A two-day conference celebrating the 40th anniversary of International Comparative Studies at Duke is set to begin Thursday.
The conference, titled “Movements and Exchanges in an Unequal World: ICS at 40,” will feature presentations on a wide range of topics by Duke faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students as well as speakers from other universities. The presentations are grouped into five themes central to ICS—Migration and Ethnicity; Humanitarianism and Development; Refugees, Rescue and Race; the University and Security and the Law.
The idea for the conference emerged from a conversation with Dean of Arts and Sciences Laurie Patton, a year and a half ago, said Frances Hasso, director of the ICS Program and associate professor of women’s studies.
“We thought it would be a good thing to have a kind of ‘coming out’ conference for ICS in terms of making connections with other schools and other disciplines across campus,” she said.
ICS was approved to become an official program, instead of just a major, by the Board of Trustees at their meeting last weekend. The conference, however, had been scheduled before the announcement.
The keynote address will be delivered Friday by Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. It will focus on international strategies in dealing with the war on terror as well as other wars.
Three seniors will also be presenting their senior thesis research during Friday’s portion of the conference. The students were selected from the ICS honors thesis seminar.
Jeline Rabideau studied the Rwandan refugee crisis and how laws established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees affect refugee identity. She selected her topic after spending a semester abroad in Rwanda and Uganda.
“You can’t look at any cultural phenomenon in isolation, and the refugee crisis is no exception to that,” Rabideau said. “You have to look at different actors in the international community—different governments, different states and different individuals.”
Gena Olan tackled a “historical conundrum” in her research, exploring the motives that led certain individuals in World-War-II-era Spain, then an ally of Germany and a fascist dictatorship, to help the oppressed Jewish population escape the Nazis.
Having studied abroad in Madrid, Olan, who is Jewish, chose a topic that combined several of her interests into one field of research.
Elysia Pan focused her research on the globalization of the beauty industry, particularly with regard to the skin-whitening culture prevalent in East Asia.
“The first time I went back to China, I was just so surprised to see how some women would use umbrellas to try and constantly protect their skin from the sun’s rays,” Pan said. “Whereas here, everyone wants to be tan. It’s interesting to see that difference.”
Olan noted that the ICS program had helped her develop her skills as a thinker and writer.
“I have really enjoyed this thesis process—our seminar instructor Cheri Ross [associate director of undergraduate studies in ICS] has been a wonderful mentor,” Pan said. “It’s great that we have the opportunity to present our findings to the larger academic community on Friday.”
In addition to the undergraduate panel, several professors from Duke and other universities will be on hand to present their research. These include Peter Redfield, associate professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Jenny Chio, assistant professor of anthropology at Emory University. Redfield will discuss the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, and Chio will screen the documentary film “Peasant Family Happiness” on Thursday. The documentary, produced by Chio, depicts rural villages in China that have begun to integrate the growing tourism industry into their ethnic identity.
“ICS received program status last week in the Board of Trustees meeting, so I think the timing is very good,” Hasso said. “It’s an exciting time for ICS.”