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Archive for September, 2014

University of Nebraska Press launches academic journal focusing on Midwestern history, identity

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Midwesterners often bristle at their region being dismissed as “flyover country.”  Recently there’s been  increased scholarly interest in the region, its culture and history.  As part of that revival, in early September the University of Nebraska Press published the first issue of Middle West Review, said to be the only academic journal to focus on the region.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction by editor Paul Mokrzycki that explains the journal’s aims. It’s a sort of manifesto of what the endeavor should be:

A Revival and a Burial

Since about the midpoint of the twentieth century, the study of the American Midwest has steadily lost appeal, while the scholarly subfields of the US South and West have boomed. Today, no fewer than ten institutions of higher learning boast centers dedicated to the historical study of the American West and Southwest, and numerous universities in southern states support comparable institutes focused on the US South.

Conversely, only three such centers exist for the study of the Midwest, none of which have the esteem or the historiographical influence enjoyed by institutes for southern and western studies.  . . . Further, while colleges and universities in the western US, for instance, regularly offer courses in the history of the West, few— if any— academic institutions in the Midwest train their students to think critically about the region in which they live.

Recently scholars from various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences have endeavored to redress these discrepancies in regional treatment. Earlier this year, the Humanities Without Walls (hww) consortium, comprising fifteen major research universities throughout the Midwest, received a generous $3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund inter-institutional research on the “global Midwest” and its economic and cultural salience. Scholars at the hww schools are now in the midst of developing projects about the region in which they reside—and its international impact.

Historian Jon K. Lauck has garnered attention from renowned historian Richard White and others for his new book “The Lost Region,” which seeks to stimulate a “revival” of midwestern history.

Further, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa hosted a symposium in 2012 on the Latino Midwest, and faculty at the university are presently working to develop a Latino/a studies minor to reflect the population’s expanding imprint on the state of Iowa. To proffer just one more example, a recent special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, entitled “Queering the Middle,” interrogates the subjectivities of lgbtq individuals living in the American Midwest. Its diverse essays— which touch on everything from Chicana lesbian activism in Chicago to masculinity and gender nonconformity on the Great Lakes— seek to queer the Midwest and challenge pervasive conceptions of the region as “normative.”

The Middle West Review belongs within this broader project of reenergizing and reimagining the study of the American Midwest. But we must be wary of what we purport to be reviving.

A renewed emphasis on Midwestern studies should not replicate the silences and omissions that marred some earlier scholarship on the region. It should not privilege the privileged or depict a romantic past ostensibly disrupted by rabble rousers from below. It should not obscure the racial, class, gendered, and religious tensions within the Midwest or shy away from difficult questions about identity, historical memory, and oppression both past and present.

It should not treat the Midwest as a site of uncontested progress,a region invariably on the “right side of history.” It should not pretend that Jim Crow never reared his ugly head in Wisconsin or Iowa. It should not hesitate to interrogate what it means to be black, Latino/a, Muslim, queer, Asian American, Native, or white in the Midwest. It should not recapitulatethe myths that cast the Midwest as a yeoman’s dream, a blank rural canvas. It should not valorize conquest. It should not paper over the violent colonialism that gave the region its color and shape. But, at the same time, it should not ignore the region’s virtues— which have contributed to its unique character— or the “dailiness” of midwestern life.

We therefore seek a broad and inclusive field, one that serves as an open forum for scholarly and deliberative discussion from various points of view; one that focuses on the history and contemporary experience of the American Midwest as a region ; one that dares to innovate; and one that transcends the limitations of prior writing and thinking about the Midwest.

To learn more about the Middle West Review, visit http://uimiddle.wordpress.com/

To subscribe to the journal, visit  http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Middle-West-Review,676024.aspx

For more information: contact Leslie Reed, national news editor, University Communications, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, lreed5@unl.edu or (402) 472-2059.

Chief Justice Roberts discusses Washington gridlock during visit to Nebraska College of Law

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Chief Justice John Roberts visited the Nebraska College of Law Sept. 19 for a conversational-style talk that generated coverage in local and national media outlets.

Most reports led with Roberts’ remarks on partisan gridlock. Among other things, Roberts lamented that Elena Kagan was confirmed by the Senate in a near party-line vote — and he added that he doubted that fellow justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg could survive a confirmation vote in today’s highly partisan environment.

Roberts spoke about the life of a Supreme Court chief justice with some humor — saying, for example, that justices ask “too many” questions of the lawyers appearing in court. Sometimes attorneys are prevented from making their own case when justices use questions to the lawyers as a way to argue legal points among themselves.  He said he sympathizes with the nervousness lawyers feel when they appear before the high court — he said he thinks the sides of the lectern probably have grooves from his fingernails from the days when he was a lawyer arguing before the nation’s highest court.

Roberts confided that the administrative duties of overseeing the court system probably are his least favorite aspects of his job. Shortly after he became chief justice, he said, a colleague came to him and complained that it was too hot in his chambers.  Roberts said he was commiserating with the other justice, when he suddenly realized “he expects me to do something about it!”

Here is a sampling of news articles published about Roberts’ appearance.

ABC news coverage:

http://go.unl.edu/39v7

WABC – New York:

http://go.unl.edu/wnvh

WLS-AM – Chicago:

http://go.unl.edu/jiuv

The Associated Press (Kansas City Star):

http://go.unl.edu/7rh7

Omaha World-Herald:

http://go.unl.edu/7rh7

Lincoln Journal-Star:

http://go.unl.edu/akzt

KETV:

http://go.unl.edu/0ujy

KOLN/KGIN:

http://go.unl.edu/j67w

Sensor with “human touch” could improve breast cancer detection

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

UNL scientists Ravi Saraf and Chieu Van Nguyen have developed a nano particle-based device that emulates human touch.

It can detect tumors too small and deep to be felt with human fingers.  It’s a sort of electronic skin that can sense texture and relative stiffness.

Saraf, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, thinks the thin-film could be used in a stethoscope-like device that family doctors could use to conduct quick and painless breast exams.  The beauty of the device is that it would be more sensitive than a manual breast exam, cheaper than a mammogram or MRI, and it would provide a visual record of the lump so the doc could more accurately monitor it during future visits.

Saraf says the next step is to find $1 million or so to develop a prototype.

This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (No. R21EB008520-01) in National Institutes of Health.