CSOC Faculty Update: Gareth Barkin

Visiting an elementary school in Yogyakarta. For the record, that kid started the whole rabbit-ears thing. He also tried to teach all the UPS students Javanese... if you see someone who went on the trip, ask them if they can still count to ten!

It was an action-packed summer for me this year! I took a group of students to Indonesia for a month, pushed forward with my research and scholarship on religious television in that country, and also learned of a big change that will soon come to my domestic life. Intrigued ? Read on…

Rewind to spring semester 2011 – I taught a new course (CSOC 312) designed with the express purpose of familiarizing students with the anthropology of Southeast Asia, and preparing them for an intensive academic experience in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The course involved students developing individual research projects for which they did the bulk of library research and writing while at Puget Sound, but each project included an ethnographic component designed to be conducted while in Indonesia. After the semester ended, with the much-needed help of CSOC professor Ben Lewin, we set off for Yogyakarta, Central Java. Once there, we stayed at the Universitas Sanata Dharma, where the course continued with daily readings, excursions, and ethnographic activities designed to allow students to leverage their knowledge of local culture while in a field setting. We had lectures from local faculty, language classes, and formed relationships with local students. Not only did we all have a great time, but the UPS students became so involved in their research projects that I wound up learning a great deal of new information about Indonesia.

It was such a valuable experience for all involved that Nick Kontogeorgopoulos from IPE, who studies Thailand, suggested we combine our geographic foci for a joint Indonesia/Thailand course and trip this coming spring 2012. If approved, it will follow a similar model to CSOC 312, with the trip being an integrated component of the course, but will be team taught and culminate in a two-week academic trip to both Thailand and Indonesia. More on this if and when it’s approved!

After the program in Yogyakarta ended, most students went to travel in Bali, while I went to North Sulawesi (another Indonesian island) to conduct research on the local television industry there. Since my dissertation field work eight years ago, in which I spent time studying Ramadan soap operas and commercial efforts to appeal to Muslim audiences, the Indonesian government has shifted from banning regional TV to encouraging it. The industry has yet to catch on, but has been most successful in regions predominantly populated by ethnic and religious minorities. I spent time at Pacific TV in Manado, the top station in a Christian-majority area, investigating the cultural roles being played by regional TV for religious minorities, and how they fit into the larger, national mediascape. I spent much of the rest of the summer writing up my results, and with the help of CSOC alum MacKenzie Fuentes’s proofreading skills, am in the process of submitting it for publication now.

Last, but certainly not least, I found out I am finally going to become a dad! My partner, Beth Carter, is due to deliver our first baby in early February of next year. Naturally, I am pretty freaked out, but also excited and looking forward to finding out how well I can function without sleep.


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