A Week of Archival Research in San Francisco

 

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The San Francisco Peace Pagoda, a gift from sister city Osaka, Japan in the heart of Nihonmachi or Japantown.

by Takuya Maeda

My honors thesis is on the 1988 legislation (Civil Liberties Act) that granted a formal apology and reparations payments to all individuals who had been unjustly incarcerated in Japanese American internment camps during World War II. While both the internment and pursuit of reparations has been well-documented, there has been comparatively little written about the actual legislation. In particular, the portion of the legislation creating a public education fund to create greater awareness of the internment, called the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF) has been almost entirely overlooked in the literature. My thesis, and my archival research conducted with the SIRE Independent Grant is meant to fill this gap.

The CLPEF holds great significance because researchers have uncovered the ways in which the legislative process created a one-sided and biased depiction of Japanese American history. Conservative leaders of the Japanese American community and members of Congress erased the well-documented evidence of resistance and protest both during and after internment – and included only narratives consistent with the “model minority” position that Asian Americans have long occupied in American discourse. By making clear that reparations were being awarded to an exceptional group, Congress and the Reagan administration were sending an explicit message to other oppressed groups with claims for the rectification of injustice. While many in the movement for redress had seen their advocacy as part of a larger mobilization on behalf of all vulnerable communities, they had been cut out of the process once the legislation reached the capital. The design of the CLPEF, which called for the allocation of grants for Japanese American individuals and organizations to undertake public education initiatives (curriculum, monuments, books, movies, etc.), held great promise for the recovery of the voices of activists and organizers that had been excluded from the official legislative process.

With this hope, I traveled to San Francisco to meet with Dale Minami, the former Chair of the Board of the CLPEF and to peruse his personal papers from his tenure. Mr. Minami is a well-known attorney practicing in the San Francisco area and has been a tireless advocate for the protection of civil liberties and the Japanese American community. I was able to spend a week in the offices of his law firm, Minami Tamaki LLP, to go through his extensive personal correspondence, board meeting minutes, and other relevant documents to get a better sense of the operations of the CLPEF. To date, there is very little information available on the work of the CLPEF Board, despite the incredible responsibility that they were given.

During my time in San Francisco, I was most excited to find out from Mr. Minami that one of the priorities of the CLPEF Board had been to uncover and disseminate the stories that had been silenced in the legislative process. Furthermore, there were extensive email records and communications between Board members discussing how they might most effectively recover these narratives. These were exactly the documents I had been hoping to find. After a week of poring over the files and having extended conversations with Mr. Minami over lunch, I came away with the materials I needed to complete my thesis and new ideas that I hope to pursue in my future research.

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From Yucuquimi to the United States: Translating Medicine through Intercultural Communication

by Dalila Vázquez Herrera

“They’re Mexican, so they speak Spanish.” These words appeared an article in The New York Times about a hospital official in New York who called a Mexican organization to help her understand some Mexican patients. The quote above is what the hospital official responded when the person at the Mexican organization asked her if she had asked what language the family spoke. The hospital official just assumed they spoke Spanish, but the family actually spoke Mixtec, one of the many indigenous languages spoken within the borders of the Mexican nation-state and across Central America. This situation is not surprising to me because I’ve experienced this linguistic and cultural disconnect on numerous occasions during the last eight years that I have been living in the United States. I grew up speaking Mixtec in a small rural town in Mexico and learned Spanish in school (but even there everyone else in the school spoke Mixtec). Anyway, for instance, many people now ask me why I’m majoring in Spanish if it’s my first language since I’m Mexican? Therefore, with this project I want to explore not only the implications of language and culture barriers in medicine and healthcare, but also present to people in the United States a less known community of immigrants.

This is my first experience with a research project, so I’m learning aspects of the research process that I did not know about previously. For instance, I didn’t think I would need IRB approval for this project since it didn’t involve a life science type of experimentation. But I quickly learned that since my project involves interviewing human subjects, confidentiality must be guaranteed, and consent forms must be obtained in all languages used in the research (English, Spanish, Mixtec; an additional consideration is how to obtain consent from study participants who are not literate). There are other issues that require careful consideration in order to ensure few risks to the participants. This of course took longer than I expected because I had to do multiple revisions and incorporate a number of changes suggested by the IRB.

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Dalila (left) with her advisor Professor Karen Stolley (Spanish & Portuguese)

While waiting for the IRB approval necessary to move forward with the field research aspects of my project, most of my research has focused on gathering data from journals and books to lay the foundations of the subject that I wish to present; my work has focused primarily on ethnobotany and discussions of healthcare delivery to immigrant communities in the US. This phase of the project has included regular meetings with my advisor and discussing ideas and receiving advice from her about bibliography and organization of the project.  Finally, about a week ago, I received IRB exemption of my project so now I can move forward with the interviewing aspect of my research. This spring break I’m planning to travel to Mexico to carry out interviews and gather information about the Mixtec community.

My project is about intercultural relationships in medicine, specifically how they are reflected in different languages being used by physicians and their patients. My research focuses on a Mixtec-speaking community in Mexico, particularly on how members of that community seek medical services in both Mixtec and non-Mixtec areas. The first part of the analysis will be to to observe the communication between Mixtec local healers and their Mixtec patients (where both healer and patient share the same language). The second part of the analysis will be to observe the communication between Mixtec patients and their non-Mixtec physicians in their local town as well as in a nearby Spanish speaking city. All this data will be compared to the situation of Mixtec immigrants in the United States. My principle method for gathering data is by interviewing Mixtec local healers in Yucuquimi de Ocampo, Mexico and Spanish speaking doctors in Yucuquimi and Huajuapan de León – the district city to which Yucuquimi belongs and where people from Yucuquimi seek services not available in their small rural town. I’m excited to finally start working on this big part of my project now that I have secured the appropriate IRB authorization.

Semple, Kirk. “Immigrants Who Speak Indigenous Languages Encounter Isolation.” The New  York Times. 10 July 2014. Web.

Becoming Baris: Where Courageous Inquiry Leads

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By Ryan Sutherland
2016 FCHI Undergraduate Humanities Fellow

The Journey 

After more than two days bounding through the clouds, bouncing from Madrid to Paris to Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta aboard Air France and KLM jets, my mind spun with dizzying excitement at the prospect of adventure and discovery. I was overwhelmed by sleeplessness and nervous thoughts, baffled by time changes and increasingly exotic airline meals as I flew further east chasing the sun. I felt more and more like an outsider, greeted by new cultures that flashed by like living postcards each time I stepped foot in another airport. “What would Bali be like?” I thought blurrily as I walked up yet another gangway, this time waiting in line for my entrance visa into Jakarta. As I emerged at the Ground Transportation entrance to the Jakarta airport, I was affronted by an intense tropical heat pierced by the wafting smell of gasoline and cigarette smoke and the sounds of 5,000 taxis, buses, and motorcycles zipping past, their persistent honking accompanied by a chorus of screaming voices. One more flight and I’d be in Bali, my home for the next month and a half. I could hardly contain my excitement.

As we edged closer to Denpasar (Bali) aboard my final flight, I thought about what had brought me to this far off, extraordinary place half-way across the world: music. As the plane descended, I assessed the importance of music in my life. I have always been fascinated by different cultures and musics. The somber melody of an Eskimo’s tin whistle framed by the sounds of cold winds whistling through the ice-laden tundra; or the haunting and poignant cry of the Muezzin atop a minaret, his voice piercing through the cacophonic city sounds of Baghdad to call faithful Muslims to prayer; or the rustling skirts and twitching sikke hats of Sufi dervishes, their whirling dance of devotion accompanied by the trance-inducing bendir drums. I’ll never forget the first song I slow-danced to, or the jaunty melodies of the Klezmer band that performed at my best friend’s Bar Mitzvah, or even the bleating sounds of the bagpipes that played Pomp and Circumstance at my mother’s graduation from college. Why? Because music transforms and transports us. It frames our experiences and allows us to comprehend those of others. But more than that, music mobilizes and defines us. As Jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker put it, “music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” In a sense, musicians are historians: only through performance can one unlock the secrets of the past. Whether we consider Chopin’s Waltz Op. 69 No. 2 or Jazz pianist Bill Evan’s Waltz for Debbie, music serves as an aural index of our history. When I play these pieces, I feel solidarity with their composers — through them, I am transported through time and across the globe. I allow their music to speak through me, to become a part of me.

This transportational, historical, and transformational quality of music first attracted me to ethnomusicology. But before travelling to Indonesia, I hadn’t had the opportunity to fulfill my desire to explore culture and music beyond the margins of a textbook or the bar lines of a score. I needed to travel to the source. And now I was almost there. I had no idea what Bali would be like. Above all, I hoped to experience immersive music making and learn more about Indonesian cultural heritage through field work and expedition. I knew I would learn so much about myself in the process. As I crawled into bed after a bumpy hour-and-a-half drive from the airport through winding mountain roads shrouded in the pitch-blackness of night, I fell asleep dreaming of what tomorrow would hold.

The Transformation

Fast-forward a month.

I awoke early to prepare for the day’s festivities. In the distance, the faint echo of neighboring gamelans broke through the morning’s shadow and mixed with the eerie calls of mantra singers and the cackling cries of wakening roosters. Bu Ketut had been awake for hours. She had already been to the Baturiti market to purchase jackfruit and rice for the selametan feast, the communal meal preceding our performance. She was quickly slicing tofu and molding tuna sate onto bamboo twigs when I walked into the kitchen. After downing a glass of piping hot White Koffie, I returned to the stage to move the gamelan semar pegulingan and the gamelan angklung into their proper locations. Last night, Bu Ketut and her sister-in-law Bu Pinti had decorated the stage with intricate palm leaf adornments and ticker-tape-like streamers that twirled in the breeze, suspended from the pavilion’s ceiling.

After a very short practice session, we ate a small lunch and began to dress and apply makeup. As some of the village girls in Bu Ketut’s dance classes arrived, more and more sequined costumes emerged from the storage closet and were passed around to the performers. They glistened pleasantly in the afternoon light. Loh Deh beckoned me, earnestly calling “Come, come. Baris. Come.” She began to apply my makeup, first covering my face with ghostly white foundation, then arching my eyebrows sharply with a deep black pencil that she also used to accentuate my sideburns. With another brush, she applied bright pink makeup above my eyebrows that she blended like a Rothko painting with sapphire blue. She rimmed my eyes with black eyeliner, taking care to draw in upturned wings at their corners like cat eyes. She smiled as she worked, admiring the results of her efforts, and concluded by drawing a small downward facing arrow on my forehead that she dotted with white pearls of cream. She worked quickly, rapidly transforming me into Baris, the warrior of mythology.

I began to feel the power of Baris come into me with each stroke she painted on, with each layer of foundation that expunged my identity and replaced my face with Baris’. Just as Loh Deh finished, we heard Pak Ris shout, “Must go. Taksu, Taksu.” It was time to visit the Taksu temple. I had only a faint understanding of what Taksu was. From what I understood, Taksu was the designation for a temple that directly funneled the prayers of artists to the deities responsible for assuring a good performance. Thus, it was only natural that before we performed, we would meet with a Brahmin priest and pray to the gods and spirits for Taksu to inhabit our bodies, giving us the spiritual energy to become subsumed in our characters.

I prayed that I wouldn’t forget my dance moves, that the Baris spirit would inhabit me and take charge if I failed to remember my choreography. But more than that, I thanked the Balinese gods for their compassion, for their guidance, and for their hospitality in allowing me to spend a month in their country with their people, learning and reveling in their culture. After dousing ourselves with holy water, we emerged from the temple with rice pasted to our foreheads and flowers tucked delicately behind our ears.

The concert didn’t start for another hour. However, I was far from ready. Once we had returned to Pak Made’s compound, I raced over to Loh Deh and Bu Ketut who were busy tucking, tying, and fitting costume after costume on the performers. Next came my turn. The dance was hard enough by itself with my arms and legs unhindered, and now the daunting realization that I had to twirl and crouch and leap with 20 pounds of layered ribbons and ties strung across my torso down to my legs was almost more than I could bear. The Baris, a warrior, even had a heavy Keris (a curved sword) attached diagonally across his back. Once ribbon after ribbon were strung onto me, I felt like a mummy, like the Michelin man, a human marshmallow — I felt like I had layered for a brutal winter blizzard only to realize that the weather was incongruous with my attire; my horror was reflected by the beads of sweat pooling down my face as I trudged around under the tropical sun dressed for a Siberian winter. Each tongue of fabric was covered in sequins delicately sewn with golden thread. The undergarment was a stretchy, white cotton tunic with matching pants edged by sequins and intricately beaded bands of black velvet.

With my makeup finished and my body completely mummified in the Baris costume, there was nothing left for me to do but wait… and worry. And I’m good at worrying. Every few minutes I snuck away to the safety and solace of my room to practice one more agam just to make sure that I remembered the right dance steps. “Right agam, step, step, step,” I muttered under my breath. At one point, I forgot the beginning of the dance. My heart stopped. In terror, I mumbled to myself, “was it right agam, turn, stomp, stomp? or left agam, stomp, stomp, turn?” I took a deep breath. Then two more. The panic soon subsided. I trusted in my body’s magic, just as I always have. I had been practicing this dance for a month, waking each morning before the sun rose, dancing until my feet blistered. Repetition after repetition cemented it in my sinews. Perhaps it was the energy of Taksu that all performance majors felt in moments when the mind froze during a recital, when some unexplainable, divine muse took control of the body and twirled it perfectly across the stage. My body hadn’t failed me yet. I trusted it now to remember. Once the familiar “ch-ch-ch-clang-clap-tap-tap-ta-ta” from the gamelan started, I trusted that my muscles would contort in the right orientation and I, a walking pom pom, would marvel in surprise as I glided across the stage without any mental input, my feet and arms dragged up and down like a marionette possessed by Taksu.

As six o’clock neared, my heart rate increased and I again began to panic. “What if I mess up? What will they think?” I must have looked terrified and confused because several of the members of the Baturiti men’s gamelan came up to me and patted me sympathetically on the back, encouraging me with reassurances — “Bagus” (“good”), they said, as they mimed the dance I would do on stage in less than half an hour. It was in that moment that my nerves were pacified completely — all of them knew this dance, they’d all danced it before, they didn’t care that I wasn’t a professional. They were excited to see an American make an attempt, thankful that a foreigner was so eager to partake in their cultural rituals and study their performing arts. Whatever I looked like on stage didn’t matter — I was Baris, no matter how clumsy, and that was enough to garner their praise and respect. These men had Baris in their blood, and they accepted me as an outsider, a fellow artist. And that was the greatest gift of all.

As the sun went down and the familiar evening mantras played out over the radio and village loudspeakers, it was time to begin. My dance was sixth to be performed. I walked nervously to the back of the stage, to where Bu Ketut and Loh Deh were hidden behind a vibrantly decorated scrim that would conceal me from view before my entrance. The scrim looked like the entrance to a temple, intricately painted with delicate flowers and scowling dragons that looked as if they had been carved from stone. Bu Ketut adjusted my costume for the last time, making sure all of the pleats and tongues were attached and straightened. She silently took off my udeng (hat) and placed a triangular headdress atop my head, bejeweled with shells and plastic frangipani flowers that quivered as she worked it down onto my forehead. As she pulled down the neck strap, her eyes whispered “good luck” to me. I heard the drumbeat, the signal that it was time to begin, to face the fifty Balinese people in the audience who waited eagerly to see Baris, the commanding young warrior headed off to battle, a symbol of the strength and triumph of the Balinese and the masculinity of their warriors. As I swiveled my leg, dangling my naked foot beyond the painted scrim and into the eye line of the audience, I heard a collective gasp of excitement.

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In that instant, I was no longer myself — I had become Baris, a transformation not merely facilitated by the costume and makeup I wore, but by spiritual inhabitation down to my core. My timid, ponderous steps at the beginning of the dance gave way to the self-assured, machismo motions of a seasoned warrior gliding into battle with confidence. I twirled and stomped, extended my arms dramatically, squinted or opened my eyes wide with intimidating vivacity all while holding my elbows aloft and my chin raised imperiously. As the music swelled, I contorted myself in different, menacingly powerful poses. As the dance came to an end, I swiveled my hip and raised my foot, bowing to the audience with my hands clasped together, upwardly pointed in prayer.

 “Thank you,” I prayed to Siva, Wisnu, and Brahma. “Thank you.” As I mapaled off stage, I was greeting by Ketut’s warm smile — joyful tears streamed down my face with the knowledge that I had done what I never thought I would in a place I never thought I’d be. Bu Ketut embraced me, congratulating me on a job well done. I heard people in the audience faintly shouting, “Taksu, Taksu!” As I hugged her, my chest filled with pride and I looked up at the ceiling and again thanked the gods above for giving me good Taksu and for deeming me worthy to have become the Baris.

Where Courageous Inquiry Leads.

My research interests in gamelan have carried me across the globe into the heart of Bali. In fact, multicultural experiences have colored my college years. As a science and music performance (ethnomusicology) double major, I have studied Indonesian gamelan and traditional dance in the mountains of Bali, performed as a Tenor saxophone soloist with the Tango Orchestra of Atlanta, served as a percussionist with Emory’s Brazilian Samba ensemble, instructed Tibetan monks and met H.H. the Dalai Lama as an introductory biology teaching assistant, and traveled to the heart of the Peruvian Amazon as a student of ecology with Emory’s “Ecology of the Tropics” course. My thesis gave me yet another opportunity to immerse myself in another culture, to lose myself in their music, to become Baris.

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My honors research aimed to inform the public about the impact that Balinese and Javanese gamelan traditions have had on the stylistic development of contemporary Western music, on the establishment of the field of applied ethnomusicology, and on the creation and popularization of the world music genre and its offshoots among global audiences. Furthermore, I strove to create an archive of karawitan (traditional repertoire) at Emory University. In order to accomplish these objectives, I needed to immerse myself in Indonesian culture and performance. To gain a deeper understanding of this rich musiculture, I performed both as a musician and dancer at Emory University, Wake Forest University, Northern Illinois University, and the Indonesian Consulate of Chicago, as well as in Baturiti, Bali, Indonesia. I presented my research at Northern Illinois University’s annual World Music Festival — a lecture-performance entitled “Indonesian Gamelan and the West” — and earnestly studied and performed Balinese and Javanese gamelan and traditional dance with Pak I Madé Lasmawan, Dr. J.C Wang, Pak I Gusti Ngurah Kertayuda, Dr. Elizabeth Clendinning, and Pak Midiyanto.

But beyond these immersive experiences, my involvement as a Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry undergraduate fellow has perhaps been most beneficial to my research. Humanities research undeniably enhances the life of the arts at Emory and beyond — and as the only gamelan in the state of Georgia, only through public performance and research could this musiculture be preserved necessitating my investigation. Through this experience, I gained invaluable interdisciplinary scholarly instruction and had multiple opportunities to practice my presentational skills in front of an audience of peers and internationally renowned scholars. Many fulfilling yet sleepless nights were spent at the FCHI pouring over the final copies of my thesis, painstakingly editing it line by line. But the process of research excites me — my experience as a FCHI undergraduate fellow has further bolstered my desire to pursue graduate studies, encouraging me to continue to ask difficult questions that require courageous inquiry, to ponder the unknown and unknowable. The post-doctoral fellows and senior fellows at the FCHI have unfailingly given me outstanding feedback: tips about outlining and citing, recommendations for books I should read, an outpouring of a wealth of knowledge and advice. Producing a thesis is a daunting task, certainly not an undertaking for the faint of heart. Being part of this community somewhat lessened my feelings of loneliness when confronting this mammoth enterprise. As an undergraduate fellow, interactions with other fellows gave me confidence in my work and in my voice. I have grown so much under their instruction and through their friendships. Their guidance helped me clarify the balungan of this project, its central melody, giving it life. Unquestionably, I could not have completed this project without the support of the Fox Center. To all of the members of the FCHI, I say terima kasih (“thank you”) from the bottom of my heart.

Om swastiastu,

R.S.

Writing the (not so distant) Past

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by Adam Goldstein 16C

When I tell people I’m completing a thesis in American history, they usually expect it to be about colonial Georgia, reconstruction, or the Civil Rights Movement; something that’s been generally accepted as part of our history. So they are usually surprised when I tell them I am writing about a public housing redevelopment that occurred less than twenty years ago. Moreover, when I am talking to mostly anyone who has lived in Atlanta, they are at least vaguely aware of my topic; the redevelopment of the East Lake neighborhood.

Working through the telling of such a well-known story that exists in the immediate past has taught me much about history writing. One of the challenges has been to find the signal in the noise, as so many people remember living through East Lake’s redevelopment. Everywhere from Facebook posts to casual conversations has the potential to uncover a new detail about East Lake’s story, and on multiple occasions I’ve found myself lost in the noise of all of these potential sources. It’s been important to always have my end goal in mind, and work to ensure that I am hearing and writing about the important voices in my story. To this end, the Fox Center has been extremely helpful. The staff of the Center worked through their connections through Emory and the rest of Atlanta to make certain that I have access to the sources that have helped legitimize my work.

It has also been important to remain objective throughout the telling of my story. It is easy, especially when doing oral history, to be affected by the experiences and emotions of my sources. East Lake’s story is still relevant to many of the sources I interviewed, and it has been challenging at times to understand their experiences through a historical lens, and place them within ideologies and frameworks of the time period. I have found that the most helpful method of remaining unbiased has been to share the story with those around me. For this, the Fox Center has been a haven. I am almost constantly able to share what I am working on, potentially to the nuisance of those around me, and work through the story with them.  The Fox Center has not only provided me resources to support my work, but has created a space where I can share my work with others, which has helped me develop a thesis I am proud of and has taught me much that I will take with me in my future academic pursuits.

The New Bloomsbury Group

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by Jenny Wu  16C

Writing can be a lonely process, no matter if one approaches it from the academic side or the creative side. When I first started researching back in the spring of 2014, no one knew that I was planning to write a novel, much less that I would turn it into my senior honors thesis. Growing up, creative writing had always been something I had to squeeze in during my “free time,” between math homework, piano lessons, student clubs, and interpersonal relationships. Sitting in class, ideas for novels or lines of poetry that wandered into my mind were considered distractions; I wrote for myself and kept my writing hidden. But everywhere I looked, art was being created not in solitude but in communities: the Beats, the Romantics, and–my personal favorite–the Bloomsbury Group all kindled their creativity through dialogue, rooted in a sort of intellectual common ground. Thus, one could imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I came to the Fox Center.

Being a part of an active learning community has given me, first and foremost, the private affirmation that what I’m doing is real and not just a self-indulgent hobby. The center has given me space dedicated to working in an environment where I can put my work first. Being here has opened me up to the idea of sharing my work and using it as a springboard for conversation; the knowledge one collects from these kinds of interactions has enriched and enlarged my project. Most importantly, however, the Fox Center has positioned me in a community in which everyone has a unique set of skills to share.

Since I’ve been here, my entire conception of art has gained an interdisciplinary dimension: instead of just looking at texts primarily for their aesthetic or emotive value, I now apply an equal amount of criticism from the historical, political, and ontological perspectives. In this way, the Fox Center has also taught me that research does not only affect the small niche community to which it pertains; rather, every piece of scholarship has an enormous range of influence on all disciplines.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how art and academics intersect and how people with these pursuits can be encouraged simply through association. Psychology posits that we remember facts (for instance, that the earth is round) and not the experience of learning these facts (who taught me, initially, that the earth is round?), but I tend to disagree: I don’t think our knowledge is stored as one long syllogism. Rather, it is like an interactive map, where every fact can be associated with a person who shared that fact with us. With this in mind, as I move forward in my academic and creative pursuits, I plan to take what I have learned from the Fox Center and either seek out or create similar communities at other institutions.

Rediscovering the Importance of Dialogue

by Bryan Reines 16C

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Over the course of this semester, I have realized that my honors thesis in political philosophy is both the culmination of my collegiate studies and an act of self-appraisal that I must undertake before my departure from Emory.

At Emory I have discovered that I am truly obsessed with politics, law, and social thought. But my studies have often frustrated me: How can I possibly synthesize Friedrich Nietzsche’s opaque writings in three pages? How can I give a fair account of the context in which a leftist militia, the P.O.U.M., became prominent and then dissolved during the Spanish Civil War?

Frustrations caused by my education were never limited to the classroom. I have reexamined political issues once settled in my mind, only to find myself pulling a thread and, to mix metaphors, scurrying deeper down the rabbit’s hole. On the advice my thesis advisor, I made my final undergraduate project an exploration of these nagging questions. I have been, for years now, partial to argumentation. The ease with which I adopt the views of persuasive people leads me to a new perspective every week, but a crisis of belief at the end of every month.

Struggling with Plato’s Republic this past month offered me a new perspective on the value of the dialogic encounter. It is Socrates’ conversations with his interlocutors, the process of a cooperative pursuit of understanding, which has real value. Plato cannot curtly answer what Justice is, or what is the proper role of the philosopher in society, and thankfully he doesn’t try. In Plato’s Seventh letter he provides us with a clue to understanding his enigmatic dialogues: “Further, on account of the weakness of language, these attempt[s] to show what each thing is like, not less than what each thing is. For this reason no man of intelligence will venture to express his philosophical views in language, especially not in language that is unchangeable, which is true of that which is set down in written characters.” This expression of humility reminds us of the importance of direct human interaction.

The Fox Center, in keeping with the Socratic tradition, inculcates the ongoing conversations between its fellows with various events. Whether I am discussing liberalism and its critics with Dr. John Lysaker, Tibetan metaphysics with Dr. Sara McClintock, or Soviet propaganda with Dr. Matthew Payne, I recognize how fortunate I am to share a room with experts who share my interests.

My encounters with Plato and experiences at the Fox Center aid my understanding of political deceit (my thesis’ subject matter) and show me a path forward as a soon-to-be college graduate. I have not come to firm positions on the political issues that trouble me, nor have I settled the question of whether I would like to return to academia, but I know that the path towards these answers (even if the answers themselves are only temporary) is the mutual exchange of perspectives and a willingness to allow my thinking to change—constant conversation with those around me.

The FCHI: Providing the Missing Piece in My Research Journey

by Kevin McPherson

During my junior year (2014-2015), I started an independent study course with Dr. Mary Frederickson in the Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA) as part of my Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) major.

At first, I wanted to look at how the idea of “blood quantum” came about when determining Native American citizenry. It was a complicated matter, and one that I was ready to tackle, but I don’t think the subject was well-researched enough because I ran into a dearth of references on the subject. It wasn’t until Dr. Frederickson brought up the publication A Century of Dishonor, written by the popular 19th century fiction writer Helen Hunt Jackson, that a new question started to surface: why did Jackson, a popular poet and literature writer decide that writing A Century of Dishonor would be her first try at non-fiction? Moreover, why did she write this book as a defense of Native Americans’ rights as they were being pushed onto reservations in the American West? These questions needed answers before I could dive any deeper into a larger project, and I would find these answers through digitalized archives at Colorado College.

As I sifted through some of the digital archives, I realized that this wouldn’t be as easy as I thought. I needed those digital journals in paper form and I needed to look at the trinkets and other belongs that Jackson kept. Luckily, I’ve been able to procure a fellowship with the Rose Library that allows me to travel to Colorado College’s archives in the winter. I find it increasingly important to build a story about this woman’s life that hadn’t been explored in ways previously; no one had painted Jackson as an activist or someone who cared much about human rights. There was evidence of that otherwise: she talked to many of the Transcendentalists of America, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, and saw the human life as sacred in the grace of her God.

Jackson occupied a unique and timeless spot in history that is more of an enigma to me now than it was when I started, and I’m lucky that I’ve had both Dr. Frederickson and my fellowship through the Rose Library to guide me. However, something was missing in the fall of 2015: a space of intellectual community.

That’s where my SIRE fellowship with the Fox Center came into play. Almost immediately upon moving in, I found a community that helped me think about and analyze parts of my research that I never thought about. For instance, one of the postdoctoral fellows that has an office right next to mine specializes in poetry and how it changes epistemology. She reached out to me on my first day at the Center and said should I need any help analyzing Helen Hunt Jackson’s poetry, she’d be more than welcome to help me out. Wow! An expert as my next door neighbor!

In addition, the Center has provided me with a quiet and peaceful place to write. Humanists know that half the battle is just sitting down and getting the work down. I’ve been very fortunate to spend a lot of 5AM mornings in peace and quiet and knocking out almost 100 pages of draft for my final IDS project. Hopefully I can continue on into spring…(more to come).

Kevin is a 2015 Fox Center Undergraduate Humanities SIRE Fellow