Two receive inaugural Antoun Fellowships
October 5, 2010Tweet
Two Richard T. Antoun Fellowships have been awarded for the 2010-2011 academic year to enable graduate students in anthropology to focus on their dissertation research. The fellowships are awarded on the recommendation of the faculty in anthropology and serve as a reminder of the contributions Antoun made to his discipline and the University. The inaugural recipients are Susan Pietrzyk and Bilge Firat.
A sociocultural anthropologist, Antoun joined the faculty at Binghamton in 1970, retiring from full-time service in 1999. He served as a Bartle Professor until 2002 and was professor emeritus at the time of his death in December 2009.
“Dick was more than anything else a dedicated teacher and mentor who gave his all for our students,” said Randall McGuire, distinguished professor of anthropology and department chair. “His concern for students and devotion to anthropology touched every student and faculty member in the department just as it touched Susan and Bilge. It is our hope that this fellowship will continue to make Dick part of the lives of our students far into the future.”
Firat, in her fifth year of graduate studies, has been working with others in the Department of Anthropology on the study of Europe and European integration and broadly on the current political transformation that affects peoples and states in Europe. Her dissertation focuses on the role of lobbying in Turkey’s European Union accession process.
“On a practical level, this fellowship will enable me to finish my dissertation more quickly,” Firat said. “But it means much more on an emotional level. Professor Antoun was an extremely respected member of my department and I am honored to have been awarded this fellowship that carries his name.”
Though she did not take any classes with Antoun, Firat benefited from his wisdom and generosity each time they met in seminars or conferences. “He came to my doctoral colloquium and asked challenging questions about my fieldwork, which stimulated new prospects and directions in my research,” she said.
Pietrzyk’s research focuses on cultural activism around HIV/AIDS. From 2006 to 2008, she lived in Harare, Zimbabwe, looking at the role artists play in how HIV/AIDS is understood and addressed.
“In my dissertation, I analyze the work of literary and performative artists who focus on HIV/AIDS, both directly and indirectly,” she said. “I am interested in the ways that HIV/AIDS is not only a health issue, but also represents a site of inequity.”
Pietrzyk’s dissertation will highlight that astute HIV/AIDS knowledge does not necessarily require direct mention of HIV or AIDS.
“During my fieldwork in Harare I found that cultural activists are particularly skilled in this regard and often do not speak of HIV/AIDS directly, but their engagements are decidedly about HIV/AIDS intellectually,” she said. “My focus concerns the work of individual artists and collective groups of artists as well as the audiences who join them to interrogate and dismantle what has power over their lives.”
Pietrzyk, who currently lives in North Carolina, started her PhD program at Binghamton in 2002 and met with Antoun to learn about the course he was teaching. Though she didn’t take the course, he did inspire her.
“For me, receiving an Antoun Fellowship is an honor as well as a humbling experience,” she said. “This encourages me, and motivates me to do the best work I possibly can. At the same time, receiving the fellowship is humbling in the sense that, in this moment and into the future, the fellowship will provide positive pause surrounding the importance of valuing life. So, in the end, and in one sentence, receiving the fellowship inspires me to work to be a better person.”