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Senior Aytugce Birerdinc is investigating murder and shame in her Mediterranean homeland.

A government and law major, Birerdinc is working as an EXCEL Scholar with Andrea Smith, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology. In EXCEL, students collaborate with faculty on research while earning a stipend. The two are interpreting a series of murders committed by Maltese in the Ottoman Empire borderlands during the 19th century.

They are trying to determine whether the murders reflect the frontier nature of the area or if the natives were carrying out “culturally appropriate” behaviors accepted in the region during that time. Smith says that there is little information on this aspect of Maltese culture, so they will have to look at cultural patterns characteristic of the whole region.

“I will be doing academic research from articles in specialized journals that are written in English, Turkish, and French,” says Birerdinc, who is trilingual. She plans to examine articles on blood feuds, revenge killings, honor codes, and hospitality rules in the eastern Mediterranean.

“We will have to make judgments together on whether the information she finds is relevant to the historical case we are analyzing,” says Smith.

“Aytugce is so well suited to this project, it almost seems tailor-made for her,” she adds. “I think that her greatest challenge will be in limiting what she decides to request and read. So many sources are potentially relevant and interesting. It may be hard to know when we will have enough material for our analysis.”

“The work she [Smith] is conducting is very interesting and I am very happy to have the opportunity to contribute,” says Birerdinc. “I am of Turkish origin and find doing research in this particular area very interesting.”

In a seminar she took last year with Smith, Birerdinc wrote an extensive research paper on social memory and its influences over the ex-Ottoman countries, mainly the Middle East and Northern Africa. Although Birerdinc is well versed in Ottoman history, she found it interesting to see it through the eyes of a different culture, which piqued her curiosity and prompted additional research.

“Aytugce stood out in my Cultural Anthropology class as a student who is remarkably prepared and motivated, and who has a great wealth of knowledge about the world that stems from having lived in many different places,” says Smith. “When Aytugce took my upper-level social memory seminar last term, it was wonderful to converse with her after class about my research interests. She knew exactly what I was talking about right away.”

Birerdinc spent the summer traveling in Beirut, Lebanon, and Istanbul, Turkey, and studying for the LSATs. She completed an internship with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, an organization that aids uprooted peoples by providing shelter, food, water, and medicine. She decided whether individuals seeking refugee status fulfilled the requirement guidelines and provided case summaries defending and explaining her decision. An internship with the law firm of Kadige & Kadige gave Birerdinc an opportunity to learn the procedural processes of a law firm and allowed her to write a legal resolution.

She is a member of International Students Association and serves as vice president of French Floor in Keefe Hall.

Categorized in: Academic News