Democracy in Jordan: An Authentic Aspiration or Imperialist Imposition?

by M.K. Healy, 20C Arabic and International Studies
2019-2020 Fox Center Humanities Honors Fellow

Healy Headshot

Being a Fox Center Undergraduate Fellow has been an immense honor, and has provided me with vital support for my thesis and placed me in a community of inspiring students working towards the same goal. It has given me the physical space to work on my project and the environment necessary to think through difficult issues surrounding my thesis. In many ways, this fellowship has provided me with crucial support, both academically and personally, to produce a thesis of which I am proud.

My thesis examines democratization efforts by the United States in Jordan, critically comparing these efforts to those of Jordanian civil society organizations, grassroots movements, and governmental bodies. Jordan receives the fourth highest amount of monetary aid from the United States of any country, much of which is dedicated to democratization efforts. This is part of a larger theme of U.S. initiatives in the Middle East that stem from the Cold War era, which viewed the spread of democracy throughout critical areas such as the Middle East to be vital to U.S. interests and regional stability. This support for democracy has continued to be a central aspect of the United States’ foreign policy to the Middle East following the September 11, 2001 attacks. My project focuses on these democratization efforts, as they use large sums of taxpayer dollars to support a change in the governmental system of Jordan, when in fact the country’s monarchy and general stability work within U.S. interests in the region. This project asks the questions of how the United States government and U.S.-based organizations are working to build democracy in Jordan, how the Jordanian government and monarchy acts in relation to these efforts, and what Jordanian civil society organizations and activists are doing to promote democracy themselves. Ultimately, it argues that an emphasis on civil society and grassroots movements is critical to understanding foreign policy, and that this kind of analysis in the case of democratization in Jordan reveals a counter-intuitive and grim reality about U.S. foreign policy.

As a Fox Center Fellow, I have been given the kinds of support necessary to do this project justice. As a non-Jordanian researcher, I knew that I needed to approach this project with care and with an intense analysis of history, theory, and international politics. For the whole first semester of this year, this was a daunting task. I was lost in the many layers of research and analysis that this project required and constantly felt as though I could not find the mental space to grapple with these layers of scholarship. The Fox Center’s support for me and my project gave me valuable confidence in my thesis and its value in both the field of humanities and international politics. The Center gave me the monetary support and the physical space that allowed me to focus on my thesis and give it the time and mental focus that it deserved. It put me in a small community of other researchers who have the same dedication to Humanities research whose passion for their projects gave me some much needed inspiration at a time in the semester when it seemed as though the project would never be complete. I am immensely grateful for the Fox Center and this fellowship.

MK Healy is a senior double majoring in Arabic and International Studies with concentrations in the Middle East and State and Society. Her research focuses on the responses of civil society actors in Jordan to U.S.-democracy promotion efforts during the reign of King Abdullah II. She is studying this topic by examining the different levels of U.S. democracy promotion in the region, the motivations behind them, and how they compare to the democracy work being done by Jordanian civil society actors and grassroots organizers. The goal of her research is to add a grassroots emphasis to the current paradigms in International Political Theory.

Chasing the Andalusian Ideal Nostalgia and Sephardic Self-Image in Andalusian Music in Israel


by Xavier Sayeed, 20C Music Research and Jewish Studies
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

Being a Global Research Fellow with the Halle Institute and Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry has been a tremendous honor. With the help of the Halle Institute, I was able to travel to Israel to complete a short ethnographic study in Andalusian and Sephardic communities of musicians. This included observing several concerts and performances, participating in local cultural events, attending Shabbat services at Sephardic synagogues, and interviewing local musicians and affiliates of the Ashdod-based Israeli Andalusian Orchestra.

The opportunity to conduct research abroad has significantly enhanced my project and made a salient impact on both my personal and academic growth. The most poignant effect of my Global Research Fellowship was the fulfilment of a lifelong wish – the wish for freedom to think, wonder, and discover. The prospect of this was what drew me to apply to the program. Never could I have imagined the utter joy I would feel to have this freedom. I have been longing for to rejoice in it once more since returning from my research trip.

My experience with a sense of in-flux cognitive freedom had a deep impact on my aims and approach as a life-long learner and aspiring academic. Through navigating this revelation, I have discovered aspects of my process for synthesizing ideas and been able to devote serious thought to areas in which I can improve. It also prompted an ongoing process of discovering my strengths and preferences as a thinker and creator and analyzing where they might be useful to humanity. I am forever grateful to the Halle Institute and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry for the wonderful scholarly community and the opportunity of a lifetime.

Xavier Sayeed is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying Music Research and Jewish Studies. His project will culminate in the completion of an honor’s thesis focusing on how the evolution of Israeli society and culture impacts the positionality of those from Sephardic and Mizrahi backgrounds and in what ways that shifts the approach to Andalusian music.

Rightful Citizens vs. Exotic “Other”: Contradictions and Liminality in Seoul’s North Korean Defector Community


by Mary Bohn, 20C East Asian Studies
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

How did you learn about the opportunity through the Halle institute for global research and what about it made you apply?

I first read about the Global Fellows Program at the Halle Institute online during my second year at Emory while researching opportunities to conduct independent research as an undergraduate student. After reading the fellowship description, I felt that the Global Fellowship would be an incredible opportunity to conduct research in South Korea, which I had hoped to pursue since years prior, and became determined to apply. My honors thesis analyzes how North Korean migrants negotiate their cultural and national identities as members of a marginalized minority in South Korea. I examine migrants’ identity formation as well as the strategies migrants take to “belong” in South Korean society by analyzing how migrants discuss their North Korean background and experiences in North and South Korea in different contexts, such as YouTube, reality TV shows, NGOs, and churches.

I knew I would need to travel to South Korea in order to understand how many North Korean migrants publicize their stories, the process of this public storytelling, and how migrants perceive sharing their stories with the public. I also knew that it would be essential for me to understand how to discuss my research with those outside of my field, as I believe this topic has significant implications for understanding how minorities combat marginalization in any society. The Halle Global Fellowship provides me with the opportunity to conduct my research and clearly articulate my findings to a broad audience.

What is unique and significant about your research/project and its contribution to your field?

While scholars have conducted significant research on how South Korean media and popular discourse portray North Korean migrant experiences and the North Korean identity, this research often regards migrants as passive objects which South Korean actors shape and influence. My research focuses on migrants as the primary agents of their identity formation, regarding their testimonies and how they tell them as strategies for belonging. Moreover, I analyze North Korean migrant YouTube channels as a primary resource, which has not yet been analyzed in academic literature.

How did the support from the Halle Institute for Global Research facilitate your research/project?

Funding from the Halle Institute allowed me to travel to South Korea for three weeks during the summer of 2019 and conduct interviews with migrants, the producers of a South Korean migrant-focused TV show, and NGO workers who regularly interact with migrants. Moreover, I was able to attend the live taping of a migrant talk-show TV program during my fieldwork.

Why was it important that your research be conducted in the location you chose?

 My conversations with NGO workers, TV show producers, and migrants in South Korea completely changed the direction of my research from what I originally planned. Before coming to Seoul, I knew little about how North Korean migrant interviews are facilitated. In Seoul, I learned that there is significant infrastructure around migrant interviews in regard to where and how often migrants tell their stories as well as the composition of these stories. I gained this information through my in-person interactions with NGO workers and migrants. Also, attending a live screening of a migrant talk-show allowed me to witness the highly-structured process of producing migrant stories.

Mary Bohn is a senior majoring in East Asian Studies with a secondary focus on Global Development. Her senior thesis explores how North Korean migrants narrate their stories of escape and discuss their background in South Korean public spaces. Mary specifically analyzes how migrants tell their stories in three public “spaces”: South Korean protestant churches, a South Korean variety TV show “Now I am Coming to Meet You,” and migrant-run YouTube channels. By analyzing how North Korean migrants tell their stories differently based on each space’s respective setting and audience, Mary’s research reveals that migrants’ personal narrative storytelling functions as a tool to gain social and monetary capital in South Korea. Ultimately, Mary’s thesis explores a marginalized group’s strategies to “belong” in South Korean society in contestation with hegemonic discourses of citizenship and national belonging. 

Building a Fantasy: Orientalized Origins of the Fox Theatre


by Rizky Etika, 20C, Art History
Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellows

My project began as a comparative analysis between Islamic architecture in Morocco and the Middle Eastern inspired Fox Theatre. I planned to observe historical buildings in the Old Medinas of Morocco, assessing what aspects of Moroccan architecture influenced the style of the Fox Theatre. While I ended up visiting important sites in Fes and Casablanca that enriched my visual vocabulary, much of Morocco’s iconic style were hidden behind closed doors. In the Old Medinas, hidden architecture obscured most of the fine details and ornamentation that defined Moroccan Islamic architecture. The nondescript walls that created winding alleyways that enclosed richly decorated spaces. Many historical places like palaces or mosques also required connections or finances I did not have. Since accessibility impeded my research in Morocco, I travelled to Spain where I could gain more insight when analyzing Islamic architecture.

In Seville and Granada, the architecture is more democratized than in Morocco in that public streets were lined with opulent Hispano-Moorish buildings. I also accessed tourist sites and museums more easily than those in Morocco. By observing the material culture created by Muslims in Spain and then later re-interpreted by Catholics, I was exposed to a different perspective in how Islamic architecture could be displayed. My decision came after visiting Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. After speaking with Dr. Ennahid, a professor of Islamic art in Morocco, I developed an interest in the western and eastern binary that defined the trends by which the Fox Theatre was ifluenced. Although my thesis always sought to explore the extent by which western artists incorporated Islamic arts into their own aesthetic repertoires as a means of appropriation and/or appreciation, my conversation with Dr. Ennahid and my time in Europe provided me with the foundational literature and discourse necessary to complete my research.

Rizky Etika is a senior in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Art History Studies and minoring in Arabic. Her honors thesis analyzes the architectural history of the Atlanta Fox Theatre and its influence from Islamic Architecture. In the summer of 2019, Rizky travelled to Andalusian Spain and Morocco to observe and document historical buildings as part of her research. Her thesis seeks to examine how Islamic art influenced the architecture of the Fox Theatre and to contextualize it within the scope of twentieth century American architecture.


Understanding the Influence of Assistive Biotechnology and Disability Education on Childhood Development in Southern India


by Rachael Lewis, 20C Biology

Childhood development is a complex and multi-faceted topic with many connections to biology and global health. Using the support from the Halle Institute, I decided to investigate the intersection between technology, disability, and childhood development in an underserved and vulnerable population. I partnered with a prominent NGO in India and visited four local schools with various approaches to disability education. Initially, I intended to propose a new curriculum framework to incorporate the technology into the daily classroom activities. However, shortly after I arrived on site, I realized the impossibility of such a task. Before I could propose any new ideas, I had to fully immerse myself in the environment and culture of the disability community in India. The aim of my research project evolved from a sole focus on academics to a deep appreciation of the lived experiences of disabled children. My research enabled me to paint a picture of childhood development in India using my new knowledge of disability, poverty, education, and technology. Upon my return to the USA, I hope to continue my research and compare disability education in the USA with that of India.

I applied to become a Global Research Fellow to exercise complete autonomy in the creation of my own research project. Combining my academic and personal interests, I pushed myself to discover what global health research actually entails. The experience of studying disability in a marginalized population has led me to apply for graduate programs in global health and international development. I will continue to research childhood development in my professional career and am thankful for the pivotal role that the Halle Institute has played in my Emory experience.

Rachael Lewis is a senior majoring in Biology with a minor in Global Health, Cultures, and Society. Her senior capstone project focuses on early childhood development in low to middle income countries. In the summer of 2019, she conducted an ethnography to understand the relationship between biotechnology and disability education in Southern India. She partnered with an electrical engineering NGO to analyze the impact of assistive devices on the development of children with autism, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, and other related disabilities. She hopes to use her understanding of universal education and healthcare disparities to fuel her graduate studies in the future.

Digital Shifts in Language Learning and Assessment: Analysis of French as a Second Language in American University Context


by Sophia Minnillo, 20C Linguistics and French Studies
Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

This August, I traversed the Atlantic and landed in France. Paris, the so-called ‘city of light,’ proved to be quite illuminating for my honors thesis research! I chose to travel to Paris because I had conducted research with a professor from University of Paris—Sorbonne Nouvelle’s Language Pedagogy Department while studying abroad in Paris in the fall of 2018. This professor, Dr. Pascale Trévisiol, showed me the rich history of second language pedagogy research that scholars have conducted and documented in France. Thus, I set off in August to learn more from this wealth of resources and to contribute to the field by collecting data of my own.

When I arrived in Paris, I realized to my dismay that many French libraries and universities are closed for most, if not all, of August. Fortunately, many of the resource centers that I wanted to visit were open at staggered times within the month. I spent the beginning of August studying collections of French as a second language textbooks, which I found at libraries, bookstores, and textbook publishing houses, to investigate their integration of educational technology into proposed curricula. I passed the final portion of my stay at the French Ministry of Education’s educational research headquarters in Sèvres, France. In the organization’s Document and Resource Center, I met with experts on language pedagogy who directed me to their large collection of texts on computer-assisted language learning, also known as technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC) in French.  These texts have proved to be invaluable for my thesis in that they have allowed me to answer my research questions in a manner that expands beyond a myopic, America-centric perspective which I likely would have adopted otherwise.

I am exceptionally grateful to the Halle Institute and the Fox Center for providing me with this formative opportunity, as I believe that this fellowship will be the début of a life-long engagement in global research.

Sophia Minnelli is a senior double majoring in Linguistics and French Studies. Her honors thesis examines the process and outcomes of learning French as a foreign language, with a focus on the presence of technology in learning and assessment. Sophia traveled to Paris in the summer of 2019 to analyze specialized collections of French as a foreign language instructional materials. She also collected evaluations of learner speech to gauge differences in the proficiency assessment of human raters as compared to automatic, technology-mediated methods. Through her thesis, Sophia hopes to answer questions related to bias in proficiency evaluation and to the role of technology in the language classroom.

Poems Without a Hero: A Comparative Analysis of Aesthetic Production amid the Absurd in the Poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Natasha Trethewey


by Kira Tucker, 20C English and Creative Writing
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

As a prospective college student, I envisioned a future as a U.S. diplomat. I spent years taking high school Russian classes, attended a Governor’s School for International Studies, and immersed myself in the arena of global affairs. Amid my “political overload” during the 2016 election, I quickly found my true passions not in news headlines but in the lines of poetry and prose filling my readings. I continued my Russian and Political Science courses, but I also began to rekindle my love for literature as a serious pursuit. From my first introduction to the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, her poetry captivated me—her poignant imagery of love and terror transported me to the height of Soviet life and resonated long after my eyes left the page.

As I read and reread Akhmatova’s poetry, I was driven to pinpoint what made her work so gripping. In my readings about the Soviet era, I encountered Akhmatova’s remarkable critique of the patriarchal tradition, in which she said: “to be a woman and a poet is absurd.” I had to pursue the idea further. What if the absurd could be a frame for understanding the conditions of Soviet Russia? A regime that was violently repressive against its own citizens to the point of illogic. The paradox of making life more livable through art that might get you killed. As a longtime student of Russian language and literature, I dreamt of going to Russia. The potential for archival resources to enrich both the breadth and depth of my analysis was invaluable.

The Halle-FCHI Global Fellows Program allowed me to encounter Akhmatova not only in the archive but memorialized in the physical landscape of Moscow and St. Petersburg. I visited the house where writers gathered alongside Akhmatova to preserve their craft while escaping raids for suspected radical dissidents. I read her original letters and manuscripts, saw the portraits and songs she composed in retreat from the harshness of Communist life. I spoke with literarians whose perspectives illuminated and transformed my approach to scholarship. Moving forward, I aim to channel Akhmatova’s inspiration and harness my own poetic power as I allow my creative work to inform, challenge, and expand the possibilities of my literary study.

Kira Tucker is a senior majoring in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Linguistics. She is completing a senior capstone research project as well as an honors thesis in poetry. In her literary research, Kira comparatively analyzes select works by poets Anna Akhmatova and Natasha Trethewey to understand marginalized women’s resistance within the Stalinist Soviet Union and pre-Civil Rights American South. Kira explores a process she terms lifemaking, demonstrating how artistic practice can offer a means of surviving oppressive social conditions. In her honors thesis, Kira will further develop these themes by drawing on her lived experience and employing the power of her own poetic eye.