Eva Brander BlackhawkStudent, Columbia university
- Columbia university
- United States of America
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I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes
Rooms participated in:Columbia University
Week one: As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to address or set aside those insecurities or, better yet, to use them to our advantage?
Hi everyone! My name is Faith Andrews-O'Neal. This summer, I am working with Serve the City Paris, a legal NGO in the city doing work helping refugees and unhoused people in Paris. I am working with the organization as a SAVE intern, which means volunteering and attending workshops as well as developing a capstone project (in my case, two or three because I can't pick one!) over the course of your internship.
The idea of saying something that has already been said is of particular interest to me, as my hope in the development of a capstone project is something both original and impactful for a community I do not know much about. This is why I asked if it was an option to take on more than one, as the issues that I care about do not particularly intersect, and the project they recommended for me did not seem to say/do anything more than what has been done. For my first project, I am leading a workshop for other volunteers on the ideas of formations of racial identity within our respective countries. While I only have a larger body of knowledge of the ideas of race in America, I want to facilitate an open space for discussion of identity on a global scale. I am certainly not the first person to discuss this, but I am hoping that for volunteers (particularly those who are not American), I can bring about new viewpoints and a discussion with different perspectives than what they may have previously encountered.
What I am coming to learn through my volunteer work and the work I am doing for my capstone is that it is okay if you are not the first person to bring an idea to the table. In fact, the communities we serve benefit so much more from consistency and continuation than constant inundations of new concepts. Every tuesday, friday, and Saturday, Serve the City distributes food to four to six of the same routes and to the homeless encampments in these areas. As such, although we are not the first person to bring them food that week or even that day, coming back and doing the same things over and over allow the volunteers to develop long term relationships with the communities we serve. I am able to discuss literature and gardening, and see the ways in which people make lives for themselves in spite of their situations. It's not the novelty that makes the work worth doing, but the recognition and acknowledgement that this sameness does much more service.
Hi Faith! I really relate to what you're saying about knowing a lot about a topic in the context of the United States but feeling a bit ignorant about what that might look like in a new country. I'm in a super similar boat as I study Indigenous topics a lot, but that's less of a topic in the UK. I also like your sentiment about how being new isn't always the top concern. I think in a lot of ways choosing a topic that has been done before, but bringing our "new" perspectives as people from another country and with a different background can be really valuable. I also think while we might not currently know as much about the local social/racial issues, there are and will continue to be surprisingly many similarities.
As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to address or set aside those insecurities or, better yet, to use them to our advantage?
If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how? If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?
Hi Everyone! My name is Eva and for this summer I'm working with Tortoise Media through the leadership in action program. My project last summer focused on Indigenous language and I looked at media such as literature, art, academic writing, and social media as a way to learn more. While this summer isn't explicitly related to the topic, the themes of language, media, and how to effectively reach audiences have definitely carried over in my mind. Tortoise Media is a journalism company, but in my time so far they have also hosted "think ins" where experts and community members come together to discuss topics, and they have hosted a music festival!
It's been really exciting that because the company is so multifaceted, because while we are focusing on expanding their community network, we're also able to participate in really any project they're working on that interests us. Our focal point is the community network, which is a network of partnerships with other non-profits, where we provide them and their members free subscriptions to Tortoise, and we work with them to host events. Last summer part of my research included meeting with governmental leaders and language teachers to discuss how to best develop infrastructure to teach the languages, and I like how this summer is similar in reaching out to people and trying to foster collaboration. Everyone at Tortoise I've met is incredibly interesting and comes to journalism for very different reasons and with different backgrounds and It's been awesome just to talk to people at the company and learn more about their work. Working for a startup, I also like exploring so many different sub-jobs and projects at the same time.
In terms of saying something that's already been said, I've been a bit out of my element being in the UK. Part of our job has been to brainstorm and pitch "think ins" with topics and speakers, and I'm reminded of how little I know about international politics. We've had events discussing Ukraine, relationships with China, and the European Union, and I don't have the same connection to these topics that I do to many social issues in the United States. Sometimes it's hard to know what topics are most important or what nuances to consider when I don't know much about the history and local politics. I think it's been really interesting and important for me to learn more about these topics, and I can also bring a unique perspective because of how I'm a bit removed from them. While there aren't many Native Americans in England, I still think it's very important to bring my perspective on colonialism as I've noticed it's not discussed much at all so far. Tortoise also would like to expand from being so UK centric so I think we can both learn a lot from each other.
Just last week a report came out about a residential school in Canada and how the remains of 215 children were found at the school. It was devastating news especially considering how this was covered up and how this was also only at one school and there were probably a couple hundred just in Canada. I wasn't expecting something so relevant to my topic to come out during my research and it definitely hit me pretty hard. It just made me remember how tough the history is in terms of language loss. Also how truly genocidal these schools were and they only closed a couple decades ago. I guess it helped me remember just to stay kind on myself and others because it's easy to get discouraged in learning the language, especially with so few speakers. It also reminded me how necessary this work is and what a big part of healing it can be. Also by writing creative essays it's helped me process a lot of feelings and personal history on the topic and I think staying personal helps in terms of scale of the project.
My top three resources have definitely been being able to talk to my grandfather, as well as two books on my topic. The first book is "talking Indian" and was everything I could have possibly wanted or imagined in terms of a reference book. Jenny Davis talks about her own experience, the history, and the very contemporary and economic shifts around language revitalization. Another book has been "walking the clouds" which is an anthology of Indigenous science fiction, especially short stories. I've been reading this as I write my own poems/prose and it's been helpful and inspiring.
- While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper you hope to get published? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.
I plan on writing a preliminary paper by the end of this research period. I do hope to get published, but I am also considering working on this project next summer and maybe refining my essay. There are definitely more avenues that I want to explore that surround my topic, and I am not sure if that is the most conducive to writing one paper or several. Regardless, I definitely want to have at least a rough draft and sizable bibliography by the end of the six weeks.
- Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.
I believe that museums serve a critical function in projecting a sense of identity and solidarity to a larger community. Through the careful preservation, study, and presentation of important cultural objects, we learn more about each other and humanity as a whole. As a result, museums retain pretty revered positions in our society and are often seen as reliable sources for academic inquiry. However, as numerous studies over the history of museology have shown, museums are much less unbiased and unproblematic than we would initially expect. Museums have actively benefitted from or perpetrated imperialism, racism, sexism, etc. Recently, calls for social justice within museums have been amplified, and I believe my research is illuminating yet another avenue that museums can improve on. Due to the aforementioned influence of museums, these institutions have a social responsibility to grapple with the ethical issues that underlie their collections.
this sounds like such a cool and important project! It reminds me of some of my own work in that there's this balance between academia and Columbia but also the research I'm doing and my personal connection to it. These institutions definitely hold a lot of power and reckoning their history is super important work!
I'm planning to create a collection of creative essays and illustrations and try to integrate some of the cultural knowledge and words I've learned. I'm hoping to create the image of what I hope the language and future will look like for my communities. A lot of my work this summer is also getting background and context for next summer when I plan to be actually in the community and hopefully able to learn more of the language. I don't yet have enough language to do something like an illustrated children's book but I would like to make something like that next summer. The project has already been so rewarding personally and I've learned a lot about how my family history connects to the larger context of the tribe/region and nation.
I think the most beautiful thing about my research is seeing the resiliency of culture and language and the people attached to it. A big part of the genocide and assimilation was removal from family and language and so reconnecting to that feels very important.
- What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?
In our research we have to deal with balancing wanting to help and ensure the safety of our subjects while also respecting their wants and boundaries. The subjects of the study are all immigrants from other countries that have dealt with extraordinary conditions to result in them attending one of the Internationals School Network. Students reveal being human trafficked, dealing with abuse, being paid under minimum wage, and other horrific crimes committed against them. Since many students are undocumented or even have active deportation orders, many students decide that they do not want any assistance or authority involvement. This leaves researchers with a dilemma. Them respecting the desire of the immigrant origin students means that they may possibly be doing more harm than good.
- As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?
The alternative viewpoints generally paint the Internationals schools network as subpar and underperforming compared to other schools. We take those stereotypes and misconceptions and find out how the school system is flawed and stacked against English Learner Students. Those other viewpoints proved vital information needed to prove how harmful state practices have been on an already vulnerable population.
I really like your point about how the schools are labeled as sub-par. I know in my studies it's a similar situation. This school in California was originally established as one of the boarding schools which was extremely violent and hurtful towards Native American students. Even now students will be suspended for speaking their traditional language (which seems so outdated) and the native students are suspended at twice the rate of the white students. One of the people interviewed though noted that if the school is already "not doing well" or not doing things right so to speak that they might as well try something different and create a new curriculum focused on local history and language. I wonder if the same could be said here in that changing the structure of the school won't make the school "bad" if it already is underperforming. If anything trying something new only has the opportunity of making things better.
As a few other students have mentioned the exploitative and privileged position of academia is definitely tricky to balance with my personal commitment and investment in the communities I'm looking to learn from. I'm reading this dissertation done by a former Columbia student actually on the Hoopa tribe and their language and I think she does a really good job of emphasizes the validity of traditional knowledge and stories as philosophies and in most chapters put these first. She also takes a lot about the balance of what's acceptable to share with the general population and what should be kept within the community. She also really admires Prof Simpson at Columbia who I was already lucky enough to talk to so that's another person who can give input on this issue. One thing Prof Simpson stressed with I talked to her was the need to give back and emphasized that I should offer help and ask to help anyone who's helping me.
I think in my project everyone who's more immediately connected to their communities in some ways is an alternative viewpoint to my own because of the way I am connected to an institution like Columbia. Another debate is whether non-Indians should be allowed to learn the language and that's one topic where people disagree a bit. Someone who teaches Shoshone said that wasn't something he liked, but then some people who teach Ute said they welcome anyone who wants to learn. I talked to my grandfather today about it and he said the main issue is the language dying and that any speakers is better than no speakers. We also agreed that the commitment shown in becoming a fluent speaker also in some ways does make someone part of the community.
- Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?
The interdisciplinary nature of the discussions and the diverse range of projects has been really useful in allowing me to direct my project into a more nuanced, complex endeavor. In particular, the combination of different methods and goals from the different projects has given me inspiration on how to conduct my project in more interesting ways and has helped me solidfy my methodology much more quickly.
- As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?
I think one of the primary challenges for me in getting started is data collection. Since I'm doing sociological work, the pandemic has made it challenging to conduct field research. The first step (getting people to respond to my email requests) will likely be the most difficult, so I plan on writing the framework of my paper up in the meantime.
Hey Jeffery! I totally agree seeing the different methodologies used in different disciplines gave me a lot of inspiration. A big part of my project relies on the spoken language so I can also relate to the awkward waiting for email responses. I'm excited to see what you find once you really get going though!