Research Colloquium Musings

BY AMITAV BANERJI / Dagligtale Staff Writer

Over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of learning new skills and gaining vast amounts of knowledge through my classes and my interactions on campus. The idea of mortifications of the self in sociology and the use of upstream and downstream business practices to create comparative advantage are just a few of the things that I got to learn but I must confess, I never really thought about the conception of these ideas. How these ideas came into being and what made them influential enough to be included in our curriculums were just two of the many questions answered at the research colloquium that was held on the 15th of February. The research colloquium allowed three Augustana professors to present the research that they are currently working on.

Alex Carpenter opened the colloquium with a presentation on, “Fur Inner: From krautrock to goth rock and beyond”. It started off with an introduction explaining krautrock and its undeniable ability to fade into the background. Krautrock came from a musical movement in the 1960s. It is considered to go against normal forms of pop due to the fact that it was so diverse that Anglo American couldn’t think this way about music and also because it was stylistically unsound to a point. Krautrock is worth researching due to its influence on famous musicians throughout history. During the 1960’s we saw krautrock have a great influence on musicians such as La monte young. We then saw krautrock influence musicians such as David Bowie in the 1970s and derivations of krautrock start to appear in various bands as well. Krautrock influenced its way through the era of punk rock and spank rock to influence hip hop artists like Kanye West who used krautrock like rhythm and beats to make songs in the early 2000s.

I managed to get in touch with Alex and he was gracious enough to answer the questions I posed to him. When asked to describe the main idea of his research he stated, “My research on German pop music focuses mainly on how identity is expressed through music (in this case, so-called “Krautrock”), on the influence of German pop in the wider world, and on analytic methodologies for pop music scholarship”. I also asked him if there were any benefits he hoped to ascertain from the research and if there was anything particular he would like the readers to know about the research to which he responded, “I hope that this research will help me and others to better understand popular music genres and the role pop music plays in the construction of national identities and I would like people to know that German music rocks”.

The next presentation was by Diego Coraialo on “Liminality in Contested Industries: The Tobacco Controversy”. I found this to be a particularly interesting topic because it acknowledged the harm created by the tobacco industry and looked to understand why this industry has survived for so long. The reason this industry has survived for so long is due to the practice of liminality. Liminality is the in-between or the position of ambiguity that forbids any straightforward classification of actors and actions within existing institutional frameworks. This concept emerged in the tobacco industry during the 1950s. The tobacco industry was free to publish what it wanted until the 1950s when scientists started to do research regarding the effects of tobacco. Noticing this change, the big five tobacco companies of the time started to implement liminality. This allowed them to promote categorical ambiguity where they would avoid having their drug classified as food or wouldn’t answer questions that would put their drug in the medical field. They also promoted scientific ambiguity for which they worked to produce false or misleading data of sorts which allowed them to release products and advertise them as “safe cigarettes”.

In 1998, litigation and laws were created and collective action was taken against key players in core stigmatized industries who were working together to prolong the liminality. The drawback of liminality was that this industry spent too many resources on a single approach rather than allowing expansion and R&D which would have improved their product. It was later found out that the technology for E-cigs had been available since the 1970s but  only came about in the 2000s due to the tobacco industry’s short-sightedness. Much to my delight, Diego was more than happy to answer a few of my questions. Diego explained that the point of his research is, “Why very controversial industries like tobacco and booze, that fall under what we call sinful industries, keep existing in spite of the fact that a massive amount of people are against them. For more than 50 years these industries have been knowingly selling harmful products and society has not been able to kill these industries and they still exist.” He very astutely pointed out, “these industries are growing, with the recent legalization of weed and just because it became legal does not mean that it is legitimate. These industries are stigmatized and we want to understand what these players are doing to perpetuate this industry.”

When asked if this research is new in any way Diego responded, “The idea of liminality was created by a German anthropologist in the 1920s and the whole idea was centered around individuals and how liminality exists between childhood and adolescent. The concept has been out there for a while and has been used in organizational studies. What we’re doing is that we’re broadening this concept to look at industries as a whole rather than individual characteristics, rituals or even organizational practices which will allow us to analyze how the rules of the game are bent and permits these industries to thrive despite the stigma.”


I then got to see the final presentation, which was presented by Erin Sutherland where she talked about “Visual Sovereignty: Indigenous Artist-Run centers in Canada”. Her research centered around an organization that protects, advertises and creates a community for indigenous art and the artists. The organization stays true to its values of inclusivity in the sense that there is no hierarchy even though it says that on paper. They showcase various pieces of art by various indigenous artists not only in galleries but also online, thus preserving the culture.

I walked into the colloquium with no expectations but I can safely say that even if I had any expectations, they would have been surpassed. It was incredibly humbling and fascinating to see professors doing research that could change and impact the world in many different ways especially since I get to attend classes taught by these professors.


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