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ND students travel to work on theses

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

While many students caught up on sleep or their favorite TV shows over Fall Break, some seniors traveled abroad to get a more personal perspective on their theses topics.

Senior Pete Elliott, a political science and economics double major, visited Belfast, Northern Ireland. While there, he conducted research for his thesis on policing and insurgency during The Troubles, a period of national ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland.

“I’m studying the effects of certain actions undertaken by the police in Northern Ireland to combat the terrorism at the time,” Elliott said. “[I’m] seeing how the tactics they used to fight terrorism played a role in shaping the conflict and how it played a role in the next 30 years.”

Elliott visited the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland to digitize police records.

“These would be weekly status reports, statistics,” he said. “If you get data about certain areas in Northern Ireland, Belfast specifically, you can map the police by their own documentation and see if there are any interesting trends over time. So it’s seeing what sort of information we can mine from that data and how that can help us understand the conflict in a more rigorous way.”

Elliott also visited Relatives for Justice, a victims’ advocacy group in Belfast. The group attempts to compensate people that were wronged during The Troubles.

“They collected statements from people who had been taken up by the police,” Elliott said. “It highlights a lot of institutional abuse that was sort of downplayed.”

Elliott hopes to use the information he collected to analyze the interplay between the state and the social movement during The Troubles.

“I have to go through it and see exactly what I’m going to use, but the goal is to map a trend in policing in certain areas in Belfast during the period from 1968 to 1971,” he said.

Senior Lea Malewitz, a double major in French and Arabic, travelled to Paris with a dual purpose.

Malewitz’s main focus was to prepare for an art exhibit called “DIGNITY,” a photo exhibit about human dignity issues, set to debut at the Snite Museum of Art in January. While there, however, she also gathered information for her thesis on the portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict in French literature.

Malewitz visited the Museum of Jewish Art and History, the Arabic World Institute and La Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration, a museum of immigrant history, she said.

At the Museum of Jewish Art and History, Malewitz found an exhibit that shed light on Jewish identity in France.

“One woman portrayed was quoted as saying that she felt Jewish identity in France was revitalized when the Pieds-Noirs, the French settlers of Algeria, returned to France after the Algerian War of Independence because they weren’t ashamed to assert their Jewish identity,” she said.

Malewitz said the perspectives on Judaism, France and northern Africa held by Jews in Arab-dominated French colonies especially intrigued her.

“I encountered the same idea, described as a revival of Judaism in France after the arrival of the Sephardic Jews, the next day at the Museum of Immigration,” Malewitz said. “I am interested to see if this revival is reflected in French and francophone literature as I continue to do research for my thesis.”

Elliott said the opportunity to research abroad was an exceptionally valuable asset for his thesis.

“It’s really exciting because I feel like I’m using innovative sources that a lot of distinguished scholars on the subjects haven’t gotten to use, and I wouldn’t have gotten to do that if I hadn’t been to Belfast personally,” he said. “Plus, it’s invaluable to see the area I’m writing on firsthand.”