Amid poster boards with topics ranging from beekeeping to online shopping, students from the humanities disciplines presented a variety of research projects during the Undergraduate Humanities Research Showcase on Wednesday.
The annual showcase, hosted by the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board, gives humanities students an opportunity to share their research with the Cornell community. This year, six large poster boards from each project were displayed in Klarman Atrium, while brief student presentations took place simultaneously in a nearby classroom.
“When you think research, a lot of people focus on the biological and physical,” Dante Dahabreh ’19, CURB public relations chair, said. “So we focus on the humanities here. Project topics range from going out to third world countries and doing different activities to design and architecture.”
Among these researchers was Alexis Cousins-Culver ’17, a history major with a concentration in maritime popular culture. Cousins-Culver, inspired by two prominent film scripts she stumbled upon in an archive, compared the different characterizations of wives in novel and film adaptations of Moby Dick.
“I was drawn to the fact that both [films] had created a female-speaking character, because there are none in the novel of Moby Dick,” Cousins-Culver said. “It’s important to consider, when we’re watching action things, how unrealistic they can be. What are we really leaving out in terms of the reality of these people’s existences, just for the sake of creating a more exciting tale?”
The showcase also included Mengxi Sun ’18 who is from China and presented on the origin of modern Chinese commercial law.
“I was taking a class in the law department at Cornell, and I learned a lot from the class,” Sun said. “I would like to choose a juncture between tradition and organization. This project captures the critical point of what is shifting.”
Because many people believe research is mostly STEM-focused, the Humanities Showcase strives to combat the stereotypes associated with humanities research.
“I think it’s really great in terms of learning critical thinking and other skills,” Cousins-Culver said. “Obviously it’s a lot harder in the humanities, but I still think it’s a really fun experience. Especially what people in STEM don’t have the experience of is working in archives, and I think it’s a really exciting experience.”
Sun also reminded the audience to look past the general conception of the humanities and to remember its deep-rooted history.
“The humanities are definitely important,” Sun said. “A lot of big magazines talk about how the enrollment of humanities majors are declining. But the humanities have been there for thousands of years, like linguistics, history and politics. They’re not going anywhere.”