social theory

UK Libraries Event to Feature Journalist John Egerton

The upcoming University of Kentucky Libraries Annual Dinner will feature and recognize this year's Award for Intellectual Achievement recipient, journalist and author John W. Egerton.

Table, Map, and Text: Writing in France circa 1600

Tom Conley, Harvard University Table, Map, and Text: Writing in France circa 1600

Committee on Social Theory Spring Lecture Series Friday, March 8, 2013 - University of Kentucky

Mapping the Abstract: Jenny Rice

Most of us associate mapping with cartography, but that's not always the case. The Committee on Social Theory is presenting a graduate-level course on mapping this semester and Jenny Rice, assistant professor in the Division of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media, is one of its four instructors. Jeremy Crampton, Jeffrey Peters, and Susan Larson are also teaching sections of the class, each talking about a different aspect of mapping. In this interview, Rice talked about the ways we can 'map' ideas and arguments. 

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman


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Philosophy and Community: Justin Spinks

On April 6th, 2013, the UK Department of Philosophy will host its 16th annual Philosophy Graduate Student Conference. Organizer Justin Spinks is bringing together scholars and students to ponder and discuss the relationship between Philosophy and Community. Held in WT Young Auditorium for a full day, the conference is free and open to the public. Spinks also talks about his involvement with UK's Committee on Social Theory and how their interdisciplinary nature has inspired him to apply his academic knowledge to issues outside of academia.

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman

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The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm
WT Young Auditorium
Type of Event (for grouping events):
Dr. Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist and media ecologist at Kansas State University, will be giving a talk entitled "The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever" presented by the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT). Dr. Wesch regularly teaches large classes and was the 2008 U.S. Professor of the Year for Doctoral and Research Universities selected by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 
He will be talking about creating a sense of "wonder" in the classroom and giving students the gift of "big questions." Professor Wesch's visit strives to inspire UK faculty and foster a dialogue on campus around topics such as teaching large classes and using new media and technologies in the classroom to nurture student curiosity and exploration as they pursue authentic and relevant questions. 

New media and technology present us with an overwhelming bounty of tools for connection, creativity, collaboration, and knowledge creation - a true "Age of Whatever" where anything seems possible. But any enthusiasm about these remarkable possibilities is immediately tempered by that other "Age of Whatever" - an age in which people feel increasingly disconnected, disempowered, tuned out, and alienated. Such problems are especially prevalent in education, where the Internet often enters our classrooms as a distraction device rather than a tool for learning.

What is needed more than ever is to inspire our students to wonder, to nurture their appetite for curiosity, exploration, and contemplation. It is our responsibility to help them attain an insatiable appetite and pursue big, authentic, and relevant questions so that they can harness and leverage the bounty of possibility, rediscover the "end" or purpose of wonder, and stave off the historical end of wonder.

Table, Map and Text: Writing in France circa 1600

Friday, March 8, 2013 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Lexmark Room, Main Building
Type of Event (for grouping events):

Tom Conley is Lowell Professor in the Departments of Romance Languages and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. Conley studies relations of space and writing in literature, cartography, and cinema. His work moves to and from early modern France and issues in theory and interpretation in visual media. In 2003, Dr. Conley won a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work in topography and literature in Renaissance France.

Gabriel’s Map: Cartography and Corpography in Modern War

Dr. Derek Gregory University of British Columbia

January 25, 2013 - Social Theory Lecture "Gabriel’s Map: Cartography and Corpography in Modern War"

16th Annual University of Kentucky Philosophy Graduate Student Conference

Saturday, April 6, 2013 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
WT Young Auditorium
Type of Event (for grouping events):
The College of Arts & Sciences and the Committee on Social Theory presents the 16th Annual University of Kentucky Philosophy Graduate Student Conference. The conference is also co-sponsored by The Graduate School at the University of Kentucky. While all academic papers in any area of philosophy will be considered, preference will be given to those addressing the broad themes of the intersection and relation between philosophy and community, culture, and society.  Such themes may include: What is philosophy's proper relationship to the community?  How can philosophy (or humanities/academia in general) better relate itself, or communicate its concerns, to the greater community?  What are some philosophical conceptions of community?  And so on.  All quality papers in any philosophical "style," whether "analytic," "historical,"  or "continental," will be considered.  Papers of an interdisciplinary nature are strongly encouraged.
Deadline for submission: February 8th, 2013.
Submission Guidelines: Papers and abstracts should be prepared for blind review. 
Please submit the following as separate documents: 
a) cover page with author's name, title of paper, word count of paper, institutional affiliation, and contact information (including email, phone number, and mailing address) 
b) an abstract of no more than 300 words 
c) the paper itself, double spaced, of no more than 3500 words. Word, pdf, and rtf are all acceptable formats.
All submissions and queries should be emailed to:

A Mistake on the Edge of Time: Rusty Barrett on the Mayan Calendar

Most of us heard that the world was going to possibly end on December 21st, 2012, and that it was predicted by the traditional Mayan calendar. In this podcast, Rusty Barrett, a linguist and scholar of Mayan culture and history, explains the superstitions and misunderstandings surrounding December 21st, and a little bit about how the Mayan calendar works.

SPOILER ALERT: The day after our interview, Barrett recieved an email from a Mayan organization (Grupos de Mujeres y Hombres por la Paz) in Guatemala, selling calendars for 2013 to raise money. This doesn't bode well for all those end-of-the-world prophecies.

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman


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>>More feature content with Rusty Barrett and his expertise on Mayan culture: 

By Sarah Geegan

Rusty Barrett, professor in the UK Department of English and Linguistics Program, studied Mayan hieroglyphic writing and Mayan linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Ph.D. in 1999. His doctoral dissertation was a grammar of Sipakapense, a previously undescribed Mayan language. Barrett has taught Mayan writing and Mayan linguistics at UK and is co-director of an intensive K'iche' Maya language program, taught in alternate summers in Guatemala. Barrett is currently working on a book manuscript about language revitalization in Maya communities in Guatemala.
Barrett weighed in on how the Mayan calendar works, discussed his research with the Mayan population, and shared his observations of the Maya's reactions to the idea that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012.
Q: How does the Mayan calendar work, and is it really ending?
A: So, there are two Mayan calendars: one is a lunar calendar that is 260 days, which has a lot of religious and cultural importance for the Maya, and that is the one that the Maya really pay the most attention to. The other one is the long calendar — the one that counts days forward from Aug. 4, 3114 B.C. However, they talk about time before that date as well.
Earlier archeologists and anthropologists thought there were only 13 baktuns (a baktun is a 400 year cycle in the Mayan calendar) in the calendar, but that's really not the case. There are actually 20 baktuns in a cycle in the long calendar, but there really is no ending when you reach the 20th baktun. There's a cycle above that and another cycle above that.
Saying that the Mayan calendar ends is sort of like saying that when our calendar gets to 9999 that it ends. Well, all you do is add a 1. The Mayan calendar is the same, but their math is a base-20 system, so when you get to 20 you just move up a unit.
This is really more like a millennium for the Maya, except it's much longer than a millennium: since the cycle started in 3000 B.C., it's a 5,126 year cycle. It isn't the case that it actually ends; Mayanists have known that for quite some time, and the Maya have never assumed that it ends.
Q: Where do the theories about the end of the world originate?
The entire idea of the Apocalypse is a European idea that was introduced to the Maya during the Colonial period, and occasionally you'll find things that Maya wrote during that period that talk about an end of the world, but they're all heavily influenced by Christianity. So the end of the world is not an idea that exists in Mayan culture.
In the 1960s, when the archaeologists still sort of thought that there were only 13 baktuns, there was a lot of popular press about the idea of ancient aliens. The idea that the Maya built things because extraterrestrials came and built it for them became popular. The whole notion that extraterrestrials built Mayan communities is very offensive to the Maya and sort of suggests that somehow they weren't capable of the great achievements they made themselves. 
Ever since I started studying the Maya I have sort of known about what some people call "Mayanism," just this weird sort of religion that has developed over wrong ideas of the Maya.  Anytime you have a group that has had a high point in their culture that is gone, it’s sort of like the mystery of Atlantis; people tend to exoticize it and add stranger and stranger ideas to it until you get these sort of weird cult-like ideas about what they might have believed and what they might have prophesized.
Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the Mayan calendar and the Maya in general?
A: One of the biggest misconceptions is that the calendar has an end date and that that's Friday, the 21st or Sunday the 23rd. The other misconception is that the Maya sort of all disappeared and died. There are actually about 6 million Maya living today in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, and the majority of the population in Guatemala is Maya. The languages that I study and work with are all spoken in Guatemala, and one of the main languages I work on, K'iche', has over a million speakers.
So there are still Maya here, and the 21st of December is an important day to them because it's an important ending of one cycle and moving on to another, but they don't believe it's the end of time or the end of the world or anything like that.
For the Maya, that day is seen as sort of an important change in the calendar and a time to reflect and think about positive things related to Mayan culture, so for the Maya it's the beginning of a new cycle particularly one of Maya independence. In Guatemala there was a civil war from 1960 to 1996 that involved an attempted genocide of the Maya, and more than 200,000 Maya were killed. So for today's Maya, the ending of the 13th baktun represents sort of a new dawn of the end of violence against the Maya and the revival of Mayan culture.
Q: From your experience with the Maya, how have you seen them react to the idea that their calendar predicts the end of the world?
A: The Maya that I work with in Guatemala have been extremely irritated with how this moment in their calendar is being represented, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. It's something they see as entirely positive and that would only really have significance within their culture, and after seeing people outside saying that it's this horrible, negative thing and movies like 2012 about the end of the world, they find it extremely frustrating.
So my Maya friends on Facebook are always posting angry messages like, "Did you see this, I can't believe this," or "why do they keep saying this? Why don't they stop?" So yes, it is really kind of strange that it has come to a point where people just assume that there's an end of time and the Maya predicted something negative to happen, which is not the case at all.
Q: It’s obvious that you have a lot of passion and respect for this culture. What can you say about that?
A: I spend a lot of time living with the Maya. In a lot of the villages where I do my research, it's not like there is a motel you can go to stay in, so I've lived with people and become very close with them. I have lots and lots of friends who are Maya and people that I have worked with for 20 years, so having spent that much time with them and learning about their culture, it's hard not to have respect because it is a vast and really interesting and amazing culture.

El 2012 estuvo lleno de supersticiones del fin del mundo. Todo esto fue a raíz del calendario Maya, el cual tenía un fin este pasado 21 de diciembre. En esta entrevista, Rusty Barrett, lingüista y académico sobre la cultura Maya, nos explica cómo funciona el calendario Maya y las supersticiones y equivocaciones que muchos hicieron basadas en la fecha del 21 de diciembre.

AVISO: El día después de este entrevista, Barrett recibió un correo de parte de la organización Maya en Guatemala—Grupos de Mujeres y Hombres por la Paz—que estaba vendiendo calendarios del 2013 como método para recaudar fondos. Un poco de contradicción entre la venta de calendarios y la profecía no creen.

Este podcast fue producido por Cheyenne Hohman.


Contenido Extra con Rusty Barrett y su conocimiento de la cultura Maya:

Por: Sarah Geegan

Rusty Barrett es un profesor en el departamento de Ingles y Lingüística aquí en UK. Barrett obtuvo un doctorado en 1999 en jeroglíficos Mayas y  en lingüística Maya en la Universidad de Texas en Austin. La tesis de su doctorado trata sobre la gramática Sipakapense, un dialecto Maya no antes identificado. Barrett ha presidido clases en lingüística y escritura Maya aquí en UK y también es co-director de un programa extensivo que enseña durante el semestre del verano el dialecto Maya K’iche’ en Guatemala. Actualmente, Barrett está trabajando en un manuscrito sobre la revitalización del lenguaje en las comunidades Mayas en Guatemala.

En esta entrevista, Barrett nos comparte sus pensamientos sobre el calendario Maya y como éste funciona. También nos comenta sobre sus varios estudios e investigaciones de la cultura Maya y sobre las observaciones que hizo en cuanto a la reacción de los Mayas del fin del mundo.

P: ¿Cómo funciona el calendario Maya y ha llegado este a su fin?

R: Para empezar, hay dos calendarios Maya: uno de ellos y al que más importancia le dan, es un calendario lunar que consiste en 260 días y tiene muchos elementos Mayas religiosos y culturales. El otro calendario funciona al contar los días hacia a delante desde el 4 de agosto de 3114 B.C. Aunque este segundo calendario habla sobre las fechas por venir, también se hace mención sobre algunas fechas pasadas.

Arqueólogos y antropólogos solían pensar que solo existían 13 baktúnes (un baktún son 400 años en el calendario Maya) en el calendario; sin embargo, éste no es el caso. Realmente existen 20 baktúnes en el ciclo largo del calendario; cuando éste llega a su fin lo que sucede es que un nuevo ciclo comienza.

Decir que el calendario Maya llegará a su fin es como decir que nuestro calendario acabará cuando llegue al año 9999. Lo que se hace en ese caso es simplemente agregar 1. El calendario Maya en este sentido es igual que el nuestro, solo hay que agregar una unidad. La matemática Maya funciona en una escala de 20s, lo cual significa que se le puede agregar un número, lo único es que este será una unidad completa en vez de un 1.

Para los Mayas, esto es mas como un Siglo, sólo que más largo del que nosotros conocemos ya que el ciclo actual empezó en 3000 B.C., lo que significa que es un ciclo que consiste de 5,126 años. En resumen, no es que el calendario realmente termine, muchos académicos Mayas sabemos esto desde hace un tiempo, y los Mayas nunca asumieron que el mundo iba a acabar.

P: ¿De dónde se originaron las teorías del fin del mundo?

R: La noción de un Apocalypto es una noción Europea que fue introducida a los Mayas durante los tiempos coloniales. Se han encontrado algunas escrituras Mayas que hablan sobre el fin del mundo, pero todas éstas escrituras fueron influenciadas por ideas Cristianas. La idea del fin del mundo no existe como tal en la cultura Maya.

En los años 60s, cuando los arqueólogos todavía creían que solo habían 13 baktúnes, la idea de que extraterrestres vinieron a la tierra y construyeron las pirámides Mayas se volvió muy popular. Sin embargo, está idea ofende de sobremanera a los Mayas ya que implica que ellos no fueron los que hicieron todos los logros que se les atribuye hoy en día.

Desde el comienzo de mis estudios Mayas me he dado cuenta que hay una idea muy equivocada sobre la religión Maya. Muchas culturas, como la Maya, que han tenido un auge internacional tienen la desventaja que muchos buscan hacerlas más misteriosas e interesantes. Por esto mismo, varias personas han atribuido características exóticas e ideas extrañas y peligrosas a la cultura Maya, lo cual ha conllevado a varias teorías erróneas sobre cultos Mayas y profecías que éstos pudieron haber hecho.

P: ¿Cuáles son algunas de las concepciones equivocadas sobre los Mayas y su calendario?

R: Una de las ideas más equivocadas es que el calendario tiene una fecha límite—ya sea el viernes 21 o domingo 23 de diciembre del 2012. Otra equivocación es que muchos creen que los Mayas desaparecieron y murieron; hoy en día hay alrededor de 6 millones de Mayas viviendo en México, Belice y Guatemala. La mayor parte de la populación de Guatemala tiene alguna descendencia Maya. Los dialectos que he estudiado y que he incorporado en mi trabajo son hablados en Guatemala al día de hoy. Uno de estos dialectos es el K’iche’, y éste es utilizado en Guatemala por más de un millón de personas.

Veamos entonces, todavía existen los Mayas y el 21 de diciembre es una fecha importante para ellos no porque se acaba el mundo, sino porque marca el inicio de un nuevo ciclo.


Este día simboliza para los Mayas un nuevo comienzo; es un tiempo para reflexionar y pensar en los aspectos positivos de la cultura Maya y todo lo que esta incorpora. Es más, este nuevo ciclo será para los Mayas uno marcado por independencia. La Guerra Civil de Guatemala duró desde 1960 hasta 1996, y esta incluyo intentos de genocidio en contra de los Mayas. Más de 200,000 Mayas fueron asesinados durante estos años. Para los Mayas, el fin del 13avo baktún es el fin de la violencia en contra de los Mayas y es el renacimiento de su cultura.


P: En tus experiencias con los Maya, ¿Cuáles han sido sus reacciones en cuanto a la idea del fin del mundo basada en su calendario?


R: Los Mayas con los que yo he trabajado en Guatemala están molestos e irritados por como este momento en su calendario está siendo representado, especialmente por Estados Unidos y Europa. Para ellos este momento en el calendario es algo positivo y que debería de tener un significado para su propia cultura; el ver que otras culturas están basando cosas negativas de su calendario y se están dejando influenciar por eso los frustra bastante.


Tengo amigos Mayas en Facebook que suelen mandarme mensajes como “¿Viste esto ahora? No lo puedo creer. ¿Por qué dicen esto? ¿Por qué no paran?” Para ellos es muy extraño el nivel al que han llegado varios por asumir que el mundo se acaba y que los Mayas son los que predijeron este acontecimiento. Todo esto es mentira.


P: Tu pasión y respeto hacia la cultura Maya es obvia, ¿Qué tienes que decir tu a respecto?


R: He tenido la oportunidad de vivir con los Mayas en sus comunidades ya que en donde he conducido mis investigaciones no son lugares donde uno va a encontrar hoteles. Esto ha llevado a que me una a ellos y los entienda de una manera que no muchos han tenido el privilegio. He hecho bastantes amigos Maya y con muchos de ellos he trabajado por más de 20 años. Después de tanto tiempo y de varias experiencias compartidas, es difícil no tenerles respeto ya que la cultura Maya es muy interesante y tienen muchas cualidades para admirar.




An American Geographer in China: Richard Schein

At the end of March 2012, the American Studies Center at Shanghai University hosted a symposium on Urbanization in the American South. Richard Schein, a professor in the Department of Geography, gave presentations in Beijing and Shanghai on America's urban landscape. In this interview, Schein discusses his research, some of his experiences in China, and some reflections on how globalization has changed relations between the United States and China. 

This podcast was produced by Cheyenne Hohman.

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