SYE Presentations - Spring 14

On Wednesday April 30th,  six students presented overviews of their senior-year research projects to an attentive audience of students and faculty in Carnegie 10.  After the presentations refreshments were served and the lively discussion of the question and answer period continued.

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Below are the summary of the presentations:

Amelie Amblard                                                                      Advisor: Dr. Roy C. Caldwell

L’immigration Africaine en France a Travers le Cinema

This SYE is a film based research project, incorporating three movies: Intouchables, De l’autre côté du périph’, and La Cité Rose. It’s divided into two main sections, which include the history of African immigration in France, followed by an analysis of the three films. The primary arguments are subject to the relationships between the immigrants of the periphery and the rich white Parisians. Each film depicts a different perspective on these so called biracial relationships, whether they are amicable or intimate. Intouchables touches largely on the stereotypical African immigrant, seen as a delinquent, with a larger than life personality. He is capable of making his paraplegic employer come out of his depression, and see life’s true meaning again by introducing him to a different culture and lifestyle. This movie was based on a true story, and reworked from a previously made film. The second, De l’autre côté du périph’, is another film that incorporates pejorative stereotypes of the periphery and their habitants, creating a severe divide between the city and the outskirts. Contrarily to the two previous films, La Cité Rose focuses on a positive view of the Parisian suburbs, with working biracial relationships and minimal racism. These three films represent the various views of how the rich white Frenchmen from Paris perceive the suburbs, which mainly consist of African immigrants.


C. Parker Benedict                                                                         Advisor: Dr. Marina Llorente

The Reemergence of the Indigenous Mayan Voice in Literature: 

An Analysis of the Writings of Miguel Ángel Asturias

In my thesis I propose that Leyendas de Guatemala and Hombres de maíz, two works written by Guatemalan author Miguel Ángel Asturias, represent the reemergence of the indigenous Mayan perspective in modern literature.  Following the conquest of the America’s, the dominant narrative voice throughout the world reflected the viewpoints of Europeans.  Through his writing Asturias helps to regain the collective memory of the indigenous Mayan people in Guatemala and rewrite history from the Mayan perspective.  His works represent the first texts to express the indigenous Mayan perspective and voice since the writing of the Popol Vuh and Los libros de Chilam Balam in the 16th and 17th centuries.  In my analysis of Leyendas de Guatemala and Hombres de maíz I have found that the narrative voice of Asturias, along with the incorporation of Mayan beliefs and myths, demonstrate the reemergence of the indigenous perspective in literature.


Tasha Cornell-Roberts                                                               Advisor: Dr. Marina Llorente

Education as the Great Un-Equalizer: A Comparison of the

Education Systems in Argentina and Chile

My independent study focuses on the education systems in Chile and Argentina and how they compare and contrast to one another. The education systems in both countries have unique characteristics, and their history has affected how each system has evolved into what it is today. Despite having a similar historical trajectory, each country now has very distinct education systems. Argentina boasts a system that has free and universal education through the tertiary level, whereas Chile is stuck in a system that is mainly privatized, resulting from the neoliberal changes that were institutionalized during the military dictatorship in the 1980’s. As a result of these changes, Chile has seen vast inequality being produced by the education system, and access to quality education is low. These problems have recently caused major discontent among the students, and since 2011 they have been mobilizing in attempts to change the system. Last summer I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Chile to study this movement for educational equality. While I was in Chile I interviewed eleven students, professors and movement leaders. My paper incorporates the thoughts and perceptions of many of the students that I interviewed.  While containing more information on Chile and the current student movement, this independent study synthesizes Argentina and Chile and how each of their education systems impacts their respective societies. 


Amy Cymerman                                                                              Advisor: Dr. Eloϊse Brezault

The Art of Fitting in In French Society

Long a country of immigration France has struggled with its national identity in the presence of multiple cultures, languages, and different peoples. Immigrants, especially those coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, have faced severe discrimination and repression, as they were obliged to assimilate to France’s culture. Upon arriving in France during the 1960s, these Sub-Saharan immigrants brought with them visible differences- as a result of their dark skin color, and were hence excluded from society as they were treated like outsiders. Through my research I began to question, are Sub-Saharan Africans still tiptoeing around the edges of society, searching for a way to be accepted as French and as African?  How do Africans living in France demand their citizenship and reverse negative stereotypes that continue to plague their everyday life? To answer these questions I first looked toward France’s colonial and immigration history in order to see why words such as “diversity”, “hybridity”, and “minority” was left out of political discourses. Additionally, I wanted to find the roots of the negative perceptions, discrimination, and racism that target Africans in order to answer why France has interrogated their citizenship and questioned their rights on French soil. To do so I looked at the evolution of the image of Africans starting in the 1950s, right before the waves of African immigration, through works of literature and cartoon books. I analyzed Franz Fanon’s Peau noir, masques blancs (Black Skins, White Masks) and Bernard Dadie’s Un Nègre à Paris (A Negro in Paris) and compared them to contemporary cartoons in order to see the transformation of the perception of Africans. I conclude my research by challenging what it means to be black in France and the destiny of Africans in France in the wake of newfound racism and appeals for diversification in French society.

Matthew Dudley                                                                          Advisor: Ms. Gisele El Khoury

Vestiges of Convivencia in El Quijote

While formulating my SYE research I sought to center my studies on convivencia: the cohabitation of Muslims, Jews, and Christians in the Iberian Peninsula. Over time I recognized that literary works written during or directly after the period in question might display remnants of interfaith relations, particularly in the realm of word etymology. I realized that literature from this period can be used as a time capsule for viewing Arabic loanwords that have fallen out of use in modern Spanish. Along these lines, my SYE in Arabic takes a non-traditional focus on the text of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha. Because its author Miguel de Cervantes spent 5 years as a slave in Algiers, I am interested in the ways his exposure to the Arabic language and Islamic culture affected his writing and vocabulary. I conducted a comprehensive survey of the original Spanish text of Don Quijote using an entire dictionary of Arabic loanwords and kept track of the author's anti-Islamic language. I hypothesize that he gained a working knowledge of the language. Furthermore, this heightened his consciousness of a common lexicon between the two languages. I present this research with the hope that they will help revise the predominantly western and Spanish image of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote de La Mancha. The novel may be one of the best ever written; however, we cannot overlook its Semitic influences. After all, Cervantes himself joked that the original text was written in Arabic.

Katherine L’Heureux                                                                Advisor: Dr. Eloϊse Brezault

From the Colonial Era to Present Day: The emerging role of

Women in Senegalese Novels

The research question I chose to focus on was: since the 11th century, what developments in Senegal’s history have led to the current role of Islamic women in Senegalese society? From this question I developed the following thesis: the strict roles of Senegalese women in Senegal’s society are a result of the power struggles that existed between Islamic religious leaders and the French colonial powers. I began my research by examining the history of Senegal and the spread of Islam through Northern Africa. During my study, I found an interesting correlation that existed between the growth of Islam in Senegal and the introduction of French colonialism, and how these two factors impacted the role of women in Senegalese society. After identifying this relationship, I began focusing on specific periods of time to determine exactly how Islam and French colonialism impacted these women. The main sources I used in my research were several prominent female Senegalese writers who touched on the various roles of women in their society, and how these roles changed over the years. Through their own personal experiences, these women have written extensively about how the traditional roles of women have recently come into question. Also, the fact that I was able to incorporate pieces of literature that were written by all female writers into my research indicates that women in Senegal are transitioning away from the more strict, traditional Islamic role of women in Senegalese society.