It’s not every day a college professor gets an e-mail from the author of one of his assigned texts offering to speak to his class. But that’s what happened to Sweet Briar archaeologist Keith Adams.
Ethnographer Sylvia Wing Önder wanted to know if he was the one who ordered 15 copies of her book, “We Have No Microbes Here: Healing Practices in a Turkish Black Sea Village.” He had indeed made it required reading for his 200-level anthropology course, “Peoples and Cultures of the Mediterranean,” and he was delighted for the opportunity to bring the author into the classroom.
Thanks to technology, there were no obstacles to doing just that — and at no cost to the College. The informal question and answer session took place via teleconference using Skype. Students gathered around a camera in the Benedict computer lab while Önder joined them on screen from her Georgetown University office. Technology can’t fix everything, though, and she apologized for logging on a minute or two late — she was tied up in D.C. traffic.
Önder described for the class some of her experiences as a woman researcher — a status that gave her an advantage in the study of rural Turkish women’s lives beginning with the family and extending to the social networks in the village and beyond.
Because Önder’s husband is from the village she studied, she lived among them and enjoyed unusual access for her research to both the women and men. The students were able to ask how being related by marriage to her subjects helped or hindered her work. Such exchanges were among the reasons Adams so appreciated the videoconferencing opportunity.
“There was a personal sense of what it’s like to do field work,” he said, adding the students were curious about what problems she’d anticipated facing and wanted to know how they’d panned out.