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Culture, Identity, & Religion

Cultural topics such as "Who you Are?" and Religion.

Flag of the Week - Switzerland

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, the so-called Bundesstadt. The country is situated in Western and Central Europe, where it is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura. While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found; among them are the two global and economic centers of Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as Swiss National Day. The country has a long history of armed neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area.

Straddling the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Therefore the Swiss, although predominantly German-speaking, do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnicity or language; rather, Switzerland's strong sense of identity and community is founded on a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism.

Switzerland ranks high in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, economic competitiveness, and human development. It has the highest nominal wealth per adult in the world and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product on the IMF list. Swiss citizens have the second-highest life expectancy in the world. Zürich and Geneva each have been ranked among the top cities with the highest quality of life in the world. 

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Love Is A Verb, a screening and discussion

Love Is A Verb is an examination of a social movement of Sufi inspired Sunni Muslims that began in Turkey in the l960s and now reaches across the globe. The group is called Hizmet, the Turkish word for service or The Gulen Movement after its inspiration, leader and beloved teacher Fethullah Gulen, a man that Time Magazine named as one of the most influential leaders in the world in 2013.

Kenneth Hunter, Executive Producer and Hakan Berberoglu, Co-Producer will be present for a screening and Q&A for this new documentary on the Gulen Movement on ​Tuesday, January 13th @6:00pm at Duke Bryan Center, Griffith Theater.

Presented by the Center for Muslim Life at Duke.

Read more about this documentary at www.loveisaverbmovie.com.

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Transition to Duke

We spoke to Gerald Tan, a Trinity freshman from Singapore, about his transition to Duke and the United States. The Economics student has a great sense of humor and loves all things food.

1. Where have you lived or traveled?
I have only lived in Singapore. But my Mum was born in Malaysia, so I would often head there to visit my relatives.  It’s a 3-hour drive away.

2. Why did you come to Duke?
Many reasons: the liberal arts education, the community of friends, the weather, the over-aggressive squirrels. But most important of all - to explore. My mum left her hometown, alone, when she was barely 16, to seek a new life in a foreign country. Coming to Duke is, in some way, my lesser emulation of that immense courage and entrepreneurship she had.

3. What are you planning on studying while you are at Duke?
I want to study Economics. I am also interested in Philosophy – Philosophy 101 is an excellent course to take!

4. What are you involved in outside of the classroom?
I am on the Duke Debate team. Over weekends, I would travel out with the team to other schools, like Yale [University] and [University of] Vermont, to compete in inter-varsity tournaments. I am also in Duke Consulting Club: I write for the Duke Consulting Review and work closely with a Durham start-up, Ripcog, under the community-consulting program. Ripcog is a platform that helps local businesses generate more referrals at a lowest cost. I have also most recently been preparing for the regional Federal Reserve Challenge.
During my free time (if there is even such a thing), I cook.  Pork Belly stews; caramelized chicken wings in Chinese cooking wine; Tangyuan – colored rice balls in sweetened ginger broth. I also play the viola.

5. How did you feel when you first came to United States? Were you surprised or were things similar to life in your home country?
It was almost dreamlike; partly because it was after a 24-hour flight, but mostly because the moment I had waited for 2 years finally arrived (I deferred my matriculation to Duke by 2 years to complete Singapore’s mandatory military service). I was most surprised to find strangers greeting me whenever they saw me, and blessing me whenever I sneezed.

6. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make to get immersed into the American culture?
To speak in an accent-neutral way that could be understood. People used to ask me what language I was conversing in, even when I was speaking in English.

7. Are there some parts of the American culture you haven’t gotten used to? If so, what are they?
The food. The food here is fantastic, but every so often, I miss authentic Chinese food (no offense to Panda Express).

8. How did your thoughts about the USA change after coming here?
As an international student, I was initially afraid that I would not be able to integrate into the Duke community. But the folks here are friendlier than I expected. Everywhere I go I bump into affection. 

9. Is there something you wish you had known about America before coming here?
How hot it really was in the first few weeks of Fall.

10. What do you miss the most about your home country?
My family, my old friends and food, glorious food.

11. What do you like the most about Duke?
The faculty. I am always amazed by how approachable (and humorous) many of the faculty members are. They really make learning more enjoyable. Earlier today, during my Economics lecture, Professor Zelder put on a woman’s scarf and began to shout in Italian. It was to demonstrate the effects of negative externalities.

12. What are your plans for this summer?
I haven’t really decided what I will do for this summer. But as of now, I am inclined to use that time to explore the States and to volunteer.

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Flag of the Week - Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea, officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is an Oceanian country that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia. Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The western half of New Guinea forms the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. 848 languages are listed for the country, of which 12 have no known living speakers. Most of the population of over 7 million people live in customary communities, which are as diverse as the languages. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18 per cent of its people live in urban centres. The country is one of the world's least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior.

Strong growth in Papua New Guinea's mining and resource sector has led to the country's becoming the sixth fastest-growing economy in the world as of 2011. Many people in the country live in extreme poverty when measured in terms of money, with about one-third of the population living on less than US$1.25 per day.

At the local level, the majority of the population still live in strong customary societies and - while social life is overlaid with traditional religious cosmologies and modern practices, including conventional primary education - customary subsistence-based agriculture remains fundamental. These societies and clans are explicitly acknowledged within the nation's constitutional framework. The Papua New Guinea Constitution expresses the wish for "traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society" and for active steps to be taken in their continuing importance to local and national community life.

At the national level, after being ruled by three external powers since 1884, Papua New Guinea established its sovereignty in 1975 following 70 years of Australian administration. It became a separate Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations in its own right.

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Internationals Celebrating An American Tradition: Thanksgiving

Let me start by sharing two things that comes up to my mind when I think about Thanksgiving. Firstly, as an international student whose home is approximately 5,430 miles away from Duke, I am always nervous about being left alone during short breaks like Thanksgiving when none of the on-campus eateries, stores, libraries are open for their regular hours and almost all of my friends leave campus to go back to their homes. This year, fortunately, International House organized an amazing Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday, Nov 26th, for a group of internationals that included undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty. I thought the event was a great success!

There were many delicious traditional American Thanksgiving foods such as turkey with gravy, green beans with garlic and parmesan, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pecans, macaroni & cheese and a variety of pies for dessert. The best part was that lovely IHouse staff cooked all of this food in their homes and brought them in, just like a real Thanksgiving meal in someone’s house. We met with people from all around the world, had interesting and enjoyable conversations while eating delicious food.

The second thing I remember every Thanksgiving is related to the main dish of this day: the turkey. As a Turkish myself, Thanksgivings are always in a sense stressful for me since whenever someone talks about the turkey they ate, I immediately attend to the conversation because it could be something related to my country, Turkey. Last year, I decided to research why this traditional Thanksgiving food is named with my country and whether it is named after Turkey (the country). This is really intriguing for me because in Turkish, a turkey is called “Hindi” which refers to India. I found that New York Times’ Mark Forsyth wrote a beautiful and informative op-ed to answer these questions. It turns out that this exotic bird is imported all the way from Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa to Europe by merchants from Turkey, so the name of this bird stayed as Turkey. Ironically, French and Turkish people thought that turkeys came from India so they call it dinde and hindi respectively.

All in all, we had a great time in International House to celebrate Thanksgiving together as internationals. I would like to thank all IHouse staff for this nice event! I wish a Happy Thanksgiving for everyone with amazing people and delicious food. ☺

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CSGD Welcomes New Director

Bernadette Brown has been named the new director of the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (CSGD) at Duke.

“She brings strong management skills, expertise in LGBTQ issues, theories and perspectives,” said Zoila Airall, who oversees CSGD as VP of Campus Life for Student Affairs at Duke. “Her colleagues describe her as someone they will miss because of her encyclopedic mind, engaging sense of humor and commitment to social justice issues.”

Throughout the Fall semester, “Queering Duke History” has commemorated a turbulent 50 years of LGBT life and progress on campus. Brown’s arrival on Jan. 5 will be an integral part of the next chapter of this story.

“Duke has a very interesting social justice trajectory, especially pertaining to race, cisgender women, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE). The LGBTQI community here, in particular, has a rich history,” Brown said. “CSGD, the LGBTQI undergraduate and graduate student groups, the LGBT Task Force and the LGBT Alumni Network all have had, and will continue to have, a profoundly beneficial impact on the lives of the LGBTQI community at Duke and beyond.”

Brown has dedicated much of her professional career to advancing social justice, with particular emphasis on those who exist outside the heteronormative and/or transgress gender roles. Most recently with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, she has been co-managing the “Improving Permanency for LGBT Youth” project that works to improve stability for LGBTQI youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice system in California.

“My work is really about facilitating interpersonal and institutional relationships that will create equity and inclusivity for the LGBTQI community, and doing this with an intersectional lens so that none of our identities (e.g., race or ethnicity, SOGIE, religion, immigration status, socioeconomic status, veteran status, physical and/or mental abilities) are ignored,” Brown said

Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of Duke’s Women’s Center, met with Brown during the lengthy interview process. “I found Bernadette to be excited about building upon the foundation and powerful history of the work of the Center through engaging with the community,” Helms Pickett said. “Personally, I am excited about the depth and expertise I believe she will bring to the Campus Life team.”

The excitement Helms Pickett refers to comes through in Brown’s own words. “I'm tremendously excited about working with everyone to continue this work and explore new paths to promote and support LGBTQI inclusion,” Brown said. “Many LGBTQI students come here struggling with accepting their SOGIE, some are trying to determine if they are going to be "out" with respect to their SOGIE, some are dealing with family conflict around their SOGIE, and some are trying to reconcile their religious and/or political beliefs with their SOGIE. The same is true for many of Duke's faculty and staff. These are serious concerns and CSGD is here to support them as they move through this journey.”

Brown comes to Duke from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in Oakland, California, where she focused on LGBT youth and welfare within the juvenile justice system. She has held numerous positions around the country focusing on social justice for a variety of communities. Brown holds a juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Columbia University. She has conducted numerous trainings and presentations on social justice and the LGBT community, including LGBTI Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) trainings for The National PREA Resource Center, a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, for those seeking to become certified PREA auditors by the US Department of Justice. Brown was raised in Detroit. She has one son, and is obsessed with gargoyles, which is yet another reason she can’t wait to get to Duke.

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Flag of the Week - Hungary

Hungary, formally, until 2012, the Republic of Hungary, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The country's capital and largest city is Budapest. Hungary is a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the Visegrád Group, and the Schengen Area. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe.

Hungary's current borders were first established by the Treaty of Trianon (1920) after World War I, when the country lost 71% of its territory, 58% of its population, and 32% of ethnic Hungarians. Following the interwar period, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in World War II, suffering significant damage and casualties. Hungary came under the influence of the Soviet Union, which contributed to the establishment of a four-decade long communist dictatorship (1947–1989). The country gained widespread international attention regarding the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal opening of its previously-restricted border with Austria in 1989, which accelerated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.

On 23 October 1989, Hungary again became a democratic parliamentary republic, and is today an upper-middle income country with a very high Human Development Index. Hungary is a popular tourist destination attracting 10.675 million tourists a year (2013). It is home to the largest thermal water cave system and the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grasslands in Europe (the Hortobágy National Park).

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Flag of the Week - Qatar

Qatar, officially the State of Qatar, is a sovereign Arab country located in Western Asia, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Persian Gulf. A strait in the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island kingdom of Bahrain. In 2013, Qatar's total population was 1.8 million; 278,000 Qatari citizens and 1.5 million expatriates. Although tiny, Qatar wields significant clout due to its natural gas wealth and its sovereign wealth fund, which is one of the world's largest.
Following Ottoman rule, Qatar became a British protectorate in the early 20th century until gaining independence in 1971. Qatar has been ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. Qatar is an absolute monarchy and its head of state is Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. After Saudi Arabia, Qatar is the most conservative society in the Gulf Cooperation Council as most Qataris adhere to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution.

Qatar is the world's richest country per capita and has the highest human development in the Arab World; furthermore, it is recognized as a high income economy by the World Bank. Qatar has the world's third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves in excess of 25 billion barrels. Qatar has become an influential player in the Arab world. Qatar supported several rebel groups during the Arab Spring both financially and by asserting global influence through its expanding media group, Al Jazeera Media Network. Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first Arab country to host the even.

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