Stigma Continuity of Leprosy in Brazil

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by Alexandra Llovet 18C, Biology and Spanish and Portuguese
2018 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

My project analyzes the stigma continuity of leprosy in Brazil from 1923 to 2018. Despite political changes and medical advances, the stigma against leprosy persists in Brazil. In fact, the state isolated patients of leprosy in leprosaria for thirty-two years after doctors began to prescribe a cure. The Halle Institute for Global Research funded my time shadowing at the Eduardo Menezes Hospital of Infectious Disease, a specialized center for leprosy. There I observed consults with sixteen patients of leprosy with physical therapists and physicians. Within that week, I also visited a leprosarium that still houses over 200 patients. There, I gathered narratives of patients who suffered isolation. The experience expanded my project from 4 patient narratives to 10 patient narratives in just one week.

On this journey, I met a woman in a leprosaria who shared her story with me. She was diagnosed with leprosy when she was just 21 years old in 1955. Immediately, her mother labelled her a dirty sinner for her diagnosis. Her husband, aware that she would live the rest of her days in isolation, went into deep depression. He took his life soon thereafter. She left her baby with her mother while she went to her husband’s funeral. Upon return, the baby was missing. When she asked her mother, her mother said she had sold the baby to some strangers on the street. A couple of days later the police arrived to take the patient away to isolation. This patient lost her husband, daughter, and family because of sickness. I was amazed that despite all she suffered she is not bitter today, and even shares her story openly.

The stories contributed to my data collection but also made me reflect on what I am trying to accomplish with my project and inspired future projects. I realized that, beyond writing a thesis, the main goal  of my project is to help spread awareness of the discrimination of leprosy patients.  In the leprosarium, I met children of leprosy patients seeking reparations from the Brazilian government. From 1923 to 1976, the Brazilian government took the children of leprosy patients and placed them in orphanages.  I heard the stories of the traumas of being stripped from their families and made “orphans” by the state. This inspired to document the oral narratives of the children of leprosy patients in the future and conduct research on the impact isolation had on the second generation.



Language Landscapes: Symbolism, Mélodie, and Using French in the Fin-de-siècle

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by Cana McGhee 19C, Music Research and French Studies
Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

As I was pursuing a directed study to investigate what would become my Honors project, my adviser encouraged me to integrate archival research into the project and find opportunities to fund such experiences. Somehow it had never occurred to me that I as an undergrad could conduct scholarly independent research abroad and have it productively contribute to my work. But after receiving funding from a music department research grant and the bulk of my support as an Undergraduate Global Research Fellow with the Halle Institute and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry (FCHI).

In the process of searching for undergraduate funding options, I discovered the application for the newly-established Undergraduate Global Research Fellowship, and I knew that I wanted to be among the first to seize this new opportunity on campus. The funding from the Halle Institute supported a ten-day archival research trip in Brussels. While my work with Gabriel Fauré (the primary composer of interest in the project) initially explored elements of his individual compositional aesthetic, visiting Brussels inspired me to analyze Fauré with larger, more transnational terms. Currently, Fauré’s music will be a case study in the engagement between Symbolist poetry in francophone Europe and French-language vocal music (mélodie). The cross-engagement of the literary and musical movements is furthermore situated in the context of linguistic nationalist projects in France and Belgium, as ideals surrounding language use responded to the French Revolution (1789) and Belgium’s independence (1830). Another influential figure in my project is Belgian lawyer turned art critic Octave Maus. He created and led two avant-garde groups that coordinated art and music festivals in Brussels. Fauré attended the festivals twice; yet even when Fauré was not present, his music was played on a bi-yearly basis. This lattermost fact, which I uncovered in Brussels, asserts Fauré’s value in French-speaking musical life beyond his usual Parisian circles, which is one of the more strident elements of my work. This assumption is complicated by the fact that, within France, Fauré was at times perceived as an outsider because of his non-Parisian birth and lack of conservatory training. After further reading about the relationship between French-speaking Belgians and French nationals, Fauré’s situation uncannily aligns with how the two socio-cultural groups were often in discord with one another because of Belgium’s “hybridized” social and linguistic identities.

Visiting Brussels was important for this project primarily because the secondary literature about Belgian musicianship during the fin-de-siècle is limited. Considering that one of my long-term goals is to contribute to this dirge in scholarship, I was grateful for the opportunity to engage with some of the primary sources in their native context, which are held at the Contemporary Art Archives (AACB) of the Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium. The project is compelling because of the ways in which vocal music will be put forth as works which actively mirror and respond to the linguistically reformative principles guiding Symbolist writings. My research in Brussels demonstrated that musical life was remarkably in-tune with its surroundings and participated in supporting, criticizing, and collaborating with artistic communities outside of its discipline. As I begin pursuing doctoral work in Musicology, I hope to continue in this spirit of using music as a means to discuss cultural histories, rather than treating it as a cultural artefact. Without the Halle Institute’s support of my research, I doubt that I would have been able to unveil the multi-layered depth that my project has gained since returning from my summer research experience.

Rashi’s Influence on Nicholas of Lyra and the Wycliffite Translations of the Psalms


by Zachary Schuster 19C, Jewish Studies
Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

The Wycliffite translations exist in various manuscripts, making a wider study of the manuscripts crucial. I read Wycliffite manuscripts at the British Library and Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries in the UK. The Bodleian is the world’s main repository of Wycliffite manuscripts. This allowed me to understand the variety of ways the medieval man used and engaged with a Wycliffite text. In addition to my time reading manuscripts, I made a brief visit to the Rashi House in Troyes, where I also met local scholarship at the Greater Troyes Media Library.

The reception history of Psalms is a field of scholarship that only recently became of real interest to scholars around the world. In medieval monasteries, the entire book of Psalms was chanted every week. Understanding Jewish influence on Christian scholarship during this difficult period for interfaith dialogue proves an intriguing task. Moreover, both Nicholas of Lyra and John Wycliffe’s works became strong influences on the Reformation. Wycliffe influenced Jan Hus’s theology to minister to the populace in their vernacular. Meanwhile, as the saying goes, “Si Lyra non lyrasset, Lutherus non saltasset” (“Had Lyra not played his lyre, Luther would not have danced”).

Gomes in the Archives and in the Public Consciousness

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by Chris Batterman 19C, Music
Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

When I arrived in Brazil to do the archival portion of my thesis research, I thought I knew more or less of what to expect. Before travelling, I had studied much of the scholarship that had already been written on Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Gomes, the subject of my study. I had familiarized myself with his biography, his political views, and his music. Because my thesis looks at the racial and ideological implications of the composer’s operas, my time in Brazil was to be spent combing through the composer’s numerous correspondences with his elite contemporaries, looking for any mentions of race and politics. Of course, there were plenty. I came across numerous correspondences with prominent Brazilian abolitionists, as well as letters in which he discussed political matters with his friends and family. These finds came as no surprise to me—Gomes’ political involvement has been written about before, so I expected to learn more about it through my study of his correspondences. What I did not expect, however, was the place that Gomes holds in the Brazilian public conscious, one that celebrates an image of the composer that is seemingly at odds with the Gomes I encountered in the archives.

When I arrived in Campinas, São Paulo, I took a walk through the downtown area (Centro) on my first day to familiarize myself with the area. I was immediately stunned by a huge stature of the composer in the center plaza, and subsequently surprised by his tomb, a large mausoleum-like structure that sits firmly in the middle of the city. Monuments like these can be found in other major Brazilian cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. All of them praise the “grande maestro” (great composer) that was Carlos Gomes, claiming him and his success abroad as a victory for all of Brazil. This celebration of Gomes was echoed by the Brazilians I talked to, many of whom spoke highly of the composer and his importance to Brazilian art. Naturally, I began to wonder. How could the composer, who in his letters and correspondences spoke so negatively of the Brazilian Republic (founded in 1889) and died with a deep disdain towards Brazil (he described it as having dealt him “great injustices”), become such a national symbol for modern day Brazilians? The opening of his seminal opera Il Guarany, for example, is the opening song of the daily government radio station.

As I continued my research in the Brazilian archives, digitizing his correspondences and original musical manuscripts, I kept encountering people who saw Gomes as a national hero of sorts, even though Gomes longed for nothing for than to be a “European” opera composer (his pieces were composed for Milanese premieres). In considering these current perceptions of the composer, I began to examine the early historiography of the composer and his music. Early musicologists wrote about Gomes as the progenitor of Brazilian art music. They positioned him as first in a long line of Brazilian composers that would write in a nationalist style. What is peculiar about this, however, is that Gomes’ musical style could hardly be considered national—passages from his pieces sound like they could be lifted directly from Verdi or Rossini operas. What was clear to me was the immense hagiography that went into the construction of Gomes’ image in the Brazilian public consciousness. Early scholars (and even some today) glossed over Gomes’ political leanings, categorizing him as unequivocally “apolitical.” In these portrayals of Gomes, he was lionized into the pantheon of Brazilian composers and rendered as a national symbol.

My thesis, which looks at the Brazilian composer through a more critical lens, joins the recent wave of Gomes scholarship that pushes back against hagiography that early historiography engaged in. Instead, my thesis considers the composer’s operas in a deeply political light, examining his engagement with racial and national ideologies and his constructed image(s) of Brazil and of “Brazilianness.” I argue that the “apolitical” characterizations of Gomes made by early scholarship, that which projected him into the national public consciousness, do not allow for a holistic consideration of the composer’s place in Brazilian history. Instead, I present a reading of Gomes in which his art and politics are inextricably linked. Broadly, this could be said for all music. Music goes beyond its sounding space and has very real, humanistic implications, for both the artist and the listener. I am just using Gomes as a case study to make this point.

Writing About Mass Atrocity: A Moral Consideration

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by Liza Gellerman 18C

Over the course of two years I have developed a research project surrounding the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at the post-World War II Nuremberg trials. When I mention to somebody that I’m in the middle of writing a thesis, of course they respond by asking me what I’m writing about. My ‘elevator pitch’ is usually something along the lines of, “A legal debate on genocide and crimes against humanity, specifically in the context of the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen trial. That is, the trial of the Nazi overseers of mass shootings of Jews in Poland and the Soviet Union over the course of the Holocaust.” Two years is a long time to work on a single project, so at this point I normally don’t have to think before replying to those who inquire about my work in a way similar to that which I just described. After I recite the ‘elevator pitch,’ people normally get quiet, unsettled by the bleak nature of my work. In those brief moments of uncomfortable silence, I remind myself to think of my research subject as more than an academic endeavor and to consider the implications of writing about one of the darkest moments in modern history.

I have engaged heavily with disturbing information about the nature of mass murder while researching and writing my thesis. Usually, I acquire this information by reading different scholarly interpretations about genocide, crimes against humanity and the historiography of the Holocaust. Absorbing this type of material on a day-to-day basis has certainly made me more knowledgeable in my field and has equipped me to develop a thesis project that I’m proud of, however I sometimes forget to think about what I’m reading and writing as an outcome of a historical event. I get so caught up in the work that I forget to think of my topic as one that resembles an experience for those who have been victimized by mass atrocity.

At the outset of my project, I thought that studying deliberations over atrocity in the context of the Holocaust would equip me with a greater degree of sympathy towards victims of mass violence. Yet I’ve come to recognize that continuous engagement with such subject matter has had somewhat of a numbing effect on me. This realization has made me consider how historians in similar fields approach their work. For example, Samantha Power won a Pulitzer Prize for her monograph on the “age of genocide” across the world. In writing her esteemed book, did she at times forget to consider the millions of victims involved? Did studying the diplomatic relations between democratic countries trying to provide aid and the genocidal perpetrators trying to evade punishment under international law make her lose sight of those who suffered in the meantime?

The history of atrocity is elaborate and, admittedly, quite interesting. Of the many lessons that I have learned over the course of my time as an honors student, one of the hardest ones to continuously stand by is to view my thesis subject with consideration and respect. Mass violence has developed into a field of scholarship, but it should always be remembered that what gave impetus to an article on a case study of crimes against humanity, or a thesis about the Einsatzgruppen, or a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the age of genocide, was at one point a very real and hideous event.

Liza Gellerman is a senior at Emory and is double majoring in history and Spanish. Liza’s thesis for the history department is a legal debate concerning the charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the context of the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen trial. Her project analyzes the crucial developments in international criminal law brought about by this particular trial and Nuremberg as a whole. Liza received grants from the Emory Rose Library and the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies to conduct summer archival research for her project at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C

Embracing Public Scholarship


by Joshua Perlin 18C

The thesis defense was my abyss. To clarify, the abyss is the culmination of Joseph Campbell’s heroic quest. This quest is part of an archetypal heroic journey known as the monomyth, which pervades cultural narratives throughout history. The hero is called upon to exit the world of familiarity to embark on a voyage, wherein they must overcome increasingly demanding challenges before reaching the abyss. The successful conquering of the abyss provides the hero with new insights into both the world and themselves. I draw upon this narrative trope in my honors project, in which I analyze how narrators ‘redeem’ these personal challenges.

The defense was this ultimate challenge for me—not because I dread public speaking or academic exposure. Instead, I found myself fumbling with the process of public scholarship; that is, making my research accessible and digestible to listeners outside of my discipline. Public scholarship is a critical intellectual enterprise if academics hope to remain relevant. When I sat in the weekly work-in-progress seminars through the Fox Center, I heard inflections of the dissatisfaction with systems of power and oppression that rings out in the public sphere. Clearly, the academic’s can be brought to bear on some of the greatest social ills of our times. So, why is it challenging to communicate those ideas to the broader public?

I similarly struggled with this paradox in working on my defense presentation. My research is wedded to people’s lived experiences—so much so that I am collecting their life stories! I even begin my thesis with the decisive statement: “The human experience is rife with personal challenges.” Yet, I found it profoundly difficult to tap into this shared human experience in communicating my findings. In my view, I lost sight of the forest through the trees. To make my work comprehensible for the public would mean disregarding some of the nuances of the research; however, maintaining the nuances divorced my research from the public. After poring over the pages of my project for almost an entire academic year, I was so emotionally close to the work that I found it extraordinarily challenging to isolate the essential information. However, academics should be trained to shine a light on the essential information and present it in a lucid way. We become so accustomed to the who, what, when, where, and why that we forget perhaps the most important question: So what?

Because of my experience with the defense, I have set the intention to re-center my scholarship on the ‘So what?’ as I journey through graduate school and beyond in my professional academic career. I have recognized the necessity of public scholarship to the lifeblood of the academic. If we want to make the generative claim that the goal of academia is to contribute positively to the world—and I think we have a good case for such a claim—then we need to begin contributing to both the scholarly world and the public world.

How is that for a redemptive story?

Joshua Perlin is a senior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Ethics. He is writing his honors thesis in Dr. Robyn Fivush’s lab, studying how individuals narrate personal challenges in such a way that negative experiences are transformed into positive ones (narrative redemption). He is using quantitative methods to assess how redemptive sequences correlate with psychological well-being. In addition, he is conducting qualitative analyses to investigate identity formation in redemptive narratives. He is extraordinarily excited to use interdisciplinary and humanistic methods in psychology, and is extremely grateful to Dr. Fivush and the Fox Center for giving him the opportunity to do so.


Bridging the Gap

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by Benjamin P. Goldfein 18C
University of St Andrews ‘19, MLitt (Bobby Jones Fellow)

As a Philosophy major and Ethics minor, I used to frequently struggle with whether or not I would have been better off if I pursued a STEM degree. This feeling branched from being constantly confronted by the narrative that the humanities are neither as rigorous nor as impactful as the hard sciences. However, I have since come to realize the value of the humanities beyond my own personal interest. I am now indebted to the Fox Center for giving me the invaluable opportunity to surround myself with scholars who share the importance of the humanities with their colleagues and their communities. 

This made me change my perspective on humanistic study. Namely, humanities-focused scholars should not be ‘on defense’ and feel the need to justify humanistic inquiry. Instead, we should be ‘on offense,’ priding ourselves on our work and its impact. Learning this lesson has been especially powerful, for it has instilled in me the confidence that I can pursue a career in Philosophy and know that I will be able to use my research to positively affect people beyond academia. This has influenced my decision to apply for a PhD in Philosophy, which I hope to begin in the Fall of 2019.

I have since been able to take these lessons and apply them to my own endeavors. For example, in my thesis, Virtuous Artificial Intelligence, I champion a philosophical approach for examining the socio-ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). I also challenge the notion that technology research only involves the hard sciences. This is because research that concerns humanity must also recognize its underlying humanistic elements in order to have the most desirable impact on society. 

I organized my thesis into three distinct chapters: 1) Problematizing Artificial Intelligence, 2) Regarding Moral Sentience, and 3) Considering Ethical Systems. I begin by asserting that we must understand how to conceive AI before we can sketch a blueprint of a future with person and non-person morally-sentient beings. I then argued that due to recent explosive advancements in AI, we will soon reach a point when persons’ and AIs’ moral sentiences are indistinguishable. When this happens, AIs should abide by a system of ethics to ensure the protection of person and non-person morally-sentient beings. Furthermore, I assert that ethical morally-sen(ent AIs would necessarily follow a system of Aristotelean virtue ethics. Following a virtue-ethics system would equip AIs to balance competing obligations through creative wise decision-making, or corrective prohairesis. I conclude by showing how an AI virtue ethicist would be able to learn prima facie virtues, thus removing the supererogatory burden off of programmers to code the ‘perfectly-ethical’ AI. 

Now that my time at Emory is coming to a close, I can proudly say that being at the Fox Center has been one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. I am humbled to have been welcomed to such an inspiring community of scholars, and I am excited to continue the legacy of Bill and Carol Fox with promise and pride.

Benjamin Goldfein is a senior majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Ethics. His senior honors thesis champions a philosophical approach for examining the socio-ethical implications of artificial intelligence. Namely, Ben focuses on how recent technological advancements force us to reconsider what it means to ‘be human’ in regards to our personal identities and relationships with other morally-sentient beings.