Farah: Thumbprint

This winter, I worked with a theatre production company called HERE in New York City, to help organize two theatre, music and art festivals- the Prototype Festival and Culturemart. I was attracted to working with HERE as each of its theatre productions, especially for the Prototype festival, had a social action component. Thumbprint is one of the operas that were featured in the Prototype festival, and during the first half of my internship I worked with the set designer, stage manager and technical director to curate this show.


Thumbprint is based on the life of Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani woman who was gang-raped in 2002. When this happened, it was very rare for a woman to convict her rapists, as the Pakistan law required four male eyewitnesses to testify to the rape. Mukhtar Mai was one of the first women who brought her offenders to court and the won the case, which sentenced her rapists to death.


I am intrigued by Read More…


Grace: USM event on barriers to education and finishing up research

A few weeks ago I went to an event at the University of Southern Maine on the barriers New Mainers face in navigating higher education. There was a panel of refugees ranging from high school students to one of my co-workers at Catholic Charities who finished law school. There was also a panel of individuals working in service organizations and education. Here is a link to a story MPBN did on the event: MPBN event.

After the event at USM, I was able to interview two individuals working at different local high schools. Our conversations were fascinating, and I was surprised to find out how high the percentage of refugee and immigrant students were in the two schools (at the school in downtown Portland it’s about 1/4, and at the other school ten minutes out of town it’s about 1/3). In both conversations we spoke about barriers these students face, the biggest being language, as well as the programs schools are using to address these issues.

The interviews I have been able to conduct have been very rewarding and I have met some of the nicest people through the process. That said, it has been a lot more difficult than I expected to get individuals to commit to an interview. I feel that my project is only just now really gaining some ground and I don’t feel ready to return to school for the senior conference and then classes. I am excited to start the writing process again, but I feel as if I need more time to follow up on all of the new contacts I have been given (perhaps I will have to come back to Portland on the weekends or conduct interviews over the phone). I do not know if one ever feels quite finished with this type of research, but I definitely feel as if I need more closure to this project. Six weeks has felt like just enough time to get my bearings and to skim the surface. It is hard to leave just as I am getting at the good stuff!

Caroline: In New Orleans

This field work term has been the most stressful I’ve had, by far. It’s shown me both how difficult it can be to access certain people and how warm and open many individuals are. Few of my interviewees hesitated to welcome me into their homes and most made sure I had some kind of drink in my hand. I spent more time than I thought I would chatting about anything and everything on porches around the city, pleasant follow ups to the more formal conversations had in the presence of a recorder. I am coming away from this winter term with a better sense of my academic interests, my city, and myself. I’ve done more internal reflection than I expected and have found that to be just as enriching as the project itself. With one week left there’s still much to do, but I am looking forward to tying those strings together and returning to Bennington for my final semester. I do feel a strange sense of sadness about coming to the end of the interviews and conversations this project has facilitated – it has allowed me to glimpse into the homes and worldviews of my fellow New Orleanians, something that has been truly fascinating.

Kate: The Irish Traditional Music Archive

Today I met with a traditional singer and librarian at the Irish Traditional Music Archive for an interview. I entered through this unsuspecting row house across from a lovely green park.


Inside was a treasure trove of books, scores, recordings, and films of traditional music. I could’ve spent hours browsing the collection, and a plan to return again to spend more time exploring the archives, but today I was here for an interview.

I had a lovely time speaking with the librarian at the archive about her experience growing up and singing in Donegal, and how she became involved with organizing a singing circle in Inishowen as means to encourage people to keep singing.

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Hearing different singer’s perspectives on the tradition has been fascinating. Some find it Read More…

Scott: FWT and Senior Work

This project has afforded me the opportunity to look back on how my work here at Bennington has changed over time, and has built towards a final project that brings together my interests in education and my involvement with the Bennington Sustainable Food Project. Amidst all of this I have been looking towards the future, and a of advice I received on the value of a Bennington education, from one of the administrators I talked to. They said that when you graduate from Bennington, the plan process leaves you with more than just the sum total of the knowledge you acquired over the course of your study. They also told me that, as I look towards graduation, “It’s not about getting a job, it’s really about finding your work in a more meaningful way. And to me that is what it means to have a meaningful life. You will think, ‘I know there are challenges, I know it is difficult, and I know there are lots of things I don’t understand, but I feel like I can figure them out. I have these tools, and I understand how learning happens, and I know where to go.'” This quote really sums up what I felt I was going to walk away from Bennington with, and it was really great to see my experience in someone else’s words.

It has been really fantastic to see the conversations I have been having around my senior work, and my own experience here at Bennington come together. And I look forward to writing my senior work, and adding my own two cents to the picture. To borrow from the Forest Service’s Leave No Trace ethic, hopefully I can leave this place better off than I found it.

Caroline: Bennington in New Orleans

The more interviews I do the more strongly I believe that returning to New Orleans in a professional capacity is an important thing for me to do. Speaking with New Orleanians working in different ways for environmental groups around the city has not only been enlightening, but inspiring as well. I feel closer to understanding the complexities of the environmental landscape of New Orleans as well as what it is I might want to do with my degree from Bennington. The other night I spoke with a fairly recent Bennington Alum (we actually overlapped one term) who is living in New Orleans and working her dream job with a group called Gulf Restoration Network. We hung out with her dogs and drank wine while we talked, making for another almost ideal interview situation. Speaking with her and others has made me realize how perfect this flawed landscape may be for not only my academic, but my professional interests.

FWT around the World

Thus far we’ve had Bennington people on FWT check in from: Pakistan, Ireland, Cambodia, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, England, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Washington D.C., and Vermont.

Additionally we’ve had viewers and commenters from: the US, Pakistan, India, Bulgaria, Guatemala, Belgium, Peru, Mexico, Kenya and Italy.

That’s a pretty good global reach.  If you want to contribute in the final week or so of FWT, let me know!

Jiray: Being Armenian in Boston

As I drove from Belmont to Watertown, the Boston skyline loomed in front of me, reminiscent of the hazy view of Ararat one has from nearly any vantage in Yerevan. I began to see signs in Armenian over storefronts. For a moment I was transported in time to last winter, taking a terrifying ride through the city in a Heifer International company car, on my way to some ancient church built 1500 years ago (was it St. Hiripsime’s? Noravank?). It was with fondness then, after my visit to both the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) and Project SAVE, that I entered Arax Market on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown. The familiar hum of Armenian bickering surrounded me once again. I gazed at the wooden crates of fruit, the piles of lavash and pita. Several workers were standing around, chatting with customers. If this wasn’t where the diaspora was, then where could it be?

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Earlier in the day I had met with the director of NAASR, a tall bespectacled man in his late forties. He excitedly invited me on a tour of the place. He whisked me from the bookstore, to the meeting room, his office, and then upstairs to the library. Later, down in his office, I asked the director whether he had any immigrant or refugee Armenians as regular visitors? Not really, he answered. At certain lectures and other events they seem to come out of the woodworks, but otherwise he doesn’t here much from that community. I mentioned that through the interviews I’d conducted over the past month, that there were far more politics within the diaspora than I had assumed. He agreed on that point. He was wondering when these recent immigrants (Armenians living in the US since the 1980s and 90s) would become “just Armenians.” It seemed to him that the prefixes “Baku” or “Karabakh” seemed to act as a wall between these recent Armenian immigrants and the rest of their fellow diasporans. With this thought I set off to Watertown to visit another Armenian organization in the area.

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The headquarters of Project SAVE, an organization dedicated to collecting and archiving photographs from throughout Armenian history is Read More…

Malia: Journalism in Cambodia

This year for Field Work Term, I decided it was finally time I try my hand in the field I hope to someday work in: journalism. So I found myself flying half way around the world to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to intern for the English language newspaper, the Cambodia Daily. It was more than just fresh fruit a desire to get away from the cold Vermont winter that brought me here though, I knew that working for the Daily as opposed to staying at a US paper would give me the chance to do some real reporting. In the six short weeks I’ve been able to develop my own feature stories to write as well as rewrite and assist in writing some news stories.

My first day here was an abrupt introduction to the problems Cambodia’s facing today with protests from garment worker’s striking for a higher minimum wage, and the opposition party trying to gain attention for the election last summer that they see as unfair. These protests have become violent more than once since I have been here, and it’s become a long drawn out saga that no one can see an end to any time close. Underneath the news though there are real people living with these minimum wages, and who’s lives are affected by the corrupt government

I’m a Bennington student, so unlike most interns that pass through here I’m not on a straight track to study journalism. Because I’m mostly interested in anthropology, I’ve been able to focus my own feature stories on human interest and even find stories that connect with a specific interest in indigenous cultures. It has been an amazing opportunity to use the sources and insight from the newsroom to connect to this country and it’s people.

Madeleine: Health and the Body in Maine

First of all, the blog documenting the interview project I talked about in my last post is now live (http://www.justiceinthebody.com/blog/). We’ll be adding many more in the next week or so, so stay tuned!
Other exciting news- I am now helping Justice in the Body launch the Community Healing Fund (CHF). The fund will support community-driven, trauma-sensitive healing projects, classes, and trainings. The idea is for projects to bridge mind-body wellness with trauma and justice informed strategies, as well as be accessible financially and linguistically to underserved populations such as the deaf, immigrants, and refugees.
Two projects currently in the works are trauma- sensitive yoga classes for survivors of torture and women recovering from sexual assault. To help make the yoga class for survivors of torture happen, I am collaborating with the yoga instructor, Maria, and City of Portland Refugee Services where I interned for my FWT last year. Other potential future projects include individual practitioner/ teacher scholarship support for mind-body trainings and Portland yoga teacher training for community members of marginalized populations. Ideally this fund will make different approaches to healing trauma both community based and more widely accessible. The first of what will become monthly community dinners will be happening on February 15 to fundraiser for the CHF. Emma Raine and I are helping to organize the event and the dinner will be a nice culmination to our FWTs.