Tag Archives: study abroad

Dismantling the Ivory Tower: Class Takes Field Trip to Palestine and Israel

by Isabel Knight
This story originally appeared in the Daily Gazette on 16 February 2016.

This past winter break, students in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict class taught by Dr. Sa’ed Atshan ‘06 went on a trip to Israel and Palestine for 10 days. The trip, funded by the Lang Center, the President’s Office, and an anonymous donor, was offered for an optional .5 credits. Of the 24 students in the class, 19 decided to go. Students in the class described the trip as an emotional experience that humanized the conflict after a semester of learning about the conflict from an intellectual standpoint.

Professor Atshan made a point in his class to de-exceptionalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Having taught at Harvard and Brown, he regularly brings classes of around 100 students on a trip to Israel and Palestine during spring break. This trip, the Swarthmore group, chaperoned by Religion Professor Yvonne Chireau, spent about half their time with a group from Boston College.

“I guess I expected to see what was there, but I think it really hit me once I actually saw everything, like the separation barrier and how it’s higher than the Berlin Wall,” said Yein Pyo ’16, a member of the class.

Students described scenes of tear gas canisters hung as decoration and entire villages reduced to rubble. One Palestinian woman who organized a weekly protest of the Israeli soldiers took the class into her home and treated them to a home-cooked meal while she showed them footage of her brother being shot in the chest with a tear gas canister and killed.

“Personal narrative was emphasized throughout the trip. We went to a theater company, a man who studied to be a pharmacist and then he started his own theater company. And it focuses on teaching Palestinian children to use an ”I” narrative instead of a “we” narrative, because a lot of times personal stories get clouded by the collective Palestinian narrative,” Killian McGinnis ‘19 said.

Emily Audet ’18 described a scene when the class visited Hebron, Palestine, in which the class was walking in an open-air market in the center of the city. Local Palestinians told them the market was usually bustling, but Israeli settlers had moved into adjacent second-floor apartments and had recently begun throwing trash such as glass and feces out their windows onto the shoppers below, leaving the market deserted.

When asked about the dynamics of teaching such a politically charged topic, Atshan remarked on the importance of creating a safe space that welcomes all points of views. He said he always gets very excited when students in his class volunteer to play devil’s advocate.

“While at Swarthmore, I was a Mellon scholar and a Lang scholar. The Mellon Scholarship is all about becoming good academics so I wear the academic hat, and the Lang scholarship is all about doing good in the world, so I care deeply about research, teaching, scholarship, but also about activism, and engagement in the world. But in my classroom, the classroom space is not about creating activists as much as it is about creating an intellectual environment.”

At the same time, students said they had to strike a balance between that intellectual space and the fact that they were learning about the lives of real people.

“[In class], it can seem very theoretical but to actually talk to the people and carry their stories and to visit the sites puts a very real and human face to the pain and suffering and injustice,” Mosea Esaias Harris ’17 said.

Many students described the trip as one that they will likely never forget, filled with intense emotions and heartfelt stories. It left them thinking about how they had been changed and how they would go about their lives once they returned to Swarthmore.

“It’s really tempting, after you have seen all this, to want to change everything and be the activist and be the voice on campus or in the world, but I was encouraged by the solidarity of my classmates, just knowing that there are little issues within the conflict that you can focus on,” McGinnis said.

Many students expressed a desire for for more trips of this type to be incorporated into humanities and social sciences classes to give them an experiential component, similar to labs in natural science courses. According to Atshan, this type of learning is called “embedded study abroad” and brings vibrancy to the kinds of experiences that humanities and social science students can usually only read or watch videos about.

“Humanization was a huge objective of the trip,” Atshan said. “We are very privileged to be able to sit in the ivory tower and turn people and their struggles and realities into objects of our analysis, and I think it is really important to restore the humanity of those subjects to see them as fellow human beings.”

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Northern Ireland study abroad interest lunch with David Tombs

belfast_tcd_website

STUDY ABROAD INFORMATION SESSION

Semester in Northern Ireland Program

Please join Professor David Tombs for lunch

Thursday, November 21st, Noon, Sharples #5

Prof. David Tombs
Prof. David Tombs

Professor David Tombs, Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation for the Irish School of Ecumenics, will meet with interested students and answer questions.

The program provides students a unique opportunity to study conflict, ongoing peace building efforts, and social entrepreneurship in local communities in Northern Ireland, a region in a critical transition after 30 years of violent political and ethnic struggle. Students work (for supervised credit) within local community organizations while studying conflict, peace, and reconciliation at the Irish School for Ecumenics of Trinity College at its Belfast campus. Community placements can be tailored to fit your particular academic interests (e.g. theatre as peace building, culture and conflict, transitional politics, segregated education, cross-border economics, etc.)

The Semester in Northern Ireland is based in two geographic locations, Derry / Londonderry or Belfast, but student involvement with community groups may take place elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Students may register for one semester or two, and further possibilities for summer research and/or service work may arise.

Visit the Northern Ireland Semester website where you can read more about the program, including student contributions to the program’s blog.  Also visit the new program website.

All students are welcome to participate in the program. For Peace and Conflict Studies students, all four credits may be applied toward the minor.

Contact Professor Lee Smithey at lsmithe1 or Rosa Bernard at rbernar1

THURSDAY Information Session: Northern Ireland Semester

Interested in conflict and peacebuilding? Social entrepreneurship and sustainable organizing?

Come learn about the Northern Ireland Semester, a study abroad program of Swarthmore College. We will hold an orientation session on Thursday, September 20th at 3:30 in SC145. Dr. Denise Crossan (Trinity College Dublin), our in-country supervisor and instructor, will join us via Skype.

The program provides students a unique opportunity to study conflict, ongoing peacebuilding efforts, and social entrepreneurship in local communities in Northern Ireland, a region in a critical transition after 30 years of violent political and ethnic struggle. Students work (for supervised credit) within local community organizations while studying conflict, peace, and reconciliation at the Irish School for Ecumenics of Trinity College at its Belfast campus. Community placements can be tailored to fit your particular academic interests (e.g. theatre as peacebuilding, culture and conflict, transitional politics, segregated education, cross-border economics, etc.)

The Northern Ireland Semester is based in two geographic locations, Derry / Londonderry or Belfast, but student involvement with community groups may take place elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Students may register for one semester or two, and further possibilities for summer research and /or service work may arise.

Visit the Northern Ireland Semester website where you can read more about the program, including student contributions to the program’s blog.

All students are welcome to participate in the program. For Peace and Conflict Studies students, all four credits may be applied toward the minor.

Download, print, and hang a flyer, and invite your friends!

Information for this and other programs is available in the Off-Campus Study Office Visit the OCSO web site.

Contact: Lee Smithey at lsmithe1 or Rosa Bernard at rbernar1

 

Culture and conflict in Northern Ireland. Photo credit: Lee Smithey
Bonfires and national flags, such as this Union Jack and the Tricolour on the hill, assert political claims and identities in Northern Ireland

Electronic Resources on Northern Ireland

Information Technology Services has installed two interactive resources on the PC in the Sociology and Anthropology lab in Kohlberg Hall. Both pertain to Northern Ireland, but have broader relevance to political contention (violent, nonviolent, and institutional), material culture, ethnicity, nationalism, propaganda, etc.

If you would like to access these resources, please contact Rose Maio in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology about lab hours and access to the lab.

On the PC’s desktop, you will find two icons:

One is for A State Apart an interactive history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland with video, audio interviews, timelines, journalism, and documents. It provides an excellent overview of the conflict in a very compelling way. (This would be an excellent primer for students planning to study in Northern Ireland.)

The second is for Troubled Images a resource produced by the Political Collection of the Linenhall Library in Belfast. They have scanned thousands of images and documents from the collection and organized them in a searchable database which is now in the SOAN lab. Here you will find posters, campaign leaflets, photographs, political cartoons, lapel pins, flags, stamps, etc. etc.

Many thanks to ITS for making this resource available to us and our students.