Alumni Updates: Japanese Studies Fall 2020 News: Japanese Studies

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt in Conversation

The Japanese Program celebrated Homecoming 2020 by hosting a conversation with alumnus Yuri Lowenthal (’93) and Tara Platt, two of the most in-demand voice actors for anime and electronic games. Lowenthal graduated from W&M with a degree in East Asian Studies, having spent his junior year on a study-abroad program in Japan. After graduating, he returned to Japan on the JET Program before finding his calling as a voice actor. He has worked on English-language releases of some of the most popular anime series, Naruto, in which he voiced Sasuke, as well as Gurren LagannCode Geass, and Persona 4. His partner, Tara Platt, is also a highly successful actor, having voiced characters from Naruto, Sailor Moon, and more. Together, they also run a production company, Monkey Kingdom Productions, which has produced several films and a live-action web series. And they have co-authored the book Voice-Over Voice Actor (Buy Bot Press).

The event, held over Zoom, drew an enthusiastic crowd of about 50 students, faculty, and members of the wider community, who spoke with Yuri and Tara for an hour and a half. Our guests recalled how they discovered their career paths, shared their experiences in that world, and advised students on pursuing voice work. Asked about the JET Program, through which the Japanese government hires college graduates from foreign countries to teach English in public schools, Yuri called it, “one of the greatest experiences of my life,” adding: “when you’re an actor, all your choices, and all your life-paths, and all of the things you’ve done make you that actor who is different from every other person who is trying to do what you’re doing. So, I think you should embrace any broad swath of experiences that life offers you.”

Students were thrilled to meet the talented actors behind many of their favorite characters. One student asked about voicing unlikeable characters. Tara responded, “I’ve played reprehensible characters before … but I’ve had a lot of fun doing them!” and continued, “I wouldn’t hang out with some of my characters, but I can enjoy playing them.” Yuri agreed: “Sasuke’s a downer! I am the opposite of Sasuke in most ways, but I love playing him because it forces me to dig deep and exorcise some of my demons!”

The Homecoming event was made possible through the generosity of the “Saigo-san” Fund. The Japanese Program looks forwarding to inviting Yuri and Tara back soon!



Faculty Profiles Fall 2020 News: Hispanic Studies sidebar

Meet new professor of Hispanic Studies: Dr. Carlos Rivera Santana

Prof. Carlos Rivera Santana - Fall 2020This fall, we had the chance to catch up with a new professor in the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures: Dr. Carlos Santana Rivera. Dr. Rivera is a U.S.-Puerto Rico native who has been
working for the last several years at the prestigious Center for Puerto Rican Studies in New York. We asked him about his first semester here at William & Mary, his research, his classes and his hopes for future work on campus and in his field.


How has it been for you W&M this semester? 

I have been really happy to be at W&M because W&M and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures values innovative ideas in teaching and research. For instance, last semester I was teaching two courses on Indigenous worldview perspectives, with a focus on Indigenous philosophy and culture. And the fact that this course even exists and receives institutional support is wonderful because, to start with, it is not common for such a course to be taught outside of Anthropology. Second, because in some circles it is a radical idea that there exists such a thing as ‘indigenous philosophy’. But to put backing behind exposing these ideas to students in the classroom, and of course in my research, is amazing.


What were the courses you were you teaching last semester?

I was teaching two versions of the same topic. The first was a COLL 150, “Indigenous World Cultures”. That version of the class was writing-heavy. It was an examination of international indigenous worldview perspectives focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean. Well, to be fair, it’s an approach to indigenous perspectives, because what those perspectives and philosophies are, cannot be taught per se, if anything passed on. The other class I taught was HISP 390, “Global Indigenous Cultures”. It was focused on Indigenous philosophy (heavier in content) and its expressions in cultural production. We looked at how indigeneity has been represented in LA and Caribbean cultural production for hundreds of years through the examination of art, a novel, oral history, essays, music and so on.


What were some stand-out moments of your classes?

One positive thing about teaching the classes was that, in teaching a portion of the course online this semester (mix modality), I was able to invite three guest speakers (and this fulfilled those 5 extra hours we had to add to our syllabi. Two were from the Caribbean (from Puerto Rico) and one from Australia. The first person was a prominent writer (Eduardo Lalo, and the novel students had to read was Historia Yuké). The novel was about the significance of El Yunque Rainforest to Indigenous people in Puerto Rico (Borikén) throughout history. So, the students read Lalo’s book and then had a conversation with him. It was like a book club that led to meeting the author. And it was a great event because it started not with Eduardo Lalo speaking, but with students asking questions(you can see a video of this “Conversatorio with Eduardo Lalo”). The second speaker was the Indigenous activist Pluma Bárbara. This was also a great experience and students were really grateful for the grassroot political work that she does and both of our guest were really impressed with our Hispanic studies students and how engaged in the work our students were. These conversations were in Spanish. The third speaker was an Indigenous Australian author and he spoke about cultural appropriation and the craft of writing. After that third one, students had to produce something creative (poetry, an op-ed, or a narrative story) so they could have concrete questions about writing and navigating cultural appropriation. I have ideas about how to adjust aspects of the course in the future, but overall, I’d say students appreciated it especially the diverse array of guest speakers. In the future, I’ve considered having a poetry slam be the culmination of such a course, something I’ve done in the past and it works beautifully as a celebratory ending to the semester.


What is the focus of your research?

The area I work in is called Decolonial Aesthetics (DA) and Indigenous studies. DA isn’t a new thing. The phrase was coined some time ago by LA theorists. I’m building on their framework by analyzing works and speaking to the artists that I think are doing the work to recast indigeneity and blackness and the varying complexities of identity, history, nationalism, race and racism today, but beginning from the emotions provoked in by aesthetics.

In my PhD thesis and more extensively on my book Archaology of Colonisation: From Aesthetics to Biopolitics, I looked at the way that colonization, and its main tools (the discourses of race and racism), took root in the Caribbean and then in Latin America. I begin with the premise that racism and concepts of race are initially created not through written discourse or history, but through aesthetics, i.e. imagery including art. From a simple perspective, 80 or 90 percent of Europe during the time of colonization could not read. But you have to be able to conceptualize someone before you can justify or rationalize behaviors toward them. So, imagery had a principal role in doing this and in disseminating, perceptions, affectations, knowledge, and discourses at large about people. So, yes, I looked at the way that colonization utilized imagery in the first 100 years (1492-1599) to depict Indigenous and Black peoples.

I focus on aesthetics because we have done good work in cultural studies so far in examining the construction of race and in challenging colonial narratives in history, anthropology and so on. We have not done enough work on this using visual imagery. In other words, we conceptualize racism very rationally, but I think the heart of this work on (de)colonization is affective, and that the affective is efficiently generated aesthetically, through imagery. In other words, I think that concepts of race began in the way that Black and Indigenous peoples have been depicted visually and affectively: not in terms of beauty, but in terms of ugliness and monstrosity. In order to justify the atrocities of colonization, they had to be founded on a dehumanization of its victims, casting the ‘other’ from a frame of “the monstrous” and speak to the viewer’s emotions.

My current work also focuses on the aesthetic. But instead of using it to understand how race and racism were constructed, I am examining how the aesthetic is used to contest race and racism and how it is used to construct counternarratives to the ongoing problem of colonization. I think there is more work to be done in the realm of the affective in order to counteract that aspect of race and racism, that part that has to do with the mobilization of emotions, about conceptualizations of beauty and ugliness, and art has a lot to say about that.


What classes will you teach next semester?

I am teaching Introduction to Hispanic Studies (HISP 240) with Professor Terukina. I’m also teaching Arte y Descolonización en Latino America (HISP 250) which looks at the way that art in all of its manifestations (performance art, muralism, street art, contemporary art) has had a role in expressing anti-colonial messages. In the class, we aren’t romanticizing the art. We are also looking at it critically too to see how art produced during colonial times depicted Indigenous peoples and peoples of color at large, and to see how imagery contributed to crafting and constructing racism and the concept of race. I’m really excited about the fact that we are having at least one invited speaker. She is an artist and an expert in mural and street art in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.


What would be a dream course you would like to teach?

I would do a course that has a study-abroad component that looked at formations of identity, race and colonization in art in Latin America and the Caribbean, focused in Puerto Rico. We would go to Puerto Rico and visit museums, artist workshops, galleries, festivals and other off-the-beaten track places (I know the island really well). It would be like a literal and figurative road trip, living an experience of history and culture through the art. We would be traveling around the island, but also the artists would take us through the conceptual trajectory of their individual pieces and their collective productions as well.

Alumni Updates: Chinese Studies Fall 2020 News: Chinese Studies

Chinese Studies hosts a career panel

This semester was relatively quiet in the Chinese Studies program, but we did have one memorable career panel as part of William & Mary’s homecoming festivities. On the evening of October 13, two Chinese Studies alumni and two professionals working in China-related fields joined us for several hours to discuss their career paths, surprises they’d encountered since graduating college, and general advice for students about to set off into their post-graduation life. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from people at different stages of their careers and resulted in a very productive conversation. We were joined  by Alex Bate (W&M ’18), Helen Taylor (WM ’07), Susan Jakes, and Graham Webster (and you can see their biographies below). Chinese Studies looks forward to hosting more events like this in the coming semesters.


Alex Bate ’18 is an Asia Analyst at Sayari Labs. Prior to Sayari, she worked in due diligence, open-source investigative analysis, and Chinese market research and policy analysis. She received a degree in International Relations and Chinese from William & Mary and has studied at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She speaks Mandarin and Spanish.

Helen Taylor ’07 is the Director of Grant Programs at the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery where she coordinates program design and oversees implementation of transformative projects. Helen previously conducted human rights policy advocacy at Physicians for Human Rights and the U.S. Department of State, where she also managed a $60 million grant portfolio. She holds a Master’s in Human Rights Law from Hong Kong University and dual B.A. degrees in International Relations and Chinese Studies from William & Mary. As a Fulbright Fellow and Gates Millennium Scholar, Helen conducted qualitative and quantitative research on marginalized communities in Latin America and East Asia.

Susan Jakes is Editor of ChinaFile and Senior Fellow at Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. From 2000-2007, she reported on China for Time magazine, first as a reporter and editor based in Hong Kong and then as the magazine’s Beijing Correspondent. She covered a wide range of topics for Time’s international and domestic editions, including student nationalism, human rights, the environment, public health, education, architecture, kung fu, North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and the making of Bhutan’s first feature film. Jakes was awarded the Society of Publishers in Asia’s Young Journalist of the Year Award for her coverage of Chinese youth culture. In 2003, she broke the story of the Chinese government’s cover-up of the SARS epidemic in Beijing, for which she received a Henry Luce Public Service Award. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications. Jakes speaks Mandarin and holds a B.A. and M.A. from Yale in history. Her doctoral studies at Yale, which she suspended to join ChinaFile, focused on China’s environmental history and the global history of ecology.

Graham Webster is a research scholar and editor of the DigiChina project at the Stanford University Cyber Policy Center and a fellow with New America. A joint effort of Stanford and New America, DigiChina is a collaborative project to translate, contextualize, and analyze Chinese digital policy documents and discourse. Webster also writes the independent Transpacifica e-mail newsletter. He was previously a senior fellow and lecturer at Yale Law School, where he was responsible for the Paul Tsai China Center’s U.S.–China Track 2 dialogues for five years before leading programming on cyberspace and high-tech issues. In the past, he wrote a CNET News blog on technology and society from Beijing, worked at the Center for American Progress, and taught East Asian politics at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Graham holds a master’s degree in East Asian studies from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He is based in Oakland, California

Fall 2020 News: Italian Studies

Fascism in Italy: A Student Perspective

By Judith Tauber ’21

As an alumna of Professor Ferrarese’s Fascism in Italy, I’m very glad to see that the course will be offered once again in Spring 2021: it is without a doubt one of the best courses I have taken in my last 3 ½ years at William & Mary.

Professor Ferrarese examined the fascinating phenomenon that is Fascism from a variety of approaches, interweaving an exploration of the historical period with philosophical interludes, the screening of films, an examination of artistic movements, a discussion of gender and race, and an analysis of excerpts of literary texts.

We began the semester briefly summarizing the social, political and economic events leading up to the creation of the first fasci in 1919, followed by a discussion of the movement’s growth, paying particular attention to Fascism’s rhetorical strategies and inspirational precursors, particularly Futurism and D’Annunzio’s expedition to Fiume. What was especially striking was the insight into how fragile democracies are and how we should never assume that a version of Fascism cannot establish itself in our own societies. I also found the part on how Fascism maintains itself by diffusing a spectacle void of ideology but deadly in consequences to be thought-provoking.

Mussolini & Cinema (From Wikimedia Commons)
Mussolini & Cinema (From Wikimedia Commons)

Next, we examined life under Fascism, from cultural activities, racism, and the position of women in society to colonial projects and Mussolini’s attempt to create the new Italian. I especially liked that we took the time to investigate how Fascism affected individual lives without losing track of the bigger picture. The films discussed were particularly illuminating in this respect.

After investigating Fascism’s relations to the Church and the cinema industry as well as its other manifestations globally, we turned to its demise and reincarnations. I found the part on how neofascism manifests itself to be extremely relevant to today’s society.

I came away with a clear and deep understanding of an intriguing and complex whole, a comprehension that has enriched my perception of the world. If you have not yet taken this course, I strongly urge you to do so this spring!

Fall 2020 News: Italian Studies

An Afternoon at the Opera

By Rita Paolino

The global pandemic has impacted the lives of all of us; we all know that. Among the many things Covid19 has taken away from us is the possibility to enjoy performing arts in person. In fact, since March 2020, most theaters and opera houses across the country have been closed. Thus, while we could not go to the opera, we were able to bring opera, and more specifically Italian opera, to William and Mary.

Opera is a complex form of art in which music, dance, and theater come together to create the most fascinating experience of all. It takes us to faraway worlds, fascinating cities, tragic and passionate love stories, and cruel lies, all with the beauty of wonderful, catchy, entertaining melodies. Despite its old age, opera music often reflects the sentiments and thoughts of today’s people. The storylines, the characters, and the many facets of the human soul: it is all in opera. Opera is magic and it has been magic since the 1600s, when a group of musicians, intellectuals, artists, and philosophers, the so-called Camerata Fiorentina, created this form of entertainment that aimed to reproduce the perfection and emotional intensity of the Greek drama.

An Afternoon at the OperaA little piece of this magic was brought to our students on October 21, 2020 thanks to the Italian Studies Program. In fact, a zoom event entitled “An afternoon at the Opera”, was held online within the homecoming celebration events. The artistic director of Virginia Opera, Maestro Adam Turner, and two very talented professional singers, Ms. Symone Harcum (soprano) and Ms. Whitney Robinson (mezzo soprano), joined an enthusiastic and interested group of students of Italian to talk about Italian opera and the use of the Italian language in this form of art.

Maestro Turner spoke with the group about the beginning of opera in Italy and how well opera was received once it started spreading in the United States. Nowadays, some of the most prominent world opera houses are in this country, such as The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, The Los Angeles Opera House in Los Angeles, and the Lyric Opera House in Chicago, just to mention a few of them. Yet Italy remains the “country of opera”, thanks to the production of composers such as Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, and many, many more.

Ms. Robinson and Ms. Harcum spoke with the students about the use Italian in operas, and the challenges of combining the correct pronunciation of a words with its meaning while singing it. The highlight of the event was the opportunity to watch our guests on stage. It was a pure delight to see maestro Turner accompanying at the piano Ms. Harcum, and the singers singing a scene from “Cinderella” by G. Rossini. The event closed with a lively Q&A session.

We all look forward to the day when we can again return to enjoy live performances. In the meantime, we are all thankful to our Virginia Opera guests for allowing our community to grasp a bit of the beauty and magic of Italian opera.

Alumni Updates: Russian Studies Fall 2020 News: Russian Studies

RPSS 2020 Homecoming Talk: “Planes, Trains, and Time Machines”

On OcRussian Homecoming Eventtober 29, 2020, Rachel Faith ’14, who works as a translator for the World Intellectual Property Organization (UN) in Geneva, talked about how her expertise in Russian language and culture opened up for her an exciting career in the field of translation and patents. We had a large turnout at the talk and students were exited to ask questions and learn about Rachel’s exciting career path.

Fall 2020 News: Russian Studies

2020 Tepper Lecture Series: “Queer Exile: Russian Emigres in Interwar Berlin and Paris.”

On October 15th, as a part of the Tepper Speaker Series: Global Russia, Prof. Roman Utkin (Wesleyan University) gave a talk on “Queer Exile: Russian Emigres in Interwar Berlin and Paris.”

Prof. Utkin’s  talk focused on configurations of queer subjectivity in interwar Europe’s Russian exilic communities in Berlin and Paris. In his talk, Dr. Utkin discussed the case of the Nabokov brothers, the well-known Vladimir and, in particular, his unknown brother Sergei, and analyzed how Sergei’s exilic gay experience can give us insight into understanding on how queer artists and intellectuals contented with the heteronormative world. Utkin Talk

Fall 2020 News: Russian Studies

2020 Tepper Lecture Series: “How and Why to Make Oil into Food”

The Russian and Post-Soviet Studies Program held its annual Tepper Speaker Series: Global Russia virtually this semester.

On September 17th, Prof. Douglas Rogers (Yale) gave a talk titled “How and Why to Make Oil into Food: A Tale of Soviet biotechnology and Human – Microbe Relations.” In his talk, Prof. Rogers focused on an interesting period in the history of Soviet science: the massive effort, from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, to transform oil into food through industrial scale fermentation, which was a part of a larger international science competition in a Cold War context.Screenshot 2020-09-17 173323

Fall 2020 News: Russian Studies

2020 Fall Semester Film Series: “Post-Soviet Portraits”

To stick with tradition, Fall the semester kicked off with a student-run film series in early September. This semester’s theme was “Post-Soviet Portraits” and students together with faculty enjoyed watching and discussing Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan, Battle for Sevastopol, Legend No. 17, and A Bitter Taste of series 2020

Fall 2020 News: German Studies

German Studies Homecoming

We could not host our alums on campus this year. However, the Homecoming Office put together a virtual program that extended over two weeks in October and made creative use of remote technologies. In German Studies, our Zoom meeting brought together the largest crowd we’ve welcomed in years, as former students from all over the countryGRMNHomecoming and from Germany, dialled in to reminisce about their professors and classes they took with them, about the old German House in Randolph Complex, and about study abroad experiences. We had alums stretching back 30 years, and the cross-generational exchange showed both how much has changed, and how much has also really stayed the same. We hope to retain this new tradition of virtual Zoom-unions in the years to come, and look forward to seeing and even larger crowd next year!

Fall 2020 News: German Studies

Virtual Oktoberfest!

The highlight of the fall semester in German Studies, Oktoberfest could not take place this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. We missed Bratwurst, Kartoffelsalat, and Apfelschorle, but German Studies students, Deutsches Haus residents, and faculty met on Zoom to chat and play a Kahoot! game, testing everyone on Oktoberfest trivia. We were surprised at the large turnout and enjoyed catching up with students – one of the many downsides of the remote teaching environment is the lack of conversation opportunities. While we had everybody’s attention, we also presented next semester’s courses, discussed the Summer Study Abroad program in Potsdam, and answered questions on the German Studies major and minor. Next fall, we hope to re-inaugurate Oktoberfest in our new Deutsches Haus location in Hardy Hall.

Fall 2020 News News: Hispanic Studies

Prof. Greenia Receives Commendation from Virginia General Assembly

Professor Emeritus of Hispanic Studies George Greenia, recently received a  from the Virginia General Assembly, introduced by State Senator Monty Mason. What makes this award extra special is the fact that Monty Mason was once Prof. Greenia’s student in 1985-86 and took Spanish classes with him here at W&M!

Prof. Greenia joined the Modern Languages and Literatures Department in 1982 after receiving his PhD from the University of Michigan. One of his areas of expertise is pilgrimage studies, and at W&M he has led students on many Summer Study Abroad trips to Santiago de Compostela, the famed pilgrimage route. But Prof. Greenia’s activities don’t stop there. The Commendation lists, among others, these achievements:

“WHEREAS, a tireless advocate of LGBT students at The College of William and Mary, George Greenia spent many years as the faculty facilitator of the Gay Student Support Group; in 2006, the William and Mary Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae Association presented him with the Founders’ Cup for Outstanding Lifetime Service to the Gay and Lesbian members of The College of William and Mary Community; and WHEREAS, in 2007, George Greenia’s promotion of Spanish history and culture saw him knighted by order of King Carlos I of Spain and awarded the Order of Isabel the Catholic, one of Spain’s highest honors; and WHEREAS, George Greenia’s many other recognitions include a lifetime achievement award from American Pilgrims on the Camino, and the William & Mary Diversity Leadership Award from the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity; a longtime supporter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, he is the recipient of its President’s Award and Judith F. Krug Medal …”

Congratulations, Prof. Greenia!