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TAFTtalks are designed to draw out issues of interest beyond the academe and focus on big, contemporary ideas and concerns. They feature the best and brightest minds within our own ranks at UC and of our visiting lecturers and scholars.

Tara Houska II

Tara Houska

Tara Houska is Ojibwe of Saulteaux, Couchiching First Nation. She is the a founding board member of Not Your Mascots, non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the misappropriation of Indigenous identity, imagery and culture, and is also currently the National Campaigns Director for Honor the Earth, an environmental justice group. Previously, Houska has served as the Native American advisor to the Bernie Sanders, Tribal Attorney, and lobbyist for Native American concerns. In her TAFTtalk, Houska discusses her work with Honor the Earth and fighting for trial rights and sustainable land practices.

Questions in this interview:

  • What is Honor the Earth? (0:14)
  • What is your role in Honor the Earth? (2:18)
  • What issue have you dealt with as a tribal rights attorney?(4:25)
  • What impact do racial stereotypes have on the Native American community? (6:30)


Amy Townsend-Small

Dr. Townsend-Small researches the human impacts on global carbon, nitrogen, and water cycles; feedbacks between the carbon cycle, the hydrologic cycle, and climate change; greenhouse gas emissions and water quality associated with energy production; stable isotopes and radiocarbon dating. Her current research explores the sources and fluxes of methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas. For more on Dr. please see her research profile here.

Questions in this interview:

  • 0:16 Can you describe your research on water and climate change?
  • 2:05 How are human activities impacting the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere?
  • 3:08 How do we know greenhouse gas emissions change the world’s climate?
  • 4:00 How does climate change impact the world’s water resources?
  • 4:57 How do you measure evaporation?
  • 5:23 Why should our generation care about these issues?


Alison Auciello

An organizer for Food & Water Watch in Ohio, Alison Auciello has worked with Ohio Citizen Action on manufacturing, coal. and landfill pollution issues. Through community outreach and fundraising, Auciello has been an integral part of stopping new coal plants from being built in Ohio, and continues to advocated for closure of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants, as well as end mountaintop removal.

Questions in this interview:

  • Can you describe the work of Food and Water Watch? (00:16)
  • Why is fracking a concern for environmental justice advocates? (01:28)
  • How does fracking impact communities? (07:23)
  • What is Food and Water Watch doing to stop fracking? (13:02)


Bill Mckibben

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist. His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages. He is founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities; Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.” A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern. 

Questions in this interview:

  • How did you become involved in climate change politics?(00:10)
  • What impact does climate change have for life on earth? (07:36)
  • Is there any hope given the bleak outlook for life on a warming earth? (12:42)


Henry Giroux

Scholar and cultural critic, Dr. Henry Giroux is best known for his pioneering work in public pedagogy, cultural studies, youth studies, higher education, media studies, and critical theory. Dr. Giroux has held numerous distinguished visiting positions, awards, and honors. In 2002 Routledge named Giroux as one of the top fifty educational thinkers of the modern period. He currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest.

Questions in this interview:

  • How would you define neoliberalism? (00:17)
  • What is the war on youth? (02:10)
  • How did the Mayans deal with dirty/gray water? (05:32)
  • Where do we go from here? (07:44)

Banerjee (1)

Paula Banerjee

Specializing in issues of conflict and peace in South Asia, Dr. Paula Banerjee is the head of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at University of Calcutta. She is author of the book When Ambitions Clash and editor of the book Women in Peace Politics, and she has published extensively on issues of gender and forced migration and on autonomy. 

Questions in this interview:

  • What is forced migration? (00:15)
  • What is the best approach to constructing good international policy? (03:28)
  • How can we better address the issues resulting from forced migration? (05:36)

Leong (1)

Andrew Leong

Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts - Boston, Dr. Andrew Leong specializes in issues of law, justice, and equality, pertaining to disenfranchised communities, generally, and Asian Americans specifically. Dr. Leong has written extensively on welfare and immigration reform, hate crimes, environmental justice, and community lawyering. 

Questions in this interview:

  • Can you describe your research on Chinatowns & gentrification? (00:15)
  • When gentrification squeezes out a population where do they go and what happens to their community? (03:56)
  • Is the old remaining Chinatown Disneyfied? (05:42)
  • Do new Chinese communities emerge around the new strip malls? (10:00)
  • Are these changes symptomatic of a global phenomenon of neoliberal urbanism? (12:49)

Slavoj Zizek

Slavoj Zizek

Internationally recognized Slovenian Marxist philosopher and cultural critic, Slavok Žižek writes widely on a diverse range of topics, including political theory, film theory, cultural studies, theology, and psychoanalysis. He is currently a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy, University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

Questions in this interview:

  • How do you understand “disposable life”? (00:15)
  • How is utility undermined? (03:41)
  • Do you think ‘uselessness’ can be political? (07:51)

Lewis Gordon

Lewis Gordon

Dr. Lewis Gordon is a well-known philosopher, political thinker, educator, and musician. The philosophy professor can be found teaching and researching at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Besides teaching in the philosophy department, he is also affiliated with the Judaic studies, Caribbean and Latina/o studies, Asian and Asian American Studies programs at the university. Gordon's academic career also includes a number of visiting positions including visiting appointments as the European Union Visiting Chair in Philosophy at Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès in France and the Nelson Mandela Distinguished Visiting Chair in Political and International Studies at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. Most recently, Gordon was named the Writer-In-Resident at the Birkbeck School of Law at the University of London.

The Afro-Jewish philosopher was born in Jamaica but he grew up in the Bronx, New York.  He attended Evander Child's High School, and Gordon graduated from Lehman College.  There, he took part in the Lehman Scholars Program.  After a brief time teaching social studies at Lehman High School, Gordon attended Yale University for his doctorate.  His research topics include Africana philosophy, philosophy of existence, phenomenology, social and political philosophy, philosophy of culture, aesthetics, philosophy of education and philosophy of science.

As a hobby, Gordon likes to play jazz. He started playing jazz in New York night clubs as a young adult. Currently, he performs jazz with Matthew K. Holmes in the Heartford Area. He and a few of his colleagues at UCONN have created the Blues Without Borders band. Gordon is also part of another band, an alternative rock band called Three Generations.

Rosi Braidotti

Rosi Braidotti

Dr. Rosi Braidotti is a Distinguished University Professor and director of the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University. Known as a Postmodernist Feminist, she is a pioneer in European women's studies. She founded the Network of Interdisciplinary Women's Studies in Europe (NOISE) and ATHENA: Advanced Thematic Network in Activities in Women's Studies in Europe, both of which are part of the Socrates Thematic Network Project. She directed the ATHENA network until 2005. She also received a number of awards. In 2013, Linköping University (in Sweden) awarded her with a Doctorate Honoris Causa. She had received an earlier honorary degree from the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Dr. Braidotti is a well-known contemporary philosopher and feminist, is known in the scholarly world as a postmodern feminist.  She is most known for creating a new framework for the female subject in the post-metaphysical world.  Braidotti is also known for polyglot fashion of writing, where the language of her text changes.  Sometimes she writes in English, other times she writes in Italian, and there are still other instances where she wields French.  She has names for her different dialectal texts -- from Italo-Australian to Franglais to New Yorkese Parisian patois.  These different forms of writing comes from Braidotti's unique background.

The Italian-born professor grew up in Australia.  She attended the Australian National University in Canberra in 1977 and received first-class honors degrees.  She was also awarded the University Medal in Philosophy and the University Tillyard Prize.  (The Tillyard Prize is the oldest and most prestigious prize awarded to an undergraduate student at ANS.  It commemorates Dr. Robin and Mrs. Patricia Tilyard, who were important contributors to the early growth of the university community.)  Then, Braidotti enrolled at Sorbonne University, in Paris, for her graduate work, and she graduated with a doctorate in philosophy in 1981.   

Since then, Braidotti has held a number of positions.  In 1988, Braidotti started teaching at the University of Ultrecht in the Netherlands.  That same year she was also appointed the founding professor for the women's studies program.  In 1995, she became the founding Director of the Netherlands research school of Women's Studies.