Talks and Lectures in the Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series

Fall 2020 Speakers are:


Thursday, October 8th at 5:30pm via Zoom (Registration is required)

Dr. Trina Jones (Jerome M. Culp Professor of Law, Duke Law School) and Jessica Roberts (Director of the Health Law & Policy Institute and the Leonard Childs Professor in Law, University of Houston Law Center)

DNA-Based Race?  An Exploration of Ancestry Testing and Racial Identity

Abstract: Can genetic tests determine race? Americans are fascinated with DNA ancestry testing services like 23andMe and AncestryDNA. This paper introduces the concept of “DNA-based race” by considering ways in which DNA ancestry tests may affect contemporary understandings of racial identity.  The authors argue that these tests are poor proxies for race because they fail to reflect the defining social, cultural, relational, and experiential norms that form identity. Consequently, the authors strongly caution against defining race in predominantly genetic terms.  The paper addresses three separate legal contexts: (1) employment discrimination, (2) diversity initiatives, and (3) citizenship.

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Thursday, October 15th  at 6:00pm via Zoom (Registration is Required)

Thomas Belt (Western Carolina University)

Endangered Language, Cultural Crisis.

The intrinsic relationship of linguistic expression and a dynamic culture determines the continued existence of a diverse and unique society. 

Zoom ID: 964 7900 8911

Registration is required:

Monday, October 19th  at 5:30pm via Zoom (Registration is Required)

Norma Mendoza Denton (Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles)

Crying, Control, and Masculinity in the Language of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump’s speeches as president provide many examples of narratives of masculinity where he elevates himself as the pinnacle of virility, strength, toughness—and whiteness. Wallace Chafe (1998) and other scholars (e.g. Norrick 1988) have written about the ways in which repeated tellings of the same story open a window not only into patterns of language, but also into the workings of the self. In the case of Trump, a revealing example of a narrative of masculinity is found in a series of retellings that Trevor Noah of The Daily Show compiled into the satirical Christmas video, “Trump’s Mythical Crying Man Yule Log” (The Daily Show 2018). In this video montage, a stone fireplace frames the center of an old-fashioned cathode-ray TV where video clips of Trump are gently licked by flames. The clips are taken from Trump’s campaign stops, speeches, and conversations with reporters, documenting fifteen distinct instances of Trump retelling the same story with minimal variations. The structure discernible in Trump’s narrative series is formulaic, with each instantiation filling in variable details, and recycled on many public occasions. Sometimes, the man is a steelworker, or a miner, or a farmer. Sometimes it’s a group of men who are crying. Occasionally there is one holdout in the group who does not cry. This man-crying-before-Trump sequence is a great example of not only a narrative of masculinity, but also a “comedic gesture,” where Trump dramatically drags his hands across his face to show copious crying(Goldstein, Hall and Ingram 2017). 

While it is well attested that politicians recycle narratives and inflect them to suit their audiences (Fenno 1978), Trump’s narratives go one step further, often revolving around self-aggrandizement, situating him as both the pinnacle and arbiter of toughness. The recurrence of this leitmotif is precisely what renders it an organizing narrative of Trumpian masculinity. 

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