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Lecture Series to Investigate ‘Alternate Facts’

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Cal State Fullerton’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences presents its annual lecture series, focusing on the theme “Interdisciplinary Conversations on Alternate Facts: Evidence, Interpretation and Reality.”

The midday lectures, presented by six faculty members, will take place in Room 360 of Pollak Library on select Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the academic year. For more information, visit the HSS website.

Monday, Sept. 25, noon-12:50 p.m.

  • “Slavery, Memory and the Persistence of Alternative Facts”
    Tyler D. Parry, associate professor of African American studies, argues that “alternative facts” are not a new phenomenon in American culture and politics. In fact, alternative facts have been central to debates over race relations and memories of slavery in the United States. Parry draws from memoirs of former slaveholders to show how they selectively pulled evidence from their own experience to downplay the violence and brutality of the institution.
  • “When Fake Becomes Real: Why We Changed Our Minds About Animal Stories”
    In the early 20th century, the nature fakers controversy pitted scientists against nature writers in a battle about who was telling the truth. Arlene Ring, lecturer in American studies, discusses how the pursuit of science, art and personal knowledge are social constructs, and changes in these avenues of inquiry in the last 100 plus years have allowed society to understand that what was once called fake is now called real.

Tuesday, Oct. 17, 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

  • “What Twins Tell Us About Who We Are: The Science Behind the Fascination”
    Nancy L. Segal, professor of psychology and director of the Twin Studies Center, presents findings from the well-known “Minnesota Study of Twins Raised Apart” case and how it dramatically changed the way that scientists and the public think about factors affecting human behavior. An overview of the origins, methods, findings and implications of the project will be presented.
  • “Polarized Policing”
    Are entrenched ideologies distorting criminal justice policy and practice? Jay Wachtel, lecturer in criminal justice, discusses how bundles of competing “facts” about immigration and marijuana are fueling schisms within the criminology community and between federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Tuesday, Nov. 7, 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

  • “The Dreyfus Affair: Fake Facts, Fake News and a Suspicious Investigation that Continues to Haunt France”
    Nancy Fitch, chair and professor of history, explores the 1894 Dreyfus Affair, wherein the French army found its only Jewish artillery officer — Captain Alfred Dreyfus — guilty of selling secrets to Germany. Dreyfus was convicted on the basis of his heritage, fake documents, a suspicious investigation of “experts” brought in to verify the fake evidence and fake news that was leaked to an anti-Semitic newspaper. The case exploded again in 1898, when novelist Émile Zola published his front-page newspaper accusation, which charged the government and army of covering up evidence that could lead to the “truth” of Dreyfus’s innocence.
  • “Mexico Under President Pancho Villa…? Storytelling, History and the Counterfactual”
    What if in February 1914, rather than retiring to the north of Mexico, Pancho Villa assumed the presidency of his war-torn country and fundamentally changed the place of the dispossessed poor in his nation? Although this never happened, the implications are fascinating. In his talk, associate professor of history Stephen Neufeld considers the use of informed speculation to think about the historical past, especially in Mexican histories.