Rethinking India’s Postcolonial Influence

Associate Professor of English Rajani Sudan is pioneering a new approach to the study of British imperialism. Her research challenges a longheld theory that the British Empire brought technology and commerce to pre-modern India. Instead Sudan, a scholar in postcolonial theory, says that India’s superior scientific and technical advances informed the development of science in Europe during the 18th-century Enlightenment.

With her current book, Mud, Mortar, and Other Technologies of Empire, Sudan focuses on the non-European origins of the Enlightenment. She has found her history of the British Enlightenment in the literary artifacts of the 18th century, from the correspondence of the British East India Company and the papers of the Royal Society to the poetry of Alexander Pope and novels of Daniel Defoe and Jane Austen. “This interdisciplinary study aims at turning our understanding of the Enlightenment and the rise of Europe upside down,” she says.

During the the Enlightenment the East India Company brought from India exotic elixirs that English scientists explained in terms of alchemy, that superstitious “science” that present-day scholars say was displaced by the rational science of the 18th century. In their efforts to comprehend the foreign and the “exotic,” British scientists, just as earlier alchemists had done, acknowledged there was much in the world that they simply could not understand.

“They certainly couldn’t understand many aspects of Indian science, not the least being its sophistication,” Sudan says. “It was their own superstitions, fantasies, and reasons the British saw in Indian science. Enlightenment reason and science weren’t equipped to comprehend foreign places, people, and ways of understanding, and the British knew it.”

Sudan contends that the Enlightenment was born largely out of Europe’s sense of insecurity and inferiority in the early modern world. Only much later, at the height of the colonial empires, did historians use it to account for European hegemony, she says.

Initially interested in the origins of Romantic literature during the 18th and 19th centuries, Sudan turned her attention from Britain to the global encounters of the first British Empire. Her first book, Fair Exotics (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), traced the fascination with and fear of foreign people and places, sensibilities that influenced thinking in the Romantic era. The hallmarks of Romantic literature, Sudan argues, were forged during the Enlightenment, not afterward, as has long been assumed. Fair Exotics received a Godbey Award for outstanding research by SMU faculty.

The daughter of Cornell University faculty members, Sudan earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Cornell. Frequent trips to India created an interest in literature reflecting Britain’s colonial rule. On research leave next summer and fall, Sudan will become one of the few Western scholars to analyze Indian archives of the East India Company in Madras, Calcutta, and Bombay.

For more information:

Islamic. India, Delhi, Eight Men in Indian and Burmese Costume, 19th century. Ink, colors and gold on paper; H. 10 in., W. 15.5 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Julius Hoffman, 1909 (09.227.1). Photograph ©2001 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Unbugged: Can CAD Build Better Circuits?

Nowhere is the adage “Hindsight is 20/20” more applicable than it is in the business world. Giant chipmaker Intel realized that after it experienced a public relations nightmare in 1994 when it shipped processors with a flaw in the way they performed. The corporation later understood how much trouble it could have avoided if only it had ensured that the chip worked perfectly before it was shipped to market.

Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Mitch Thornton has given much thought to avoiding such business migraines before they occur. He is helping to pioneer verification methods for electronic devices using computer-aided design to create and test complex circuits. His research, funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the State of Texas, is leading to software tools that will detect bugs in circuit design before they are built. In addition, his work was recognized with one of SMU’s 2005 Ford Research Fellowships, acknowledging the potential of design verification research for successful industry application.

“The biggest problems with integrated circuits arise from their sheer complexity,” says Thornton, who teaches courses in both computer science and electrical engineering in SMU’s School of Engineering. “I can’t think of any other device humans make that is composed of so many individual elements. It would be impossible for one person or even a group to figure out where every component is going to be and how they will interconnect. We have to use automated programs to help us do that.”

Ordinary simulation is not practical for integrated circuits, Thornton says, “because there are so many components that it would take years to completely simulate the device. In fact, it would take longer to simulate it than its projected product lifetime. By the time we finished testing a device, it would be obsolete.” CAD-based verification is the most promising way to ensure design correctness, he adds.

The benefits to industry are numerous, but the most significant is shortening the time to market. “A lot of time is spent ensuring correct design. Some companies have as many as four verification engineers for every designer,” says Thornton, who employs six Ph.D. students as well as several computer engineering undergraduates in his research. “The sooner companies get a product onto the shelves, the more profit they make.”

As devices grow smaller, verification raises more challenges. Thornton describes a new and growing issue called the cross-talk problem: “Circuits have shrunk to such a size that when a voltage level increases on one conductor and decreases on another, close both geometrically and in time, one circuit can interfere with the other, much like radio waves affect an antenna,” he says. “This problem did not exist when we built integrated circuits at a larger scale. There’s a lot of work out there for engineers who can manage challenges like this.”

Those challenges present the best of both worlds for Thornton, who received his M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, and an M.S. in computer science and Ph.D. in computer engineering from SMU. “I like to do software development as well as design circuit hardware. Verification research is a nice intersection of those disciplines.”

For more information:

Evaluating The Nation’s Report Card

Since 1969 the National Assessment of Educational Progress – known as “the Nation’s Report Card” – has provided the only continuing measurement of what American schoolchildren know and can do. Students report information on everything from how many magazine subscriptions their households receive to how many books they read to how much TV they watch. Such background data may help determine why school programs pass or fail.

The report’s format, however, barely scratches the surface of information available from the survey, says an SMU statistician who is refining the analysis of what schools are doing well and what doesn’t work. “There’s a lot of data that isn’t being examined closely” simply because it doesn’t bear directly on the Report Card’s primary assessment, says Lynne Stokes, professor of statistical science in Dedman College.

The Nation’s Report Card obtains an average overall estimate for different groups, not a measurement on individual students, Stokes says. “It doesn’t pin down everything a student in a given school or state knows. But all together, the data provides a solid estimate of what proportion of students has either basic or proficient grasp of academic skills.”

To give precise results for states and some urban districts – as well as for individual demographic groups, such as African Americans, whites, and Hispanics – NAEP samples differentially. Such a sample may include more minority students than are represented in an area’s population, so the survey will include enough of that population to create an accurate statewide estimate.

“In an overall analysis, if you give all these data sets equal weight, you’ll have too many of one survey group and not enough of another,” Stokes says. For example, to gain a reliable sample of students from sparsely populated Wyoming, the Report Card selects a greater number of participants than Wyoming residents represent proportionally in the U.S. population. Assigning equal weights to Wyoming’s data and that of, say, Texas will produce an inaccurate picture of American children overall.

To give each data set its proper weight, Stokes and SMU statistician Ian Harris, along with graduate students Yue Jia and Prabu Bhagavatheeswaran, are refining a relatively new method called multilevel analysis. “It can help us learn how to measure things like proficiency variation among schools, or what school characteristics are associated with higher or lower scores,” she says. They are conducting their research under a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s NAEP Secondary Analysis Program.

Stokes, who earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mathematical statistics from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, joined SMU in 2001. She serves as associate editor of Survey Methodology and the Journal of the American Statistical Association, of which she also is chair-elect of the Council of Sections.

For more information:

The map shows the intra-school correlation for NAEP fourth-grade reading scores. Large values (red) mean that schools within the state are very different from each other in terms of their students’ performance; small values (yellow) mean that schools are similar in performance. States with large intra-school correlation tend to be highly urban (e.g., New York, California, Illinois) and those with inequities (e.g., Louisiana).

Keeping Tabs On Securities Law

Insider trading. Gimmicky accounting. Market manipulations. Long before Ken Lay of Enron and Martha Stewart made headlines, the dark side of capitalism always fascinated Alan Bromberg, University Distinguished Professor of Law.

Bromberg began teaching at SMU in 1956, but his learning curve arcs back nearly to the beginning of federal oversight of stock sales. While attending Yale Law School, he took a class on securities taught by one of the architects of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency created by Congress to regulate the sale of stocks in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash.

“He was a New Deal lawyer who had a hand in the formation of the agency,” Bromberg says. “I immediately was attracted to this area of law by the idea of the relationship between business and finance, on the one hand, and the rights of the individual on the other.”

For his research, Bromberg tracks the flow of regulations, statutes, and major court decisions and interprets their meaning in twice-a-year supplements to his most popular book, Bromberg and Lowenfels on Securities Fraud and Commodities Fraud, Second Edition, now in seven volumes. The work requires more than 1,000 hours a.year of writing alone. Although far from a
potboiler, lawyers frequently buttonhole him in between publications for new developments in the fast-changing field of securities law.

“Professor Bromberg is considered to be the leading scholar in the field of securities law,” says Lewis D. Lowenfels, an attorney with Tolins & Lowenfels in New York and Bromberg’s co-author. “He is regarded by securities lawyers and others as a lawyer of incorruptible integrity and a scholar rendering original and insightful analysis.”

When he is not interpreting the law, Bromberg often makes it. Substantial portions of the Texas statutes on corporations, partnerships, securities, and fraud crimes include his handiwork. He also co-chairs the Texas Business Law Foundation’s Legislative Committee.

A former senior fellow at Yale and visiting professor at Stanford Law School, Bromberg’s other books are Bromberg and Ribstein on Partnerships, Bromberg and Ribstein on Limited Liability Partnerships, and The Revised Uniform Partnership Act. He is of counsel to Jenkens & Gilchrist.

For more information:

Preserving The Legacy Of Dance

The legacies of painters, playwrights, and composers are preserved in museums and libraries worldwide, but dance is the only creative discipline in which masterworks are just now being saved. The efforts of Shelley Berg, a dance historian and associate professor at Meadows School of the Arts, and the dance faculty are helping SMU gain a national reputation for the preservation of important works by the 20th century’s great choreographers.

“Unlike our sister arts of theatre and music, dance does not have a written history through scripts or musical scores,” Berg says. “Dance is primarily an oral tradition, with roles and ballets handed down from master to pupil, choreographer to dancers. Dances that are not performed are often in danger of extinction, and even may disappear.”

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Berg a grant in 2005 from to preserve Agnes de Mille’s The Four Marys, which had not been performed since the 1970s. De Mille, known for her choreography of Broadway musicals Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, and Carousel, is considered one of the architects of American ballet. For The Four Marys, which American Ballet Theatre debuted in 1965, de Mille reset a traditional Scottish ballad in the Old South. It tells the story of a slave who has a love affair with a plantation owner, conceives a child, whom she drowns, and is condemned to death. Choreographed at the height of the Civil Rights era, the ballet was a timely reminder of the African American struggle for emancipation.

“Its themes, the resonance of the material for today’s culture, and the challenges it presented for student performers made this reconstruction an ideal project for a university dance division,” Berg says.

The reconstruction project, which took three years, was accomplished in cooperation with De Mille Productions, the organization responsible for authorized stagings of her work. It had worked with the SMU Dance Division in 2000, when, supported by a $30,000 grant from the NEA’s Heritage and Preservation Fund, they restaged and documented de Mille’s ballet Gold Rush, a suite of dances from the musical Paint Your Wagon.

With initial support from a University Research Council grant, Berg combed the archives of New York Public Library’s dance collection and found three silent movies of The Four Marys, two of which had the images reversed; she also found a few handwritten notes from de Mille.

In September an original cast member of The Four Marys, Glory Van Scott, and de Mille’s favorite dancer and ballet master, Gemze de Lappe, spent two weeks working with SMU students to restage the ballet. “These original interpreters, who are now in their 70s and 80s, still could transmit the kinesthetic, emotional, and dramatic elements of this dance and rely on their ‘muscle memories’ to help us recreate it as the choreographer intended,” Berg says.

The Four Marys was presented at the 2005 Fall Dance Concert and documented through video and still photography. The Dance Division is seeking funding to record the dance in Labanotation, a complex dance notation system akin to a musical score.

Berg, who joined SMU in 1990, earned a Ph.D. in performance studies from New York University. She danced professionally with the London Festival Ballet, Slovene National Ballet in Yugoslavia, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens of Montreal. She also has been a dance consultant for the NEA, and recently completed a four-year term as president of the Society of Dance History Scholars. She received a Ford Research Fellowship for 2006.

For more information:

Managing B2B Relationships With Internet Technology

In the rush to make customer service more efficient, managers need to know when technology is interfering with the personal relationships that grease the wheels of commerce.

“This is especially critical in the world of business-to-business (B2B) commerce, where personal relationships often are considered important,” says Ulrike Schultze, who conducts research on the effects of self-service technology and the related social interactions.

“It’s rare that an individual consumer would have a personal relationship with a clerk in the local grocery store, for instance. In B2B, however, companies are interested in building strong relationships, because they mean more repeat sales and referrals,” says Schultze, associate professor of information technology and operations management in Cox School of Business.

Schultze is analyzing how the Internet can make it easier for business customers to place orders and receive support, enabling the sales staff to spend more time cultivating relationships. “Using the Internet to allow customers to place their orders is more complex than we might expect,” she says. “Some customers rely on the sales staff’s expertise to help them know what to buy. Others are happy to see less of the sales staff. They know their products and don’t want to be pressured into buying something that doesn’t interest them.”

Knowing how far to go with such technology-mediated service designs can be difficult for a manager, says Schultze, whose studies give her access to companies’ internal operations. She talks to sales staff and customers and observes how they work and interact to gain insight into the new technology-enabled division of labor and how it affects work practices and customer-provider relationships.

In an increasingly competitive environment, customers are regarded as resources that contribute labor and knowledge to the design, production, and marketing of products, Schultze says about her research with Cox Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations Anita Bhappu. In effect, customers more and more are co-producing the products and services that they themselves consume.

Smart companies not only make it easier for customers to buy their products by using the Internet, but they also find ways of using the Internet to allow customers to test products under development, provide immediate feedback on service, and help support other customers, Schultze says.

“Technology is changing the customer-firm interaction, and this impacts both the customer’s and the firm’s work practices, as well as their relationship. We are analyzing the impacts of Internet technology on co-production in different service environments.”

Schultze joined SMU in 1997 after earning her Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University. She since has developed expertise in the effect of information technologies, particularly knowledge management and Internet technologies, on work practices and customer-firm relationships.

For more information:

‘Good News’ On The Mean Streets

The mean streets of South Bronx, New York, shaped Harold Recinos’ understanding of God and later defined his scholarly research as a theologian. When his impoverished Guatemalan father and Puerto Rican mother abandoned him at age 12, he lived in deserted tenements, city parks, and Greyhound buses where “I discovered the God who offers hope and restores dignity to those who have been pushed to the edge of society,” he wrote in a Dallas Morning News article (Dec. 25, 2005).

After Recinos lived for several years on the streets in New York, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico, a Presbyterian minister and his family took him into their home. The minister introduced Recinos to “A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salavation” by Gustavo Gutierrez, a book that greatly influenced him. He enrolled in the College of Wooster (Ohio), his mentor’s alma mater, and later earned an M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, a D.Min. from New York Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from American University.

Nearly 40 years later, Recinos, professor of church and society in Perkins School of Theology, studies race, ethnicity, and the effects of religion on U.S. society, particularly on its most marginalized groups.

His latest book, Good News From the Barrio: Prophetic Witness for the Church (Westminster John Knox Press, 2006) calls upon mainline Christian churches to broaden their thinking about evangelism among the poor, particularly Latinos in the United States. He believes that the message of the church needs to address the national climate of racial polarization by challenging people “to choose between standing with those social groups who wish to shatter dreams, or walking with others who long to build society of the beauty of its diversity. What will make our differences possible in the United States is a politics of crossing cultural and racial borders in the interest of securing a more inclusive community.”

For his latest research, Recinos is studying how youth, which he considers as more than a transitional period from childhood to adulthood, give voice to and interpret their social reality and produce their own forms of culture. He is looking at the music, films, art, and literature embraced by young people from a variety of ethnic communities.

For more information: