Ronald Y. Chen
Class of 2017
As an Anthropology major, I have learned multiple languages (Arabic, Hindi, Indonesian), travelled extensively (to Jordan, India, Nepal, and Indonesia), and conducted multiple research projects! I am currently doing research on the politics of power and national identity in Jordan. I examine the intersection of state power with tribal relations, the Palestinian conflict, and the Syrian refugee crisis through an ethnographic study of an intense period of death and mourning. I study how narratives are crafted and symbols created though ritual spectacle organised by the state, but I also pay attention to the responses of the people. I studied abroad in Jordan during my Junior year, where I carried out my fieldwork, learned Arabic, and made many friends! I also spent time in South Asia where I embarked on various pursuits: an intensive Hindi language programme in India, a research trip to Kashmir, and a Buddhism programme in Nepal. I have become a family member of a Nepali Hindu family too! I also conducted ethnographic research with the Orang Suku Laut (sea tribe) of Indonesia during my first two years, where I lived with the tribal chief and participated in various rituals from religious sacrifice to the calling of sea spirits. My first experience with other cultures was during my gap year in India, where I backpacked around extensively before eventually settling in a school as a volunteer teacher. The school was in Jharkhand, one of the poorest states of India, and most of my students were from the Santhali tribe. Throughout our time together, I learned a lot about structural poverty and inequality, tribal developmental issues, and the myriad rituals and interesting cultural practices of the Santhals. I became convinced that any effective development work must be finely attuned to the culture of the people.