First Interviews and New Discoveries

June 9, 2013

Greetings from Cádiz!  This stunning, coastal town is located in Andalucía in the south of Spain.   It is absolutely breathtaking, and I am thrilled to be here.  I arrived on Wednesday evening, 24 hours late, due to an unfortunate passport-related error on my part.  All things considered, I am very lucky to have only been delayed a day.  Upon arrival, Megan, Professor Cate-Arries, and Mike met me at the train station, and then moved me into my homestay with a hospitable 70 year-old woman and her husband.  That evening, “Team Cádiz” had a little evening “pow wow” to discuss what was to come in the days ahead.  I asked Professor Cate-Arries what Megan and I should tell people when they asked us about our research, because (as we learned in our Seminar) even though many people are starting to explore la memoria histórica (the historical memory) of the Franco era, it is still a topic that one needs to be careful when talking about, because you never know on what side of the conflict different people were (or even are) on.  It is still an extremely sensitive topic, as Megan encountered first-hand last year during the W&M Summer Session in Cádiz.  Megan and a few of her classmates were instructed to go out on the street and ask people about their experiences during the Franco era.  Those that were questioned got very upset and angry, and were completely unwilling to talk to them about it.  In order to avoid upsetting anyone, offending anyone, or stirring up bad feelings, we all decided to be vague and tell those that asked (including our host parents) that we are researching family memories and experiences in Spain throughout the generations, especially related to the 30s and 40s.  We agreed that it would be best to keep the “Franco-and-memoria-histórica-talk” limited to people Professor Cate-Arries had already established relationships with.

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Objects of Remembrance in Spain

In the 1930’s Spain was experiencing a civil war the result of which was the victory and subsequent repressive dictatorship of Francisco Franco, lasting from 1939 to 1975. My time spent in Cádiz, Spain last summer made it clear that, though Franco had died, there were some lingering wounds and memories that some people did not want to think about anymore. Last Fall Professor Cate-Arries taught a seminar on Franco’s Ghosts, wherein we studied the expressions of power and resistance left behind by both the regime and the victims, as well as the current efforts to recover memory of the period. One way to recovery memory is through objects—objects that belonged to victims, objects from the period, objects from specific events, and many more that aid and symbolize remembrance for survivors.

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Fond memories of Prague

I started this blog awhile ago and thought it still deserved posting:

Though I’ve already written about studying abroad in Prague, the trip is worth revisiting to explain one other way it introduced a new perspective.

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Lessons in Data

Last week I experienced another great example of just how much careful data analysis matters in research. Anne Bernier and I began working on a new blog post for AidData on development assistance to Morocco, looking specifically at aid before and after sweeping domestic legal reforms in 2004 which granted greater rights and status to women. After I pulled information on aid commitments to Morocco over the last decade, I began examining the projects for noticeable changes between the years before the reforms and the years after–and specifically if anything about the “gender-related aid” changed after the reforms, indicating a response by donors.

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Research and Creativity

It’s hard to believe that there are only two weeks left in Williamsburg (more fondly known as Thrilliamsburg) this summer. I think coding has really sucked me in this summer, so when it comes to research days, I’ll admit I am very grateful to just immerse myself in a reading that I enjoy and is relevant to my research. But once I do that reading, the real effort is translating it into a few key findings and identifying a research question that is both original and interests me. Yes, I am still in the literature review phase. And no, there is nothing wrong with that, as I am learning rapidly.

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