Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Welcome to Eurogator's Thanksgiving edition!  We have much to be thankful for today - adequate lighting (thank you Vincent McLeod), no lines at Starbucks, grant applications filed on time, funny news stories (see for instance Russia's attempt to get its citizens in shape and in the mood for the Olympics by offering free subway rides for a few squats, etc.  But alas, such is the deserted university campus on a day before a holiday break.  We truly do have much to be thankful for though and we hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable break.  With any luck, most of you will be able to spend some time at home with friends and family and not have to worry too greatly about upcoming exams, papers, and other assorted academic assignments.

One of the things that I am most grateful for at this moment is Santa Fe College's Global Society.  As part of our Getting to Know Europe grant, the Global Society club will be working with local area high school students on a model EU competition.  Rachel Rothstein and I had the absolute pleasure of meeting with the club's Vice President and President, Catherine Barrios and Roberto Garcia respectively, a couple of weeks ago and we were very impressed with their proposal.  Talk about two students with bright futures ahead of them!  Here's what Catherine had to say about their group:

"Global Society was founded in 2000 at Santa Fe College for the purpose of providing students with a deep interest in international affairs.  It is a group to socialize, and eventually, participate in Model United Nations conferences.  Since its inception, Global Society has managed to win awards and recognition at these conferences nationwide.  We compete against Ivy League and major universities by portraying our chosen country as accurately and diplomatically as possible.  This allows an opportunity for students with an interest in engaging as a UN delegate and in attempting to resolve major world issues to learn more.  As for our campus events, Global Society hosts lectures, fundraisers, dignitaries, and other social events throughout the semester.  Thus, we are active throughout the year by preparing for these events and partaking in them.  Global Society events consistently deliver a global message to the campus and community participants in an attempt to spread multicultural awareness.  

We are looking forward to working with UF's Center for European Studies on this special project.  It is our hope that we can increase awareness of how the European states collaborate, the importance of the European Union, and introduce current issues affecting this region of the world to the high school students and our community as a whole." 

Until next time, have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the long weekend!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen.......or why study Yiddish at the University of Florida

Welcome to yet another entry from the Center for European Studies at UF.  We are still in the midst of preparations for our Getting to Know Europe events and talks.  The upcoming Spring semester will prove to be a very busy time indeed as we will host art exhibits, oral history exhibits, and numerous talks.  Not to mention our annual Viva Europe festival!  We are also listing some very interesting courses in the Spring semester and to that end I would like to introduce our newest course, Yiddish Language and Culture, taught by Professor Dror Abend-David.  In the upcoming weeks I will include more information about other CES-sponsored courses, but let's focus on Yiddish for today.  By the way, this is the first time that Yiddish has been taught at a Florida university and it is generating quite a bit of attention, so enroll quickly if you would like a seat!  See the Alligator article for an interview with Professor Abend-David

Yiddish offers a rich cultural heritage, from great theater actors and directors, such as Esther Ruth Kaminska (whose great-granddaughter Ruth would later marry the extraordinarily talented trumpet player and band leader Eddie (Ady) Rosner - Rosner's life story, which was truly something, was covered in the 1999 documentary "The Jazzman from the Gulag" -!/the-jazzman-from-the-gulag) to song writers, such as Jacob Jacobs and Sholom Secunda.  Jacobs and Secunda wrote the classic "Bei Mir Bist Du Schein/Schoen," which ironically was a huge hit in Nazi Germany.  Check out the Andrews Sisters and their version  For more on the history of the song,  But enough about jazz and more from Professor Abend-David on how he came to study Yiddish and why it is such a valuable undertaking:  

"not so loud – he thinks he's learning English"
 In his novel, Operation Shylock, Philip Roth includes an old anecdote about a customer who is very impressed with a Jewish restaurant on the Lower East Side. He compliments the owner on the great food and service, and the Chinese waiter who speaks excellent Yiddish. "Not so loud…" says the owner, "…he thinks he's learning English."

I will share this anecdote next semester when I teach UF’s first Yiddish Language and Culture class (HBR 4930, EUS 4930, JST 4930). But what I probably will not tell my students is that this anecdote is in some way a part of my life story. I attended both high school and graduate school in the United States and at the age of sixteen I fell in love with the poetry of T. S. Eliot and decided to study English Literature. Much like the case of the Chinese waiter in Roth's anecdote, Yiddish was an uninvited, sometime uncomfortable detour that the move from my native Hebrew Literature into English and American Literature necessitated.

As I was studying for a master's degree in English Literature at SUNY Binghamton, I couldn't help but compare the poetry of Emily Dickinson to that of a number of Modern and Contemporary Hebrew Women Poets.  The conundrum of where some of the earlier Hebrew Women Poets might have read or even heard of Dickinson was solved in the most unexpected manner. While Dickinson's great acclaim only began in the 1950's, and the first translations of her work into Hebrew didn’t appear until much later, Dickinson was already translated into Yiddish in 1927 by Michel Licht.  Licht in fact predicted that she would be recognized as one of the most significant Modern American Poets.

Consequently, when I decided to write a paper on Emily Dickinson, I found myself at the Institute for Yiddish Research (YIVO), then on Fifth Avenue in New York City. While at YIVO I met with the legendary Dina Abramowicz who was impressed by how little I knew about anything – but since I was a Litvak (a Lithuanian Jew, like her) she gave me the benefit of the doubt. I had the further benefit of meeting Djelal Kadir, a former editor of World Literature Today, who chose to publish one of my first papers on this stumbled-upon topic.  And Kadir’s request was even more unexpected as I had presented my paper to a completely silent audience that had neither comments nor questions. With the impending publication of my paper, Yiddish no longer seemed only a detour to from my true vocation. 

Looking back, I can certainly understand why my mentors in the English Department at SUNY Binghamton couldn't make heads or tails of what I was doing. My preoccupation with English, Hebrew, Yiddish and eventually German, forced me to move slightly away from the English department, and I soon found myself at the Comparative Literature department at New York University. My Mentor, Prof. Richard Seiburth, suggested that I combine my interest in Shakespearean Drama, Hebrew and Yiddish, and Theory of Translation into a dissertation that would compare the German, Hebrew, and Yiddish translations of The Merchant of Venice. With this dissertation I became a scholar of Comparative Jewish Literature and Translation Studies. The dissertation itself was published immediately as a book by Peter Lang and received the Koret Jewish Publications Program Award.

Over the past ten years I've taught Yiddish, Hebrew and English in various venues and I have found inspiration for my courses and scholarly work in the most unexpected places and texts. A famous children’s book that tells about a violent group of people who takes over the government and persecutes innocent victims on the basis of their ancestry and purity of blood, has led to my course, Harry Potter and the Holocaust, which covers a variety of issues, such as Imagism and Modern Poetry, Modern Jewish History, the Holocaust, and Children’s Literature.

The study of Yiddish language and culture cuts across many different disciplines and often reveals connections that might otherwise be invisible.  For instance, I recently participated in a symposium at the University of Toronto, Jewish Literature beyond Borders ( For this particular symposium I gave a talk on a 1923 film version of The Merchant of Venice that was directed by Peter Felner and starred a German cast.  However, according to a 1924 review in the Warsaw Yiddish press, this production was presented as "our just revenge against non-Jewish persecution."  The film was therefore both "translated" into Yiddish and repackaged as a Philo-Semitic production.  So I ask, does this topic fall within Yiddish Studies or Film Studies?  Or, maybe it could possibly be a subject for Translation Studies or a Cultural Studies course? While it is difficult to pinpoint just which discipline it should fall under, the option of so many different approaches demonstrates the wealth of diversity that Yiddish language and culture has to offer. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hungry for Turkey?

Welcome back to the CES Eurogator blog!  To say that we have been very busy would be an understatement to say the least.  We have many exciting events planned for the upcoming Spring semester and we have all been working very hard to ensure that everything goes smoothly.  As part of our "Getting to Know Europe" grant from the European Union Delegation, we will be hosting a photography exhibit at the Harn in January.  The exhibit will feature the works of Maria Kapajeva and Tomek Zerek, each of whom address issues of gender and identity in a contemporary European context.  In conjunction with the exhibit, Professor Galina Rylkova and Visiting Lecturer Jack Hutchens will each give gallery talks addressing the issues raised by these provocative works.  More information to follow soon!

We have also started working with Eastside High School students on their part of the "Getting to Know Europe" grant (  Thanks to the generous support of Professor Paul Ortiz and his staff at the Samuel Proctor Oral History program (, these lucky high school students are receiving expert advice from oral history professionals as they conduct interviews with Alachua county residents of European descent.   The histories will be collected in the "Getting to Know You:  Our Neighbors of European Heritage" exhibit at the Thomas Center next May and we hope that many of you come to see and hear these fascinating stories.   As the selections are finalized we hope to give our readers a sneak stay tuned for more!  And of course, we have our ongoing Aegean film series that highlights the work of Greek and Turkish filmmakers every week.  Check out the coming attractions and schedule at

Today's Turkish Tuesday entry comes to us from former UF student Iris Muradoglu (Anthropology 2013), who studied Turkish with Professor Emrah Sahin during her undergrad years.  Like the work of the Eastside students who are collecting oral histories, Iris's entry reminds us of how important it is to appreciate our elders and listen to their stories, share in their wisdom, and take comfort in their memories.  But enough about that - let's see what Iris's grandmother has to say about jobs, food, and husbands!
There are usually two paths in life after graduation. The first path, generally, is for those going to graduate school, law school, or getting a job—those that are overall certain about what to do upon graduating. For the rest of us, including myself, we find ourselves with absolutely no idea of what to do. We find ourselves taking one of the wisest pieces of advice—“take a year off, figure out what you like and what you want to do; travel.” Not wanting just yet to commit to graduate school and unable to bear living at home again (sorry mom and dad), I found myself unsure of my future. As the summer was ending, I hastily made the decision to teach English abroad. I enjoyed getting my TESL certificate at the University of Florida and really like teaching. So, I ran with it, all the way to Istanbul, Turkey.

You might be wondering why Istanbul? Besides the obvious of it being one of the most beautiful, culturally rich cities in both Europe and Asia, it is also my second home. I told myself that if I truly wanted to be fluent in Turkish and really experience living there, this was my chance. Otherwise, I would always have this internal struggle. Therefore, here I am in Istanbul living with my 86 year old grandma, trying to find a job. Unfortunately there is a great deal of truth to the saying that “the hardest job is finding a job.”  I wish I could hire someone at this point to go to interviews for me, but on the bright side I have a better idea of where places are as a result of my never-ending search (Istanbul is huge and confusing direction-wise!). I want to be happy and sure about my decision, but my grandma jokes that if I can’t decide on a job how will I ever decide on a husband?
Being unemployed I find myself with a lot of free time. And besides getting a daily crash course in Turkish by my grandma, (she doesn’t speak any English) she is also teaching me how to make all kinds of Turkish foods (along with a good cup of Turkish coffee), all essential to being a good future gelin (gelin=bride--it’s a joke). Besides teaching me how to cook, she gives me advice, tells jokes, shares words of wisdom, and tells me stories about her life, about when I was younger, about my dad, and other family members. I think we often take our elders for granted and fail to fully appreciate their time and words, so I find myself in a truly unique position by getting to spend this time with her.
 Istanbul is unlike any city I’ve traveled to. It is very modern, yet at the same time traditional; modern, in the sense that it is a lot like what we think of as a typical European or American city and traditional in the aspect of religion, etiquette, and the ever flowing cups of tea and coffee. Unfortunately I think that oftentimes people have misconceptions about Turkey. This is only my opinion based on what I’ve been asked about Turkey and what I’ve heard people say. For example, I’ve been asked what kind of housing do I live in.   Well, Istanbul is just like any other big city, full of apartment buildings. What do they wear in Turkey? Well, they wear the same things anybody in the U.S. would wear. Oh, and I’ve been in Italy for an extended period of time, and in my opinion the people here, at least what I’ve seen in Istanbul, dress way more fashionable than anyone I ever saw in Italy. So yes, the shopping here is awesome. 

Another great thing about living here is that you really get immersed in the language. One of the most frustrating experiences is when you really want to learn a language and all anyone will ever do is speak your native language to you. Here, most people at shops, restaurants, etc. only speak Turkish so practicing is convenient. All you have to do is try to speak Turkish and they love it, and if you can bargain in Turkish even better for you. In fact, multiple people have told me that Turks think it is ‘cute’ when Americans speak Turkish.  But it is nice to know that my efforts, and those of other Americans, are appreciated, particularly when we feel foolish in the attempt. 
There are many things to see in Istanbul, many places to go, and more importantly many things to eat. While my cousin was here visiting with a friend I got to enjoy going around to see some of the main tourist attractions. Besides making sure my cousin’s friend saw the must-sees in Istanbul, we made sure that she ate as much Turkish food as possible (naming them all will make me hungry.) We did quintessential Turkish things such as riding in a dolmuş (basically a van with a rocket engine), having tea, olives, fresh bread, and cheese for breakfast, drinking tea on the ferry, and having simit as an on-the-go snack.

There really is an endless amount to see, do, and eat in Istanbul and thus far I have been quite busy with all that the city has to offer.  I feel like I have made a smooth transition in this big move. The things I miss the most are my family and friends. But, it helps to have close family like my aunt and grandma here so I don’t feel too homesick. And thank goodness for technology to help me keep up my addiction to Breaking Bad, oh and of course, to communicate with those back home. Now, let’s just all hope I find a job soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Turkish Tuesdays......on a Wednesday

Turkish Studies: Profile and News
Welcome to another entry from the Center for European Studies in beautiful, albeit slightly humid Gainesville, Florida.  We have many exciting projects underway, including a new grant proposal for the European Union Delegation that deals with privacy, security, and the effects that the cyber revolution has had upon each of these issues in an increasingly interconnected world.  This proposal has indeed been so time consuming that “Turkish Tuesdays” is actually being published on Wednesday, and sadly, “Turkish Wednesdays” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  So please forgive our delay.  For now, we would like to take a moment to introduce another essential member of the CES team – our Professor of Turkish Studies, Emrah Sahin.  Here is what Professor Sahin has to say about his teaching philosophy, current research, and his exciting new courses that will be sure to attract students from a broad variety of disciplines:
            I received degrees in History and International Relations from Middle East Technical University (B.A.), Bilkent University (M.A.) in Ankara, Turkey, and my PhD from McGill University, in Montreal, Canada. I was fortunate to work with a number of wonderful scholars at these institutions to whom the shape of my intellectual pursuits is greatly indebted.
            I begin this year with two research projects. The first is a manuscript focusing on Ottoman authority and society through the prism of foreign missionary activity in the region during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The existing literature often depicts Ottoman authorities as rigid bureaucrats and missionaries as idealistic reformers. My research moves beyond these stereotypes by emphasizing the complexity of Ottoman imperial statecraft and by revealing the variety of stakeholders. It posits that the Ottoman government was an evolving administrative body rather than the staid, monolithic entity that previous works have described. The manuscript seeks to provide an historical context for the contemporary debate over missionary activity in Turkey and the Middle East. The second project is a volume on Turkish relations with the Wider World (Europe and the United States). This volume, which I am editing and writing with several other international scholars in the field, introduces themes in socio-cultural encounters as well as diplomatic relations between Turkey and the West.  We also hope to present a more nuanced approach to the transformation of the Turkish image in the Old World and New.
            This semester I am teaching beginning and intermediate Turkish language and culture courses and co-teaching “European Experience from a Social Science Perspective” with Edit Nagy, the CES lecturer in Hungarian Studies.  Those of you who are familiar with European history can no doubt appreciate the irony, at least in a historical context, of a Turk and a Hungarian working together on a course on the “European Experience.”  Next semester I will teach a course entitled “Money and the Bible in Turkey,” which will focus on the work of merchants and Christian missionaries in Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.
Teaching is a passion of mine and I relish the opportunity to work with both graduate and undergraduate students. The challenge of teaching Turkish Studies is overcoming outdated stereotypes about Turkey and the Middle East. This challenge requires that students be equipped with historical imagination, textual literacy, and interdisciplinary thinking; the skills necessary to explore the interplay between history and memory. I design my classes to have four main objectives: to generate interest in the material; make my students aware of the available sources; to teach them how this information relates to other contexts; and to teach them to think critically about these sources. I might add that these skills are incredibly useful in all disciplines and need not be resigned to only history classes. 
I know from personal experience that a teacher’s personality and rapport with students can make or break their enthusiasm for the subject being taught. I strive to be enthusiastic and energetic: enthusiastic about the subject and about how students explore it, and energetic in the teaching process. I aim for an open and interactive teaching style designed to encourage debate on the day’s subject. When possible, I devote time to discussing primary source texts and encourage students to analyse rhetorical twists and historical contexts of these texts. Ultimately my goal is to lead students through discussions wherein they acquire the analytical and critical thinking skills necessary to assess the validity of historical evidence.        

My major aim in teaching Turkish Studies at UF is to open my students’ eyes to the personal enrichment of studying Europe and Turkey, which I see as a unique opportunity for them to connect with the greater world through the experiences of Turks across space and time.
Along with Turkish Tuesdays on this blog, two additions will enrich our Turkish Studies menu: Aegean Movie Nights and the Florida Journal of Turkey and Turkish Studies. This semester, Aegean Movie Nights, the product of our collaboration with the Classics Department, will show 12 Turkish and Greek movies that we have hand picked based on variety, fluency, and quality. All are subtitled and open to the public (for more visit, The Florida Journal of Turkey and Turkish Studies will publish news, research and events related to Turkish Studies twice a year. It aims to create a platform for UF scholars and students, along with Florida’s Turkish community to interact and promote an informed understanding of the Turkish World. More information will be available here in coming weeks.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Path Less Traveled

Welcome to the start of a new semester!  Fall semesters are always a time of great change and excitement, as UF gains new students not only from other states, but other countries as well.   It seems that everyone is wandering around campus trying to find their classrooms, all the while representatives from UF clubs and student organizations eagerly call out to them to join their particular cause.  In that regard, the Center is really no different, except that we are far less distracting!  I promise, we will not prevent you from getting to English Comp. 101 on time by promising free pizza and a summer cruise to the Bahamas.  However, we would like to encourage you to take the path less traveled, which is always a far more interesting journey! So stop by the Center to learn about our Turkish, Polish, Czech, and Hungarian classes and our numerous study abroad programs.

This upcoming semester promises to be an exciting time for the Center, with grant applications in progress concerning privacy issues and the challenges that the information age represents to foreign policy and the US-EU relationship, existing grant activities such as the Getting to Know Europe oral history project, and new and returning faculty.  To that end, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new Visiting Lecturer in Polish Studies, Jack Hutchens. 

Professor Hutchens comes to us from Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  He hails from Kansas, but as a result of a stint in the Peace Corps, he moved to Poland in 1998 and worked as a lecturer at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan until 2002.  And thus was created a future Professor of Polish. 

Professor Hutchens is especially interested in Polish culture and literature and he is currently completing his dissertation, Transgressions:  Queer Discourse and National and Gender Identities in Twentieth Century Polish Fiction.  Professor Hutchens is also interested in Czech literature and language, and has taught both Polish and Czech language courses while at the University of Illinois.  As can be seen from this short video, he certainly has some innovative ideas about language teaching and the use of popular culture in the classroom -

Indeed, no boring language classes here!

On the more serious side, his research interests concerning gender identities and the construction of national identities are extremely timely.  One need only look at the recent outcry over Russia’s anti-gay laws, which the Russian government insists are targeted at “homosexual propaganda,” and the prospect of holding the winter Olympics in a country that is increasingly discriminatory.  LBGT social movements are gaining ground and attention throughout Eastern Europe.  The work that Professor Hutchens is doing will complement that of other CES faculty in this regard.  For instance, Professor Conor O’Dwyer is currently researching this topic and has recently posted an entry on the movement in Poland.  His entry for the London School of Economics can be found here: 

Also, be sure to check out Professor Hutchens’ blog on his dissertation at: 

So please, if you are interested in the intersection, or divergence, of national and gender identities, Polish culture and literature, or a contemporary and innovative approach to language courses, please check out Jack Hutchens and take the path less traveled. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Turkish Tuesdays: Taksim and the Prince's Islands

Welcome once again to the Center's "Turkish Tuesday," where we bring you news, culture, and a virtual experience of Turkey.  Today's post comes from Kamal Gray who studied Advanced Turkish at CES and majored in political science.  Kamal was an exchange student at the Bosphorus University in Istanbul last year and it was there that he fell in love with the city.  He has since returned to the city and has promised to keep us updated on his Turkish travels and adventures.  In the upcoming days we will have, as promised, entries from Odessa, the Holocaust Museum in DC, and also news of our recently hired Visiting Lecturer in Polish Studies, Jack Hutchens and a report from Conor O'Dwyer on the state of gay political movements in Poland.  Until then, we leave you with Kamal's enchanting visions of the Princes's Islands in Turkey.  

Nearly twelve months have passed since I was last in Istanbul. On first leaving Ataturk Airport, the familiar sights and sounds mingled with the ever-changing nature of the city. The silhouettes of Süleymaniye Mosque and Hagia Sophia were to my right, while the new bridge for the expanding metro line passed on my left, linking the newer and historic parts of the city. Glancing back at me in the rear view mirror, the taxi driver quietly chuckled as I tried out my Turkish skills.  And after forming a few complete sentences, among a mess of broken bits, he seems satisfied that I can actually speak Turkish.  Then he throws a series of questions at me about Turkish and American culture.  He passes back a bottle of water while we go up and down the hills of my new neighborhood. I gawk at the inclines and then I realize that I am going to have climbs these hills everyday. They could give San Francisco a good run for its money!
Once I settle in to my new apartment, I decide to trek out into the city and the first place that comes to mind is Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul. Taksim, with its always-crowded streets, is home to an array of shops, bars, and clubs. The sheer volume of people boggles the mind. Istiklal Avenue, the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Taksim turns into an endless sea of heads on any given Friday or Saturday night, as people from all parts of the city come to enjoy the nightlife.  But one need not only enter the bars for entertainment – the street itself is alive with music and dancing.   Numerous groups of musicians line the street to play a mix of Turkish and Western influenced music entertaining passers-by. Crowds gather around the groups as spectators furtively shift left and right trying to steal a glance of the music’s source. People often dance traditional dances like the halay to the beats of the drum. This is the Istanbul that I remembered - so full of life, color, and vibrancy.  
Collectively I’ve spent over a year in Istanbul and although I’ve gotten around, there are still so many places I’ve yet to see. Catching up with old friends has been one way I manage to drag myself all over this massive city, most recently to the Prince’s Islands. The Prince’s Islands are a collection of nine islands off the coast of the Anatolian side of Istanbul. In the past, the islands were used to hold Ottoman royalty in exile, in addition to being home to a series of Greek monasteries. Today, tourists flock to the islands in droves during the summer months for a brief vacation. The islands offer a needed escape from the hustle of mainland Istanbul. The four largest islands, Büyükada, Heybeliada, Burgazada, and Kınalıada, are the most frequented.  I’d already made my way to Heybeliada and Burgazada, but this time I would finally get to visit Büyükada.
I boarded a ferry on European side of the city and I watched as the sun set over the Marmara Sea to the south of the city. The lights of the islands lit up the night sky as I arrived on Büyükada. After finding my friend outside the ferry station, we made our way past the rows of seafood restaurants and the main square on the island. Horse-drawn carriages raced past us as we hiked our way to the hills of the island. Cars are forbidden on all of the islands as a way to protect the natural beauty and so many people travel around the island by carriage.   Although it was nearly dark by the time I arrived, the beauty and nature of the island were apparent even in the twilight.  But it was not until morning that I realized exactly how special it was. By daylight, I could see just how beautiful the islands really are as I looked out the living room window onto the bright blue sea.  Somehow I’d forgotten just how amazing Istanbul is, and in moments such as these, gazing out at a sea glimmering with sunlight and the beauty of Büyükada all around me,  it all comes rushing back.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A European Archive Ramble: Paris, Nantes, and London

Today's post comes from Erin Zavitz who recently traipsed around several European archives gathering research for her work on Haiti.  Erin is a PhD candidate in the department of history and her work on Haiti shows just how connected European history is with other regional and national histories.  So here is what Erin has to say about her tour of archives:

One of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of research is successfully tracking down sources which are scattered across libraries and archives. While my dissertation research focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century Haiti, relevant documents are held across the Americas and Europe. After working in U.S. and Haitian institutions, I had the opportunity to follow my source leads across the Atlantic—thanks to a Chateaubriand Fellowship and a grant from the Center for European Studies.

Arriving in France in early February, I spent four months researching in Paris and Nantes and working with graduate students and faculty at the Centre International de Recherche sur les Esclavages (CIRESC). Initially shocked by a season we see little of in Florida, WINTER, I found warm welcomes at Paris's marvelous archives and libraries.

My dissertation examines how Haitians have commemorated the Haitian Revolution (1789-1804) in print, national holidays, and oral traditions. In Paris, I focused on the first two commemorative traditions. Working at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Archives Nationales, and Archives Diplomatiques, I examined the only known copies of early Haitian writings, historical and literary, on the revolution as well as nineteenth-century newspapers and holiday speeches and proclamations.

La Sentinelle de la Liberté: Journal Politique, Commercial et Agricole, 4 Janvier 1843. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

 Traveling among the various Parisian institutions is a voyage through the history of architecture and archives. Both the Bibliothèque Nationale (BN) and Archives Nationales have multiple branches within the city, which I visited. First is the BN Richelieu-Louvois. Spread over several seventeenth-century luxury apartment homes, the library opened in the mid-1600s and today holds special collections such as manuscripts, maps, and photographs. Next is Arsenal that contains much of the BN’s collections of French literature and is located in the sixteenth-century residence of the Grand Master of the Artillery. The final site and where I spent most of time is BN François Mitterrand. A collection of four towers, which hold the majority of the BN’s collection, are linked by a garden and lower level research library.


The architectural diversity of the BN branches is mirrored in the two Archives Nationales (AN) collections I visited in Paris. The original AN branch is located in the center of Paris in a group of eighteenth-century city mansions. Here, I poured over consular reports from the nineteenth-century that contained valuable details on Haiti’s economic and political developments. The second and newest branch of the AN is located outside of central Paris in the suburbs. Pierrefitte-sur-Seine is at the end of metro line 13, and the ride out provides an ideal moment to catch up on reading as it will take at least 30 minutes (or if like me you’re coming from the southern edge of the city close to an hour) to reach the final stop. The branch opened in January 2013 just before I arrived in Paris, so I had the opportunity to be among some of the first to use the new facility. While the central Paris branch is full of history and charm, the new addition is state-of-the-art and worth the metro trip to suburbs.

Leaving the hustle and bustle of Paris, I got to spend three weeks in the western city of Nantes (pictured to the left) working at a branch of the Archives Diplomatiques.  The break from Paris was fabulous and I found a slew of unexpected documents at the archives. The diplomatic holdings focused on 20th century Haiti and included programs for national holiday festivals, newspaper clippings on the celebrations, and reactions of French ambassadors. The archivists were extremely helpful and frequently suggested additional collections that would be useful for my research. Beyond the archive, Nantes was an ideal location to be working on commemorations. The city has been working on its own memory, specifically the role of Nantes in the Atlantic slave trade. It was fascinating to see how museum projects and public spaces had incorporated the diverse sides of Nantes’s history. Lastly, for outdoor enthusiasts, Nantes has a great network of bike paths and running trails along the cities multiple rivers. After hours in the archive, running, walking, or cycling through parks is a great way to unwind.  
London Calling…
After months in France, I took advantage of the frequent public holidays in May to hop across the English Channel to London. While a long-weekend of sight-seeing would have been ideal, I mainly went to read a rare collection of early nineteenth-century Haitian pamphlets. Recently, the historical library collection of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office transferred on permanent loan to Foyle Special Collections at King’s College London dozens of Haitian publications. The holdings, which include the only known copies of the pamphlets, are integral to my study of printed commemorations of the Haitian Revolution. These early authors were the first to deal with the question of how to write the history of the Haitian Revolution. 

Excerpt from Henry Christophe’s correspondence, this letter comes only days after the assassination of Haiti’s first head-of-state, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Copies des lettres et pièces écrits au général en chef de l’armée d’Haïti (Au Cap : Chez P. Roux, 1806). Foyle Special Collections, King’s College London

To maximize my time, I e-mailed Foyle Special Collections in advance and the archivists pulled all the materials I requested. When I arrived, I immediately got to work reading and photographing the pamphlets. Unlike my experiences in France with busy libraries and archives, I was the only person all day at Foyle, what a luxury! On my second day in London, I traveled to the British Library and examined documents on the 150th anniversary of Haitian independence and several issues of a newspaper from the early 1810s.
While my days were quite research-filled, I had a little time to explore the area near my hotel. Stumbling upon a great deal, I stayed across the Thames from Parliament and Big Ben. This was my view in the morning as I walked to the Tube station. Wow!  
Further up the road, I got to see Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park (where I went for a quick run between rain showers).  In addition to being near some of London’s main attractions, the hotel was next to a street food fair. Just as food trucks and street food have become popular in Gainesville, London is teaming with eclectic and cheap outdoor markets. The Real Food Market at the Southbank Center runs Friday to Sunday and has an assortment of stands from traditional British meat pies to BBQ to Polish pierogies. A list of vendors and more info is at: The Southbank market is just one of many street food options in London. For travelers on a budget this is great option, especially in the summer!

Now back in Gainesville I am busy sorting through photos and notes and moving on the final dissertation stage, writing. My European archive ramble has definitely provided plenty of sources as well as leads for future projects.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Prague: language classes, dissertation research, & Pilsner.....or a day in the life of a graduate student in history

Greetings once again from the Center for European Studies.  Those of you have been following the blog know that today we should have a "Turkish Tuesday" post, but alas, our Turkish traveler requested extra time for his post.  So today we bring you a nice vignette from Elana Thurston-Milgrom who is presently in Prague refreshing her Czech language skills and scoping out possible dissertation material.  Elana is a graduate student in history whose work focuses on the place of Czech Jews in Czech society and culture prior to the Holocaust.  Please be sure to "czech" back for further posts from Elana's travels.  Also, later in the week we will have a post from Erin Zavitz who has recently conducted research in England and in France.  And lastly, we will have a post from Rachel Rothstein from the fantastic port city of Odessa!  But without further ado, here is Elana:

I arrived in Prague for my summer FLAS at the height of summer (beginning of July). The city was just recovering from some pretty serious flooding—the same that Johanna mentioned in her post about Budapest—but the water had receded and the city mostly cleaned up. The Czechs are not unaccustomed to floods! There were still a few closed metro stations and some of the parks were still partially closed, but the weather was beautiful and everyone was in good spirits. The beer gardens were packed and there was live music by the river, where you could watch people (mostly tourists) out paddle boating. Beer is the national drink of the Czechs, and in my opinion, the best in the world! The word ‘Pilsner’ comes from the name of a town in Bohemia, Plzen.

My schedule in Prague was busy, but great. In the mornings, I had Czech classes at the Albertov campus of Charles University, which is close to the city center, just a 10-minute walk from the Vltava River. Afternoons usually found me in the National Library reading room where I was collecting potential sources for my dissertation. The building is an UNESCO site, which dates from the 11th century and used to house a Dominican monastery. As you can imagine, the reading room was beautiful—vaulted ceilings and frescos on the walls. I couldn’t imagine a better place to do research!
I’m lucky enough to have family in Prague. I don’t have any Czech background, but my Uncle owns a futon shop there and my cousin, his daughter, is half Czech. Most of my evenings I spent with my family cooking or hanging out in the Bubenec neighborhood of Prague, which is close to the castle. We took a couple of day trips out to the countryside on the weekends as well (more on that later!) I also got to catch up with some of the Czech friends I have from when I lived in Prague 8 years ago. 

It has been so much fun to speak Czech again. I was feeling really rusty, but most of it came back pretty quickly. After three weeks, I came to Brno, where I am taking more classes at Masaryk University’s summer school of Slavonic Studies. Another blog post about that to come!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Adventures in Danish Translation: Purgatory = Funhouse?

And now for something completely different!  Today's post comes to us from Missy Molloy, a grad student with the English Department's Center for Film and Media Studies.  She is currently working on a dissertation on the the Danish film industry and Danish efforts to cultivate international co-productions.  Presently Missy, and of course Leo, are in Copenhagen, and below are her thoughts on not only summers in Copenhagen, but also on interesting translation choices:

Leo and I are trying out some typical Danish summer activities. On Friday, we met my Danish language teacher at Tivoli, an amazing amusement park right in the middle of Copenhagen, and Leo played at their deluxe playground while Hanne and I talked about a Danish TV series recently adapted for U.S. audiences (I’m studying Danish media). The blue sky and the city skyline caught my eye while Leo was climbing; he’s like a black hole in the middle of interesting shapes.

After Hanne left, we walked around Tivoli, and Leo convinced me to pay for his entrance into Skærsilden, which literally means “Purgatory,” but is translated for English-speaking tourists like us as “The Fun House.” The image on the left was my point-of-view for the nearly two hours I sat and read my Danish “krimi” (crime novel) while Leo was in purgatory.  The purgatory/fun house translation was consistent with what I’ve observed about the tendency to translate uncomfortable Danish titles into something “upbeat,” such as a recent Danish film title’s evolution from The Bald Hairdresser in Danish to Love Is All You Need. As if English speakers can’t appreciate irony!      

Once July 1st hits, most Danes go on extended vacations; all over Copenhagen, businesses hang signs announcing their sommerferie. This year, we got the chance to see what they are all doing at their summerhouses… We are in Northern Zealand at an unbelievable quaint Danish summerhouse (picture on the right)

I just took a cycle tour along a narrow path with the ocean to my left and luxury ocean-view cottages on my right. I think I will spend the week cycling, picking strawberries, playing badminton, and watching Danish films. Paradise!! Vi har det rigtig godt i Danmark lige nu…

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Turkish Tuesdays - "Why study Turkish?"

Greetings from the Center for European Studies and welcome to our second Turkish Tuesday post.  Please come back later this week for new posts from other CES grad students who seem to be flung as far as the four corners of the Earth.  

Today's post comes from Greg Mason, a graduate student in history who is working on Turkish guest workers in Germany in the post-WWII period:

In Spring 2013 I finished my sixth semester of Turkish at the University of Florida. Learning Turkish has not only been a lot of fun, it has also opened a lot of doors for me.  There are only a handful of universities in the United States that offer Turkish language classes, and this means that the Center for European Studies at UF is truly exceptional as their program offers not only language classes but also courses on Turkish culture and history. 
I am a graduate student at UF specializing in German history. My research focuses on Germany’s post-WWII Turkish guest worker communities. It was therefore an obvious choice for me to take advantage of the opportunity to learn Turkish here at the University of Florida. For those of you for whom Turkish may not be such an obvious language of choice let me provide a few reasons to consider learning the language. For one Turkish is considered a “critical language” by the U.S. government.

What does it mean to be a “critical language?” It essentially means that for strategic and security purposes the U.S. government considers knowledge of Turkish to be a valuable asset. As such, having learned Turkish at UF is an excellent thing to have on one’s resumé for any person considering a job with the US State Department or any other federal agency. Second, because Turkish is a critical language several funding opportunities are available for those interested in learning the language. For example, the UF Center for European Studies partners with the US Department of Education to provide Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for the learning of lesser taught foreign languages. While this fellowship is not limited to languages on the ‘critical languages’ list, priority is given to applicants applying to learn a ‘critical language.’  (For information on FLAS, see the CES website at  The US State Department even sponsors a program for critical language learning, which offers students a chance to enhance their Turkish language skills in intensive summer programs.  (For summer scholarships in Turkey, see the Critical Language Scholarship Program’s website at


I have been lucky enough to receive a FLAS for summer 2012 and for the 2012-2013 academic year. The summer of 2012 was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I did a 2-month intensive intermediate language course at Boğazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is a vibrant and historically rich city of 15 million people, whose cultural diversity and love of tea is readily apparent! Boğazici University is an absolutely beautiful campus nestled against the Bosphorus.  In addition to improving my Turkish skills by leaps and bounds, I also made close friends with whom I still communicate regularly. One of my proudest moments while in Istanbul was at the Grand Bazaar where I was able to use my Turkish language skills to barter an item down to a 1/3 of the price of that being paid by the Americans standing next to me.

While Turkish is in many ways a difficult language chock full of idioms and cultural eccentricities, the challenge of learning the linguistic quirks of the language while navigating an unfamiliar vocabulary and set of grammatical rules has been provided a fascinating window into Turkey and its people at large. In my experience the language instructors have been great about making the language fun and engaging rather than intimidating. Whether it be through a game of Turkish scrabble, watching the Turkish version of Game of Thrones (Muhteşem Yüzyıl) or a lesson in culture through delighting in Turkish cuisine, Turkish class has generally been a case of ‘fun while learning.’ I have not only enjoyed the reward of learning a language that not many Americans know, I have also made a lot of friends in a small, relaxed language setting. Whether you plan to use Turkish to help you in your professional career or simply want to enjoy learning about a language and culture different than your own, I highly recommend learning Turkish at the University of Florida!