Arabic Professor Dr. Elizabeth Bergman Arabic Professor Dr. Elizabeth Bergman

Department Honors

If you are a major in German, REEES, or EALC with a GPA of 3.0 or higher (in bother your major courses and overall), you may be invited into the department honors program. Invitation is by the department chair, the Chief Departmental Advisor, and a sponsoring faculty mamber in your major. The honors project is a one semester independent reading and research project in the senior year, capped by an oral and written presentation. The honors project is done in addition to the other major requireemnts. Success complettion and acceptance by the faculty will result in a transcript notation of "Graduated with Department Honors."

The current courses that quality for department honors are:

  • CHI 480 - Departmental Honors
  • GER 480 - Departmental Honors
  • JPN 480 - Departmental Honors
  • RUS 480 - Departmental Honors

    Department honors may be taken for a minimum of three semester hours and a maximum total of six semester hours in senior year. Prerequisite: permission of instructor and department required.

2014 Honors Abstracts

Ramzagram: Inside the World of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Instagram
Keary Iarussi
Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, May 2014
Ramzan Kadyrov is the current President of the Republic of Chechnya, a region within the Russian Federation situated in the North Caucasus. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region has been a thorn in the side of Moscow, leading to two horrific civil wars on Chechen territory – the first orchestrated by the Yeltsin regime, and then repeated even more brutally by its successor. In order to ensure that the “Chechen problem” was resolved once and for all, Vladimir Putin solicited the help of local elites, including Ramzan and his father Akhmad, to coopt or eliminate what remained of the separatists as well as the radical Islamist movement developing there. Ramzan took charge of the region in 2007 following the assassination of his father, since then ruling by fear and turning Chechnya into his own personal fiefdom. The region remains mired in systemic corruption and high unemployment.

Despite this, the official Instagram account of Kadyrov boasts over 360,000 followers, and every post published is bombarded with hundreds of supportive comments and thousands of likes. Kadyrov writes extended descriptions to his posts in multiple languages, including Arabic, Chechen, and Russian, interacts with followers, and posts multiple times every day. These posts are not limited to politics, but also focus on Kadyrov’s personal life, happenings around Chechnya and Russia, and the promotion of an Islamic social conservatism, among other things. Through examining Kadyrov’s Instagram activities as well as his recent public statements, I set out to make sense of the former, elucidating the main features of Kadyrov’s Instagram account, determining the goals attempting to be accomplished, and weighing their chances of success to the extent possible. Kadyrov himself should be an important object of scholarship since his loyalty to Moscow could come into question after Putin’s departure from the Kremlin.

Kadyrov’s Instagram account is used to present three images of Kadyrov to his followers: the “boss,” the father of the nation, and loyal servant of Putin. Kadyrov’s goal is the strengthening of the legitimacy and the support enjoyed by his regime, while simultaneously providing a form of infotainment—emphasized in the Putin era—in order to deflect attention away from the omnipresent problems and lack of “real” politics in Chechnya. By getting people to buy into the idea of his “demophilia”—essentially enlightened despotism—Kadyrov can increase his soft power, offering citizens an alternative to democratic governance. Such a project has long been underway in Moscow, under the direction of “political technologists” like Vladislav Surkov, the only differences being Putin and the utilization of television instead of the internet.

Yet, that which giveth taketh away; in an age of “brands,” where the brand replaces the product as the main object of consumers’ attention, things change quickly and unexpectedly—especially as consumers gain sophistication, a scenario that recent Russian data seems to indicate is occurring. Nevertheless, Kadyrov continues pursuing the project, demonstrating his confidence in its effectiveness. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to measure Kadyrov’s “real” level of political support because of the lack or incompleteness of relevant statistics as well as the difficulty inherent in “taking the temperature” of an autocratic regime; however, the ongoing economic downturn in Russia will likely help with regard to the second issue. If Kadyrov’s project is indeed fulfilling its goals, then it can likely be explained by Kadyrov’s perceived “realness,” i.e., his refusal to play by others’ rules—thus contributing to the image of him as a demophile.

A Linguistic Comparison: English and Chinese, American and Chinese Sign Language, and American and Chinese Deaf Culture
Katherine Youngkin
East Asian Languages and Cultures, May 2014

Following a trip to China in 2012, I have been interested in knowing more about Chinese Sign Language. While in China, I had the opportunity to visit an autism institute on the outskirts of Beijing. Places like this were not plentiful in the area, so the institute also accepted students with other various disabilities. While having lunch with the students I noticed a pair of students using sign language. I wanted to know more, my interest was piqued and this thesis is the byproduct of that interest.

In my thesis I wanted to take a deeper look at American Sign Language and Chinese Sign Language. To make it easier for those who do not have a detailed linguistic background in English or Chinese, I first researched the linguistics of English and Chinese and compared them at the same time. Following the linguistic comparison of English and Chinese, I sought to do the same with American Sign Language and Chinese Sign Language. For the final portion of my thesis, I looked at the differences in the Deaf cultures in each country. This allowed me to analyze the cultural basis for how each Deaf culture functions within each country.

The main purpose of my thesis is to look at each of these portions individually – English and Chinese, American Sign Language and Chinese Sign Language, and American and Chinese Deaf Culture – and pull out a common thread in all of them, the linguistic tie that binds them all together. In my thesis, I seek to prove that these topics are inextricably linked to one another.