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Seven teams of students produced documentaries this fall on the Easton Rotary, an Italian enclave in Roseto, Pa., International Students Association, Lafayette football fans, a homeless shelter, Chi Phi fraternity, and the center circle in downtown Easton.

The projects are explorations of ethnography, the branch of anthropology that describes specific human cultures.

“The fundamental idea is for one to learn ethnography by doing it, [reaching] out into communities that the world doesn’t have any idea about and exploring their inner workings – discovering how they operate and make it clearer,” says Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology, who is taught the course, Qualitative Methods of Research.

He adds that it teaches the students how to conduct anthropological fieldwork and then communicate it to an audience that does not possess their experience.

Two years ago, students in the course produced ethnographies on a local Republican Club, fire department, dining services employees, Hillel Society, Boys and Girls Club, and town-gown relationship. Other past documentaries included a Sikh community, senior citizens home, “extreme sports” competitors, and rodeos.

This fall, one group studied the dedication of members in Easton Chapter of Rotary Foundation. The students attended meetings and conducted interviews with local Rotarians to gain a better understanding of the club’s goals, values, and accomplishments. In addition, they met with Jack Bennett ’50, who has had perfect attendance for 54 years.

“The reasons for joining Rotary range from ‘a friend sponsored me because they thought I would like it’ to ‘it was what many male college graduates were doing at that time’ to ‘my son received a Rotary scholarship that changed his life so I wanted to give that experience to someone else,’” says Kara Boodakian ’07(Winchester, Mass.).

Although Rotary clubs develop autonomous service programs, all are united in a campaign for the global eradication of polio. The students discovered that members of the organization had different levels of involvement and were eager to share their mission.

“‘Service over self’ is the common ground binding these clubs internationally,” the group reports.

Team members included anthropology & sociology majors Boodakin, Sarah Smedley ’07 (Haddonfield, N.J.), and James Sommers’06 (Clearwater, Fla.), and Kristy Rao ’07 (Stuart, Fla.), a double major in psychology and anthropology & sociology.

Another group devoted its production to the culture of Italian enclaves in Roseto, a town at the foot of the Pocono Mountains, and compared it with a section of Boston, Mass. While there are obvious differences – Roseto is a quiet suburban town as opposed to the metropolis of Boston – they share similar practices and strive to keep traditions alive. In addition to learning how immigrants practice their rituals, one student gained insight into her ancestry.

“My father and his side of the family are from Roseto, so it was easy for me to make a decision on what area I wanted to study for the qualitative ethnography,” says Nicole Parillo ’06(Holliston, Mass.), a double major in government & law and anthropology & sociology. “I have gained a better understanding of my family heritage.”

She adds, “It is very interesting that Rosetans have been found to live longer since they engage a great deal of community interaction. Many authors have written books on this topic and find Roseto to be a ‘wonder community’ because of it.”

Team members included Parillo and anthropology & sociology majors Shannon Fisher ’07 (Coplay, Pa.), Michael Banas ’07 (Easton, Pa.), and Veronica Canto-Ponce ’07 (La Jolla, Ca).

A third group collaborated to explore the inner workings of the International Students Association (ISA) by observing the organization at events such as Block pARTy, Hookah Café, ISA formal, discussion groups, and several lunch hours. The students examined the function of ISA, how the group interacts with the non-international population on campus, the importance of cliques within ISA, and the roles of active and non-active members.

Team members included double majors in government & law and anthropology & sociology Brendan O’Regan ’06 (Ringwood, N.J.) and Larry Johnson ’06(Waldorf, Md.), Nkosi Aberdeen ’06 (St. Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago), a double major in Africana Studies and anthropology & sociology, and Rachael Magner ’07 (Wilton, Conn.), a double major in psychology and anthropology & sociology.

A fourth group decided to make a detailed ethnography on the culture of “fanship,” using Lafayette football fans as a case study. The students applied concepts they learned in their curriculum to address issues such as the importance of group membership as well as continuity and change over time for Lafayette fans. Group members agree that Lafayette’s athletic pride is not diminished by the size of the college.

Team members included anthropology & sociology majors Emily Goldman ’07 (North Kingstown, R.I.), and Rasheim Donaldson ’06(New York, N.Y.), Alisandra B. Carnevale ’06(Princeton, N.J.), a double major in history and anthropology & sociology, and Patrick Betley ’06 (Haddonfield, N.J.), a history major.

A fifth group focused on the Victory House homeless shelter, a project of Center City Ministries founded by Trinity Church for men located in the south side of Bethlehem, Pa. Through interviews with staff and interactions with residents, the students sought to understand the causes and effects of homelessness and dispel stereotypes. In addition, the team wished to learn the motivations of the staff for helping the residents, and what actions are taken to help them re-enter the community.

Team members included anthropology & sociologymajors Nick Appleman ’06 (Portsmouth, R.I.) and Miranda Dolan ’07 (Pitman, N.J.), Laura Kerr ’06 (Seattle, Wash.), a psychology major, and Jessica Ferringer ’07 (Fulton, Miss.), a double major in economics & business and anthropology & sociology.

A sixth group created a written ethnography and supplemental film about the Chi Phi fraternity. After over a century on campus, Lafayette’s Chi Phi had its charter revoked by the national organization. The effect this decision has had on the former brothers, and how their community has changed and survived, is the focus of the documentary. Through speaking with former brothers and other students and alumni, the team documented how a community survives despite being officially shut down.

“Research has shown the response and dynamics of communities, living groups, and collegiate fraternities in similar situations, helping us to gain perspective of the map to sustaining an unrecognized community,” say the students.

Team members included anthropology & sociology majors Joanna Vogel ’06 (Ridgewood, N.J.) and Eduardo Sanchez ’06 (El Dorado, Panama), Dan Rosenblum ’06 (Needham, Mass.), an economics & business major, and Jennifer Legnini ’06 (Rosemont, Pa), an art major.

A seventh group analyzed the people who navigate in and around Easton’s downtown circle. The function of the circle exceeds traffic direction; it is home to various social groups and businesses. Over the years, aesthetics that make the circle appealing to its visitors have changed significantly. Students explored the location’s significance to Easton’s inhabitants.

“Through the course of various in-depth interviews, which are recorded or written, we are witnessing consistent commonalities and important differences in the opinions held by the people who actually occupy the circle,” the team explains. “Contrasting those views are the responses of people who may commute through or work in businesses within close proximity.”

The group hoped to discover what will improve the space and offer a peek into the lives of many Easton residents.

Team members included anthropology & sociology majors Dion Witherspoon ’06 (Newport News, Va.) and Claire Bourquin ’07 (Avon, Conn.), and James Carroll ’06 (Beach Haven, N.J.), a double major in biology and anthropology & sociology.

Categorized in: Academic News