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Volume 41. No. 2.
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New Faces, New Passions

Ten new professors bring a new set of talents and passions to Pomona

At the start of the 2004-05 year, Pomona added 10 new professors to its faculty. A remarkable and talented group, they were drawn to their own fields by a wide variety of paths, from a childhood gift to a second-century novel with tales of travel, magic and mystery.

Robert Gaines
Assistant Professor of Geology

Robert Gaines’ interest in earth history and paleontology stretches back to childhood. Like most boys, he was interested in dinosaurs at an early age. But when he was five, his focus shifted when his parents gave him a trilobite fossil. “Trilobites opened my eyes to the earlier, deeper history of earth, much older than the dinosaurs. I became very curious about the earliest animal life and in deep time, things happening on earth long before life on land,” he says. With no easy access to trilobite books and toys, “I was just interested in looking for fossils wherever I could find them. It wasn’t until I was in college that I found my first trilobite.” Years later, Gaines did a large part of his dissertation on the same species of trilobite, elrathia kingii, that his parents gave him. It was also the subject of his 2003 article in Geology, the journal of the Geological Society of America.

His current research focuses primarily on the Cambrian Explosion, a period of time approximately 500 million years ago, when virtually all of the animal groups explosively appeared from single-celled animals essentially overnight. Specifically, Gaines is examining the nature of the earliest ecosystems, how communities of animals were structured and how they related to one another and their environment. In the classroom, he tries to instill the same curiosity about the world that drew him to the field. Gaines, who considers himself an earth historian, completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside. He served as a visiting professor of geology at Pomona in 2003-04.

Arthur Horowitz
Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance

Arthur Horowitz fell in love with theatre as a teenager in summer camp. As a college student, though, the avid reader decided on a career as a high school English teacher. A bit of luck in his first year of teaching gave him the opportunity to do both, when he was assigned to direct the annual school play. A few years later, he attended a theatre workshop where the acting bug bit hard.

“All of a sudden I’m doing Shakespeare and loving the hell out of it,” he recalls. “When I got back home to New York, I began this double life working as an English teacher by day and a struggling actor by night, trying desperately to reconcile the two. ... I graded papers on the weekends or at 4 a.m. One of the beauties of being 27- or 28-years-old is that you don’t need much sleep.”

After 20 years as an English teacher, Horowitz returned to college and earned his Ph.D.
from the University of California, Davis. Since then, he’s found that “being a theatre
professor is the perfect reconciliation between being on stage and being in class.” Horowitz is the author of Prospero’s ‘True Preservers’—Peter Brook, Yukio Ninagawa, and Giorgio Strehler: International Post-World War II Directors Approach to Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ (2004) and is currently researching the medieval Dance of Death and the contemporary performance history of Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt.

Kathleen Howe
Director of the Pomona College Museum of Art and professor of Art History

A physics and history major as an undergraduate, Kathleen Howe has always been interested in images, pictures and photographs, and how images convey information. Early in her career, this combined with an interest in science led her into the developing field of
medical imaging.

Since graduate school, Howe’s interest in images has shifted to the study of photography and its history. “In its first 30 years of development, photography became an important part of knowing and understanding the world,” she explains. “Images became a way of selling a place as a tourist destination. It’s the same way the American West was sold to tourists.”

While old photographs can offer glimpses of sites that have disappeared, Howe points out
that they can also expose cultural attitudes. “Many times the same photographers were
taking images in Palestine and Egypt but they took different approaches to photographing
the holy land versus ancient Egypt,” says Howe. Because photographs were perceived as
documenting objective reality, they often reinforced cultural attitudes.

Howe is a prolific author whose books include First Seen: Portraits of the World’s Peoples
(2004), The Social Lens: Photographs from the Ray Graham Collection (2003), Revealing the
Holy Land: The Photographic Exploration of Palestine
(1997), Excursions Along the Nile:
The Photographic Discovery of Ancient Egypt
(1994), and Felix Teynard: Calotypes of Egypt,
a Catalogue Raisonne
(1992), the latter a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in
Photography.

She received her Ph.D. in the history of photography from the University of New Mexico,
where she was the associate director and curator of prints and photographs at the
University of New Mexico Art Museum, as well as an adjunct associate professor.
“Art and visual art aren’t separate from every other endeavor on campus,” says Howe.
“They’re connected to history and science, to the ideas that economists and political
scientists talk about. Art is connected to all of these things. Having a museum on a
campus is a wonderful opportunity to show people how those connections work.”

Nina Karnovsky
Assistant Professor of Biology

Nina Karnovsky has participated in field studies on a variety of species from sea turtles and elephant seals to goshawks, storm petrels, dovekies and Adélie penguins, in locales as diverse as the Arctic, Antarctic, California, Hawaii and the Kaibab Plateau in Arizona. In 1992, she made her first research trip to the Antarctic where she lived in a 12- by 60-foot hut with three other people for seven months, surrounded by thousands of penguins.
“We were completely absorbed in penguin society. We knew who was cheating on whom, who was divorced, and who was nesting nearby. We kept track of everyone,” she says.

Karnovsky’s current research project, a study of how climate change affects top predators,
including changes in diet and reproductive success, began with a Fulbright Foundation
Fellowship in 1991. “We were interested in how dovekies, an arctic seabird, are responding to the recent widespread incursion of warmer Atlantic water into the Arctic.”Sailing a square-rigged wooden ship from Poland to Hornsund Fjord in Norway, she and her co-investigators monitored where the birds fed, what food was available in the Arctic water versus the Atlantic water, how many chicks were born and what food the parents were bringing back. This summer, she will return to the Arctic with a student to continue the study.

Karnovsky earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine. In 2003, she served
as a visiting assistant professor of biology in the Claremont Colleges Joint Sciences
Department.

Peter Kung

Assistant Professor of Philosophy

A computer programmer in the 1990s, Peter Kung applied to graduate school with the idea of taking a “break.” It wasn’t supposed to be a career change.

Philosophy, he says, is a natural draw for students. “Everyone wants to know the answers to life’s big questions. ‘Does God exist?’ ‘Do we have free will?’ ‘What is ethical?’ Naturally smart people question the world and their place in it. Philosophy gives them a chance to talk about those big questions and find out what other smart people throughout history have thought about these things.”

“[Now] is an interesting time to be in philosophy,” Kung adds. “There are questions about
objectivity and the science wars, questions about whether science deserves its privileged
place as a source of knowledge. And, as we find out more and more about the neurological
basis of the brain, and scientific theories become more sophisticated, the philosophical
questions become more interesting and pressing. We have certain conceptions of ourselves
as conscious, thinking creatures. How does this fit with the picture science is
presenting?”

In his research, Kung focuses on modal epistemology, specifically how people have evidence
for what is possible. Kung believes that sensory imagination is the key to this process
and is developing an imagination-based account of our knowledge of possibility. Kung
earned his Ph.D. from New York University, where he was nominated for the University’s
Outstanding Teaching Award.

Ian Moyer
Assistant Professor of Classics and History

Ian Moyer began his undergraduate career as an English major. But in reading the Romantic authors, he became intrigued by their references to ancient literature and religions. Deciding that he should also read the authors “that people had been talking about for hundreds of years,” Moyer was soon learning Greek. “It was probably the hardest thing I’d ever studied at the time,” he admits. “Yet it was such a stunning intellectual challenge.
Then I found that I could enter whole new cultural worlds.”

A novel by second-century Latin author Apuleius led him further down the historical path
with tales of travel, magic and mystery ultimately leading to Moyer’s master’s thesis on
Greco-Egyptian religion. “The body of evidence was intrinsically fascinating and opened
vistas of imagination,” he explains. “It made me realize how alien these cultures and
worlds were to my daily existence.”

His next inspiration was an encounter with papyri found in Egypt, written in Greek, and
filled with Egyptian ideas, concepts and divinities. This led him to research cultural
interactions between the ancient Greek and Egyptian worlds, using the histories of
Egyptian priests who came into contact with the Greeks. One source is Manetho, an Egyptian priest who wrote a history of Egypt in Greek.

Moyer believes the cultural influences went both ways and a number of mixed cultural forms
resulted. He is particularly interested is how these historical processes and interactions
have been treated by contemporary scholars, noting that the study of the Hellenistic
period was developed during a time of colonial empires, leading many scholars to draw
parallels between the two. By using original Egyptian and Greek texts and evidence from
historical sites to disentangle the truth, he has already found micro-histories that
contradict prevailing big-picture narratives.

Moyer earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Ghassan Sarkis
Assistant Professor of Math

Ghassan Sarkis is clearly taken with “math’s elegant, self-contained beauty,” adding that "it’s fun to think about.” In his research, he focuses on number theory, specifically formal groups and p-adic dynamical systems. “Numbers,” he continues to patiently explain, "come with an intuitive notion of size—100 is greater than 27. But there are other natural ways to measure size that are not as intuitive as ‘absolute value.’ This gives us the p-adic numbers. For instance if p=5, then 100 is less than 27 5-adically. Turning numbers on their heads is a different way of looking at them, perhaps de-emphasizing the dominant paradigm, with an eye toward a more complete and equally natural understanding of the world of numbers.”

Asked about the applications of his work, Sarkis objects to “the notion that the only
utility of math is application. That’s the same as saying the only utility of painting is
to cover walls. Doing math is just as pleasurable as reading a book or writing. We started
to write and do math because we needed to do accounting. Writing has been accepted as an
art form and math is still struggling to do that. Math certainly has utility. The battle
it’s waging is to be accepted as an endeavor in its own right.” He does note that
mathematics has begun to make regular incursions into popular culture and art, citing
recent plays and movies, such as Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind and It’s My Turn,
although only the latter features a well-adjusted mathematician. “Math is becoming less
nerdy, or perhaps being nerdy is becoming sexier, and we’re benefiting,” he says.
Sarkis earned his Ph.D. from Brown University. He first came to Pomona in 2002 as a
visiting professor.

Patricia Schiafini
Oldenborg Center director and assistant professor of Chinese

Patricia Schiaffini grew up in Argentina, Italy, the Canary Islands and Madrid, Spain. But it was China that always held her fascination.

“I remember Mao’s death and the images on television, from when I was six or seven years old,” says Schiaffini. “Tiananman Square was filled with people. ... Later, when I was about 10, I read about Asia and something really resonated about China. Chinese people would say that I was Chinese in a former life.”

Schiaffini finally made it to China in 1990 as a graduate student, becoming only the
second or third student from Spain to study at Beijing University. “By the time I was in
China, I had been dreaming about it for seven to 10 years, and it was as interesting and
fascinating as I thought it’d be.”

“Beijing was not that beautiful of a city,” Schiaffini explains. “It had long, very cold
winters, and everything was grey because they burned coal for heating. When you biked your
nose turned black from the coal smoke. But it was wonderful because I was biking with the
Chinese… I liked to eat in the Chinese dorms and…I had great teachers who were very
welcoming. I could go to their houses and chat with them about revolutions, history and
literature; talk about their experiences during the wars; of the Mao years, the cultural
revolution and the repression. ... It was my interaction with people that made [China] so
special, so wonderful.”

In 1994, Schiaffini came to the U.S. as an exchange student to learn more about China from
a different perspective. “In China, history is taught so differently. There it’s all about facts, people and the number of battles. In the U.S. you learn more about social history.”

Schiaffini earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as a
director of East Asia House. Her current research, inspired by a trip to Tibet, focuses on
the literature of minorities in China, their ethnic identity and the images of ethnic
minorities in Chinese literature.

Kyla Wazana Tompkins
Assistant Professor of English and Women’s Studies

Kyla Tompkins has always organized her world by food. “It’s how I remember children’s books and world events,” she explains, citing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, in which Edward is seduced by Turkish delight and the Boston tea party.

In her research, Tompkins combines her interests in cultural history, food and literary studies by examining how food and eating have been used as metaphors for the negotiation of cultural and racial difference in American culture. “Today, food is one of those places in culture where race and cultural issues are safe and easy to talk about,” she says. But this wasn’t always the case. “America has a long history of xenophobia, and it wasn’t until the late 20th century that it became acceptable to eat the food of ‘others.’” Tompkins also points out that writing about food and eating can be used as a way of talking about national identity, such as the renaming of French fries to freedom fries after France refused to join the U.S. in Iraq in 2003.

Another area of academic interest involves how gendered and racial identities are
produced. An off-shoot of that work is a yet-to-be-published anthology that she co-edited
on Martha Stewart. She first heard of Stewart while working in a Toronto cookbook store
while pursuing her master’s. “Women would come into the store and flip out. They either
loved her or despised her. I was fascinated and wanted to understand her image and why she
had such meaning in the U.S.” The resulting anthology, while unpublished, did receive
national media attention, when Stewart was indicted.

Tompkins earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Meg Worley
Assistant Professor of English

Fascinated by languages from an early age, Meg Worley has lived in Belgium, Holland and Japan, where she had a translation business for several years, and traveled all over South America. She speaks conversational Dutch, Japanese and Spanish. She reads Latin, French,
German, Greek, Hebrew, Old English, Old French and Old Spanish.

Using those skills in her research, Worley is broadly interested in how meaning gets
translated between languages, with a focus on the translation of medieval literature and
translations of the Bible.

“The Bible is the ultimate text,” notes Worley. “It’s the one written text no one wants
to mess with. No one is going to say they know better than the author…since most of the
faithful believe that God dictated the first five chapters, and the rest were divinely
inspired.” She has found however that politics have historically impacted Bible
translations and that “it’s easier to talk about thorny biblical issues in historical
context rather than current translation.” Her most recent related project is a book
chapter on the role of the Psalms and individual editions of them in the formation of
English nationhood in the 14th century.

Worley is also working on an article about Chaucer and how his reputation changed from
“the great translator” in the Middle Ages to “the great author” in more recent times.
Worley earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University.
—Cynthia Peters
 
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by Pomona College
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