Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

College of Liberal Arts News

IDEA Brings Chinese Debaters to Willamette

Four college students from China arrived at Willamette in late February as part of a month-long Northwest Debate Tour, sponsored by the International Debate Education Association (IDEA).

The students are traveling to six Oregon and Washington universities to practice their debate skills by discussing topics that are censored in their home country. For example, they engaged in an informal debate with Willamette students on the topic of censorship itself.

The Chinese students also will participate in the Mark O. Hatfield Debates at Willamette Feb. 27-28.

"This is a unique opportunity for me to learn and grow as a debater and as a student by interacting with people from a fundamentally different culture and linguistic background," says Kevin Bell '12, one of the Willamette students who will participate in the informal debate. "I'm excited to meet with the Chinese debaters on a neutral playing field and talk with them levelly about one of the biggest issues dividing our respective countries today."

With independent bases of operation at Willamette and in Amsterdam, IDEA promotes debate, discussion and the free exchange of ideas among youths in more than 40 emerging democracies worldwide.

The four Chinese students were the winners of a debate tournament last May hosted by IDEA in Xi'an, China. The Northwest tour is an extension of IDEA's recent efforts to hold tournaments and events in Asia that encourage the discussion of prohibited issues about Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen Square and Internet censorship.

"The debate tour emphasizes the fact that the notions of free speech in China and the U.S. are so different," says Willamette Professor Robert Trapp, IDEA-US executive director. "People are nervous in China about criticizing the government, specifically about these issues. With this in mind, IDEA has continued to push the envelope in bringing debate and free speech to China."

Willamette debater Joe Provencher '11 sees the events in Salem as an opportunity to enhance international travel for both the Chinese debaters and the Willamette program.

"The chance to go to foreign countries, and especially foreign schools, is valuable," he says. "This visit also reminds us that people of all backgrounds can come together and argue without offense or incivility. The use of rhetoric can be educational, entertaining and healing as much as it can be divisive or incendiary."

For more information on IDEA's efforts in China and to read about other China events, visit the IDEA Willamette website.

Professor Wogan Co-Authors Book on Anthropology of Hollywood Blockbusters

Willamette University professor Peter Wogan's new book, "Hollywood Blockbusters: The Anthropology of Popular Movies," delves into the cultural underpinnings of American society by looking at movies through the lens of an anthropologist.

Wogan and co-author David Sutton explore anthropological theories about ritual, kinship, gift giving, power, egalitarianism, literacy, linguistics, stereotypes and the mysteries of the Other to provide fresh insight into the popularity of movies such as "The Godfather," "Jaws" and "Field of Dreams."

"Blockbuster movies are like enormous collective dreams," Wogan said. "Movies can create a visceral connection to important anthropological concepts."

Wogan explored this connection through a class that he teaches each year at Willamette. In Wogan's "Survey of Anthropological Theory" class, he used "Jaws" to explore underlying tensions in American culture in the same way that anthropologists study myths in non-Western contexts. These classroom discussions over several years at Willamette, and in one of Sutton's classes at Southern Illinois University, informed the arguments made within the book.

Among other aspects of these blockbuster movies, the authors consider the nature of linguistics in "The Big Lebowski," and they discuss the nature of boundaries in "Field of Dreams." Wogan and Sutton also include a less commercially successful movie, "The Village," to explore and contrast with movies that have become deeply interwoven into American culture.

The book is available in bookstores and online. Additional material and discussion is available on Wogan's companion blog at http://blockbusteranthropology.blogspot.com/.

Art Professor Fourie Wins Graves Award in Humanities

Professor Andries Fourie has won a prestigious Arnold L. and Lois S. Graves Award in the Humanities, which encourages and rewards outstanding accomplishment in teaching the humanities and honors professors whose projects will enhance their classroom abilities.

Fourie, who is originally from South Africa and teaches sculpture at Willamette, plans to use his award to travel through Senegal and Mali this summer for a project entitled, "On the Threshold between Tradition and Innovation: Art and Identity in West Africa."

He will visit universities, museums, galleries, art centers, artist studios and villages to meet artists and traditional artisans while exploring the ways music, cuisine, storytelling, architecture and film inform the cultural life of Malians and Senegalese.

"I hope that my understanding of my own South African identity will be transformed and broadened by the experience of sharing ideas with West African artists who have spent the majority of their lives living in independent nations," Fourie says. "This has the potential to greatly affect the work and research that I do, as well as my teaching."

Fourie plans to use the information he collects to create a new body of sculptures on the topic of wider African identity, as well as enhance the presence of African studies at Willamette.

The Graves Award is given through a biennial competition administered by Pomona College, and only 41 colleges and universities in the western U.S. are eligible to nominate faculty for the award. This is the 12th award to go to a Willamette professor.

Learn more about Fourie and view samples of his work on the Department of Art and Art History website.

Dramatic Vocal Arts Ensemble Presents “Our Town”

Willamette's Dramatic Vocal Arts Ensemble will present Ned Rorem's new operatic masterpiece "Our Town" at 7 p.m. on March 12 and 13 in Smith Auditorium.

"Our Town" successfully portrays the complexities of life, love and death in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, through the conventional boy meets girl next-door storyline.

Rorem captures the plain text with sweeping melodies and recurring motifs, emphasizing the heart-wrenching sentimentality residing in everyday life throughout the entire opera. The dynamic combination of McClatchy's remarkable text selections and Rorem's melodic lines make a beautiful and emotional show.

Northwest tenor Les Green guides the characters and the audience through a fantastic portrayal of quintessential small-town America. Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Ned Rorem and librettist J.D. McClatchy adapted American playwright Thorton Wilder's internationally acclaimed play into a beautifully crafted opera directed by Allison Swensen-Mitchell and conducted by Hekun Wu.

Tickets are available through the Willamette Department of Music at (503) 370-6255. Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for students.

Africa Week at Willamette Supports Humanitarian Projects in Africa

The African Studies Club at Willamette hosted its fifth-annual celebration of Africa from Feb. 13-19. Africa Week events focused on the theme "Africa's Regreening: Local Solutions to Environmental Challenges."

Grace Kuto, a native Kenyan and founder of the Harambee Centre, delivered the keynote address on Feb. 17. Kuto has worked to support local initiatives in African countries, including the development of a health clinic in her hometown of Chwele. The dynamic Rainbow Dance Theatre opened for Kuto, with performances ranging from traditional African to hip-hop. Afterward, Kuto signed copies of her book "Harambee! Stories and Recipes from the African Family Circle."

The African Studies Club hosted the week's events with support and assistance from other campus groups, including Willamette's Institute for the Interdisciplinary Social Analysis of Complex Global Challenges, Black Student Union, Associated Students of Willamette University, French and anthropology departments as well as the president's office.

For more information about any of these events, contact Sarah Kutten at (503) 370-6942, or email the Africa Club at africaday@willamette.edu.