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CLA professor reveals ‘Bollywood’s India’

With their epic stories and infectious song-and-dance routines, Bollywood movies can seem like the ultimate form of escapism. But behind their multicolor gloss is a potent subtext about modern India’s thorniest subjects, writes Temple’s Priya Joshi.

In Bollywood’s India: A Public Fantasy (Columbia University Press, 2015), Joshi, an associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts, says Bollywood―the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai―has provided an ongoing conversation about India since the country gained independence from the British in 1947.

Bollywood films have given voice and shape to the average Indian’s dreams, fears and anxieties from the turbulence that followed India’s partition from Pakistan through the explosive economic growth of recent years, says Joshi.

“The blockbusters of Hindi cinema have played a prominent role in managing the euphoria and crises that confront the modern nation” of India, Joshi writes. In the book, Joshi “analyzes the social work that popular cinema has done for the nation even as the cinema has challenged fundamental practices of the nation and the state during critical moments.”

According to Joshi, almost all Bollywood movies follow a familiar formula: There are usually half a dozen songs, a love story, stylized action sequences and big dance numbers. The wide-ranging appeal of this formula helps to fill India’s massive theaters, which can seat a thousand moviegoers or more.

Despite Bollywood’s populist elements, Joshi says the films have given Indians a chance to talk about subjects they couldn’t otherwise discuss, either because of cultural taboos or political repression.

She points to the 1973 film Bobby, which was a megahit at the box office and featured stars Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. The film extolled the pleasures of teenage love but below the surface, it dealt with “dowry deaths,” the murder of brides in an attempt to extort their parents.

Another example is the 1951 movie Awara, which paid homage to the comedy of Charlie Chaplin but also shined a light on India’s bloody partition from Pakistan.

“Bollywood films deal directly with some of the most challenging aspects of Indian life,” said Joshi. “Whether it’s terrorism, class tensions or political corruption, Bollywood has been there to help Indians understand who they are and what they want to become.”

Expertise on India

Bollywood’s India by Temple’s Priya Joshi is just the latest product of Temple’s robust scholarship on the burgeoning economy and rich culture of one of the world’s growing powers.  According to Joshi, Temple is unique among colleges and universities for its expertise on modern India.

  • Joshi previously wrote a book titled In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India.
  • Anthropology Professor Jayasinhji Jhala partnered with Temple students and private artists to develop a new type of contemporary painting marrying digital techniques with traditional Indian styles.
  • Temple is a member institution of the American Institute of Indian Studies. Howard Spodek, a Temple professor who wrote the 2011 book  Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth-Century India, is a trustee of the institute.
  • The New India Forum in the Center for the Humanities at Temple presents research on India from a broadly humanistic perspective using an interdisciplinary approach.  The forum returns in fall 2015.
  • The Temple University in India summer program empowers students to investigate Indian civilization through its religious and artistic traditions, both ancient and contemporary.
  • Mitrabarun “MB” Sarkar, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Strategic Management Department of the Fox School of Business, is an expert on innovation and business in India.
  • Temple’s Center for International Business Education and Research​―one of only 17 such centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education―focuses on promoting U.S. competitiveness in emerging markets, including India.

Taken from Temple News, by Ashwin P. Verghese


Psychology department members receive funding and awards for research

The College of Liberal Arts is pleased to announce that both students and faculty from the psychology department have received funding and awards for their current research in advancing the psychology field.

Lauren Ellman, a psychology assistant professor, has received a continuation of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for her research entitled Fetal Exposure to Maternal Stress and Inflammation: Effects on Neurodevelopment. To receive funding from NIH, Ellman’s work had to pass through a rigorous review by physicians, scientists and other experienced workers in the biomedical fields to evaluate the worth of proposed research and its potential to advance science.

Two psychology students, Jessica Hamilton and Elissa Hamlat, have been named recipients of the 2014 Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology Student Dissertation Awards. Before submitting their application along with a research and budget plan, the psychology department had to approve both girls’ projects and send in a letter of reference. Both of the girls decided to focus on the topic of depression and are being mentored by Lauren Alloy, psychology professor. Hamilton’s research is entitled Physiological Markers of Stress Generation and Affect Reactivity in Risk for Depression. Hamlat’s project is entitled Memory Specificity Training as Depression Intervention.


Hirsh-Pasek’s “word gap” research continues to earn national media coverage

Thirty million words: That is the size of the “word gap,” the number of extra words, so to speak, that children of affluent parents hear from their parents during toddlerhood that poor children don’t hear from theirs. The issue was the focus of a recent White House conference calling for people to address the word gap with the same passion they do child hunger. “It’s not just about shoving words in,” said Temple psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, lead author of a study presented at the conference. “It’s about having these fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects. … That is the stuff from which language is made.”

Source – The Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, Medical Daily, more | Nov. 3–6, 2014


Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg. Temple Professor Laurence Steinberg, who is well-known for his groundbreaking research on adolescence, brain development and teen decision-making, was honored for his work as an educator.

Psychology professor recognized for inspirational teaching

Temple Psychology Professor Laurence Steinberg has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award, which recognizes a small number of leading scholars in the fields of medicine, law and psychology.

Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology, was honored not just for hisgroundbreaking research on adolescence, brain development and teen decision-making, but for his teaching.

“We are thrilled that the Beckman Award Trust has chosen to recognize Dr. Steinberg for his dedication to his students,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Teresa Soufas. “He is an excellent example of how an active researcher brings his scholarship to the classroom.”

The $25,000 award specifically honors academic faculty members who have “inspired their former students to make a significant contribution to society.”

“This honor is doubly meaningful to me,” said Steinberg. “It’s always flattering to be recognized for one’s teaching. But it’s especially special to be recognized for having helped one’s students go on to do great things that make a real difference in the well-being of families and communities.

“I’m exceptionally proud to have been able to work with the terrific young scholars I’ve mentored over the years at Temple, University of Wisconsin and University of California, Irvine.”

An internationally recognized expert on psychological development during adolescence, Steinberg is a frequent consultant on juvenile justice issues and public policy to state and federal agencies and lawmakers.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 landmark ruling in Roper v. Simmons, which abolished the juvenile death penalty, relied significantly on the argument advanced by Steinberg and his colleagues that adolescents are fundamentally different from adults in ways shown by scientific studies of brain and behavioral development.

Steinberg also served as scientific consultant on the amicus curiae briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court by the American Psychological Association in Graham v. Florida, which banned the sentence of life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes, and Miller v. Alabama, which prohibited mandatory life without parole for all juvenile crimes.

He is the author of a dozen books on adolescence and parenting, including Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

Kim Fischer


Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek is the lead author of a study that points to the importance of high-quality communication with young children. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

NYT among media covering Hirsh-Pasek language research presented at White House

New research findings presented at a White House conference by Temple psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek suggest that the quality of words and language interactions between children in low-income families and their parents and caregivers is of much greater importance to language development than the number of words a child hears. “It’s not just about shoving words in,” said Hirsh-Pasek, lead author of the study. “It’s about having these fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using the banana as a phone. That is the stuff from which language is made.”

Read full story. The New York TimesThe Week, WHYY/NewsWorks, HHS.gov, many more | Oct. 16-22, 2014 – Photo credit Doug Mills/The New York Times


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Temple writers alter Philadelphia’s poetry landscape

Frank Sherlock was named Philadelphia’s second-ever poet laureate. The first, renowned writer Sonia Sanchez, HON ’98, was the Laura Carnell Chair in English in the College of Liberal Arts until her retirement in 1999 and also was the university’s first Presidential Fellow. A 2013 Pew Fellow, Sherlock attended the College of Liberal Arts.

That both are connected to Temple is no coincidence. The university’s thriving poetry scene spans more than 20 years, and its backbone is the MFA Creative Writing Program. In addition to Sanchez, the program faculty boasts a litany of accomplished poets, including Creative Writing Program Director Jena Osman, a 2006 Pew Fellow and co-founder of the internationally recognized literary magazine Chain; Assistant Professor Brian Teare, a finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award—one of the most prestigious awards for contemporary poets; and Professor Emerita Rachel Blau DuPlessis, a 2002 Pew Fellow, and one of the foremost feminist critics and scholars in the field of poetry.

“As a poet myself, I have always found Temple to be a very special place,” Osman said. “There have been many groundbreaking poets who have taught here through the years.”

Alumni of the Creative Writing Program also have made their marks on the poetry world. For example, Pew Fellow Kevin Varrone, CLA ’97, created a mobile app that tells the history of the Philadelphia Phillies through a 79-piece poem. And the latest work of Emily Abendroth, CLA ’05, called EXCLOSURES, explores the prison industrial complex and other forms of social exclusion.

“Our students continue to write, run presses and publish books after graduation,” Teare said. “It’s a great testament to our exciting applicants and the strength of the program. I feel very lucky to teach here.”

Current poetry students have had their own successes, too. For example, first-year MFA candidate Andrew Steele Dieck has published poetry in several anthologies and is an editor at O’clock Press.

“Temple has a wonderful pedigree,” Dieck said. “The reputation of the faculty and graduates is what drew me to the program.”

Temple’s location also contributes to the program’s success. “The Philadelphia writing scene, particularly for poetry, is incredibly lively,” Osman said. “People actually move to Philadelphia for poetry.”

Indeed, numerous poetry events take place regularly across Philadelphia, such as the Chapter and Verse Reading Series, hosted by Ryan Eckes, CLA ’07; Temple’s Poets and Writers series, which brings four poets and four fiction writers to campus each year; and its annual Rachel Blau DuPlessis Lecture Series in Poetry and Poetics, which fuels discussion about the intersection of critical and creative practices.

“Temple’s Creative Writing Program began because there were a number of English professors with doctorates in scholarly subjects who were also actively publishing creative work,” Osman explained. “That intermixing of theory and practice is part of our origin story.”

The program’s small size fosters an intimate and supportive community, says second-year MFA candidate Christy Davids, who also teaches Freshman English at Temple.

“I never come away from a workshop feeling settled, but I always feel supported,” Davids said. “That helps you become a better writer.”

– Renee Cree