True Stories from Sarah Lawrence Faculty
Borders suggest a physical frontier between nations, but in these eight stories, recounted by members of the Sarah Lawrence faculty, borders stand for something else, too: the boundary between preconception and discovered reality, between observing and participating, between who one is before stepping across a border and who one becomes as a result of it.
These accounts take place in rural China and rural Arizona, in downtown Pittsburgh and downtown Johannesburg, to history unrecounted in Ghana and lost in Lahore, in the ether of the Internet and in the mind of a translator of poetry, as she tabulates meter and meaning on both sides of the linguistic divide.
To cross a border means stepping up to meet the unknown—and the realization that, once crossed, borders never entirely permit a return.
History faculty member Mary Dillard has made six research trips to Ghana. On her most recent visit, she was having lunch outside the government archives when a man sat down on an adjoining bench.
As Seen On TV
Roland Dollinger has taught German language and literature at Sarah Lawrence since 1989. He first came to the United States as an exchange student at the University of Pittsburgh.
Home Away From Home
Sociology faculty member Shahnaz Rouse was raised in Lahore, Pakistan, after the partition of that country and India in 1947. She is working on a book about the Lahore that existed before she was born, interviewing people who still live there and others who, though forced to move to India decades ago, continue to identify with Lahore.
As a young researcher, Joshua Muldavin, holder of the Henry R. Luce Junior Professorship in East Asian Cultural/Human Geography, did his first fieldwork in northern China. One day he asked the provincial deputy director of agriculture to accompany him, unannounced, to a poor rural village. The Chinese officials who would accompany them smiled agreeably but, Muldavin recalls, “I was naïve enough in those days not to understand that, culturally, a smile and a laugh in China is a sign of discomfort.”
Religion faculty member Kristin Sands has been studying how Islamic Web sites represent human suffering, largely among Muslims. She says the sites pose many of the same questions that humanitarian organizations do in response to crises: Who is responsible? Who should respond, and how?
St. Francis And The Feather
Arnold Krupat, a literature faculty member since 1968, has a special interest in Native American literatures. He recounts a visit with anthropologist friend Donald Bahr to a reservation in Arizona, and a Papago Indian called A.C., who had become known for his “dream songs.”
Fear For A Day
Elke Zuern of the politics faculty began fieldwork in South Africa just after the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela. She worked with the Regional Peace Secretariat, an amalgam of groups created to oversee—and restrain, if necessary—political demonstrations. “We had a wide array of people. Among them were one from the former government and another from the opposition. One man had actually tortured the other.”
Maria Negroni joined the Spanish faculty in 1999. A poet writing in Spanish, as well as a translator, Negroni says, “Poems don’t have nationalities. If a poem works in its language, it is translatable.”