Calendar

Feb
27
Tue
Michael Ryan @ Pacific Science Center
Feb 27 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

RyanDarwin developed the theory of sexual selection to explain why the animal world abounds in stunning beauty, from the brilliant colors of butterflies and fishes to the songs of birds and frogs. He argued that animals have “a taste for the beautiful” that drives their potential mates to evolve features that make them more sexually attractive and reproductively successful. But if Darwin explained why sexual beauty evolved in animals, he struggled to understand how. In A Taste for the Beautiful, Michael Ryan, one of the world’s leading authorities on animal behavior, tells the remarkable story of how he and other scientists have taken up where Darwin left off and transformed our understanding of sexual selection, shedding new light on human behavior in the process.

Drawing on cutting-edge work in neuroscience and evolutionary biology, as well as his own important studies of the tiny Túngara frog deep in the jungles of Panama, Ryan explores the key questions: Why do animals perceive certain traits as beautiful and others not? Do animals have an inherent sexual aesthetic and, if so, where is it rooted? Ryan argues that the answers to these questions lie in the brain—particularly of females, who act as biological puppeteers, spurring the development of beautiful traits in males. This theory of how sexual beauty evolves explains its astonishing diversity and provides new insights about the degree to which our own perception of beauty resembles that of other animals.

Vividly written and filled with fascinating stories, A Taste for the Beautiful will change how you think about beauty and attraction.

Michael J. Ryan is the Clark Hubbs Regents Professor in Zoology at the University of Texas and a Senior Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He is a leading researcher in the fields of sexual selection, mate choice, and animal communication. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Feb
28
Wed
John Tutino @ Mexican Cultural Institute
Feb 28 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

TutinoThe Mexican Heartland provides a new history of capitalism from the perspective of the landed communities surrounding Mexico City. In a sweeping analytical narrative spanning the sixteenth century to today, John Tutino challenges our basic assumptions about the forces that shaped global capitalism—setting families and communities at the center of histories that transformed the world.

Despite invasion, disease, and depopulation, Mexico’s heartland communities held strong on the land, adapting to sustain and shape the dynamic silver capitalism so pivotal to Spain’s empire and world trade for centuries after 1550. They joined in insurgencies that brought the collapse of silver and other key global trades after 1810 as Mexico became a nation, then struggled to keep land and self-rule in the face of liberal national projects. They drove Zapata’s 1910 revolution—a rising that rattled Mexico and the world of industrial capitalism. Although the revolt faced defeat, adamant communities forced a land reform that put them at the center of Mexico’s experiment in national capitalism after 1920. Then, from the 1950s, population growth and technical innovations drove people from rural communities to a metropolis spreading across the land. The heartland urbanized, leaving people searching for new lives—dependent, often desperate, yet still pressing their needs in a globalizing world.

A masterful work of scholarship, The Mexican Heartland is the story of how landed communities and families around Mexico City sustained silver capitalism, challenged industrial capitalism—and now struggle under globalizing urban capitalism.

John Tutino is professor of history and international affairs and director of the Americas Initiative at Georgetown University. His books include Making a New World: Founding Capitalism in the Bajío and Spanish North America and From Insurrection to Revolution in Mexico: Social Bases of Agrarian Violence, 1750–1940 (Princeton).