Humanities Research - Putting It All into Context: Video Transcript

Chris Makaroff [Dean of the College of Arts and Science; Professor of Chemistry]: The humanities is really just trying to understand society, understand the way people think, the way we act, and what has happened in the past, and putting that into the context of current day and also future.

Shannon Barnes [Spanish; Latin American, Latino/a, and Caribbean Studies; and Music majors]: I was really interested in developing a project that would allow me to learn more about the music of Panama and would let me combine all of the things that I like and all of the things that I study.

Juan Carlos Albarrán [Lecturer, Department of Global and Intercultural Studies]: I wanted to showcase how important is the interconnection between disciplines, the fact that you can do very interesting things that can start from just an idea or a project.

Shannon Barnes: To figure out how the music has been influenced by the African diaspora, and by American imperialism, and just by all of the cultures that have passed through because of the canal.

Lecturer Juan Carlos Albarrán: Music not just as a purpose or cultural domain, but also music as social commentary, music as an aspect of cultural history.

Shannon Barnes: There are lots of popular music styles in Panama. It has to do with the fusion of cultures.

Dean Chris Makaroff: You're given a problem, and how can you collect the information, develop some hypotheses, and then figure out what you need to do to solve the problem.

James Bielo [Assistant Professor of Anthropology]: I've been really interested in how a team of artists goes about creating a biblical theme park.

Amanda White [English/Linguistics and Strategic Communication majors]: The way that I saw it was to kind of bring together a lot of these different sites that are taking belief systems that appear on the page and bring them to life.

Assitant Professor James Bielo: How do they combine religion and entertainment, how do they borrow strategies and imperatives from the world of immersive entertainment and fantasy world making, to create a biblical past and attract people to it.

Amanda White: He was studying both religion and these kind of attractions that enact belief systems, but they also function as entertainment as well, I thought was just a really cool merging of topics.

Assitant Professor James Bielo: Amanda did something really fantastic, which was she took this, sort of really informal list I had of other Bible-based attractions in the U.S.

Amanda White: I started going about creating this Excel spreadsheet with just some categories, and as I went along I got more and more excited about the sites.

Assitant Professor James Bielo: And what came out of that was our digital scholarship project, 'Materializing the Bible'.

Amanda White: And look at how they created art and how they enacted beliefs, which was something that was really valuable to me in my own belief system. I was able to just grow in that research process and become curious and so find other links to other sites.

Assitant Professor James Bielo: Currently we catalog 194 different attractions in 6 different subgenres.

Amanda White: The coding process was really valuable as well for me to just kind of learn to synthesize information and see how threads go throughout this worldwide phenomenon that is religious sites that merge entertainment and belief systems.

Dean Chris Makaroff: The humanities teach critical thinking skills, great communication skills, problem solving. And, again, it's this ability to go back and evaluate what other people have said and done and to put it into context of today's world.

Monica Komer [International Studies and Journalism majors]: I took on my independent research project through the Dean's Scholarship, which focuses on representations of women in the Middle East in U.S. media.

Mark Peterson [Professor and Chair of Anthropology; Professor of Global and Intercultural Studies]: Instead of actually looking at the complexity of women's lives, whether a woman wears a headscarf or not is seen as a sign of whether she is modern or not, which may actually have nothing to do with how she votes, or how well educated she is.

Monica Komer: It's dangerous when you limit their stories to very one-dimensional, very simple kind of tropes that we see in the U.S. media.

Professor Mark Peterson: One of the fascinating things about news as opposed to other forms of media is that it makes this claim of being true, but even though it is factual, how facts are arranged fall into particular kinds of symbolic configurations.

Monica Komer: That sort of narrative of simplifying women during the Arab Spring and after the Arab Spring informs and shapes how we think about these different processes and these different changes that happen in the region.

Professor Mark Peterson: How they represent women in the Middle East from one place to another place to another place differs depending on what kind of audience they think is going to consume those media images.

Monica Komer: There's a big difference, I think, in kind of learning about scholarly work and then making it yourself and forming an argument from the ground up, and that's something I'm really glad that I learned while I was an undergrad.

[April 2016]