Listen to some of our recent Halle Institute/Fox Center Undergraduate Global Research Fellows and Humanities Honors Fellows (Kassie Sarkar, Nayieve Gaytan, Christie Jones, Shreya Pabbaraju, and Faith Kim) as they share their experiences in conducting research and scholarly inquiry for an audience of undergraduate parents and students. They participated on the Undergraduate Research Panel, sponsored by Undergraduate Research Programs (URP), in partnership with Campus Life, where students were able to learn about research opportunities and experiences available to them as Emory College students.
Presentations were a significant component of the FCHI/Halle Institute Humanities Honors Fellowship. During almost every monthly meeting of the FCHI/Halle Institute Humanities Honors Fellowship this past semester, the other fellows and I either participated in colloquia to listen to others present on their research or were tasked with presenting different aspects of our research to each other and to scholars across Emory University. Although the virtual presentations made me nervous in the moment, they helped me to feel confident when I had to defend my thesis to my thesis committee this past April.
Listening to other FCHI Fellows present their research encouraged me to think about my research from different perspectives, which ultimately supported the development of my final thesis project. I remember listening to Byrd McDaniel’s project at the beginning of the fellowship during a virtual colloquium for the Fox Center’s Post-Doctoral Fellows. His project analyzes the act of listening on digital platforms like YouTube and TikTok. The ways in which the Fellow made digital platforms an integral aspect of his research project inspired me to embrace researching the two South African monuments I decided to study for my thesis project virtually. This shift was one I had to make after my original research plan to travel to the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Johannesburg was cancelled because of Covid. Seeing other scholars embrace the virtual realm in their research projects encouraged me to embrace it for mine. Throughout the spring semester, I incorporated analyses of the virtual tours of the two monuments I chose to study after travel plans were cancelled–the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park in Pretoria, South Africa–into my final thesis.
Virtually presenting my research to the other Humanities Honors Fellows was fruitful for two reasons: I had the chance to receive constructive criticism, and secondly, I was able to grow more comfortable with speaking publicly about my research. For example, in one of my first presentations to my Humanities Honors Fellow colleagues, I did not provide an art historical definition of a monument–and in a thesis about monuments, that omission felt like a gaping absence! However, criticism was never delivered in a harsh or discouraging way. In fact, the supportive atmosphere of the fellowship allowed me to embrace any constructive criticism I received. Moreover, by mid-April, I had already formally presented about my research at least five times, so I felt very comfortable presenting about my research when the time for my thesis defense came.
Ultimately, sharing about my research regularly to a community of intelligent and supportive scholars made my final thesis project stronger; it also allowed me to embrace criticism and become more confident with the skills of oration and presentations. These are takeaways I will bring with me to graduate school and beyond.
Faith Kim is a senior majoring in Art History and minoring in Community Building and Social Change. She is currently writing an honors thesis on two sites located 2.4 kilometers from one another in Pretoria, South Africa: Freedom Park, which responds formally and symbolically to its white supremacist, apartheid-era counterpart, the Voortrekker Monument. Her thesis seeks to investigate how virtual modes of encountering these sites, such as geographic information systems, official online tours, and tourism media, censor, alter, exaggerate, and even skew, the intended interactions between the two sites.
by Rachel Silver, 21C Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
My honors thesis takes a feminist security studies approach to analyze the historical exclusion and disfranchisement of Asian American women. I investigate how national security measures were employed to justify or conceal oppressive US domestic policies targeting Asian American women. Specifically, I focus on the Page Act of 1817, Cable Act of 1922, and Japanese American internment in the 1940s. Along with the existing feminist security studies scholarship, I introduce the reproduction of colonial dynamics as an analytical tool to expose the state’s active role in prescribing insecurity for vulnerable populations.
The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry provided a scholarly, friendly community that I really needed this year. After months of social distancing and online learning, I often struggled to stay motivated writing my thesis. Yet, at the Fox Center, I was able to connect with accomplished peers from a wide variety of fields who reignited my passions. I became really excited to share my work with other students and learn more about their fascinating projects that were so different from mine. The Fox Center also provided several opportunities to interact with graduate scholars and professors, whose innovative work inspired me. I really enjoyed hearing about these experts’ projects and learning about their individual approaches to research, writing, and rewriting. I also developed more confidence sharing (virtual) space with more experienced academics and getting the chance to offer them my own feedback.
The end of the semester Fox Center Symposium further built my confidence, especially with public speaking and time management skills. The seminar courses leading up to the Symposium allowed me and the other fellows to progressively prepare for our presentations. After running out of time during my first practice in class, I was able to readjust and more succinctly present my honors thesis at the real Symposium. The final Symposium presentation ended up not being as nerve-wracking as I initially anticipated. The final presentation—at least after I finished— felt like a moment of relief. After a long year, I simply cherished how a gathering of scholarly minds celebrated new, insightful research. A special thank you to Dr. Walter Melion, Keith Anthony, Colette Barlow, and the other fellows at the Fox Center for all of your support this semester.
Rachel Silver is a senior majoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a minor in Economics. Her research critiques the national security narratives justifying Japanese American Internment after Pearl Harbor and Muslim American surveillence after 9/11. She analyzes how the Executive Order 9066 and the Special Registration project replicate traditional, neorealist frameworks of Security Studies. Ultimately, her goal is to integrate feminist theory with Security Studies to provide an alternative view of (in)security from the standpoint of disenfranchised groups.
The Fox Center’s fellowship for undergraduate research in the humanities provided me with an irreplaceable network of intellectual scholars who provided insight to the possibility of research that is outside the box. My research project combined clinical psychology, linguistics, and music to create the foundation for an at-home approach to recovery after sexual trauma.
In a population not reporting or seeking help, the Internal Family Systems model fulfills the need for healthy self-leadership while healing from sexual trauma. The songwriting, engagement with ideas from the therapeutic script, and the empathetic and diplomatic representation of polarization in theme and perspective can all be accomplished virtually from a place of healthy self-leadership, making this accessible and advantageous knowledge to sexual trauma survivors. The medium of songwriting is an established mood regulator and builder of coping skills, so empowering survivors to analyze therapeutic scripts within lyrics will provide a basis for access to healing from trauma without financial constraint or a necessity to report the trauma to psychologists, lawyers, or anyone else.
Halla Maynard is a senior at Emory University in Interdisciplinary Studies. She combines psychotherapy, music, and linguistics to create a template for therapeutic songwriting. Therapy models, lyricism, and languages empowered Maynard to realize the power of navigating and mediating conflict in a client’s internal dialogue to increase internal communication skills. Her thesis, In Empathy and Diplomacy, Navigating and Mediating Internal Conflict after Trauma, is geared toward reducing the extreme positions of internal polarizations after sexual trauma by building understanding through curiosity, communicating between internal disagreements, and expressing polarized positions in the creative medium of songwriting based in an analytical template.
by Yiqing Hu, 21C International Studies and East Asian Studies
I am especially honored to be selected as one of the recipients of the Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellowship at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. For the past three semesters, the strange global pandemic compelled me to be secluded in a 100 squared feet room and face a dull computer screen for more than ten hours daily. Like many others, deprived of fresh oxygen and visible peer pressure, I was lethargic and unproductive. Such news was disastrous for a senior who had just began writing her honor thesis, without even knowing what her thoughts would lead her into. It was not until when I was accepted as a fellow in the spring semester that I started to ponder hard how to express my ideas clearly and powerfully under influence of my peers and people at the Fox Center.
Listening to other fellows’ research projects and sharing suggestions and concerns among each other connected me to them despite the distance between us. I learned so much from their research methods and academic attitudes while gaining back the momentum I used to have on campus to work and write. Both the mock run and the colloquium that allowed me to present my research project to people unfamiliar to the topic—the transition period China was trying to find its own position after 1949—helped me tremendously in enhancing my public speaking skills and developing my thesis. Comments of my peers, Dr. Melion, Keith, and other Fox Center Fellows such as Julie Miller and Martha Groppo gave me valuable insights and took my thesis to another height that I had not thought before. I am especially thankful for the Fox Center’s emphasis on the “interdisciplinary” aspect; it encouraged me to free my mind and think in new perspectives.
Thank you for providing such a valuable experience and I could not imagine how I could finish the thesis three weeks ago without the warm support and constructive feedbacks of people I met through the Fox Center. Whether I will go on the path of humanities research, I am sure this experience will benefit me wherever I go.
Yiqing Hu is a senior double-majoring in International Studies and East Asian Studies. She is currenting writing an honor thesis on Chinese literati during the transition from Republican China to Communist China. Amid waves of radical mass political movements, literati from the “old society” were subject to criticism yet struggled to find their place in the new society. They stood out as a vibrant example of how some Chinese people reacted to the dramatic change of the social, political, and cultural environment. Yiqing decides to do a comparative study on three literati who experienced this era but responded to it differently—Shen Congwen, Qian Zhongshu, and Fu Lei. She aims to show how individuals stood up and tried in their own ways to hold out against the macroscopic howling storm brought about by a new era.
I was introduced to the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry through my work with the Halle Institute as a 2020 undergraduate global research fellow. From my time as a Halle fellow, I recognize the value of interdisciplinary discussion and feedback in research. I started my research with a firm science background—blind to resources outside of my field—but my experience with a cohort of diverse backgrounds and interests in the fall of 2020 quickly changed my perspective. The Fox Center undergraduate humanities fellowship provided a new environment to continue my growth as a researcher. As a fellow, I have had the opportunity to further develop both my research and my voice; exchanges with undergraduate and graduate fellows alike helped me to improve my scientific communication skills and pushed me to find the deeply human story that surrounds and informs my work.
My research, titled “Land-use as a factor in the re-emergence of rabies in Costa Rica,” centers around the transmission dynamics of rabies virus between vampire bats and cattle. Rabies, a viral zoonotic disease, is endemic to Costa Rica and most commonly transmitted through the bite of the vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus). Though vaccine-treatable, estimates show that the virus causes almost 60,000 human deaths per year and recent human rabies cases in Costa Rica show the potential for the virus to re-emerge in human populations. Examining this disease system, I was interested in the potential impact of anthropogenic development and expansion. This aspect of my project allowed me to connect with the historical land management of Costa Rica, and more broadly the history and cultural notions surrounding rabies. As Dr. Walter Melion first explained it to me, I was tapping into the framework of ecohumanism. Monthly workshops with the undergraduate fellows pushed me to consistently focus my research within the broader picture and emphasize the human relationship with nature. Feedback from such a varied collection of viewpoints greatly enhanced my own research.
Often in my advisor Dr. Thomas Gillespie’s lab we discuss the mission of “One Health,” a multidisciplinary approach to health that assumes the strong relationship between humans, other animals, plants, and our environment. The foundation of this concept is interdisciplinarity. Responding to complex health questions with context for the system of interactions between organisms and Earth requires collaboration between diverse parties. My point in explaining this concept is to say: the Fox Center lesson of interdisciplinarity is important to my personal development, and crucial to creating sustainable and innovative approaches to life’s questions.
Through our discussions, I improved the clarity and narrative of my project. As I continue my research as a Master’s candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health, I am thankful for the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Fox Center provided meaningful support, mentorship, and community throughout the semester. Thank you to my peers, Dr. Walter Melion, Keith Anthony, and Colette Barlow for always lending a listening ear and contributing to a community for which I am wildly grateful to be a part.
Christie Jones is a candidate for a B.S. in Environmental Sciences, as well as a master’s degree in Public Health through the Rollins School of Public Health. As a Halle/Fox Undergraduate Fellow, Christie is completing a senior capstone investigating rabies transmission dynamics in Costa Rica. Titled “Land-use as a factor in the re-emergence of rabies in Costa Rica,” her project explores the prevalence and transmission of the virus from a geographical perspective. She aims to improve understanding of vampire bat foraging behavior and landscape-related risk factors for rabies in order to limit zoonotic disease spillover in humans.
In the beginning stages of completing my honors thesis, I envisioned a project that relied upon interviews and relationship building to get to know the artists and administrators behind the Music Maker Relief Foundation. Music Maker is a non-profit that seeks to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. In early 2020, I pictured myself interning with the non-profit in person, spending time at its office in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and sitting down with dozens of their partner musicians. When I began my undergraduate humanities honors fellowship at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, the COVID-19 pandemic had completely shifted the trajectory of my project and most of my research and fieldwork had become virtual. My time as a fellow not only aided me in developing a new path for my honors thesis, but it also provided a vibrant scholarly community that I learned from and grew alongside as I completed my project.
One of the most impactful parts of my time at the Fox Center was the feedback and conversation from fellows and faculty members that shaped my project. After sharing my research in the undergraduate honors fellows’ third meeting, Dr. Melion asked the very poignant question: “What is relief? What are artists being relieved from?” This question and the continued refining of my research that it provoked allowed me to more deeply explore the causes of many traditional southern musicians’ limited exposure today and the continued work that fights to eliminate those conditions. Many of the Music Maker Relief Foundation’s partner artists are over the age of 60 and living in poverty. Music Maker attempts to provide relief to these artists by holistically supporting not only the creation of their art, but also the individuals creating the art. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented challenges on many partner artists. In addition to their increased risk from the COVID-19 virus itself, older musicians, many of whom have been unable to perform online or in-person, are isolated from their artistic and personal communities. In the pandemic era, Music Maker has had to expand their definition of relief to include their normal support and address the increased needs of partner artists.
My fellowship at the Fox Center became a sort of relief from the isolation of online school. Virtual learning, while it has increased my technological capabilities and zoom skills, has been a rather lonely experience. One of my favorite parts of attending Emory has been getting to know faculty and engaging with my peers in intellectual conversation. When we shifted from classrooms to zoom rooms, it became difficult to mirror the stimulating and personal setting of in-person learning and discussion. Being a Fox Center fellow was one of the most influential experiences I have had in my undergraduate education, because it reinvigorated my passion for academic exchange and meaningful scholarly connection. Fox Center fellows study a vast range of topics but are brought together by a love of learning. As my project came to fruition over the past few months, I also took immense joy in learning about topics completely unrelated to my own. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful community of fellows and for Dr. Melion, Keith, and Colette for their support. From my interactions with postdoctoral fellows studying in my prospective field to my conversations with fellow undergraduates with very different passions, my semester at the Fox Center has made me a better scholar and a better person. The project I completed this semester and the knowledge I gained from listening to my peers will stay with me after graduation this May and guide me as I begin graduate school in the fall.
Claire Beiter is a senior majoring in American Studies and minoring in French. Her honors thesis explores the work of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit and record label headquartered in Hillsborough, North Carolina that partners with traditional musicians in the southeastern United States to ensure that their voices are not silenced by poverty and time. Claire’s thesis considers the historically exploitative relationship between collectors and musicians in the American South and the work of other contemporary organizations who seek to preserve southern traditions. Her project includes an organizational history of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, an analysis of their COVID-19 response, and an exploration of their network of Atlanta-based artists.
by Shreya Pabbaraju, 21C Political Science and English and Creative Writing
When I first proposed my undergraduate thesis topic last February, a pandemic was the last thing I had expected to disrupt my research plans. I had submitted a proposal to the Halle Center for Global Research to conduct research at the University of Cambridge, to parse through archival South Asian works to better understand ethnic fractionalization and religious tensions in India through natural language processing techniques.
Thanks to the support and development of Emory faculty, I was able to think more critically about how to address some of these unforeseen challenges. After talking to several fellows and scholars, I ultimately reworked my project to be in a survey format that would be administered remotely. Ultimately, my project seeks to understand what causes interethnic conflict, especially in the Global South, and by what mechanisms ethnic-conflict can be cemented into law. Additionally, I wanted to examine how these tensions “spilled over” onto alternate social dimensions: for instance, how does ethnic conflict shape the way we think about gendered issues? Do people who are minorities in both senses, such as women from ethnic minority groups, face additional barriers to support when it comes to mobilizing around policy to better promote policies curbing violence against women?
After fielding for political attitudes in India as well as evaluating how respondents view gender norms and other various components of their identities (including religiosity, nationalism, etc.), I presented each participant with a fictionalized short story called a “vignette.” Each vignette described a woman coming home from a location who became the target of violence, and each had a few key words changed to indicate certain nationalistic, religious, and occupation-based qualities about the target. Some might describe a woman as “Indian,” others might describe her as Hindu or Muslim, and others might indicate that she works. Overall, I found that both men and women have considerable discrimination against Muslim women in India, particularly if they work. If the respondent described themselves as “religious” or “very religious,” we found that these biases particularly magnified. There also existed particular stigma around Hindu women who worked, although not to the same extent as working Muslim women.
At the Fox Center, I found a community of collaborative scholars who not only challenged me to think about my research from different perspectives, but also about how my research could apply to our everyday lives. Despite the conditions brought about by the pandemic, we still had the privilege of engaging in Zoom debates that cultivated a rich repertoire of psychological, post-colonial, and feminist critiques on interethnic and gender violence.Talking to scholars who were approaching similar questions about what the role of borders meant when thinking about violence through the works of Behrouz Boochani or what feminist organizing looked like in historical depictions of America taught me how to look at political and gender violence with an enriched perspective. One of the takeaways from these conversations that I applied to my own research was learning how to advocate for greater understanding of intersectionality in policy across fields. Through our weekly conversations, we engaged in a sort of linguistic Jenga, where we kept building and bridging our ideas and disciplines into several papers that were palpably rich. I genuinely don’t think my thesis would have been as rich without hearing about the engaging perspectives of the Fox Fellows, and am excited to have a network of academics I can continue to engage with following this research residency. This fellowship has been one representative of my Emory experience: beautifully complex and in true reverence of the liberal arts, one that has kept me ruminating about our conversations long after they have concluded.
Shreya Pabbaraju is a double senior majoring in Political Science and English and Creative Writing. Her honors thesis examines how histories of colonization, partition, and nationalism have affected inter-religious attitudes toward violence against women in India through a surveys design. She further examines the media’s labeling of Jyoti Singh as “India’s Daughter” as an example of the Hindu-dominated efforts toward mitigating gender violence. Through the theories of Amartya Sen and Gayatri Spivak, she hopes to investigate religious intersectionality within feminist movements in India.
My fellowship at The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry was vital to my research process because it filled this hole created in the strange times we all confronted this past year. By assembling a welcoming and supportive community of brilliant scholars ready and eager to engage critically in conversations about your research and theirs, they have created a place where scholars at all different stages in their careers can collaborate and challenge each other. I immensely enjoyed learning about all of my fellow honors students’ projects, as well as hearing from so many of the post-doctoral scholars working at the Fox Center. The exchanges we shared benefited each of us in our projects and provoked us to view our work from new perspectives.
When I began this school year, I was disappointed about the missed opportunities caused by the pandemic. Further, I had become exhausted by the limitations of the virtual class format, and missed the collaborative and conversational dynamic of in-person seminar classes. I have always been a scholar that benefits from working alongside others, and when those opportunities evaporated, my love for the research process frankly did as well.
The opportunity to present my honors project in front of a large virtual crowd of scholars across disciplines forced me to hone my language and learn to present my work in a way that appealed beyond the history community. This is a vital skill for any scholar to develop, and was helpful personally for me because of the relative obscurity of my thesis topic. My thesis, An Illness of the Body and Soul: Visual Cultures of the French Disease, seeks to define a visual iconography of the French Disease in its first two centuries in Italy. The work is sensitive and highly contextual, and working with the FCHI has taught me how to navigate conversations about my work with scholars that do not have a certain level of background knowledge about visual cultures of early modern Europe. Instead, I was forced to develop dynamic strategies to present the context concisely and effectively, and demonstrate to an interdisciplinary audience why my research matters. Beyond this, presenting my work to a group of diverse scholars gave me new questions to ask and new ways to view it, and helped me to recognize my research’s place in wider historiographies and academic conversations.
I am tremendously grateful to the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry for giving me the fuel I needed to complete my research: provocative and fruitful conversations with fellow interdisciplinary scholars. Thank you to Dr. Walter Melion, Keith Anthony, Colette Barlow, my undergraduate colleagues, and every scholar I had the pleasure of speaking with during my fellowship.
Ryan Kelly is a senior joint major in history and art history, with a co-major in the visual arts. His honors thesis examines visual cultures of syphilis in early modern Europe to construct a visual iconography of the disease in Italy. This work emphasizes early modern understandings of the diseased body, and how visual representations of illness worked to reinforce conceptions of disease as an indication of the subject’s inner state. Additionally, his project hopes to expand the scope of “plague imagery” in scholarship by suggesting a deictic relationship between image types, and analyzing depictions of causal actions which were believed to manifest illness in the body.
My honors thesis argues that the chastity test scenes which end two Ancient Greek novels – Leucippe and Cleitophon and the Aithiopika – are spaces for performance. I explore how these scenes use deception and manipulation to resolve the novels’ narrative and metanarrative anxieties about chastity and endings. I knew the questions of gender, sexuality, genre, and narrative theory in my project would need answers from disciplines beyond my own, but as the pandemic deepened the natural isolation of independent humanities research, I knew that I, too, would need a community to make it through this project. Working alongside other senior honors students at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, I thought, would at the very least be a welcome change from working alone, or one-on-one with my advisor.
Over the course of the spring semester, however, my experiences at the Fox Center transformed my idea of what interdisciplinary humanities research could (and should) look like. Our monthly meetings and weekly works-in-progress events introduced me to disciplines and methodologies I was only tangentially aware of, and our regular reflections on the process of research pushed me to think more carefully about how and why I was making the arguments I made in my thesis. The intersections I saw between my work and the work of the other FCHI Undergraduate Fellows grew with each monthly meeting, despite the very different natures of our projects. The graduate and post-graduate Fox Center Fellows were incredibly generous with their insights and advice, and they offered inspiring examples of how to integrate interdisciplinary approaches throughout a long-term project. Dr. Walter Melion, Keith Anthony, Colette Barlow, and all the Fox Center Fellows cultivated an atmosphere of excitement, humility, and encouragement which allowed me to feel comfortable as I explored new ways of thinking, researching, presenting, and giving and receiving feedback.
I have deeply appreciated the Fox Center’s financial and professional support this semester, but I think I am most grateful that the FCHI community practices such humility, joy, and collaboration in their work. As I enter graduate school this fall, I go with an excellent model for the type of research community I hope to find and the type of researcher I want to be.
Carissa Martin is a senior double majoring in Classics and Chemistry. In their thesis, they explore how tests of sophrosyne (chastity or self-control) create the false sense of closure necessary for ending two ancient Greek novels, Leucippe and Cleitophon and the Aithiopika. Through close reading at the narrative and metanarrative levels, Carissa’s thesis aims to show that these tests of sophrosyne use deception and performativity to resolve two problems: the difficulty of ending a polyphonic novel and the anxiety about the hero/ine’s chastity in the face of rape, violence, and captivity. Their project calls into question assumptions about the ‘happy’ and ‘simple’ endings of the ancient Greek novel, and therefore promotes a fuller understanding of the drama, the subtlety, and – most importantly – the humanity of this genre.