Tina He / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell undergraduates discuss their research in various areas of the humanities and social sciences at a showcase in Klarman Hall Wednesday.

May 4, 2016

Showcase Highlights ‘Under-Recognized’ Research in Humanities

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Students presented their research in the humanities and social sciences — ranging from the role of religion in society to how video game players perceive their characters — at the Humanities Showcase in Klarman Hall Wednesday.

Some explained their findings with talks, while others presented with large poster boards or read excerpts from books.

Ronald Forster ’17, vice president of the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board — which hosted the Humanities Showcase — said the organization began the showcase as a way to highlight research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, which he said is often “under-recognized” on campus.

“Many students traditionally think of research as something in the hard sciences or engineering, but the truth is that there are research opportunities in just about all majors here at Cornell,” Forster said.

Phoebe Hering ’16 said she interviewed French rabbis and imams around Paris and Bourdeaux for her project, titled “Nous Sommes Quoi?”, which studied Jewish and Muslim identities in France.

“Every religious figure that I interviewed there was supportive of the French policy of secularism, which basically means that they’re supportive of the fact that in France, religion is totally not allowed in the public sphere,” she said.

Samuel Schirvar ’18 presented his research on video game players, who he said are able to interact with their medium in a way film viewers and readers of literature are not.

Interactions with other characters cause players to establish personhood in the game, according to Schirvar. He cited how players often say “I’ve been shot” rather than “My character has been shot.”

Melissa Sarmiento ’16 spoke about Pope John Paul II’s rejection of Catholic liberation theology in Chile, explaining its implication that Jesus Christ was a Marxist. The Church did not intervene against the Pinochet regime because it did not want to act as a “political entity,” Sarmiento said.

Stacy Ndlovu ’16 argued that people in ‘iconic’ photographs — such as the 1985 ‘Afghan Girl’ image taken in a refugee camp — should receive legal protection because subjects sometimes do not consent to be photographed, and the pictures are distributed without the subjects’ permission.

“There is no empirical evidence the pictures of victims help those victims of conflict,” Ndlovu said.

Forster also emphasized that the showcase was an opportunity for non-science majors to “step in the spotlight, showcase their work and practice presenting their work in a professional setting.”