papers I use are made from inner bark of trees,” giving the books a close connection to their wooden bases, she says.Gaylord made her first spirit book, “Sewn Prayer,” in 1992 and just recently finished her 100th, “Returning Embrace.”,“Oaks are symbols of longevity and endurance.”,“The emptiness within the circles provides a space for meditation.”,“The circle is a symbol of timelessness.” Close-up photos capture wonder of a walk through the Arboretum Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord wants her “spirit books” to look so natural, “If I placed one on the ground in the woods, you’d walk right by it.”People are stopping and taking notice, though, at the Arnold Arboretum, where 14 of the books are on view through July 22 — not in the woods, but in display cases in the visitor center.Sheryl White, the Arboretum’s coordinator of visitor engagement, first saw the Newburyport artist’s sculptures last year and thought they would be a good fit for the nature reserve. Gaylord had even gathered the sweetgum seed pods that form the spiky base for one of her books, “Chambered Congruity,” at the Arboretum. Seeing the forest through the trees Relatedlast_img read more