As a final lecture period, the students of ST232 and a few other Origins classes were asked to present their research. This research came in the form of posters, zines, and photography. My classmates and I were responsible for the poster portion of the presentations.
Over the semester, I observed as my class developed and processed their research. Some topics remained unchanged from the first proposal to the final presentation while others didn’t seem to have a clear idea of what was actually going to be presented until the moment their paper was tacked to the easel. I found that having an entire class working on individual projects allowed us to help each other in unexpected ways, usually through inspiring unexpected ideas by presenting vastly different perspectives on the Origins theme.
Before the presentation, I only had an extremely basic idea of what everyone had been occupying their time with, so when I finally got to see the 3’x4′ posters printed or projected in the alumni center, I was quite shocked. The breadth and depth in which my peers had engaged with their topics surprised me. I was quite curious as to how Benard was going to trace the origins of his own tribe and how Anna was going to pull together explaining the origins of traditional Chinese medicine, but they both managed quite well. I thought that the maps Benard included on his poster were particularly intriguing–having the visualization of a path that seemed so difficult to trace was pretty magical. Anna also was able to figure out the underlying political pressure that ended up causing a lot of the frequency and availability of the traditional practices. I thought it was particularly fascinating that traditional Chinese medicine was originally used in the context of being a cheap and local way to go about healing, but then has been adapted and utilized by Western medicine in a very elitist, definitely not local context.
As for my project, I was overwhelmed by the support my classmates gave me. I was especially thankful because creating something of your own, particularly drawing and even more particularly drawing in an academic context, always feel incredibly vulnerable. It is showing a part of your own raw talent (or lack thereof) in an honest way that openly invites critique whether you want it to or not. Creating my own art as an interpretation of my research on the origins of the universe in the context of mythology ended up being an incredibly powerful exploration in academia that I hadn’t taken before. I found that balancing interpretation of empirical data while acknowledging the cultural significance of these stories was much more difficult than I had anticipated, especially because not all of the stories I picked had precise narratives with imagery or plot. Thankfully, with lots of work and a cramped hand, I was able to pull together the pieces that I had been looking for.
I found the celebration of research to be a fitting end to the semester. A casual yet informative encounter of faculty and students allowed for an easy flow of knowledge gained over the past few months.