Archive for the ‘My Papers’ Category

I have completed my first year as a graduate student! I am attending Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania for my Master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, commonly referred to as IPCR. It has been a long year, well a long two academic semesters anyway. This past semester has been the busiest and most stressful I’ve encountered to date in all of my academic experience. But I made it through successfully!

I’ve tried to think of the ways in which graduate school is different from undergraduate. I have had some undergraduate classes that have been just a heavy in work or even more so than some of my graduate classes, so that is not what the difference it. I think the biggest difference is the amount of class discussions. In graduate school it is almost impossible to get away with not reading for class because everyone is expected to contribute to in-class discussions, sometimes lasting hours. I think once students reach this level of education that most want to do all the reading for class, but there are times it becomes extremely challenging due to the amount of reading assigned and time constraints. There simply are not enough hours in a day to spend an adequate amount of time on each class. Thus, one of the biggest lessons of graduate school is time management. Especially if you want to maintain any sort of personal life. However, the gain is worth the pain!

I want to highlight some of the great experiences I have had this past year:

International Day of Peace September 21, 2012

The IPCR department arranged a screening of the wonderful documentary I AM directed by Tom Shadyac with a discussion panel to celebrate the International Day of Peace. Commonly called, World Peace Day, was established in 1982 by the United Nations to encourage reflection on the everyday actions that people take in the effort to bring about world peace. I very much liked this documentary and strongly recommend it. Here is the trailer:

October – Field Study in Ireland/Northern Ireland

In mid-October I conducted a field study in Northern Ireland to learn about post-conflict reconciliation, an area in which all sides of this conflict need to improve upon. This trip was amazing. The island is stunningly beautiful. Northern Ireland, as I will discuss in a more detailed trip report in a later blog post, is still a very segregated society. The conflict runs deep throughout ever facet of society. Although the violence is significantly less than it was during the Troubles, it still remains- and is actually escalating again. In part, because post-conflict reconciliation has not been completely successful. I have since continued my studies of this conflict and increased my understanding quite a bit. I absolutely want to return to Northern Ireland.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

November – Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities Workshop

I will explain this more in detail in a follow-up post. The Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) program is a 3-day trauma counseling course designed for post-conflict reconciliation between perpetrators and victims who survived the Rwandan genocide. I attended a 3-day training course that walks through the process of this counseling session and how it works to heal rifts between people. This model of group trauma counseling can be used outside of the Rwandan genocide framework by altering some of the content to make it suitable for other cases of reconciliation. This was a great experience for professional development and counseling skill-building.

January – Field Study in Costa Rica

In January, 2013 I traveled to Costa Rica on a field study about sustainable development and indigenous rights within the country. Dams are quite controversial worldwide. On one hand hydroelectricity is positive, on the other hand large dams can alter the environment. In the Boruca region of Buenos Aires, Costa Rica the building of a dam has led to questions of indigenous human rights due to the displacement of tribes and inundation of indigenous land if the dam is built. During my stay in the country I visited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the United Nation’s University of Peace, the Boruca region, and various beaches and rainforest preserves. Costa Rica is an absolutely beautiful country. So far I have posted one other blog post on this trip, read here.

Atenas, Costa Rica

March 22, 2013 – George Mason University’s Graduate Student Research Conference

On March 22nd I presented a paper at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy Graduate Student Research Conference. The paper on nuclear energy and security was written for a class on international security that I took last fall semester. I had presented at two conferences as an undergraduate and this was my first as a graduate student. GMU’s Arlington campus is about a three and a half hour drive from my house so this was a pretty big deal for me. It worked out nicely that my sister and her family live nearby so I traveled the day before and stayed overnight at her house. Next time I travel to a conference it would be nice to encourage another classmate to present so we could coordinate our trip together.  There was some interesting research presented, most of it was thesis or doctoral research. My experience gave me inspiration for the current project I am working on with the Project for Nuclear Awareness, an organization that I now have a fellowship with due to the executive director hearing me speak about my research for this conference.

April 27, 2013 – International Peace and Conflict Resolution Professional Exchange

Every year students graduating from Arcadia University’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) M.A. program present their thesis projects. This year an IPCR Professional Exchange was coordinated with the presentations in order to encourage a dialogue between students, those graduating and first year IPCR students, and professionals in the field of conflict resolution. There were several discussion panels throughout the day including professors and practitioners representing the U.N. and several non-profits. Panelists were asked to discuss various topics from peace and conflict resolution to counseling and violence in the media. Several panelists spent time discussing their career paths including four people who work for the United Nations in various incredibly interesting capacities. The U.N. was overwhelmingly represented, while many other careers that IPCR students may want besides that of professors and in the non-profit world were not represented. Nevertheless, it was beneficial for professional development to hear about the various paths taken to reach the significant careers that some people had (such as working directly with the American ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, or coordinating humanitarian aid in Syria. One panelist was a local judge). I look forward to next year’s professional exchange. Mainly because I will be presenting my thesis.

Spring Semester – American Friends Service Committee Internship

This semester I took an NGO management class which contained the element of an internship with the international NGO (non-governmental organization, commonly referred to as non-profit) working to support social justice programs, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) which is headquartered in Philadelphia. This was such a great opportunity. I worked with two other IPCR students on a policy evaluation project that looked at the effects of sanctions in general but also specifically in 3 countries in which AFSC works that has sanctions imposed on them- Cuba, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. I was responsible for the Cuban case study. We researched a broad literature review of the effects of sanctions on states, civil societies, and NGOs. These same aspects were then researched for each case study. Our final report was close to 100 pages. Although the project wasn’t without complication, I am very happy with the final product. We presented our report to several people from AFSC, including their general secretary and other managers, on May 6, 2013.

Lindsey M. and Harmony T. at the IPCR/AFSC project presentations

IPCR Year 1 – Graduate Level Classes

  • Introduction to Peace & Conflict Resolution – (violent conflict escalation and de-escalation, conflict assessment, field study in Northern Ireland,  I wrote a paper on the Argentina/Chile Beagle Channel conflict and a paper on conflict assessment itself).
  • Foundations of Conflict Analysis – (qualitative and quantitative research, annotative bibliography).
  • International Health & Human Rights – (human rights legislation, public health, effects of war and violence, I wrote a research paper on water as a human right).
  • Sustainable Development & Indigenous Rights – (development and its effects on indigenous peoples throughout history and modern times, I presented on the Kuna of Panama, field study to Costa Rica and wrote conflict assessment about El Diquis dam conflict).
  • International Security – (theory of international security studies, I wrote a paper on nuclear energy and security which was presented at GMU’s Graduate Student Research Conference).
  • NGO Management – (NGO management, fundraising, advocacy, program evaluation, semester-long internship with AFSC, and completed several NGO program evaluation case studies).
  • Social Life of War: Political, Cultural, Identity Processes and Violent Conflict – (ethnography of war, black market/shadow economy, societal adaptations to war and survival, I presented on the militarization of Turkish society, I wrote an ethnographic content analysis about Russians portrayed as villains in American movies and how this represents current state politics).
  • Conflict Resolution in Deeply Divided Societies – (theories of conflict management and state building, ethnic conflict, theories of violent conflict, justice and post-conflict reconciliation, I wrote a research paper on social identity theory and the U.S. intervention into the N. Ireland conflict in the 1990’s).
  • Research Methods in Conflict Analysis & Peace Science – (applying both qualitative and/or quantitative research methods into research designs, initial thesis proposal method justification).

Going Forward:

This summer I am keeping very busy. I have a fellowship with the Project for Nuclear Awareness, an internship counseling domestic violence victims, and two summer classes online through Michigan State University towards a certificate in homeland security (I will take the third class to complete the certificate in the fall). I plan on taking 3 courses next fall at Arcadia, two mediation classes and one on environmental security. I will also begin my thesis research which is (at this point) on the concept of environmental security and climate change adaptation within the United States.


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This post was initially published on the Arcadia University’s Lessons from World Travel blog. I went to Costa Rica to study indigenous rights and sustainable development. Prior to my January 2013 field study in Costa Rica, I wrote a list of questions to answer once I got back with the hopes that my travels would have given me insight into my questions. Here is what I had to say:

In my initial post I posed several questions about the hydroelectric project, sustainable development, and indigenous culture prior to visiting Costa Rica. This post is my responses to those questions.

The El Diquís Hydroelectric Dam Project:

  1. What is the level of distrust between parties in the Boruca dam mediation process? Has distrust been a big factor in failed negotiations? What are the techniques used to alleviate this?


Among the indigenous tribes there is a general sentiment of distrust of ICE’s actions. The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) has been planning to build a dam within the Buenos Aires region for over 40 years. During this time the country’s human rights legislation has been discussed time and again. Because of ICE’s actions in the last decade of purchasing indigenous land from a non-Indian and beginning construction prior to any sort of tribal consultation or consent has led to a great rift between many tribal peoples and ICE. Many also blame the government for not ensuring their rights are protected. The Constitutional Court of Costa Rica has halted all construction and ordered ICE to fulfill its legal requirements and begin consultation with affected tribes right away. In order to alleviate the tensions caused by distrust both parties need to go into consultation with the desire to want to discuss and hear the other stakeholders side- opposed to only wanting to proclaim what their own position is. This is important, because in the world of negotiations opinions and positions can change.

  1. The negotiations have been going on for decades. How stable have the mediators been? Has the stability of the mediator(s) lead to improved negotiations or has it hindered them?

The Village of Boruca

The mediators have not been stable outside of the tribe. Several indigenous community organizations have appeared over the years and have made a stable presence fighting for the community’s rights. These organizations have learned the legal rights accorded to them by the Costa Rican government and also international UN declarations of indigenous rights that Costa Rica has signed. Using this knowledge they have been able to gain legal representation and were able to file a lawsuit against ICE which successfully halted construction. I think it was due to the instability of mediators in the past that tribal members have stepped up to form these community organizations which have been quite a positive thing for the tribes. Having knowledge and power over their representation has helped alleviate some of the feelings of helplessness against such a large company as ICE.

  1. Are there any new factors present that have not been discussed in the conflict assessments that I have read?

The conflict assessment I read prior to the trip left off several years ago. There has been many new developments since then. Most notably what I’ve previously discussed about the construction on indigenous land illegally sold to ICE by a non-Indian which was halted by Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court. Also, a big development is a report released by the U.N.’s Special Rapportuer on the rights of indigenous peoples. James Anaya traveled to Costa Rica in 2011 specifically to research the potential human rights violations that this hydroelectric dam project may present to several indigenous tribes in the Buenos Aires region in Southwestern Costa Rica. This international recognition is a big deal for the indigenous community. The Special Rappartuer sent the Costa Rican government a list of recommendations to act on right away which include ensuring that consultations between the tribes and ICE reach a ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ on whatever direction the project ultimately takes.

Indigenous Peoples:

  1. How have the indigenous people of Costa Rica preserved their native cultures? How do they balance their own identity of their tribe as well as being Costa Rican? How has globalization and/or tourism influenced their cultures?
Visitors Center in Boruca

Visitors Center in Boruca

I cannot speak for all 8 indigenous tribes in Costa Rica, but I can say what I’ve learned about how the Boruca and Térraba have preserved theirs. For starters, globalization and tourism have both affected them in both positive and negative ways. Negative because now more outsiders, or non-indigenous people, are moving onto their territory and the tribe has been struggling with the government to reclaim some of this territory. Also, now everyone speaks Spanish and almost all of the indigenous languages are becoming extinct. There are, however, attempts to save and record them. Some positive effects include jobs and money from making and selling crafts. In the village there is also a visitor’s center. While walking around the Borucan village I noticed through someone’s open door a big screen TV. The general public’s notions of what it means to be indigenous is probably not always accurate. Globalization has basically reached everywhere. As I’ve previously stated there has been an increase in community organizations since ICE proposed the dam, I think if cultural preservation was not on everyone’s mind in the past, it is now. Just recently journalism students from Elon University in North Carolina have helped the Teribe (Térraba) Indigenous Cultural Association publish a website (Terraba.org) with information about the tribe’s culture, medicinal herbs, and even video commentary of how the dam project would affect the tribe.


Sustainable Development:

  1. What lessons from Costa Rica regarding environmentalism and sustainable development can be learned? Are there any aspects that can be applied within the United States?

Costa Rica has set a big goal to become carbon neutral by 2021. This country is composed of numerous protected rainforests, wetlands, and beaches. Costa Rica can boast about being one of the most biodiverse nations on earth. The United States does not boast about promoting “green,” “sustainable,” or “renewable” energy and technology. We could definitely learn some lessons from Costa Rica. However, this is such a detailed question that I am honestly not prepared to answer. The El Diquís Hydroelectric Project is encouraged by the Costa Rican government for its renewable energy potential. However, as I have learned there are also quite serious effects to communities when they have to be uprooted for development. Sustainability involves more than just the environment. Sustainability involves us all. This, perhaps, is the greatest lesson learned in Costa Rica which I can bring home with me and apply in everyday life.

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On April 21, 2012 I presented a paper at the Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference at Kutztown University.  My paper, “Sauer’s World in the Broader Context,” is a discussion about migration from Germany and experiences upon arrival in Pennsylvania of the colonial printer Christopher Sauer.

Here is Kutztown University’s website dedicated to this conference: http://faculty.kutztown.edu/ejohnson/PAT2012/

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The Star Barn. (Photo: Deborah Noell)

February 19, 2010 – Written for a historic preservation class.

A beautiful and intriguing barn stands not fifty feet from busy Interstate-283 in Middletown, Pennsylvania. With spired cupola reaching toward the sky, the structure takes resemblance of a church. This may explain why the barn seems to have a familiar feeling to someone who has just seen it for the first time. The 14,000 square foot white barn has distinctive star-shaped ventilators on all four sides. Popularly known as the Star Barn, “it may be one of the most artistically photographed, painted, and replicated buildings in America because of its unique architectural design, building layout, and most notably, its giant five-point stars on each end”.  The National Barn Alliance says the Star Barn is the most recognizable barn in North America (The Star Barn). This is testimony to the extraordinary aesthetic beauty of this 138 year old barn.

The earliest documentation of the farm land’s ownership dates back to 1778 when the land was purchased by a Revolutionary War veteran. Over the next one hundred years the land was owned by influential men who included a member of the United States Congress, a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate, and a county judge. In 1872 John Motter, a man who supplied the United States army with thousands of horses during the Civil War, purchased the farm for just over $19,000. (The Star Barn).

Inside of the Star Barn

Soon after the purchase, Motter commissioned master carpenter Daniel Reichert to design the new farm buildings, most of which still stand to this day. The carriage house/corn crib, chicken coop, and pig barn all mimic the Gothic Revival architectural details of the main barn, but on a much smaller scale.  “Each of the buildings had characteristics of that style including cross gables, pointed arch ventilators, trefoil brackets, and spired cupolas” (The Star Barn).

Built on a limestone foundation, the three-story Star Barn is not a forgettable sight. It is approximately 68 feet wide by 106 feet long and about 65 feet in height.  “The Gothic Revival five-bay barn has a centered cross gable and square cupola rising above the gabled roof. A metal cap in the shape of a fleur-de-lis tops the octagonal spire. The barn has tall pointed-arch ventilators along all four elevations” (The Star Barn). The star-shaped ventilators are centered on each side of the barn, making it easily recognizable from any angle.  Form follows function for this decoration. The wooden louvers that created the star pattern allowed for additional sunlight and air circulation for drying hay and other grains on the upper levels. (The Star Barn).

The initial use of the lower levels was to keep horses and was most likely used for that purpose until 1925 when the farm changed hands to the Nissley Family who converted it into a dairy farm. The Nissley’s dramatically changed the lower level of the barn to accommodate cattle. The other outbuildings were now used primarily for storing equipment and not animals; this led to a deterioration of those buildings which became no longer functioning components of the 20th century farm (The Star Barn).

The farm flourished during the late 19th century through the post-Civil War era of restoration. Prior to the war a farmer was self-sufficient and generally grew only enough food to feed his family. The railroad gave the farmer more opportunity to accumulate large fortunes by being able to ship food to the ever expanding territory out west. “By constructing new farms or rebuilding existing farms utilizing more modern agrarian practices, the farming industry became more efficient and more productive” (The Star Barn).  However, the good fortunes of the farm would not last forever. By 1986 the farm was no longer functioning and was starting to deteriorate.  For several years the future of the Star Barn was uncertain.

Interstate 283, just yards from the Star Barn, was completed in 1971 (Interstate-Guide). It did not take long for residential and industrial development to begin closing in around the farm. Ereno Lewis purchased the land and its buildings in 1986. This is where the bumpy road to preservation began. Lewis had considered making the Star Barn a bed and breakfast (“Preservation”). Surely, the building is beautiful enough for such an endeavor. Nothing ever came of this idea and in 1994 the farm land was subdivided for housing (Foster). The original farm of 164 acres was now scaled back to 3.6 acres.  Now neglected, the great barn’s doors had sagged and “countless storms had ravaged the once-proud cupola and stripped white paint from the star-shaped louver vents” (“Preservation”).

Meanwhile, a group formed called the Friends of the Star Barn. They would become the first preservation group to put forth a real effort to save the Star Barn from further deterioration. They proposed a $3 million project to convert the barn into an agricultural museum and education center. In 1995 Preservation Pennsylvania featured the Star Barn in their Pennsylvania At Risk newsletter. They reported that the Friends of the Star Barn had to scale back their initial plan to just purchase the barn and its small parcel of land whose ticket price was $120,000 (“Pennsylvania”). Friends of the Star Barn volunteer David Morrison explained that through grass roots efforts they managed to raise $40,000 by selling Star Barn artwork by Lititz artist Al Taft, but that eventually their efforts simply burned out (“Preservation”).  They had some ambitious ideas, but unfortunately were not able to gather the support to raise the amount of money needed.  For such a small organization, their plans for an agricultural museum were very unrealistic. For starters, they were not even successful with raising enough money to purchase the 3.6 acres of land the barn was on.

Hope arrived again in 2000 when Preservation Pennsylvania purchased the property for $140,000 (Miller, “Star Barn Sold”). They worked with Historic York to research the barn to get it listed on the National Registry of Historic Places (The Star Barn).  Not only in this an aesthetically pleasing building, but it is the last of its kind of an estimated fifteen Gothic Revival barns were once present in Dauphin, Lancaster, and Lebanon counties (The Barn Journal). This barn is also the perfect example of the post Civil War era of restoration in business and agriculture (The Star Barn). Preservation Pennsylvania put money into the barn for repairs such as fixing the weather tattered doors (“Preservation”). In 2003 the organization, who had definitely done their part to help save the barn, put it on the market trying to find a buyer who would take care of the historic property. Several years went by and dozens of inquiries fell through. Finally in 2007 there was a serious buyer.

The Star Barn. (Photo: Dan Myers)

Robert Barr, founder of Agrarian Country, an organization established to preserve Pennsylvania farmland and farm buildings, bought the barn for $100,000 (Miller, “Star Barn Sold”) with incredibly large aspirations in mind. Similar to the idea that the Friends of the Star Barn proposed, Barr also wanted to create an agricultural museum, but on a much bigger scale.  The four acre parcel was just too small for his idea but finally, after more than a year of searching and negotiations, Barr bought a 300 acre plot of land in Grantville, about twenty miles down the road. The old white barn that sometimes shudders when 18-wheelers drive by is planned to be moved to a new location where Barr plans to build a large agricultural education and exhibit center (Miller, “Star Barn will shine”). Through preservation and “hands-on agricultural educational activities, Agrarian Country hopes to rekindle interest in America’s agricultural heritage and a self-sufficient way of life, to promote wholesome, moral, and healthy living” (The Star Barn).

The plan is for the Star Barn to be moved piece by piece and rebuilt “using historically accurate methods, tools and a few oxen” (Miller, “Star Barn Sold”).The barn will be rehabilitated to serve a new purpose. The first two levels of the barn will serve as the expo center and the third floor will be turned into a museum and art gallery (Long). It is estimated to cost about $3 million to dismantle, move, and rebuild the barn, and another $7 million to get the entire agricultural education center up and running (Torres).

Barr has started an aggressive fundraising campaign and has raised a good deal of money by appearing at conferences, such as the Historic Barn & Farm Foundation Conference in 2008, setting up a booth with a model of the Star Barn at the 2008-10 Farm Show exhibitions, appearing in many local newspapers and having news TV crews come to tape him giving news conferences in the Star Barn itself.  It is undisclosed how much money has been raised so far, but there is progress being made. However, progress is slow. It took a year for his new property in Grantville to be allotted the proper agri-tourism zoning ordinances (Miller, “East Hanover”). During that time nothing was done with the barn. The seven month process of dismantling the barn was initially set to start in January of 2009 (Miller, “Star Barn will shine”), a year later it hasn’t begun yet.

Although the project is running behind schedule, it is still in the works. Preservation is never easy. Robert Barr has found out that purchasing a large amount of land, changing that land’s zoning rights, and setting up the movement of a building is extremely time consuming and expensive. Several people have tried to rehabilitate the Star Barn and have failed.  Although this preservation project has not come to an end, most are still very optimistic that Mr. Barr has what it takes to create a great learning center in our community which will teach the appreciation of Pennsylvania’s great agricultural past. Agrarian Country works to “provide a place where people of all ages can visit and participate in the operation of numerous agricultural enterprises in a real-life farm setting” (The Star Barn). The goal of this preservation project is not just to rehabilitate this beautiful building, but more importantly it is an effort that intends to involve the community in our agricultural past.

Update:  As of February 18, 2012 the Star Barn still hasn’t been dismantled and there has not been a date announced for this task. 

Works Cited

The Barn Journal. 2010. George and Matilda Neyer Leik Foundation. <http://www.thebarnjournal.org/&gt;.

Foster, Margaret. “New Plans for Pennsylvania’s 1872 Star Barn.” PreservationNation. 19 Dec. 2007. 12

Feb. 2010.   <http://blogs.<nationaltrust.org/preservationnation/?p=374&gt;.

Interstate-Guide.2010. AARoads. <hhtp://www.interstate-guide.com>.

Miller, Barbara. “Star Barn sold, to be moved.” The Patriot-News 19 Dec. 2007. 14 Feb. 2010.


Miller, Barbara. “East Hanover amends zoning ordinance for Star Barn project.” The Patriot-News 22 Dec.

2008.  13 Feb. 2010. <http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2008/12/east_hanover_twp_


—. “Star Barn sold, to be moved.” The Patriot-News 19 Dec. 2007. 14 Feb. 2010.


—. “Star Barn will shine in Lebanon County.” The Patriot-News 01 Jul. 2008. 12 Feb. 2010.


“Pensylvania At Risk.” Preserving Pennsylvania 9.1 (1995):8. 12 Feb. 2010.


“Preservation group saves landmark barn.” Gettysburg Times. 21 Jan. 1999. 14 Feb. 2010. <http://news.


Long, Jeremy. “Bye, bye barn!” Press And Journal. 26 Dec. 2007. 14 Feb. 2010. <http://www.pressand


The Star Barn. 2007. Agrarian Country. <http://www.thestarbarn.com/&gt;.

Torres, Chris. “Star Barn Gets an New Lease on Life.” Lancaster Farming. 3 Jul. 2008. 14 Feb. 2010.


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Apparently anthropologists are needed in the Andaman Islands!

I read this article, Outrage over Indian islands ‘human zoo’ video, and was quite disgusted. All people deserve to be treated with dignity. Sadly, this is an example of how aboriginal peoples are often mistreated.

Rights campaigners and politicians Wednesday condemned a videoshowing women from a protected and primitive tribe dancing fortourists reportedly in exchange for food on India’s Andaman Islands.

British newspaper The Observer released the undated video showing Jarawa tribal women — some of them naked — being lured to dance and sing after a bribe was allegedly paid to a policeman to produce them. (Read the rest of the article here)

The people of the Andaman Islands were also the subject of a short paper I wrote almost two years ago. The topic is quite different than the article posted above about human rights violations, nevertheless, combined they illustrate that anthropologists are desperately needed in the Andaman Islands. Aboriginal peoples need representatives to fight for their human rights and cultures and languages need recording before they too sadly may disappear.

Culture Dies When Language Dies

March 3, 2010

Last month a culture died, and so did 85 year old Boa Senior. Boa lived in the Indian Andaman Islands and

Boa Senior - Source: BBC

was the last woman alive to speak the Bo language. This language was significant to the world because it is thought to have originated in Africa and could possibly be over 70,000 years old. According to linguist Anvita Abbi, it may be one of the last remnants of pre-Neolithic languages. Abbi also said that as a result to Boa Senior’s death that “India had lost an irreplaceable part of its heritage.” The inhabitants of the Andaman Islands are thought to be some of the original inhabitants of India itself.

This is a dramatic case. Not only was the language lost, but so was the people itself. Boa Senior was all there was left in the world of her people, and now they are all gone. Quite often when languages die, the people themselves do not. However, it can be argued that when a language dies so does a great deal of the culture behind it. A language is unique to a people, and it ties them together. Why is it that Americans feel a stronger connection to England than to Germany when an estimated 40 million Americans have German ancestors (this is more than the number of people who claim English ancestry)? I believe it is language. My German ancestors that came to America adopted the English language and with it they forgot about their German culture. Another example of this takes place in Ireland. Everyone speaks English there now, but many strive to hang on to their Gaelic tongue. Irish culture is different from English culture, but they are becoming closer together everyday. I really believe this is because of language. Many Americans view most of Canada as an extension of the United States. However, not Quebec. The French Canadians of Quebec fight very hard to keep French the dominant language in the province while surrounded by the rest of English speaking Canada. The French language is part of the unique cultural heritage of Quebec, if they lose that, they’ll just be Canadians.

We express ourselves through language. Since English is native to me, I usually try to find the words in that language to express myself. However, us English speakers usually have to borrow words from other cultures because we just don’t quite have the right word to match an idea. ‘Déjà vu’, it is a feeling that is almost unexplainable. We’ve borrowed the French term that somehow just makes sense to us. Another great descriptive word that we have borrowed is ‘abyss’ from Sumerian. In English we would have to use multiple words such as bottomless, endless, void, darkness, loneliness, hopelessness to describe everything that we gather from just one simple borrowed word.

Language ties all of a culture’s many facets together. When a language dies, most times a new culture has taken hold on a people. Quite often there are remnants of that culture left behind and blended into another culture, such as ancient Sumeria’s culture, but it just isn’t the same. Celtic culture is not the same today as it once was. The English transmitted their language to Ireland, now the Irish feel much more connected culturally to the English than to their Celtic ancestors (some would argue this statement, but most would agree that Irish society has been transforming despite resistance). Most Irish have to learn Gaelic in College to be able to read old poems and stories. Not being able to read a story from your own culture surely is a perfect example of how when a language does, so does a big part of culture.

Alastair Lawson. “Last speaker of ancient language of Bo dies in India.” BBC News. 4 Feb. 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8498534.stm  – There is a clip of Boa Senior’s voice on this page!

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This was a paper I wrote for a history of Western civilization class  December 1, 2008. The discussion of the strained relationship between Muslims and Christians is just as valid today as it was 1,000 years ago.

The Build Up and Aftermath of the Crusades in the Christian and Muslim Worlds

The crusades were not only a series of wars, but a clash of cultures. The Christian west and Muslim east were just as different a thousand years ago as they are today. The first crusade occurred at a time when Islam was rapidly expanding and Christian Europe was experiencing economic growth. For both worlds the time was ripe for battle. Unlike most wars, the crusades lasted for several hundred years. This prolonged conflict left many lasting effects such as the large population of Muslims in the Balkans and the tensions between the two ideologies that is still present today. To truly understand the effects of the crusades it is important to compare the cultures of the Christian and Muslim worlds before and after.

This story starts with the Prophet Mohammad’s message; it was so inspiring that almost all of Arabia was converted to Islam within his lifetime. The Arabs of the east had a much different culture than the Christians of the west. Christianity had been established for over six hundred years by the time of Mohammad’s death in 632. Islam took off the ground running. Within a generation the close knit kinships of the Arabs became a powerful force rising to the call of conquest.

The earliest converts to Islam were viewed as the most faithful to the religion and were promised governing positions in new lands. The economy of Arabia was very fragile. Desert farming was unpredictable and frequent droughts made a very unstable food supply. Trade of luxury goods such as spices, incense, and perfumes were vital to ensure enough food was available for the livelihood of the region. Trade was dominated by the largest tribes, and it was often poorly distributed. Raiding was often necessary for survival. Amid the dry desert a violent and often brutal society arose. The seventh century successors of Mohammad urged Arabs to invade the Roman Empire, and they were more than happy to comply. The call for Islamic conquest created the opportunity for a new political elite to arise. It didn’t take much persuasion to attract and gain the support of the majority. Conquered peoples were taxed while Arab settlers paid no taxes and actually received salaries to live and work these new lands. Arabs who didn’t move to new lands were taxed; this paints a very clear picture that the Islamic conquests were supported by the Arab people. Massive armies of volunteers were not hard to construct.

The Muslims agreed that there would be no compromise for the complete conversion of pagans, by the sword if need be. Convert to Islam or die. Luckily for many Arab pagans, Islam was very attractive so many converted by choice and not force. It was more so during the conquests that people were forced to conform. It is interesting that the Muslims did make compromise for the “People of the Book,” Christians and Jews were seen as heretics of the Word, but nonetheless were not ostracized like the pagans. Submission held a core position in the faith. A good Muslim must submit to Islam-which literally translates to submission in Arabic. Islam is right, opinions that strayed from it were wrong. It is important to note that most people who heard about Islam converted willingly. Whether it was the message or the lower taxes for Muslim converts it is uncertain, but that really wasn’t the point when the goal was to create large Islamic states. A fully converted state meant true submission was achieved.

The religion of Islam set strict standards for Muslim treatment of each other. With no fighting allowed towards another Muslim, in addition to the religious fervor that was running rampant, it seemed almost natural for the violent society to lash outward. Conquests became the outlet for a fierce aggression that ran through the veins of every Arab man passed down from one generation to another. Within a hundred years Islamic forces marched all the way around North Africa conquering the Roman provinces of Carthage and Tangiers, they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered Spain, and almost pushed through Gaul all the way to Paris. Islam spread faster in one century than Christianity had in seven, and this was frightening. (more…)

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Watteau’s Sweet Music

Written for an Art History class, this is a review of the Watteau exhibit currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a phenomenal place to visit. At almost a quarter mile in length, it is without a doubt the largest museum I have ever been to. Not only is the size of the building overwhelming, but so are the enormous collections of all types of art. Along with this comes unbelievably large crowds. I visited several exhibits and felt rushed by the line behind me. That is until I discovered Watteau. Finding the small exhibit called “Watteau, Music, and Theater,” was like finding a diamond in the rough. (more…)

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