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Archive for the ‘Scholars Talks’ Category

On March 5th, as part of Waltham Committee’s ongoing Scholars Talks series, WSRC Scholar Ruth Nemzoff met with Grandmothers at the Waltham Senior Center to discuss some of the challenges of being a grandmother. Ruth spoke about her two books, Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children , Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family for about twenty minutes, the Rest of the time was devoted to a very open and honest discussion of grandparenting when you and your children disagree about discipline, food, religious practice and style of living. The grandmothers shared not only their questions but some of they ways they have managed to work out their differences. It helped to have humor and persepctive that there are many ways to raise good ,loving and kind human being. The attendees engaged in insightful and honest conversation.

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Odgerel (Oge) Dashzeveg, Visiting Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC), Brandeis University and member of the Waltham Committee presented her talk, “A Beautiful woman by their culture”, at the Waltham Senior Center on Monday, November 4, 2013.Image

Oge, Visting Scholar, WSRC (standing 4th from L)

Oge talked about women’s beauty practices and rituals that define womanhood across different cultures. Many cultures around the world have beauty traditions that have been forcing women to make physical changes to their bodies and appearance in order to be considered “beautiful” in her culture. These cultural beauty practices reflect values and beliefs about women exist for the benefit of men’s delight. Many of the harmful practices are performed on girls on achieving puberty and they symbolize entrance into womenhood and readiness for marriage. Some practices begin as young as for 3-4 years old girls and lasts until a girl reaches puberty and beyond to adulthood.

In her talk, Oge illustrates how a woman’s body becomes a beauty instrument from head to toe, including traditions of wearing heavy head pieces, shaving the head, etc. and ending with foot binding. A woman who fails to follow these physically and emotionally painful beauty traditions can be seen as unmarriageable, unattractive and dishonored by own community. Women’s beauty practices are unspoken traditions that never been questioned in the context of human morality, women’s human rights and dignity.  Many of these traditions are diminishing, however, the existing beauty practices are shifting into global money making business that shows woman as cultural beauty exhibitions.

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ImageCommittee member Rajashree Ghosh, speaking to students of Environment and Justice class on September 30, 2013 (Photo credit: Ornit Barkai)

The Waltham Committee at Brandeis connects with Brandeis students and faculty in many ways. One of the programs offered, is an engaging, immersive academic program in which small groups of students explore a thematic topic through inquiry-based courses linked to real-world experiential opportunities. It provides them with opportunities to deeply engage in law, social impacts and the immediate needs of environmental health challenges facing individuals and families today.  The students work with some of the most disadvantaged communities from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the rural coal mining mountains of Appalachia, as they learn and combat issues such as toxic exposure, access to safe housing, healthy food and open space.

With faculty member Laura Goldin’s leadership and experience these students receive the training for  hands on multi-disciplinary community engaged learning program. In that connection she invited Rajashree Ghosh, as before, to present her work on urban governance and women in India. This gave the students an understanding of gender issues, poverty, deprivation and the community based initiatives that work on the ground to make changes to the lives of impoverished populations in slums in Delhi. Her presentation was followed by comments and questions by students. The conversations ranged from doing fieldwork in another country, government practices, women’s role, community engagement and many other issues that struck the students as key in the understanding of the project.

In a note sent, the students said that they found the presentation “informative and encouraging.” For Rajashree and members of the Waltham Committee, this connection with the students and faculty member is an extension of the relationship with the community. As with the larger Brandeis community, WSRC through the Waltham Committee engages with the local community and determine ways in which to make a difference.

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Odgerel (Oge) Dashzeveg, Visiting Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University and member of the Waltham Committee presented her talk, “Buddhism and its practice in Mongolia”, at the Waltham Senior Center on Monday, June 25, 2013. Oge’s talk was a part of Religion talk series organized by Waltham Committee with the collaboration of the Waltham Senior Center. Her talk focused on history of Buddhism, its influence on Southeast and East Asian countries, including Mongolia. Legend of Buddha holds that Indian noble-man Siddharta at age 29 left his home to understand mysteries of birth, life, death and rebirth.  After wandering for six long years, at age 35, he found through self-discovery  the stage beyond suffering- rebirth. No longer was he Siddhartha; he was Buddha. His followers, devout monks, were sent to spread Buddha’s teachings. Like other religions, Buddhism influenced traditional cultures of many Asian countries throughout South, East and Central Asia.

In the 16th the Yellow hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism was introduced to Mongolia and the ruling Khan of Mongols awarded the head of Tibetan Buddhism with the title Dalai Lama (Great Lama). By the 17th century Mongolia became a devoted religious nation, led by Buddhist leaders at the head of the state, and it lasted for over two hundred years.  Approximately 40% of the male population were converted into devoted sacred lamas (monks) and settled in the monasteries owning over 50% of the country’s wealth. Early 19th century socialist reform ruled by communist party prohibited any religious activities in Mongolia and this resulted the fall of Buddhist era. During socialist reform that lasted over thirty years, until 1960s, there were killed over 100 000 men as enemies of communist ideology, including 70 000 lamas and religious leaders. In addition, about 800 Buddhist temples and monasteries were destroyed. Since 1990’s, Mongolia became a democratic country tolerant to all religious activities in Mongolia. Buddhism revived once again and today about sixty percent of the population are Buddhists.

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liz

Elizabeth Markson, Resident Scholar, discussed part of her research on older women as they are portrayed in Hollywood films over the past 70+ decades.  She focused on how clothing and other props are used to represent aging and old age-in a random sample of 83 feature films from 1929 to 2004, Drawing from films over a 70 year period, she gave examples of the ways that older actresses been depicted to give both explicit and explicit messages about women and aging.

Persistent images and props from 1930 through 2000 define the film roles played by older women: shawls, rocking chairs, aprons, cooking and baking, and small pets. Even women who are villains cook and prepare food—including just before spurring on a lynching!  Attendees chatted about why older actresses very rarely portray active and vibrant people, rather than backdrops for the actions of younger (or predominantly male) cinematic portrayals. Despite social change, older women’s dress and activities remain likely to be clothed in stereotypical fashion as ‘witches, bitches, or poor old things’. However, the times are changing—or are they in American cinema?  Will greater life expectancy, later retirement, more women in the labor force, and the aging of the baby boom generation reduce ageist and sexist film portrayals of women 60+?

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and magic

Helen A. Berger, Visiting Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center and member of  the Waltham Committee presented a talk on Witches and Wiccans at the Waltham Center on Aging on Monday, January 28th.  Helen has published four books on the topic, A Community of Witches; Voices from the Pagan Census; Witchcraft and Magic: North America; and Teenage Witches.  Her talk focused on Contemporary Witchcraft and Wicca as religions albeit an untraditional ones in which there is no central authority or one book that everyone must follow. Nature is seen as sacred and is celebrated in the Wheel of the Year–a ritual calendar–in which the beginning and height of each season is commemorate in a ritual. For Wiccans and Witches belief is less important than experiencing the divine and rituals provide a route to having that experience. The Goddess (es) is worshipped in conjuncture with the God(s) or alone. Witches and Wiccans practice magic but claim that they will not use if for ill, as the energy that each person sends out comes back to her or him three-fold. Thirty seniors were in attendance and a very lively and interesting discussion followed including questions about how the ritual calendar is used in other parts of the world where the seasons are different, and the relationship of contemporary Witches to those individuals killed as Witches in past. So much interest was stimulated that participants have requested more lectures on world religions.

 

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Emily Corbato, Resident Scholar, WSRC

 

Resident Scholar, Emily Corbato, performed a piano concert for a full audience of 100 people at Waltham’s Senior Center on Friday, September 28th. Her choices of composers were mostly from the 1800’s, including Ernst Bacon, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, Ernest Block, and Joaquin Turina. She began her recital with a powerful execution of Well Tempered Clavier (Prelude in C Major) by J.S. Bach, who lived between 1685 and 1750. With charming and compelling commentaries about each song and composer, Corbato performed 17 musical renditions written by 8 composers. Often smiling and clapping as Corbato played the piano and provided stories about the music, the audience was obviously enchanted with both the performer and the performance.

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