On Thursday, April 9th a lecture honoring Dr. Vinson Sutlive, Professor Emeritus in the Anthropology Department, was held in Washington Hall. The evening's speaker was Prof. Arlene Davila, Professor of Anthropology and American Studies at New York University, and the title of her talk was El Mall: The Spatial and Class Politics of Shopping Malls in Latin America. The lecture was very well attended, with a standing room only crowd and large numbers of students from classes in several different departments.
Vince Sutlive taught for thirty years in the Department of Anthropology. When he first arrived he was one of a group of scholars who gave form and substance to the then fledgling program. Over the years he served several times as Department Chair. He taught and mentored many students, such as Karen Prentiss Braun, ‘87, whose generous donation in honor of Dr. Sutlive helped to fund the event. Sutlive was also a founder and long time editor of the journal Studies in Third World Societies, one of the first scholarly vehicles dedicated specifically to the study of non-Western culture and society. He is also known for his work on a comprehensive Dictionary of Iban (a Sumatran language).
Prof. Davila's topic was thus right in line with Dr. Sutlive's long career as a scholar of the Global South. In her work, Davila uses shopping malls in Latin America as a lens to explore issues of class and social inequality. She describes her work in this way:
"In the past decade there has been a revolution in the construction of shopping malls throughout Latin America, accompanied by supposed growth in the region's middle class. My lecture examines what these coinciding developments suggest about the role shopping malls and consumption may be playing in shaping issues of class and social inequality. I investigate these questions through ethnographic research on the Latin American shopping mall industry, which privatizes and transforms space and affects everyday life, and on new forms of consumption that are defining the Latin American middle class."
The lecture, as well as honoring Vince Sutlive, also served as an exploration of the kinds of cross disciplinary and world wide perspectives which the new College Curriculum seeks to encourage. Through the efforts of John Riofrio, of Hispanic Studies, a number of different classes participated in the lecture and ensuing discussion. This event thus serves as a kind of prototype of one potential expression of the upcoming COLL 300 courses, which seek to bring outside scholars to William and Mary to engage intensely with a wide range of students in a number of settings.
This was exemplified by an animated discussion session following Dr. Davila's talk, in which she was engaged by numerous students who proved themselves well familiar with the context and substance of the issues encompassed by her presentation. Following this exchange, the Sultives, Prof. Davila, Karen Braun and her husband David Braun ‘87 and a number of others continued the conversation over dinner.