“Life Stories of Middlebury College” is a multi-phase initiative intended to gather people’s experiences while at the college, particularly reflections that highlight issues of diversity. In his interview, Larry Yarbrough talks about growing up in Alabama and the culture shock he experienced when he began teaching at Middlebury College over thirty years ago. He remarks on the secular nature of life here, the never-ending opportunities to learn about other religions and cultures, his experience of racial and socioeconomic diversity, how religion is an integral part of his life, making him different from most of his colleagues, how traveling to the Middle East and chairing the religion department has broadened his understanding of Islam and Arab culture.
Beginning in the thirteenth-century, artists in Cologne created reliquary busts to contain the physical remains of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins. These reliquaries are visually unique because they are strikingly life-like and coney obvious feminine qualities. It is odd that the reliquaries’ approachable femininity is celebrated because women were often damned as the instigators of the original sin. With this central Christian idea in mind, it is therefore all the more surprising that Christians venerated Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins, a group of female martyrs, whose reliquaries and legend have highly gendered characteristics. In my presentation, I explicated the significance of these reliquaries through examining the symbolism of the Passion of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins, the formation of the cult of their relics, and the meaning of these reliquary busts in late medieval society.
Turkey maintains the image of a country bridging the divide between the Middle East and Europe; however, the continued prevalence of honor killings testifies to the difficulty in uprooting traditional patriarchal practices that remain widespread throughout the country. Although the Turkish government has enacted legal reforms – for instance, in 2002 and 2004 – aimed at eradicating the practice, new laws have been mostly ineffective and evidence indicates that both honor killings and the practice of “honor suicides” are actually increasing. My research explores this tension between secular government laws banning honor crimes and the continuation of honor killings within traditional and tribal communities. I argue that despite government efforts to educate the Turkish populace and institute legal reforms, the complex relationship between the cultural, patriarchal, and religious bases of honor killings makes it challenging to eradicate this practice in modern Turkish society.
During my study abroad experience with SIT’s Development and Social Change program in Cameroon, I spent six weeks in Ngaoundéré, a large town in the country’s Muslim North. Using surveys, interviews, and secondary materials I examined the relationship between the national secular legal system and traditional Islamic Fulbe law. My goal was to explore the balance between the two systems and identify areas of tension.
Oaths play an important role in our modern society from swearing-in procedures to Middlebury’s own Honor Code. A thousand years ago, oaths had a much larger role in early medieval society. Oaths were used to create artificial bonds between people. These bonds were the glue that kept the often violent early medieval society from falling apart. My study focuses on the social history of the oaths in northwestern Viking Age Europe through a close examination of Norse Sagas and French and English epics.