Faculty-Student Partnership Fund
Read on to learn more about the selected proposals and research assistants!
What Is Veiling?
With Dr. Sahar Amer
Sahar Amer was in the final stages of completing her book What is Veiling, commissioned by the North Carolina University Press. The book is intended to be an introduction for students, scholars and the general educated public to the multiplicity of meanings and complex history of veiling practices in Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority societies. Amer shows that veiling is not exclusive to Islam, and that its meaning extends beyond the religious and political accounts into cultural traditions and movements of resistance to political manipulation and stereotypes.
What Is Veiling? is organized around three main topics. First, it lays out the historical and geographical background to the institution of veiling, and examines the core Islamic discourses that are regularly cited as dictating a dress code for Muslim women. Second, it reviews the contemporary debates over the veil in Euro-American societies, debates that can best be understood when contextualized within their nineteenth-century colonial lineage. Third, it considers the various meanings that the veil has had for Muslim women over the past century, and recount Muslim women’s multiple voices of resistance towards stereotypical images of the veil as they are disseminated by the Euro-American media and by fundamentalist Islamist discourses.
Each of the ten chapters in What is Veiling? focuses on one aspect of Islamic veiling: historical, religious, progressive, political, regional, socio-economic, fashion, feminist, progressive, or artist. Taken together, they give a more nuanced and balanced understanding of veiling practices among Muslims in the world today.
Jessica Tobin was selected as Dr. Amer’s research assistant. The junior was enrolled in Arabic 203 and has a deep interest in the culture and traditions of the Middle East. Jessica brought to the position a flair for organization and communication as the social chair for UNC’s Tae Kwon Do club. Dr. Amer had this to say of her experience with Jessica:
“The work that Jessica did for me was to act as a liaison with the various presses, libraries, museums, galleries and artists around the world who held the copyright permissions for the various images I want to include in my book. She emailed each source, kept track of their responses, compiled copyright permissions, obtained the necessary high quality images, and helped me organize every part of that side of the project. In each one of these tasks, Jessica has proven herself to be a most professional, capable, organized and dedicated person and has consistently given her utmost attention to every aspect of the job. She has always had a cheerful smile and an optimistic outlook, even when (especially when) we faced dead ends in our search for those holding the copyright permission for some of the material I was interested in. She has shown herself tireless when it came to assisting my work, persistent and responded promptly to some urgent requests that came up over the course of the semester. As we worked together over the past 3 months, we got to speak also about her own research interests, the honors thesis she hopes to complete next year, her summer internship in Latvia and her interest in Tae Kwon Do and Russian popular culture. I feel really lucky to have had her as a research assistant, and I would like to thank her in this newsletter for all her excellent work. I also would like to thank the Curriculum in Global Studies for establishing these Faculty-Student Partnership funds which make it possible for faculty to get to know and work with such talented undergraduate students, and advance their research at the same time.”
Genetically Modified Foods Report
With Dr. Trude Bennett
Senior Laura Brush brought her interests and experience in Public Policy (Environment and Sustainability), Global Studies (Global Health and Environment) and Environmental Studies and Science to her partnership with Dr. Trude Bennett in the School of Public Health on the potential impact of genetically modified agriculture in Vietnam. In exploring and discussing this scientifically and politically controversial topic, Laura focused on such wide-ranging aspects as international trade law; research bias, interference, and misconduct; the regulatory environment at national, state, and local environments; and civil society engagement and advocacy throughout the world.
Global controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMO) has reached fever pitch with the recent publication of a French study in which rats fed GM corn developed multiple cancerous tumors within a 90-day period. At the behest of its national health agency, France is expected to demand a European ban on GM corn; Russia has already enforced a similar ban. Meanwhile, arguments and uncertainty about the validity of the French study have ensued.
It is difficult to disentangle a number of interrelated questions at various levels: 1) the ecological impact of industrial agriculture; 2) the independence and role of regulatory agencies; and 3) the increase in pesticides entering the food chain as a result of GMO technology. From a scientific viewpoint, it is necessary to understand these contextual issues and to distinguish between adverse health effects of GM plants themselves versus the heightened use of pesticides that accompanies genetic modification of resistant food crops.
Monsanto and Dow, two of the major manufacturers of Agent Orange and other herbicides used to devastating effect during the war in Vietnam, are now trying to negotiate sales of GM seeds into the agricultural sector in Vietnam. To help inform the current policy debate, Bennett worked her research assistant to evaluate the conflicting reports on health effects of genetically modified foods. The research assistant was responsible for conducting a review of the relevant scientific and policy literature, developing criteria for assessing the different issues involved, and summarizing the findings as a report for concerned stakeholders.
Having taken several Environmental Studies and Statistics courses, as well as a research design course, Laura was ready to fully participate in a review of the literature of this topic. Laura already had some experience in the field, having completed a report analyzing major events in the history of British environmental policy and describing the current environmental policy context in the region, including the presence of and views towards genetically-modified food products, the previous summer during her Oxford study abroad. Her previous internships at OurEarth.org and Nourish International further assisted her in gaining a working knowledge of the field. Laura was excited to undertake this work for the research experience it would provide, which she hopes to put to use upon graduating, as she seeks an environmental policy position. “I feel that I have learned about the GM debate specifically but also more about the potential effects of globalization and trade on public health and local economies.”
Memory And Revolution In Peru
With Dr. Miguel La Serna
Miguel La Serna’s project, Resurrecting Túpac Amaru: Memory and Revolution in Peru, 1968-1997,examines the semiotic dimensions of the armed conflict between the Peruvian state and the guerrilla group, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Tying together periodical sources, Truth Commission archives, and interviews of former insurgents and government officials, this project goes beyond the armed struggle to explore an equally powerful battle that took place over the symbols and meaning of peruanidad (Peruvianness). Throughout the insurgency, state and insurgent actors appropriated and re-appropriated everything from flags, to historical figures, to songs and anthems in an effort to legitimize their role as defenders of the Peruvian nation.
This study has explanatory potential beyond the Peruvian civil war. In exploring the ways that states and subversives battle over national symbols and employ historical memory, La Serna seeks to deepen our understanding of state formation projects and radical movements across time and place. It is in this sense that his project engages political realities beyond the twentieth-century Andes, seeking to deepen our understanding of the relationship between culture, memory, and revolution.
The research assistant was asked to review the 18-reel microfilm collection, Documenting the Peruvian Insurrection, at UNC’s Davis Library (the collection includes a selection of ephemera, intelligence reports, and propaganda regarding the Shining Path, MRTA, and MIR insurgencies that took place in 1980s Peru); and transcribe approximately five hour-long, recorded interviews conducted in Spanish, regarding the MRTA insurgency.
Liz Willis was selected to work with Dr. Miguel La Serna. Liz had taken English 265H on Literature and Race, in which she conducted primary research with periodicals and primary sources related to Chang and Eng, as well as the Trujillo dictatorship. She was also trained in oral history in research through GLBL 390, in which she conducted interviews in English and Spanish, which she then transcribed. For her honors thesis, she further conducted interviews with attorneys and plaintiffs for the Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco case in Quito, Ecuador. Liz was excited to conduct historical research and develop her research skills.