Campus & Community

Five Radcliffe fellows featured in new video on Web

3 min read

Question: What do the growth of suburbia, contemporary landscape painting, the evolution of sea urchins, marriage laws in colonial India, and the women writers of imperial China have in common?

Answer: Each is the subject of study by a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, and each is now showcased in a new feature on the Radcliffe Web site.

“In Context: Five Radcliffe Fellows at Work” spans the disciplines as it profiles these intellectual and artistic pursuits for a worldwide audience. Viewers can now access the first three portraits in this video-based series at With innovative and informative visual content ranging from an artist’s gallery tour to a film depicting the creation of new marine life to a reading of Chinese poems with their English translations, these five fellowship projects, along with their presentations, are as varied as the subject matters themselves.

The following features are already up and running on the Web site:

Lizabeth Cohen, the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies, presents her upcoming book, “A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America,” to be published by Knopf in January 2003 in a minilecture constructed around historical images of “the purchaser as citizen.” An interview with the award-winning American historian and a period film celebrating the “happy-go-spending” lifestyle of suburban families in the 1950s further explore Cohen’s thesis that “the decision to build our recovery after World War II around mass consumption had many implications that go beyond our economic lives.”

Susanne Kühn, an independent artist, leads four of her Radcliffe colleagues on a revealing tour of “Journey,” the series of landscape paintings she created during her fellowship year. An accompanying interview takes viewers inside Kühn’s artistic process and her development of landscape as a metaphor for the human condition. A gallery of images, showcasing some of her earlier works, illuminates Kühn’s artistic influences, from the romanticists and expressionists of her native Germany to Japanese woodblock and animation.

Christiane Biermann, a molecular and marine biologist from the University of Washington currently working in the Harvard laboratory of Professor Stephen Palumbi, takes viewers under the ocean and inside the lab in her investigation of the sea-urchin genome. Using cutting-edge molecular tools to sequence DNA, Biermann explains how she and other scientists are working to enhance understanding of the evolution of sea urchins and other marine species and the mechanisms by which diversity originates and is maintained.

The following features will be on the Web site in September:

Kamala Visweswaran, an associate professor of anthropology and Asian studies at the University of Texas, speaking in her Radcliffe Fellowship colloquium, traces the development of marriage practices and laws in 19th century colonial India and their legacies for both the standardization of certain religious customs and for women’s rights in India today. A lively collegial discussion employing political theory to analyze India’s contemporary scene and images from the Islamic and Indian art collection of the Sackler Museum will complete the page.

Wilt Idema, a professor of Chinese literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilization, introduces viewers to some of the many women poets, dramatists, and fiction writers of imperial China and to the significant cultural traditions they helped to shape. Interweaving social history with literary analysis, Idema sheds light on the realities of these women’s lives and on their literary works. His reading – given with Radcliffe Institute Fellow Lingzhen Wang – of a few of the Chinese poems he has discovered and his English translations of them, complements Idema’s intriguing narrative of this often turbulent 2,000-year period.