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September 5, 2006
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Social science departments welcome 12 new faculty for 2006-07

Twelve new members of the regular faculty are beginning work in the social sciences at Brown this fall: Keisha-Khan Perry, Tricia Rose and Corey Walker in Africana Studies; Yona Rubinstein in Economics; Rosa Cho, Laura Snyder and Martin West in Education; Ethan Pollock in History; Sharon Krause in Political Science; Nitsan Chorev, Nancy Luke and Katherine White in Sociology.

See also new faculty in arts and humanities, life sciences and physical sciences.

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Rosa Minhyo Cho

Assistant Professor of Education

Rosa Cho comes to Brown from the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where, for her doctoral dissertation, she studied the effects of maternal incarceration on children’s educational outcomes in Chicago public schools.

For her research, Cho used large demographic datasets gathered for about a dozen years on more than 10,000 children. From the data, she teased out “all kinds of threads.” Her findings: Children whose mothers are incarcerated are academically disadvantaged compared to the medial-performing child in Chicago public schools, but not because they were separated from their mothers. “Incarceration itself a non-issue,” she said.

“I come from an interdisciplinary research background, using tools from economics and applying these tools to examine a social phenomenon,” Cho said. At Brown, she will use econometrics to evaluate education programs and policies, child and family policies, and criminal justice policy as it relates to education.

The Education Department’s new Urban Education Policy Program was one reason Cho was attracted to the position at Brown. “Creating policy-makers was a very attractive component” of the job description, she said. She looks forward to teaching her students how to get inside of raw data to gain insight. In the coming academic year, she will teach an undergraduate statistics course as well as a new course titled “Education, the Economy, and School Reform.”

Cho has a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University, and a bachelor of arts in Western history from Seoul National University.

– Tracie Sweeney


Nitsan Chorev

Assistant Professor of Sociology

For the last academic year, Nitsan Chorev has studied the history of the global politics of health. Looking at the trajectory of international health policies from the post-war era to the present, she is exploring some broader themes including the relations between North and South, the changing regulatory role of businesses, and the rise of neo-liberalism.

Her research, conducted as a Global Fellow of the International Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles, is a change of focus from her previous work on American trade policy.

“It’s quite nice,” Chorev said. “When I conducted research on trade policy, I was Americocentric. This project has moved me away from that to focus on other groups as well: developed versus developing countries, rich versus poor. The United States is a major actor, of course, but only one among many.”

In her research on trade policy, Chorev focused on trade liberalization, and the political developments that have made free trade possible. Publications include “The Institutional Project of Neo-Liberal Globalism: The Case of the WTO” (in Theory and Society), and “Making and Remaking State Institutional Arrangements: The Case of U.S. Trade Policy in the 1970s” (in Journal of Historical Sociology). She recently completed a book manuscript, Trading in the State: U.S. Trade Policy, Globalization, and the Politics of Institutions.

Chorev, who has a law degree from Tel Aviv University and a doctorate in sociology from New York University, comes to Brown from Central European University in Budapest, where she has served as assistant professor of sociology since 2003. She has taught courses in social theory, historical sociology, sociology of law, and the global politics of HIV/AIDS. At Brown this year, she will teach an undergraduate sociological theory course, a graduate-level course on the global political economy of diseases, and a graduate seminar on contemporary sociological theory.

– Tracie Sweeney


Sharon Krause

Associate Professor of Political Science

In her book Liberalism with Honor (Harvard University Press, 2002), political theorist Sharon R. Krause traces the geneology of honor, a motive commonly seen as obsolete today and associated with aristocratic societies. In contrast to the common view, Krause elaborates honor’s ties to conscientious objection and civil disobedience – the principled defense of individual liberties – and demonstrates that the sense of honor has been “a powerful engine of political action and, ultimately, democratic political reform” in the United States.

Her latest work, on the role of passion and judgment in political theory and the law, challenges conventional wisdom by arguing that instead of cold reason, sound public deliberation about matters of justice and the common good requires incorporation of citizens’ passions.

Neuroscience may even support her thesis. “I looked to some very interesting empirical literature that has emerged in the last 10 to 15 years in neuroscience and neuropsychology,” she said. “When it comes to deliberation about action, affective concerns such as passions and desires always have a role,” she said. Some data show that people whose brains are impaired in the areas associated with passion and emotion tend to have trouble reasoning their way to conclusions about what to do. “These people are perfectly capable of logical analysis; what they lack is feeling,” she said. It is not enough to dispassionately know the advantages and disadvantages of a decision. “You have to care. If you can’t care, you can’t decide. Political scientists have just begun to explore the implications of these findings for politics and political behavior.” Krause’s work takes it a step further, showing how reason and sentiment, when properly combined, can serve the important democratic ideal of impartiality in political judgment.

Krause has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (Wellesley College, 1988), a master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School (1993), and a doctorate in political theory from Harvard University (1998). Given this background, it may come as no surprise that Krause views political theory as “an intrinsically interdisciplinary field of study – philosophy, history, psychology, political science and, for some people, religious studies. ... These are disciplines that overlap in very rich and interesting ways.”

As an educator, Krause has two main goals: “First, I want people to know more than they did when they came into the classroom about the history of political ideas in the West, about the meaning of freedom and justice, and about the ideals that ground our own form of government and political life in the U.S. Second, I want to challenge students in ways that push them to develop their own abilities in critical reasoning, writing, and speaking so that they can take what they’ve learned and do something valuable with it.”

Krause comes to Brown from Harvard University, where she has taught since July 2000, first as assistant professor in the Department of Government, and later as associate professor. She is a 2005 recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Faculty Research Fellowship, and in 2003 received Harvard’s Roslyn Abramson Award, presented by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in recognition of excellence and sensitivity in teaching undergraduates.

– Tracie Sweeney


Nancy Luke

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Nancy Luke is a collector – a methodologist who explores new ways to gather data that bring fresh insight to such topics as health and well-being, particularly among women in developing countries.

Her latest work examines how community institutions, such as marriage, caste and economic exchange, affect individual and couple behavior, including sexual relations in Kenya and intimate partner violence in India. She has designed and directed several large-scale surveys as well as conducted qualitative studies. In support of this research, she has received grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the World Bank, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.

This year Luke is making preparations to conduct fieldwork in Kenya in the summer of 2007 as part of a new NIH-funded project researching sexual risks among that country’s young people. In the short term, Luke’s project is testing the use of a life history calendar as a new way to collect detailed and accurate information on young women’s and young men’s romantic and sexual relationships.

Under a second NIH grant, Luke is exploring female income and family welfare in India with her frequent research collaborator, husband Kaivan Munshi, a Brown economics professor.

Luke, who received her doctorate in sociology and demography from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, is no newcomer to Brown: She has been an assistant professor (research) at the Population Studies and Training Center since 2003, and was a visiting assistant professor in the sociology department in fall 2003 and spring 2006.

Nor is she a newcomer to teaching Brown students. “They’re fantastic – interested and engaged in the world,” she said. This academic year, Luke will teach two sociology courses – “The Family” and “Introductory Statistics for Social Research.”

– Tracie Sweeney


Keisha-Khan Perry

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies

Keisha-Khan Perry has always considered herself an activist.

Having experienced her own struggles immigrating to the United States from Jamaica in the 1980s, Perry says she’s committed to improving housing and human rights for poor people, particularly women and children, in the United States and abroad. Her personal interest in advocacy is also at the heart of her scholarly work.

After earning her B.A. in Spanish and women’s studies from Georgetown University, Perry received an M.A. and Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Texas–Austin. Her scholarly interests include activist anthropology, African diaspora studies, critical race and feminist theory, and urban politics. Perry comes to Brown from Smith College where she was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in anthropology.

The recipient of more than 20 fellowships and awards, including the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship, Perry has focused her academic career on researching feminist social movements in Mexico, Jamaica, Belize, Argentina, the United States and Brazil.

It is Brazil that Perry calls her “second home” – and with good reason. For more than a decade, she’s spent many months each year, mostly in the coastal city of Salvador, observing black women’s participation and leadership in neighborhood movements, which was the focus of her dissertation.

“I’m interested in how women have been the central actors in emergent social movements in Brazil,” she explained. “Women-centered grassroots struggles in Brazil provide a different angle for us to think about how black activism occurs on a mass scale. I argue that these organizations tend to be more successful when they are led by women.”

During her fieldwork, Perry worked in collaboration with neighborhood activists – attending meetings and rallies, helping take a community census and doing her share of the grind work, such as cleaning sewers and scrubbing pots. She even learned how to swim, after spending so much time out on boats within the fishing community. She says she’s developed deep friendships during her time in Brazil and has certainly grown as a person.

“Amongst all the troubles and problems they have – racial discrimination, class disparities, gender inequities – I appreciate the warmth of the people I’ve met there,” Perry said. “I’ve learned to be more gentle, kind and considerate and have also truly grown as an activist.”

Perry is currently working on a manuscript based on her dissertation. She is also interested in exploring the topic of immigration and says her next project will likely focus on black women’s journeys to the United States through the temporary migrant programs from Jamaica and elsewhere.

– Deborah Baum


Ethan Pollock

Assistant Professor of History

Ethan Pollock, a 1991 graduate in history from Tufts University, spent four years in the 1990s living and working in Moscow – perhaps the perfect time and place for a young historian whose specialty would be Russian and Soviet history. He was “present at the collapse,” he said, when the old Soviet Union sank into history and the Russian nation re-emerged.

He spent lots of summers in Russia after that, he said, on the way to earning graduate degrees in history at the University of California–Berkeley (M.A., 1995; Ph.D., 2000). He comes to Brown after four years as an assistant professor at Syracuse University.

One of his early interests was the way in which the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin involved himself in the work of the Soviet scientific community – and the degree to which political imperatives and ideological goals distorted Soviet science. “Physics was somewhat protected under Stalin because of the drive to build the bomb,” Pollock said, “but biology and the other disciplines were not so fortunate.”

Pollock’s new book on that subject, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars, has just been published by Princeton University Press. Has he been asked about the use and misuse of scientific research by present-day U.S. officials advancing their agendas? “Yes, but I tread very lightly on those kinds of questions,” Pollock said. “The boundaries between politics and science – Who controls the funding? Who has the authority? – will always be a provocative area.”

Pollock’s current interest is in the Russian bania, a tradition of public baths that has defined and shaped Russian culture since the first millennium. “The bania survived the Mongols, Peter the Great, the Revolution and communism and is still a central and unifying feature as present-day Russian people revisit Russian national traditions,” Pollock said.

With its mystical, earthy, atavistic elements of earth, water, fire and steam, the bania remains a place where significant events occur and is an excellent window into Russian history, culture, social values and soul. It was in the bania, Pollock said, where Boris Yeltsin came to understand that he was neither a communist nor an internationalist, but a Russian.

And Pollock’s move to Brown? The chance to be in history at Brown – “a very, very good department” – lured him away from Syracuse, where he had been happy and productive. Nearly all academic history departments, Brown included, are undergoing a demographic shift, Pollock said. They combine brilliant leading-edge scholars at the start of their academic careers with distinguished senior professors – Tom Gleason, Gordon Wood and others – who are near or in retirement but remain productive, provocative colleagues and mentors. That creative atmosphere and the prospect of working with graduate and undergraduate Brown history students, he said, made the move to Providence an obvious choice.


Tricia Rose

Professor of Africana Studies

She’s been called a “Hip Hop Theorist” by The New York Times and a “Ph.Diva” by Essence magazine. Tricia Rose – one of the country’s leading scholars on issues of race and American culture – is now back at Brown.

Born in Harlem and raised in Co-Op City in the Bronx, Rose heard rap music long before it became mainstream. She was a teen-ager, playing basketball on the neighborhood courts, when she would constantly “hear people working on their rhyme.” Fascinated by this new form of music and its emerging relationship to mass media, Rose incorporated it into her sociology studies at Yale University, where she received her B.A. in 1984.

Committed to pursuing the study of rap music in graduate school, Rose decided to enroll at Brown because of its strong American and African American studies programs. She said Brown was the most open minded to her “unusual topic,” but some professors weren’t exactly encouraging.

“Many professors were concerned that by the time I finished my dissertation, rap music would have disappeared, been rendered irrelevant, and that I’d therefore never get a job,” Rose recalled. “I didn’t think rap was likely to go away – but, I never predicted that it would become the quintessential American mainstream popular music.”

For her dissertation, Rose explored hip hop within its social, cultural and artistic contexts and conducted dozens of personal interviews with rap artists, industry executives, promoters and producers. She received her Ph.D. from Brown in 1993 and calls the project “entirely a springboard to my career.”

Based on her dissertation, Rose’s first book Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, an historical ethnographic study, was the first highly recognized scholarly account of hip hop music. It was awarded an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and made the Village Voice’s top 25 books of 1994. Rose co-edited a second book, entitled Microphone Fiends: Youth Music and Culture. Her essays, which cover a range of topics including American culture, black popular music, and sexism, have appeared in dozens of book collections, journals and magazines. She’s also delivered more than a hundred lectures and presentations at schools, conferences and symposia around the country.

“My interest in hip hop stems from my larger interest in the structural forces that shape the lives and voices of black aggrieved communities and their creative attempts to re-imagine and alter their landscape.”

Her most recent book, Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk About Sexuality and Intimacy, is the first compilation of black women’s oral histories about sexuality. She was interested in “how this group’s sexuality can be at the heart of American history, policy, practice and fantasy, but whose actual experiences we know nothing about.” The series of personal stories has been hailed as a “pioneering collection” and a “landmark” book.

“Black women’s sexuality is at once highly pivotal in the history of American culture and politics and remarkably veiled at the same time,” she said.

Rose is currently working on a book called Intimate Justice, which draws connections between creative expression, political consciousness, action and intimate lives and relationships in black cultural/community spaces.

Prior to joining Brown’s Department of Africana Studies, Rose taught at Rutgers University, New York University, and the University of California–Santa Cruz. In addition to teaching here, Rose will also launch an interdisciplinary study called Understanding Race, which “will be a collective thinking and communication space for the many scholars and public intellectuals reflecting and reacting to critical events related to race in the United States.”

“Tricia Rose is one of the most important intellectuals of her generation. Her coming to Brown signifies the growth and increasing national importance of the Africana Studies Department,” said Anthony Bogues, department chair. “Additionally, the interdisciplinary project Understanding Race will significantly add to America’s understanding of the meanings of race in the contemporary world.”

– Deborah Baum


Yona Rubinstein

Assistant Professor of Economics

Yona Rubinstein wasn’t looking for a career as an economist, but once advisors and professors introduced him to new ways of thinking about the discipline, his eyes were opened.

“I learned that economics is not only about interest rates, inflation and national debt, but also about things that are very interesting to me,” like the economics of human behavior.

Now a labor economist, Rubinstein has published several scholarly journal articles. One, written with Nobel laureate James Heckman of the University of Chicago, shows the importance of noncognitive skills – such as sociability, persistence and dependability – in determining a person’s earnings and educational attainment.

Last summer, The Economist wrote about Rubinstein’s working paper that took a novel approach to exploring the economics of terrorism. The paper, written with Nobel Laureate Gary S. Becker of the University of Chicago, applied economic methods to examine why terrorism generates such a large influence on people’s behavior, even when the actual risk of being harmed is low.

As The Economist reported, “The paper argued that it is not the risk of physical harm that moves people, it is the emotional disquiet.”

“Terror takes advantage of people being human and rational,” the pair wrote. “By generating fear, terror, even in the form of a low-probability event, may cause substantial effects. Hence, terror generates large-scale effect by damaging the quality of our life rather than the ‘quantity’ of life.” But, they noted, depending on the circumstances, people can make emotional investment to overcome their fear.

Rubinstein comes to Brown from Tel Aviv University, where he has been a lecturer at the Eitan Berglas School of Economics. He was educated at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he obtained his doctorate in economics in 2000.

– Tracie Sweeney


Laura Snyder

Lecturer in Education

Laura Snyder’s ideas and opinions about teaching high school students and mentoring teachers just starting out in their careers were formed on the front lines.

The new lecturer in English for Brown’s Teacher Education Program has taught English and literature in secondary schools in New Hampshire and California and was the founder and principal of a small private day school in Falls Church, Va. As a field supervisor for the Multicultural Urban Secondary English (MUSE) Master’s and Credential Program at the University of California–Berkeley, Snyder supervised student teachers in middle and high school English and English language development programs. She also arranged student teachers’ field placements and developed and maintained relationships with teachers, administrators and school sites.

Her real-world experiences demonstrated to her that “seasoning of new teachers takes time,” Snyder said. “Those who are just starting out have passion, care about social justice, and want to make a difference,” Snyder said. Her work at Berkeley helped new teachers get their bearings and acquire skills that helped harness their energy. Such work will continue at Brown.

Snyder’s position at Brown “brings together all my interests.” With responsibility for Brown Summer High School and as part of the Teacher Education Program, Snyder will still have a foot in a professional secondary-school setting, where her teaching interests include methods for English and language arts, assessment and literacy issues, multicultural adolescent literature, and teacher inquiry. But she also will be able to continue conducting research on drama education for literacy learning, project-based learning in the English classroom, and assessment and identification of expertise in the student teacher and beginning teacher.

Next May, Snyder will receive her doctorate in education from UC-Berkeley. Her dissertation examines the impact of the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT) on English teacher education. She also has a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College and a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Amherst College.

– Tracie Sweeney


Corey Walker

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies

In the mid-1990s, Corey D. B. Walker spent his days just as millions of Americans do – working in a sea of cubicles.

With a degree in finance from Norfolk State University, he was employed as an underwriter for State Farm Insurance. Walker kept up his interests and reading in philosophy, theology and history, knowing there was more to the world than “life in the cube.” Inspired by a strong desire to “go chase ideas,” Walker abandoned the insurance industry and enrolled in seminary at Virginia Union University.

After receiving his Master of Divinity degree, Walker earned his Master of Theological Studies degree from The Divinity School at Harvard University and his Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. Walker comes to Brown from the University of Virginia where he was assistant professor of religious studies and African-American studies for the last three years.

His research interests include Africana philosophy, critical theory, modern theology, and religion and public life. He is currently the book review editor and associate editor for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the top academic journal in the field of religious studies.

“I don’t think you can fully engage philosophical ideas without engaging the theological,” he said. “When we bring philosophy and theology together, we are better able to develop a fuller picture of how individuals wrestle with what it means to be, what it means to be human and what it means to live in a society.”

In addition to delivering more than 40 lectures and presentations and contributing to dozens of publications, including Philosophia Africana, Amerikastudien/American Studies, Les Cahiers Charles V and Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, Walker also co-directed and co-produced the documentary film Fifeville with acclaimed artist and filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson. The 14-minute portrait of an African-American neighborhood undergoing gentrification has been screened around the world and was an International Competition Selection at the 52nd International Short Film Festival at Oberhausen.

“The film has been able to generate robust conversations on poverty, urban redevelopment, and most importantly, what it means to be a citizen in the modern world,” Walker said.

He is the author of a forthcoming book, The Freemasonry of Race: The Cultural Politics of Association and the Struggle for Democracy in America, a book that “bridges multiple intellectual divides, from cultural studies to political theory and from theology to history” in positing what one reviewer claims is “a profound revision of how we might understand the complex relationship between associational activity and democracy.” He is now working on a second manuscript, titled Between Transcendence and History: Theology, Critical Theory and the Politics of Liberation. This book explores “a new kind of theological thinking,” Walker says, “that critically informs a radically democratic politics of liberation.”

Walker is looking forward to contributing to the many initiatives within Brown’s Department of Africana Studies including its new graduate program.

“I’m excited to be in a progressive intellectual environment that really supports interdisciplinary work and provides the critical institutional support necessary for it,” he said.

– Deborah Baum


Martin West

Assistant Professor of Education and Political Science

Martin West’s research explores the policies and politics of education.

West obtained his doctorate from Harvard University this year. His doctoral thesis, “Politics, Public Sector Unionism, and Education: Explanation and Evaluations” is a collection of three papers. One paper probed the effects of a school voucher program in Florida. Another took a look at the history of public sector unions.

The third analyzed the effects of class-size reduction – a hotly debated topic in education circles, West said. By examining data from 11 countries, West found that reductions in class size improve student achievement only in countries where teacher quality is low.

During a yearlong fellowship in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, West conducted research and co-wrote a number of journal articles, book chapters and policy briefings on these and other topics. With Paul E. Peterson, professor of government at Harvard University, West co-edited School Money Trials: The Legal Pursuit of Educational Adequacy, published this year by Brookings Institution Press. Adequacy lawsuits, in which a plaintiff claims that school resources fail to support the quality of education guaranteed by a state’s constitution, have been filed in 35 states. Through such litigation, plaintiffs hope courts will step in to order increased levels of aid.

The opportunity to be involved in the University’s new master’s-level Urban Education Policy Program is among the reasons West was drawn to Brown. (The first cohort of students enrolled in June 2006 and will graduate in May 2007.) “This program meets a real-world need,” West said. Its problem-centered perspective “lines up well with my view of what I do.” As part of the Urban Education Policy Program, West will be teaching a graduate-level course on data analysis.

– Tracie Sweeney


Katherine White

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Beginning in about 1914 and until the middle of the 20th century, millions of African-Americans left the rural South to settle primarily in large industrial cities of the North, Midwest and West.

How did the Great Migration, as it was known, affect black and white, male and female, rich and poor? Were communities lost or transformed? Demographic change and economic transitions – not only during the Great Migration, but in other places and times – are the focus of sociologist Katherine White.

“I always have had an interest in context. That is part of what has led me to where I am and has shaped my research questions and interests,” White said. Currently, her research examines the agriculture-to-industrial movement in the United States and how it has affected the Great Plains, South and Puerto Rico. She also has an interest in the spatial distribution of childhood poverty – when it emerged and its persistence.

“I came from a home that encouraged learning,” White said. “I think that as a kid, my goal was to just acquire as much knowledge as I possibly could.” The goal led to research and scholarship in sociology, “a field that just happened to be broad enough to borrow from history, geography, ecology and economics in ways that you can really get something interesting.”

White has a B.A. in sociology from the University of Montana and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Washington. In 2003, she received an NICHD postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she has worked closely on projects involving advanced methods of spatial analysis.

The University recruited White to be a part of its new Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) Initiative and the Population Studies and Training Center.

– Tracie Sweeney