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In Their Own Words: Esme Lutz ’12.5

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Esme Lutz ’12.5 interned with the Rehwa Society in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, India.

What did you do?

My project focuses on the Rehwa Society, an Indian nonprofit organization established in 1978 dually to promote a regional craft and provide employment specifically for women. Before traveling to India, I conducted research using many of Middlebury’s online resources in order to deepen my understanding of Indian culture and gender relations. I planned to compile a photographic documentary—using images combined with text to illustrate Rehwa’s story to a viewer—and thus spent my time in India observing the weaving process, interviewing key figures associated with the organization, photographing a variety of individuals and objects, as well as traveling to a few different workshops to compare and contrast the methods utilized there. Now near returning back to school, I am in the midst of collating the materials I collected in the way I described in my proposal (with a few small additions): composing an article to publish in a campus magazine, working with curators to exhibit the images I took at Middlebury, sharing the pictures with Rehwa to be used in a promotional “look book,” submitting written material to Rehwa to include in a future application to UNESCO to become a living heritage site, and displaying the photographs publicly via the web.

What did you learn?

My experience was not easy: I was living alone, in a small town in a rural area, unable to speak a difficult-to-just-pick-up language in a country with drastically different from the one in which I had spent most of my life. While at times being in Maheshwar was incredibly enchanting and filled me with an effusive sense of love for the world around me, at other it was exhausting, lonely, and incredibly frustrating. This being said, besides  the factual knowledge I gained, the benefits of interacting with people whose lives are very different from my own, of encountering norms and problems unfamiliar in my home environment, and of pushing myself into a situation in which I initially felt very uncomfortable, are undeniable.

What are your plans for the future?

As my studies wind to a close (in February) and I think increasingly about my next motions, my experience in India will definitely register strongly in my mind when considering characteristics I desire in a career. It was incredible to encounter people with different circumstance and background, to push myself further into situations that were momentarily uncomfortable, and to have an expanse of time to think critically about a single subject. My interests have definitely taken a more international focus, and I hope to, in part, address the fundamental challenges I observed firsthand while in Maheshwar.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

Trial access to South Asian historical archives (through April 30)

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

For the month of April, please visit the following East Asian historical archives databases. The Library is considering them through a collaboration with several Vermont colleges:

India Raj and Empire
Original manuscript material ranging from the foundation of the East India Company in 1615 to records of daily life in Agra, Bombay, Lahore, and Madras. Included are diaries, letters, maps, sketches and official and private papers. The collection is particularly strong for the 18th and 19th centuries.

Foreign Office Files for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, 1947-1980
Three archival collections drawn from the British Foreign Office files on the countries of South Asia from shortly before Indian partition and independence up to 1980. The archival documents are divided into the following sections: (1) Independence, Partition and the Nehru Era, 1947-1964, (2) South Asian Conflicts and Independence for Bangladesh, 1965-1971 (3) Afghanistan and the Cold War, Emergency Rule in India, and the Resumption of Civilian Rule in Pakistan, 1972-1980.

Empire Online
Empire Online is an interactive digital collection exploring colonial history, politics, culture and society. The archive is designed specifically to encourage the use of primary sources in teaching and includes 1000s of images of unique primary material including maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, paintings, drawings and rare books spanning five centuries from a translation of Columbus’s 1492 voyage to the 21st century.

Although these three collections are available separately, they can be searched as a group using Archive Explorer.

These trials can also be found on the New & Trial Resources page (go/trials).

Please send comments to Rebekah Irwin (rirwin@middlebury.edu) or your library liaison.