Author: kdonchik

Frozen in Time: Monuments

History has a way of reminding us that it is still here. Learning from the past and growing together while using history as an important basis of information is an integral part of a country’s development. History often freezes itself in the form of a monument. Monuments have been used by many different cultures to preserve an idea, an event, or a person in time. They serve as reminders of the past regardless of the current time. They are powerful and sometimes even used as mementos of revolutionary events that have occurred.

Professor Jeffrey Schnapp’s lecture about monuments and how they can impact current cultures was extremely interesting. The concept that something from the past can still impact the people of the current day is extremely powerful. It truly emphasizes the message that monuments can convey. Understanding the message behind a monument is extremely important, because for many people, monuments can have different meanings. After Professor Schnapp’s lecture, I find myself more inquisitive as to the origins of a monument, and what had to happen in order for it to be put into place wherever it is.

One of Professor Schnapp’s main arguments was that certain monuments should modernized. He supports the notion that some monuments have outgrown themselves and ultimately overstayed their welcome. It isn’t the monument itself that Schnapp seemed to have an issue with, but rather it was the message that the monument conveyed that Professor Schnapp wanted to change. He argues that certain monuments have messages that are no longer relevant or necessary in the present day. People who currently inhabit this place are uninterested in the monument and the message that it conveys.

I found it particularly interesting when Professor Schnapp spoke about the opposition that he has faced in his journey to modernize monuments. Regardless of the fact that some people may not be interested in a monument and may not even realize the message it conveys, certain people feel a need to preserve the monument in it’s original state of being. While they may have been disinterested in a monument for the majority of their life, as soon as that monument is changed in any way, they feel strongly that it should be preserved as is. For me, while I do recognize the importance of creating a message that the current people agree with, I also feel like history and it’s preservation is important. On a case-by-case basis, I agree that monuments should be updated. But I do think that there are certain monuments that should be preserved to maintain their integrity.

Professor Schnapp has an interesting idea that monuments should grow as the people do. Monuments can be an extremely important part of a culture. They can serve to convey messages about a people or a place that other mediums simply cannot do justice. However, Professor Schnapp believes that the message, along with the monument, would benefit from updates and modernization. He believes, in some cases, that monuments should be closely interacted with by the people who agree with it’s message. It is important to create a monument that spreads a message that the people agree with. Otherwise you are completely neglecting the potential that the monument has to offer.

Don’t Forget Haiti

Haiti, a country formerly colonized by France, has some of the most interesting and complex histories of any other country. Professor Jeremy P. Popkin gave an extremely thought-provoking lecture which was titled, “New Perspectives on the Haitian Revolution”. He lectured about the history of Haiti’s culture and how the Haitian Revolution transformed the country entirely. The Haitian Revolution was a time of slave liberation and the establishment of an entirely new free state. It was risky, as most other revolutions are. The revolution allowed for Haitians to establish themselves independently of European control and influences. It gave the people of Haiti the power to finally do as they wished with their country.

Relative to the American and French Revolutions, the Haitian revolution was not given nearly as much prestige and senses of accomplishment as these other two revolutions were. Comparatively, the Haitian revolution was downsized and not given the same amount of attention as the American and French revolutions. A large portion of Professor Popkin’s argument was that this was due to present prejudices against people of color. Revolutions are typically a triumph for those who write history. However, Professor Popkin argues that because those who were writing and recording the history were likely also white slaveholders, the Haitian Revolution was not perceived as a victory. It was therefore pushed aside and brushed under the rug, like some kind of dirty secret that you didn’t want to be uncovered.

Why was this happening? Why wasn’t the Haitian Revolution spoken about and celebrated? Who were the large parties at play that kept it this way? Professor Popkin’s lecture was able to answer all of these questions for his listeners. At the time of the Haitian Revolution, slavery in America was still very much present and a crucial part of the American economy. Slave-holding Americans at the time would not be inclined to spread word of a successful slave rebellion because of the implications that that would hold for a slave holding America.

In American history classes, this revolution is not likely to get much attention due to it’s lack of impact on American history. Putting this revolution into the perspective of America at the time, American’s had just undergone their own American Revolution. They were able to successfully establish their own independence as a free country and they were focused now on establishing a government which would accurately represent their values and carry the country to success in the coming years. The Haitian Revolution, in contrast to this was competing with the attention of the American Revolution.

For reasons of preserving slavery in America and competitive attention between the American Revolution and the Haitian Revolution, Professor Popkin is able to provide an adequate argument explaining why the Haitian Revolution did not get the attention that it likely did deserve. History is represented within the perspective of it’s time. Historical perspectives are important to consider when examining the perceived importance of a historical event.

Summing up Revolutions

Revolutions are constantly happening. They are changing the world around us, constantly forcing us to adapt and think and question. We can choose to either become a part of these revolutions or to sit idly and watch as they take their course. Professor Marcos Perez, a sociology professor here at Colby College, did a phenomenal job of summing up a semester of revolutions. Professor Perez was able to define the profile of a revolutionary. His lecture focused on the formation of this profile of a revolutionary, of what a revolution is, as well as where revolutions are likely to happen. His lecture, while continuously entertaining, had a wonderful message that I believe can be tied to nearly all of our past seminar talks.

Why would someone elect to join a revolution? This question, which Professor Perez addresses in his lecture, is extremely thought provoking. I had never considered the financial, social, and corporal repercussions that are at stake when joining a revolution. Perez mentioned the possibility that revolutionaries could lose their children and families when joining a revolution. I found this to be particularly interesting because I initially thought that revolutionaries (or anyone really for that matter) would want to ensure their family’s safety and survival. Doing so would ultimately ensure that your ideologies and beliefs are carried into another lasting generation. However, when jeopardizing the safety of one’s family for the ideas behind a revolution, the revolutionary is prioritizing one over the other. The prioritization of self interests over the interest of the revolution was something that I had not considered so deeply until Professor Perez raised it in his lecture.

Revolutions, as we’ve seen throughout our semester of revolutionary talks are never guaranteed. The outcomes of a revolution are a gamble. It’s a risk and a commitment that revolutionaries will have to take in order to ensure the successes of their movement. The uncertainty of it all would likely drive many away. Most are not willing to take such risks in order to evoke change. Which is why Professor Perez was able to paint the picture of a revolutionary as such a bold, excitable, charismatic individual. Professor Perez acknowledges that the commitment to join a revolution with such uncertain outcomes and while risking nearly everything that you have (to be perfectly frank) takes guts. His ability to discuss and develop the character of a revolutionary helps to provide life to the movements that people are so inspired by. Revolutions take the spirit of the people who support them, and Professor Perez did a fantastic job of providing revolutions with that character.

I thought that Professor Perez had a wonderful lecture to end up a semester of revolutions. Throughout the semester, we had reflected on social, scientific, historical, current, nearly every single type of revolution. The one theme that ran through them all was that these revolutions were spearheaded by revolutionaries. Professor Perez’s depiction of a revolutionary and how they can impact the movement of a revolution as a whole was an effective and sentimental end to the semester.


What proof?

Professor Aaron R. Hanlon, Assistant Professor of English at Colby College, gave an extremely compelling lecture about data. His main hypothesis is that data is extremely easy to mistake, misrepresent, and ultimately misconstrue. His focus on the importance of recognizing the validity of data was extremely compelling. Professor Hanlon was able to demonstrate the importance of data overall. He encourages scholars to think about where their data is sourced from and how that will impact the conclusions that they make regarding the data.

As a double major of Environmental Science and Biology, data collection and interpretation is something that is not foreign to me. Personally, I found that Professor Hanlon’s talk was influential because in some ways it had undermined my immediate understanding about the importance of data and what it represented. My understanding of unbiased data was very different from Professor Hanlon’s. His approach towards data was much more cynical than I think I had ever been. That being said, I think his cynicism was completely justified. During his talk I realized that a lot of the data that I had been exposed to, I had oftentimes just accepted with little to no questioning.

I am currently in a Statistics class, which is largely focused on the collection and statistical interpretation of data. Interestingly enough, I have found that a lot of what I’ve learned in my Statistics class coincided with what Professor Hanlon had to say about data. Despite this being an interesting overlap of academic disciplines, I found that this dual confirmation helped me to solidify my understanding of data collection practices. Unbiased data is crucial for the accurate representation of the truth.

Contrary to the idea of the truth would be the consequences of what happens if data is misrepresented. Professor Hanlon stresses the weight that data can carry in a person’s understanding of any given topic. If misrepresented, data has the potential to sway audiences to wholeheartedly believe in a falsity. This concept reminded me of Professor Judy Stone’s talk on how the misrepresentation of scientific findings lead the public to believe in a biological definition of “race”. Professor Judy Stone’s example demonstrates how the misrepresentation and misunderstanding of data can fuel larger social issues like racism.

Upon reflection on Professor Hanlon’s talk, I’ve come to find that I have a completely new understanding of data and how it can ultimately impact the way we view the world around us. It is extremely powerful in altering one’s way of thinking. For this reason, it is crucial that data be correctly gathered and accurately depicted. Professor Hanlon revolutionized my previous understanding of data. His ideas and methods will definitely carry with me and be applied into my majors.

Revolution me not.

Professor Keith Peterson, Professor of Philosophy, gave an extremely interesting talk Tuesday night titled, “We Have Never Been Revolutionary”. As I interpreted his main hypothesis, I took it as he was kind of disproving the authenticity of revolutions. I was definitely taken aback by this idea, as revolutions were the theme of our entire semester thus far. Why would we suddenly be going back on those concepts of revolutions? Why had everyone else been so enthralled with revolutions except for Professor Peterson? Nonetheless, he explained his ideas in an extremely methodical and (appropriately) philosophical manner.
 I found that a lot of Professor Peterson’s lecture was confusing for me, personally. Some of the terminology that he used, I was not familiar with. Additionally, everything that he was speaking of was contrary to what I had formerly grown accustomed to. This had completely shifted my frame of mind outside of the norm. I did, however, find the portion of his talk in which he spoke of what rendered something revolutionary extremely interesting. I had never truly considered that simply because something was deemed a revolution, had meant that it was inherently better (in one way or another) from what had come before it. Silently to myself, I found myself trying to think of examples to counteract this. But eventually came to the same conclusion as Professor Peterson had. In order for something to be deemed revolutionary, it simultaneously must be viewed as superior to what had come before it.
The transformation of this definition of “revolutionary” and what it entailed to embody that world was truly transformative for me as well. I had never before associated the word “revolutionary” with the ego that inherently came with it. Understanding the true meanings of what this word was implying within cultural and societal settings was somewhat disturbing for me to learn. However, I think this was my favorite takeaway from this lecture. It allowed me to truly appreciate what I was saying when I used the word “revolutionary”.
Philosophy is not something that I’d consider myself comfortable with. I’ve never taken a philosophy course and I haven’t truly had many philosophical conversations with professors or elsewhere. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to hear a philosopher’s perspective on revolutions and what they contributed to our society. However, I think I was left at somewhat of a disadvantage in the conversation, as I often found myself lost and confused. In particular, while I know it was included to clear up any confusion, the graphic diagram that Professor Peterson included was not something that I completely grasped the concept of.
All in all, I thought Professor Peterson gave a wonderful talk and I truly enjoyed listening to him speak. He definitely inspired me to question and to think about the norms that I realize I had blindly accepted. It was wonderful being able to hear an opinion that may be different from your own and it was eye-opening being forced to question the ideas that you had simply accepted before.

Constantly Questioning

Similar to Dr. Janet Browne, Professor Judy Stone also expressed having some issues with Charles Darwin and his theories of evolution. While Darwin’s theories of evolution are still heavily praised within the scientific community and were incredibly innovative for his time, their misrepresentation can be extremely difficult to correct. His book, “On the Origin of Species”, published in 1859, was revolutionary in it’s introduction of his new theory of evolution. However, since then there have been artistic depictions and misrepresented figures that have muddled the concepts surrounding evolution. Currently, the general public can agree that evolution is real and likely how species evolved. However, Judy Stone questions if they truly understand the complexity of the science behind it.

Not completely comprehending the science behind evolution can lead to other issues with what evolution implies. Judy Stone was able to successfully demonstrate how misunderstandings about evolution have lead some people to believe that there are genetic differences within “races”. Professor Stone was extremely adamant about the fact that there are no genetic races, but rather human culture has created the concepts of race based solely from physical appearances of individuals.

One quote from her lecture, “If species are types, then variation is imperfection”, really resonated with me. When applying this concept to the human species, this carries many social implications about individuality and human identities. Judy Stone completely disproved this quote in her lecture. She shows importantly that variation within species (both phenotypically and genotypically) is important.

I particularly liked her analysis about the current typo-logical thinking. Due to the demands to reach a larger audience, science can often be translated in a way that will make sense to all readers. However, the issue in doing this is that a lot of the scientific accuracy and precision is lost. Professor Stone analyzes this within the context. As a scientist herself, her frustration with the misrepresentation of data is completely justifiable. Science, when misrepresented, has the potential to completely skew people’s thinking.

Professor Stone’s ability to call into question the scientific “facts” that have been released to the general public is truly revolutionary. She reminds us to question science and not immediately take everything as fact. Science, like any other field of study, requires criticism and constant development.

Charles Darwin (et al.)

Naturalist, geologist, and scientist, Charles Darwin, is often accredited with is contributions to the scientific field with his ideas on evolution. His book, “On the Origin of Species”, published in 1859, was innovative in it’s introduction of his new theory of evolution. While initially not well received by the general public, evolution is now widely accepted by the public as well as the scientific community. Darwin’s contributions had supposedly revolutionized the way we looked at species development, religion, and the story of creation. He was heavily praised and became the face of innovative thinking and evolution. He remains one of the most studied, talked about, and applauded scientist to date.
During Thursday’s talk with Dr. Janet Browne some of these beliefs about Darwin and all of his contributions to science were overturned. Notably, his publication was joined with Alfred Russel Wallace. Yet, Darwin is the one who is typically accredited with the development of this theory. Both men had independently developed the same theory, yet only one reaped the benefits of notoriety. Dr. Browne noted that Darwinism may indeed be romanticized to an unworthy degree. Evolution as a theory was made as successful as it is today with the assistance of many other notable scientists. It is unfair that Darwin should receive all of the glory for a collaborative effort.
The disparity in notoriety between Charles Darwin and other scientists encourages us to question what was different about the two. Dr. Browne questioned many important details of Darwin’s life and upbringing that may have isolated him from other scientists. Darwin received incredible support from his family, which may have ultimately led to his success over other scientists. During, and even after his life, his family’s support helped to push him further into the eyes of the public. Ultimately, they gained him the publicity that he needed to gain notable credit for his ideas.
During his life, Darwin’s theories weren’t even accepted to the point where they were impactful in the grander societal scheme. Only after his death and only due to his family’s constant publishings and encouragements did his ideas finally take flight. Finally, religious notions were replaced by scientific evidence suggestive of evolution and natural selection concepts. The fact that Darwin’s ideas (which others also had), did not even impact the thinking of society during his lifetime says something about what he actually contributed to his field. He was reliant upon his family to spread his theories after his death. Why we credit Darwin with these ideas is largely due to the fact that he was the only one that was heard about. However, that by no means justifies the lack of recognition that other scientists had.
Darwin’s evolutionary theories did transform the concepts of creation that previously existed. Natural selection unearthed many fundamental creationist beliefs. However, while these theories while transformative to science, they shouldn’t be accredited solely to Darwin. There were multiple scientists who developed similar ideas who deserve if not the same amount, more credit than Darwin receives. Revolutions are very rarely the result of only one man’s thinking.

With the Stroke of a Brush: Revolutions

In a time when social media is such an important part of daily life and communication, Khalid Albaih’s talk about the role that social media played in so many political revolutions was exceptionally powerful. Social media was able to serve as an outlet and a forum for political and social critiques and comments to be made. Khalid was able to use technological outlets to fix and address outstanding sociopolitical issues.
I thought that the usage of art as a medium and social media as a forum was extremely effective for spreading political ideas. Albaih’s choice of art was an important one because he removed the need to translate. Visual imagery appeals to everyone and convey a message regardless of whether or not you’d speak the language that the artist spoke. Albaih was able to level the playing field and effectively communicate with a broad audience.
In a country where there wasn’t a concrete public space where people could gather and express and exchange ideas, social media was useful in providing people with the means to share. The irony lies in the fact that the government never thought that anything would come from giving their people those freedoms on the internet. I thought it was particularly impactful when Khalid spoke about how people he never knew and never met would talk to him telling him that they had used his artwork or spoke about how his artwork had impacted them. It really emphasized the broad audience that he was able to reach through social media as well as the impact that his artwork could have on spreading the messages of his political revolution.
Speaking to Khalid’s comment that he felt he “wasn’t doing enough”, I strongly disagree. While I empathize with the fact that he might feel like some people are giving so much more than he is, I still think that his role in a revolution is a crucial one. His ability to spread the message of their revolutions increases the amount of people who can stand behind their ideas. In a setting of  political unrest, the number of people behind an idea can be extremely powerful.
I admire Khalid’s bravery in these settings. Attaching your name to an idea can sometimes be terrifying, especially if it is an unpopular opinion. His story told about his arrest was both entertaining and impactful. It validated, for him, that his work was meaningful and impactful. He was a threat to authorities. Which, as a revolutionist, can be a great honor.
I found Khalid’s talk to be extremely inspiring and entertaining. He reminded us that it truly only takes a spark to start a fire. The spread of ideas is something that we are all capable of doing. Especially with a forum like social media right at our fingertips. He encouraged us all to question, to challenge, and to speak. I admire his bravery and applaud his stories. If he was truly inspired by Malcolm X as he said he was, I think Malcolm X would be proud.

An Event to Learn From: Tambora

“Human affairs often overshadow the happenings of the earth.” This quote by Gillen Wood really resonated with me because I had never fully understood the impacts of Tambora’s eruption until these lectures. It’s shocking to think that such an impactful event is so underrepresented in environmental education. Earning a 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index scale and still standing as one of the most powerful eruptions to date, this event truly changed the world as we knew it.

The global impacts of Tambora really highlighted to me how localized events can affect the global community. When Tambora erupted on April 10, 1815, a chain of catastrophic climactic events soon followed. The amount of soot, ash, and other pollutants that were deposited into the stratosphere were so dense that it triggered the “Year Without a Summer”. The notion that the localized distribution of pollutants could spread enough to impact the climate of the entire globe is extremely important. In the context of current climate change movements, the example of Tambora should definitely be taken into account. Placing an emphasis on the reality that the actions in specific smaller areas can impact the earth in its entirety is a message that I believe should be made known.

With the added climate changes from Tambora, there were large global demographic shifts. Environmental refugees were forced to move in order to escape temperature shifts and starvation. Overpopulation became another huge issue in areas where conditions were viable. Cities serves as refuges for many of the poor. It is disturbing to see how Wood described the conditions in which the poor were treated. While Tambora occurred at a time when disaster relief was limited and the government was not directly responsible for relief efforts, some of the wealthy did attempt to provide relief to refugees. In current times, disaster relief (while not perfect) has significantly improved. The government can be held accountable to aid and assist disaster victims.

In a time when natural disasters are more frequent and powerful due to manmade climactic changes, it is comforting to see that disaster relief has improved. However, in my opinion I still believe that preventative measures should be taken before the natural disasters occur. As Wood displayed in his lecture and book, we know that climatic changes can occur from pollutants and other environmental shifts. Given that this information is readily available to us, I believe that there should be more of a focus on preventative actions rather than reactive actions. As Wood explained in his lecture, Tambora was not triggered by man-made influences. However, I believe that the event of Tambora can still be used as an example of how to react and respond to global climate change.

Progressive eco-centric thinking will ultimately change the way that our world responds to climate change. We can use Tambora as a reminder that climate change is a global issue and will require worldwide support. We can improve on the disaster relief efforts and hopefully, we will be able to curb climate change entirely and learn to live coexisting with the planet, rather than combating it.

The Not-So Scientific Revolution

            In theory, if the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries was truly what we teach it to be, it should have been a time that was inspired largely by mankind’s natural curiosity, backed entirely by scientific evidence, and fundamentally changed the way we look at science today. However, following the lecture last Tuesday, a new side of the Scientific Revolution was exposed. I’ve come to view the Scientific Revolution as largely unscientific. Many of the conclusions reached and theories developed during the Scientific Revolution were largely based in speculation and assumptions that were poorly supported with scientific evidence.

The lack of scientific evidence that was provided in the Scientific Revolution undermines the work of the scientists during this time. It calls into question every “development” that was made and brings doubt about the accuracy of these claims. Yet, despite the lack of evidence, the Scientific Revolution continues to be taught as moments that developed the scientific community in ways that have never been done before. The scientists of this time period are praised and credited with fundamental scientific truths that stood unsupported by data. It causes you to question whether this period is truly what it is taught to be.

Professor Dan Cohen did a fantastic job breaking down each word in “the Scientific Revolution”. Despite revealing the lack of evidence that the scientists provided for their claims, he consequently calls into question whether this was even a revolution at all. I personally, agree with Professor Cohen’s claims that this was not in fact a revolution. Fundamentally, the field of science has remained the same. Science still involved questioning the world around them and searching for evidence to understand how it works. Nothing about science as a discipline changed during this time. This leads one to conclude that this was not in fact a revolutionary time.

The Scientific Revolution is a period of creativity, no doubt. There were many important thinkers that published ideas and theories that were innovative and unique. It got people to question and to challenge, however, I do not believe that all of the developments made during this time period were scientific. In fact, a lot of the “scientific concepts” that developed during the Scientific Revolution would not pass for scientific evidence in modern science. The science work that is being published today is more thorough, researched, and concrete than the work that was done during the Scientific Revolution. This period, while containing many creative ideas, is similar in many ways to other time periods as far as scientific content is concerned.

The published work during the Scientific Revolution was not particularly scientific. It includes too much speculation and not enough evidence to be deemed revolutionary. The scientists during the Scientific Revolution were creative in their thinking, but lacked the evidence to publish their concepts as fact. Assumptions must be able to be tested and data must support ideas before they are called scientific. The Scientific Revolution is deceptive in that it is presented as a grand time of change and scientific development, when it was a time filled largely with unsupported arguments.