Pratt Institute's Liberal Arts B.A. Major


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our colleague in the Math & Science Department, Chris Jensen, has posted on his blog a nice discussion on the interpretation of social scientific and scientific research by the political Right:  "How the right wing co-opts research into the evolution of cooperation." 
Chris looks at two "recent" works that adsorb work on the evolution of cooperation into the perspective of the Right and Far-Right, as well as commenting on the recent social disruptions in the U.K. in this ideological context.

From his conclusion:
 "There is no way to prevent people with particular agendas from misusing science to forward those agendas. But when I see legitimate science being misused to support oppressive ideas, I get sick to my stomach, and I can’t help commenting on how fallacious their so-called scientific ideas are."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Author and journalist Christian Parenti of The Nation is coming to Pratt on Monday, September 26 at 6:30PM.  He will be speaking about his latest book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the Future, as well as his other work.


Climate Change Event with Christian Parenti, 9/26
Christian Parenti 
Tropic of Chaos
Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

Special Event sponsored by the Pratt Faculty Union (UFCT 1460)

Monday, September 26, 2011


Alumni Reading Room, 3rd Floor, Pratt Library

Please join the Pratt Faculty Union (UFCT 1460) for a special presentation by Christian Parenti, investigative journalist, contributing editor at The Nation, Puffin Foundation Writing Scholar at The Nation Institute, and visiting scholar at the Brooklyn College Sociology Department.  He is also the author of Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (2000); The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America (2003); and The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq (2004).

The world’s developed nations currently face a political, social, and ethical dilemma: how will they react to the ravages of climate change that are affecting undeveloped nations in the global south right now?  These same developed nations must also come to terms with the ways their neo-liberal, neo-colonial policies have helped turn these undeveloped nations into “failed states” that are more vulnerable and less able to respond to climate change.  Parenti’s latest book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (New York: Nation Books, 2011), deftly looks to the past and to the future in an effort to come to grips with the new world order that climate change is bringing about.

In Tropic of Chaos, Parenti argues that the effects of climate change are at the root of violent conflicts breaking out throughout the global south.  He shows how areas in the “tropic of chaos”—East Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, and Pakistan—have been made especially vulnerable to climate change due to the effects of both Cold War proxy conflicts and neo-liberal economic restructuring and privatization, and how the West is already preparing for these conflicts through developing the techniques and arsenal associated with counter-insurgency warfare.

For more information, please contact Kye Carbone ( or Suzanne Verderber (

Sponsored by Local 1460 of the United Federation of College Teachers, the Pratt Faculty Union

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I went to see this film, Sex + Money, last Monday in my hometown. So many people showed up they had to open a second theater to accommodate the overflow! I was also very pleased to find that we had about eight representatives, senators, and judges in attendance (I would also like to note that not a single one of them was a Republican or Tea Party member). This documentary film was made entirely by a group of students who are investigating the state of modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States. By no means is it the greatest documentary there ever was, but it is fairly informative and the topic is one that is all too often glossed over in discussions of civil liberties and sex and labor politics. While the film provides a few insights on what potential factors make human trafficking and modern slavery possible and what is being done to put an end to it, they leave a lot of loose ends. But those loose ends provide several excellent starting points to start pursuing these issues and ideas further. Doing so can ultimately draw more people into exploring the ways sexuality and labor is treated both at home and around the world socially, politically, and economically.

The students who produced this film are now taking it on tour in all 50 states. If you peruse the website you'll see that they are still venue-less in many states. So, if you do live somewhere near where the film is showing, I encourage you to go. If you know someone who lives in a said venue-less state, give them a call and tell them to do something about it. If you feel like a one time showing just isn't enough for the people in or around your community, you can order a copy of the film and organize a screening. A considerable portion of the proceeds will go towards rehabilitating rescued victims of human trafficking and enslavement in America. The bottom-line is bring a friend to go see the film--you'll only have something to gain from it.

And for those of you who are interested in looking for a little extra inspirational mojo, check out The Education of Shleby Knox (2005). Watch a good, southern, Baptist girl rile up her town when she begins to openly oppose abstinence-only sex education in Lubbock, Texas--a school district with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and contracted STDs in America.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On 11:02 PM by B. Ricardo Brown, Ph.D. in , ,
Sometimes a picture speaks a thousands words, and at others the words can drive the interpretation of the image.  Take this image from today's New York Times front page article "U. S. Relies on Contractors in Somalia Conflict."
Todd Heisler/The New York Times
Like all images, it is enigmatic.  The Times tries to put it into context and point towards a particular range of interpretations by supplying a caption.  Like the headlines, the captions are not written by the reporter but by specialized editors and editorial assistants.
Now that the New York Times is putting more and more content online, more of the online content is diverging from the print version, as noted recently by the Public Editor.  In this case, the slip provides an opportunity to compare not only how the captions in the Times work out given ideologies, but also how the altering of the text can alter the interpretation of the image.  The online version of the story did not differ from the print version.  The first paragraphs read:
U.S. Company Trains African Troops in Somalia.
By Jeffrey Gettleman, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt
Published: August 10, 2011
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Richard Rouget, a gun for hire over two decades of bloody African conflict, is the unlikely face of the American campaign against militants in Somalia.
A husky former French Army officer, Mr. Rouget, 51, commanded a group of foreign fighters during Ivory Coast’s civil war in 2003, was convicted by a South African court of selling his military services and did a stint in the presidential guard of the Comoros Islands, an archipelago plagued by political tumult and coup attempts.

Now Mr. Rouget works for Bancroft Global Development, an American private security company that the State Department has indirectly financed to train African troops who have fought a pitched urban battle in the ruins of this city against the Shabab, the Somali militant group allied with Al Qaeda.

The company plays a vital part in the conflict now raging inside Somalia, a country that has been effectively ungoverned and mired in chaos for years. The fight against the Shabab, a group that United States officials fear could someday carry out strikes against the West, has mostly been outsourced to African soldiers and private companies out of reluctance to send American troops back into a country they hastily exited nearly two decades ago.

“We do not want an American footprint or boot on the ground,” said Johnnie Carson, the Obama administration’s top State Department official for Africa....

The image appeared with the following captions:

Print Version:
"Richard Rouget, center, a military adviser hired by an American Private security company, trains troops in Mogadishu, Somalia."
Online version:
"A Ugandan soldier leads Richard Rouget, a military adviser with Bancroft Global Development, to the roof of a building to monitor a firefight."
Version from NY Times slide show:
"Richard Rouget, center, a Frenchman and a gun for hire over two decades of bloody African conflict, is now a military adviser with Bancroft Global Development, an American private security company. The State Department has indirectly financed the company to train African troops now fighting a pitched urban war against the Shabab, the Somali militant group allied with Al Qaeda."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On 5:58 PM by The Prude
Hi there, Prude here.

I’m very excited to be posting to this blog alongside such interesting fellow minds, and hope to contribute to ongoing and rigorous conversation. I’m a graduate of the Critical and Visual Studies program here at Pratt, and live in New York City. By way of a little bio, I’m involved in Alternative Sex & Lifestyle communities (LGBTQ, Leather Pride, BDSM and Polyamory) both personally and as an organizer for national events, most recently The Floating World. My research and writing interests include power as it relates to the right of governments to govern, public policy for gender and orientation as well as health and education, technology policy, morality and obscenity. I’m an avid photographer and am working on building my professional portfolio.

I write under a pseudonym here and on my personal blog, Adventures of an Adventurous Prude because I have not yet decided to come out, and “scene names” are a form of communication in and of themselves. I find participating in a system of private naming and the “in” versus “out” dynamic about who is “allowed to know” fascinating. Small communities using alternate identities proliferate in conditions of oppression, and from an academic perspective it’s enlightening to be able to participate in the “togetherness” this knowing of my “private name” has. (Especially when, depending on the space, my private name is my legal name.)

I hope to spend some quality time on this blog describing the realities of planning and putting on events such as The Floating World as well as dealing with the theoretical underpinnings of the power play relationships involved in the BDSM and Leather communities. I may touch on gender and sexual orientation in the interests of the topic at hand, and I am excited to engage outside the communities in which I normally move and to “speak” as it were to a larger audience. Posts that I’m currently planning are discussions about consenting to violence, security at private events, and disengaging gender presentation from sexual orientation.
I look forward (with a little trepidation) to the discussion.


The Prude