Understanding America

Ever felt lost in translation? Join us as we attempt to crack the codes of contemporary American culture.

Our monthly series features guest lectures by Yale faculty accompanied by group discussion and other activities such as films and field trips. Everyone is encouraged to bring their questions, thoughts, and experiences to the table as we explore topics ranging from politics to popular culture.

All sessions convene at the International Center & are open to the Yale community. Have an idea for a topic you'd like to see addressed? Submit it here. For more information, please contact our series coordinator: janine.stockford@yale.edu




 Spring Topics

Friday, Feb. 12

Field Trip to Mohegan Sun

Join us for a trip to Mohegan Sun, one of the largest casinos in the country located in a scenic forested region of southeastern Connecticut. Tribal historian Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel will guide a tour of the property to illuminate the Native American cultural heritage that has been creatively incorporated into its design. We'll also have free time to explore the many attractions, which range from gambling to shopping to celebrity chef restaurants.

Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel is a Mohegan author and storyteller who serves as Tribal Historian and Medicine Woman for the Mohegan Tribe. Her publications include The Lasting of the Mohegans: Part I, The Story of the Wolf People and Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon.

Register Here

Weds., March 2 

Casino Urbanization, Chinatowns, and the Contested American Landscape

Join us for an exploration of the growing impact of casinos on life in the U.S. with Chloe Taft and Stephen Fan. As increased legalization of gambling gives rise to “mini Las Vegases” across the country, what is gained and what is lost? This talk is held in conjunction with the exhibit SUB URBANISMS: Casino Urbanization, Chinatowns, and the Contested American Landscape, on view through March 27 at New York's Museum of Chinese in America.

Stephen Fan is founder of S!Fan Designs and guest curator at the Museum of Chinese in America. His exhibit SUB URBANISMS: Casino Urbanization, Chinatowns, and the Contested American Landscape is an award-winning anthropological study of a community of immigrant Chinese casino workers in Connecticut. He received his Master of Architecture degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Chloe Taft is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Integrated Humanities at Yale. She is the author of the forthcoming book From Steel to Slots: Casino Capitalism in the Postindustrial City. She received her PhD in American Studies from Yale. 

Register Here

Weds., April 6 

Disney: Land, Brand, and Universe

Join us for a talk about Disney's corporate empire by J.D. Connor, followed by a screening of selections from Disney films. Mickey Mouse cupcakes will be served, and we'd love to hear about your encounters with Disney in the different shapes and forms its enterprises take around the globe. 

J.D. Connor is Professor of Art History and Film Studies at Yale. He is the author of  The Studios after the Studios: Neoclassical Hollywood (1970–2010)Before coming to Yale, he worked at Slate and taught at Harvard. 

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Friday, April 22

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland

Join us for a talk by Joshua Glick about Coney Island as an icon of the so-called American Dream, followed by a screening of his documentary This Side of Dreamland. Lunch will be served.

Joshua Glick is Professor of English and Film Studies at Hendrix College. He collaborated with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on the traveling exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008He received his PhD in Film Studies and American Studies from Yale. 

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