PIIRS expands Princeton Exploration Seminars

By Julie Clack, Office of Communications

Last year, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), in cooperation with the Office of International Programs (OIP), launched Princeton Exploration Seminars. Building on the success of Global Seminars, which are offered every summer, Exploration Seminars are semester-long credit-bearing courses with a weeklong international travel component that typically takes place over fall or spring break.

During fall break, four courses embarked on trips all over the world — to Cuba, Guatemala, India and Russia — to experience different cultures firsthand.

In "The Culture of the Cuban Revolution" with Rubén Gallo, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr., Professor in Language, Literature and Civilization of Spain and professor of Spanish and Portuguese, students studied the literature, architecture, film and dance that emerged after Fidel Castro’s march into Havana in 1959. By attending theater performances during the Havana Theater Festival and meeting with actors and directors, students witnessed how the Cuban Revolution continues to shape the lives of everyday residents of Havana.

To explore issues of social stratification and poverty and their connection to identity formation, students in “Identity in the Hispanic World” with Christina Lee, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, traveled to Guatemala to participate in a service-learning program at a nonprofit organization that addresses inefficiencies in education, healthcare and housing in towns near Antigua. Together, they constructed a home, helped a weaving cooperative, shadowed social work visits, tutored students in math and lived “a day in the life” of artisans. Students also witnessed the melding of Guatemalans’ indigenous and Catholic identities in the Day of the Dead celebrations, which included visiting cemeteries and the flying of giant kites in Sumpango and Santiago de Sacatepéquez.

On the other side of the globe, students in “Gender, Sexuality, and Feminisms in South Asia,” taught by Fauzia Farooqui, lecturer in the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, traveled to India, where they examined how different communities have pushed against gender norms and cultural expectations, resulting in a diverse range of feminist projects.

Students in “Urban Studies Research Seminar” with Katherine Reischl, assistant professor of Slavic languages and literatures and Christian Gauss University Preceptor, and Aaron Shkuda, program manager of the Princeton Mellon Initiative and lecturer in architecture, were introduced to urban studies research methods through visits to two cultural capitals: Moscow and New York. Throughout the semester, they took advantage of Princeton’s proximity to New York City, where they surveyed the city’s communities and landmarks as represented in historical accounts, literary works, art and film. Over fall break, they journeyed to Moscow to study the Russian capital in situ.

Two Exploration Seminars — “Early Modern Amsterdam: Tolerant Eminence and the Arts” with Nigel Smith, William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature and professor of English, and “Spanish for a Medical Caravan in Ecuador” with Paloma Moscardo-Valles, lecturer in Spanish and Portuguese — are scheduled to take place over spring break 2020.