Tell Me About…

By kvitare1@johnshopkins.edu

What person—living or dead—in your field of expertise would you most like to have coffee with and why?


Mark Christian Thompson“I would most like to invite Franz Kafka to coffee. The turn-of-the-century Prague coffeehouse scene was a vibrant, intellectually rich atmosphere inhabited by the city’s luminaries and lesser known literati. Kafka and company were regular guests in a variety of such establishments, many of which still exist today. While to recreate such a scene simply to listen in on the conversation between these Bohemians would be satisfying enough, a chance to observe Kafka’s no doubt telling body language in such a social setting might yield a great many important insights into the character and claims of his work.”

Mark Christian Thompson
Professor, English


V. Sarah Thoi“Fritz Haber—not only because he was a brilliant chemist and a Nobel Prize winner, but also because he could offer insight on the rewards and dangers of scientific inventions. Haber both saved the world from famine and helped develop some of the most brutal forms of warfare. The Haber-Bosch process converts nitrogen to ammonium used to make fertilizer (and explosives). An avid German nationalist, he was also considered the “father of chemical warfare” during World War I. His contributions haunted him in World War II because the Nazis used the technology in concentration camps and targeted him for his Jewish ancestry.”

V. Sarah Thoi
Assistant Professor, Chemistry


P.J. Brendese“The late James Baldwin, with respect to America’s still unrealized need to awaken to the humanity of people of color. He said ‘there’s a limit to the number of people a country can put in prison.’ Yet today, over 1 million more people are imprisoned than when Baldwin made that statement, and the incarcerated population is disproportionately non-white. He also said that the ‘distance between whites and blacks is the distance between whites and themselves.’ I take this to be about the estrangement of whites from their own humanity. After all, one never dehumanizes another without dehumanizing one’s self. If we can be more or less human, depending on how we live toward others, then what does the work of living a fully human life demand of us today?”

P.J. Brendese
Assistant Professor, Political Science