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.