From Antarctica to the Arctic, from Turkey to Venezuela, and from Singapore to Tanzania, SU researchers are engaging the world. They immerse themselves in diverse cultures with the hope of gaining new knowledge and improving the lives of the people they meet and the places they explore.

Photo courtesy of Linda IvanyGlow Rocks

 

 

 

 

The glow of the sun reflects on the rocks of Seymour Island, Antarctica. This photo was taken at about 11:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

LindaIvany

dot Cold, Hard Facts from Antarctica

Like many people who get fed up with Syracuse winters, geologist Linda Ivany enjoys heading south. But few go quite as far as Ivany. Her destination: Antarctica. Believe it or not, Ivany says, the area on the Antarctic Peninsula where she does field research is warmer during the Antarctic summer months of December and January than Syracuse; but beyond that, the ice-ensconced land offers some of the most inhospitable conditions on the planet.

Ivany’s research in paleoecology and paleoclimatology has taken her to the frozen continent twice. During her most recent journey, in 2001-02, Ivany and her research team spent five weeks in the most desolate place on Earth, collecting fossils to study predator/prey relationships in marine ecosystems during the Eocene Period (56-34 million years ago), with a goal of understanding how they were affected by climate cooling. It was on that trip that she made an unexpected discovery on Seymour Island, off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which connected her to an event from millions of years ago. “One of the most fundamental climate shifts since the extinction of the dinosaurs is the so-called ‘greenhouse to icehouse transition’—when Earth went from having virtually no ice on it at all to having, more or less, a permanent ice sheet covering Antarctica,” says Ivany, an Earth sciences professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. “This happened about 34 million years ago, and was marked by dramatic changes in the chemistry of the oceans and the appearance of ‘ice-rafted debris’ in ocean sediments around Antarctica, carried there by icebergs from land that floated out and melted far from the continent, releasing the sand and rock that had been frozen into them.”

The problem, she points out, is that evidence of this transition is rarely seen on land because all the sediments are now covered by ice. “While in the field, though, I noticed deposits that might actually provide evidence for this 34-million-year-old cooling, which we really didn’t expect to see,” says Ivany, principal investigator on the project, which was funded by the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Ivany collected the deposits and, upon her return to Syracuse, enlisted the help of Earth sciences department chair Scott D. Samson and colleagues at Hamilton College and the University of Leuven in Belgium to determine the age of the samples. “Scott Samson’s work on the strontium isotope ratios of fossils was instrumental in establishing their age,” she says. Together they reported evidence that expands our understanding about the early history of the Antarctic ice sheet. The findings were published in the May 2006 issue of Geology.

Photo courtesy of Linda Ivanyantartica Linda Ivany’s research colleagues examine fossil-bearing rocks on Seymour Island.

Until now, it was believed that the continent’s first glaciers were confined to eastern Antarctica, where the biggest ice sheet remains today. Ivany’s team found evidence that glaciers may have covered a much larger area at the early stages of this transition. The sediments Ivany found on Seymour Island show features characteristic of deposition by glacial ice, and her colleagues helped to date those sediments to the precise time of that transition. Because the island is at the peninsula’s far northern reaches, in western Antarctica, the samples suggest that the initial pulse of glaciation was far more extensive than originally suspected.

The road to this discovery was challenging. After a 14-hour journey to Punta Arenas, Chile, the team boarded the Nathaniel B. Palmer, the NSF’s 94-meter ice-breaking research ship, to embark on a four-day voyage to Seymour Island, crossing some of the roughest waters in the world. Once there, the team endured cold temperatures, high winds, relentless snow, wind-propelled sand, and thick mud. Ivany’s accommodations: teepee-style tent with a cot. In addition, the camp’s location required the team to climb 700 feet to the collection site on the rare days when fieldwork was possible.

Ivany chronicled her daily adventures in e-mails to family, friends, and colleagues, detailing the extreme conditions, team camaraderie, amusing encounters with penguins, and the rare, wondrous moments of Seymour Island’s wild and untouched beauty (http://g3.tmsc.org/ivany/). Of the approach to the Antarctic Sound, Ivany wrote, “We’re in that perpetual sunset part of the day now, so the clouds are lit up in streaks of yellow and gold, with tinges of pink and purple against a pale blue sky. Craggy, ice-covered mountains are off the starboard side, dripping in what looks like thick, white cake frosting. Out in the sea, big slabs of ice are floating by, along with many smaller chunks that have broken off and are being churned to eventual destruction by the waves and wind. A fleet of five big ones, the size of city blocks and several stories tall, just slipped by in the distance.”

Today, scientists believe the Antarctic ice sheet’s growth was initiated by a drop in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, in combination with a change in ocean circulation caused by South America pulling away from Antarctica. The climatic response to these gradual changes now appears to be even more significant than previously thought, showing that Earth cooled so fast that ice formed across the entire continent all at once. Because Earth’s climate system is capable of shifting this rapidly and dramatically, the discovery by Ivany and her colleagues may provide insights into how conditions on Earth could change if humans continue to alter the environment.  “By studying the natural range of climate variation in Earth’s ancient past, we can get a better perspective on what’s happening today and what our role might be in that change,” Ivany says. “Over the next few hundred years, our planet’s average temperature is expected to rise by 4-5°C [7-9° Fahrenheit] due to the burning of fossil fuels. The last time Earth was that warm was during this time interval I study. It has taken us 40 million years to cool off to the point where we are today, but we’re talking about going back there in the space of a few hundred years. We have no idea how the climate system will respond to this sort of forcing, but we know from this and a wealth of other studies that the potential is there for abrupt, severe, and unexpected change.”

—Carol Kim

dot Nurturing Success in Costa Rica
NormaBurgess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norma J. Bond Burgess cares about women and wants to help them be healthy and happy—both on the job and at home. Much of her work as a researcher, teacher, and leader in higher education is directed toward that goal—whether she is teaching a faculty workshop in Washington, D.C., speaking at a professional leadership conference in Greece, or chatting with the owner of an iguana farm in Latin America. She lectures and conducts workshops nationally and internationally on success, professional image, and methods for integrating and maintaining wholeness in life, family, and career.  “I travel a lot internationally,” says Burgess, a professor of child and family studies in the College of Human Services and Health Professions and co-chair of University College’s bachelor of professional studies degree program. “I like to find out what’s going on around the world in terms of professional development, women’s health and social issues, and the ways women fit within a country’s economic structure.”

One frequent site of Burgess’s research has been Costa Rica, where she first visited as a faculty member with a Syracuse University Abroad summer program. In collaboration with colleague Regina George-Bowden, a sociology professor at Healthy Start Academy in Durham, North Carolina, Burgess has traveled extensively throughout the country, examining women’s roles in the tourism industry; exploring social problems, including domestic abuse and a teacher shortage; and studying how social-class variations determine the quality of such services as road repair and health care. She interviewed southern Costa Rican women who sold handmade ornaments and baskets made of straw and raffia through indigenous cooperatives or operated other small businesses, and learned how an iguana farm generates income through sale of the reptile’s meat and skin. In the Monteverde rainforest area, she spoke with women who supported themselves by making and selling clothing. Generally, she discovered that women’s businesses were underfunded, and their professional and personal lives were undersupported. “I think the situation in Costa Rica is fairly typical of how women survive in any type of society,” Burgess says. “There is some lack of respect for women. They are not placed in positions that allow them to make significant improvements in their incomes, which is always a disadvantage.”

Burgess hopes to return to Costa Rica, and is also interested in further travel in Greece, where she has conducted a workshop on gender and leadership and lectured on interdisciplinary perspectives in social science. “The world is so small,” says Burgess, who received the 2002 Marie Peters Award from the National Council on Family Relations, recognizing her contributions to ethnic minority families. She also co-wrote, with Eurnestine Brown, African American Women: An Ecological Perspective. “No matter what we do, we run into people from all corners of the Earth,” she says. “So it is important to learn as much as we can about others, develop relationships with them, and understand and respect different cultures.” 

—Amy Shires

 

dot Revolution and Reform in Iran

MehrzadBoroujerdi

boroujerdi
Mehrzad Boroujerdi (right), with Akbar Ganji, a journalist and former political prisoner in Iran

Political science professor Mehrzad Boroujerdi, founding director of Syracuse’s Middle Eastern Studies Program, is an articulate expert on a long list of vital subjects found on the front pages of newspapers around the world: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; OPEC and world oil markets; the thinking of Middle East intellectuals regarding civil society, secularism, human rights, and modernity; and, the subject closest to this heart, the culture and politics of his native Iran. “It is now 27 years since the overthrow of the Shah, and I am focusing my work on the power elites of post-revolutionary Iran,” he says. “Beyond a few leading figures, we know very little about the people who are ruling Iran and almost nothing about the middle and lower echelons of government. It’s a black hole.”

Boroujerdi spent last summer based in London, a European center for Middle Eastern scholarship, conducting interviews with Iranians and exchanging views with colleagues in England and Israel about the character of Iran’s emerging leadership. He traveled to Istanbul as well, where he enhanced opportunities for Syracuse students by establishing exchange relationships with two Turkish universities. “Turkey is the historical bridge between East and West, and is presented as a democratic model to the Muslim world,” he says. “If Turkey’s application to the European Union is accepted, the demographics of Europe will be transformed in important ways.”

boroujerdi
Dome of the Rock Mosque, Jerusalem

Boroujerdi’s 1996 book, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism, which has been translated into Farsi and Turkish, is widely read in the Middle East. The importance of his current project was underlined in 2005 by the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the Islamic Republic. Although Ahmadinejad was serving as mayor of Tehran, Iran’s capital and largest city, little was known about him outside the country. Shortly after assuming the presidency, he shocked the international community with public statements denying the Holocaust of European Jewry had taken place and by setting a confrontational course with the West over Iran’s development of nuclear capabilities. Boroujerdi was not surprised by Ahmadinejad’s parochialism. “There has been a major changeover of the elite from the pre-revolutionary era,” he says. “We are dealing with less educated people, many of them from the provinces, few of whom have been outside the country or know a second language. They seem to be creating new institutions rather than just taking over the old ones. For example, any legislation that passes in Parliament must be approved by the Guardian Council, a clerically dominated body.” Despite the power currently held by the revolutionary Islamists, Boroujerdi sees evidence that they have not achieved national consensus. He points out that Ahmadinejad’s election was made possible only after hundreds of secularist reform candidates were summarily barred from running by a clerical council.

With so much daily attention given to the violent and seemingly intractable conflicts of the Middle East, Boroujerdi believes that scholarly attention to the region’s politics, history, and cultures is more important than ever. “Perhaps no part of the world can tell us as much about our past—or our future,” he says.

—David Marc

munich

 

 

KevinCrowston

 

 

 

 

 

Some factory workers in the Bodensee region of Central Europe head to work with no idea of what job awaits them. A furniture maker shifts to making a letter-sorting machine; a mechanical engineer helps craft sun umbrellas; and a grain-mill construction machinist manufactures retractable steering wheels for cars. Like the region’s Lake Constance, which unites Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, a shared resource connects these workers. The virtual factory—Virtuelle Fabrik—is an organized network of industrial manufacturers that draws on the resources of members to meet short-term market opportunities. “The virtual factory idea was to enable companies to balance out the cyclical nature of their production orders,” says Professor Kevin Crowston of the School of Information Studies. “The network members can share work during busy times and take on work during the lean times.”

For the past seven summers, Crowston has studied Virtuelle Fabrik with Professor Bernhard Katzy at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich. Together, they described a four-step process they call “competence rallying” to explain what’s needed to create a successful virtual factory. The first step involves each network member identifying its production capabilities and the specific skills of its workforce. The second is to recognize market opportunities the virtual factory can handle. Sometimes that simply means an overloaded network member can direct some of its work to another member. Other times, members pool their resources to create new products, such as the retractable steering wheel, which was requested by a member’s customer. That company couldn’t create the device alone, but by calling on the virtual factory’s resources and talents, the member was able to accept the order. “Although the original idea behind the virtual factory was to keep a steady flow of business year-round, they discovered the virtual factory could work beyond what any one company could do,” Crowston says. “So now the virtual factory itself has begun to take and fill orders. The virtual factory allows firms to be responsive to these new market opportunities, which can arise and disappear in a short time.”

Before the virtual factory reaches that level of innovation in its productivity, however, the participating companies must do what the researchers call “marshalling competencies.” This third step requires network members to know or quickly learn the expertise and skills provided by the virtual factory’s other companies. Information about each company and its machines and capabilities is entered into a shared database so all members can easily search for collaborators. The process would be as simple as looking at a computer screen, right? “It didn’t work,” Crowston says. “Managers weren’t willing to make business decisions based solely on pixels.” The information didn’t give them any sense of the quality of work done at the factory, the training of the workers, the age and condition of the machines, or the company’s record in meeting deadlines, he says. “The managers needed to build a social network as well. They needed to have that human connection for the electronic network to work.”

To develop the network, participants held dinners, visited each other’s facilities, swapped stories, and bonded over their similar educational backgrounds and memberships in professional clubs. They then felt more inclined to collaborate on routine projects as well as new, more creatively challenging products—the final ingredient for a successful virtual factory, the researchers say. These periodic short-term collaborations led to the “jogging effect,” Crowston says. “The workers involved in a virtual factory project stretched their skills, which led to an increase in the firm’s fitness. When they returned to their normal job routines, they performed better.” 

—Margaret Costello

 

JoannaMasingila

dot Building Up a Kenyan Community

New school first; safer drinking water, second. These tough priorities emerged when residents of the Kenyan village of Kamanzi assessed their needs to determine ways a Syracuse partnership might improve living conditions there. The project began when mathematics and mathematics education professor Joanna Masingila was approached by Patrick Kimani, one of many Kenyan graduate students Masingila has helped bring to SU since she was a Fulbright Scholar at Kenyatta University in 1998. Kimani’s desire to make a difference in his impoverished village inspired Masingila to establish a sister-relationship between her family’s church—the First Baptist Church of Syracuse—and the Iia-Itune African Brotherhood Church in Kamanzi. Through the partnership, Masingila coordinated activities that raised more than $30,000 for the construction of a new school and library for the village’s 460 children, solicited donations for educational and medical supplies, and recruited educators in the United States and Kenya to provide teacher training in Kamanzi. She also organized five 10-day trips to Kamanzi, where participants lived with host families and offered workshops for local teachers at three schools. Current endeavors include raising funds for drilling to improve the quality of the village’s water supply. “The project is really a grassroots effort based on meeting the community’s most pressing needs,” says Masingila, a Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence. “Over time, the level of trust and collaboration has been built, so they know we’re not just giving them things. It’s not that kind of relationship. They say, ‘These are the things we are interested in.’ We say, ‘Here’s what we can bring to the table.’ And then we work together.”

Masingila is also expanding links she helped establish between SU and Kenyatta University, including opportunities for faculty exchanges and collaborative research and conference presentations. In addition, she is consulting with Syracuse University Abroad to develop summer programs that introduce graduate students to Kenya’s educational system, including teacher preparation. “The idea would be to attend lectures at the university, visit with people from the Ministry of Education, and travel to schools in urban and rural areas,” says Masingila, who was recognized for her efforts in Kamanzi with an Unsung Hero Award at SU’s 2005 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner. “I have lived a couple of different places for an extended time, and I believe you can better understand your own educational system when you learn about educational issues in another culture.”

Along with its professional significance, Masingila finds her work in Africa to be extremely meaningful on a personal level because her husband is Kenyan. “We met as undergraduates and married in 1981, so I always want to learn more about Kenya and get involved in work there,” she says. “In Kenya, when you marry, you become part of that community. So I am also a Kenyan. It is really very difficult for me to express the depth of the meaning this work has for me. I’m very committed to it.”

—Amy Shires

Ronald Denby
Kenyon
Joanna Masingila (center) works with children in the Kenyan village of Kamanzi.

HollyDobbins

dot Storyteller Among the Inuit
dobbins

Holly Dobbins had been conducting research onthe Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic for nearly three years when Jonah Kelly, a Keeper of Inuit Knowledge, honored her with the name Unikaaq, or storyteller. For Dobbins, the name signified she had earned the trust and friendship of those who generously shared their life stories with her. It also strengthened her commitment to weave those stories into an authentic history of a groundbreaking indigenous peoples’ social movement and land claims agreement—the 30-year negotiation process that resulted in the creation of the Territory of Nunavut in 1999. “The project that began as my dissertation became a moral obligation to gather the stories of individuals who are part of this history—before they are lost,” says Dobbins, a doctoral student in social science at the Maxwell School.

Dobbins first became interested in the Inuit while teaching in an Aboriginal village in the Australian outback in 1999. On April 1, a truckload of ice was dumped in the village to acknowledge and celebrate the creation of Nunavut. “For two days, indigenous peoples from opposite sides of the globe were emotionally and spiritually made one when the Inuit of Canada changed the map of their nation through peaceful means,” Dobbins says. “This was the spark that led me to study how indigenous peoples are gaining a greater voice, locally and internationally.” 

Photo courtesy of Holly Dobbins
Pangnirtung Bay
Pangnirtung Bay, Qikiqtaaluk region, Nunavut, just south of the Artic Circle

Beyond capturing the history of an important social movement, Dobbins hopes her research will help other indigenous people learn from the Inuit experience. “I wanted to find out how the Inuit stuck together for more than 30 years, staying focused on their goals, when so many indigenous communities, including many in the United States, cannot come together and work cooperatively for even much shorter periods,” she says. Dobbins discovered that, for the Inuit, the goal of preserving their identity, culture, and tradition was as important as maintaining oversight and ownership of their lands and waters. “It is much more than a story about unity,” she says. “It is much more, even, than a story of cultural preservation. It is about how an environment shapes the worldview of a people. And that worldview contains a set of values that are fluid, dynamic, and transferable to different eras, ages, and technologies.” 

Dobbins first set foot in the Canadian Arctic in summer 2002 after receiving a Goekjian Summer Research Grant (see related story), and returned the following year on a Roscoe Martin Research Grant. A 2004 Fulbright Fellowship allowed her to spend most of that year in Nunavut, collecting the life stories of more than 140 people who were involved in the Inuit movement. Also in 2004, Dobbins was hired by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., an organization formed to represent the Inuit under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, to assist with an oral history project. This allowed her access to the territory’s more remote communities and many of the movement’s leaders. Throughout her work, she has received ongoing support from the government and people of Nunavut. “In addition to my faculty advisors at Syracuse, I have an Inuit community of mentors, guides, and philosophers,” Dobbins says. “I hold them in as high regard as my professors, and am equally answerable to them.”

No stranger to travel—having spent 12 years living among indigenous populations in such diverse locations as Mexico, Norway, and New Zealand—Dobbins is nevertheless awestruck by the Arctic’s unique landscape. “The greatest challenge has been adjusting to my physical environment,” she wrote from Nunavut in February 2004. “Not the cold or the snow, since I come from Syracuse—but the light. Every hour brings a new kind of light, magnificent to behold, but exhausting to adjust to….I marvel too, just walking down the streets here [which have only recently been given names]. As I shuffle my well-insulated feet, I kick up yet another kind of snow. It is so fine that it rises in dust-like clouds, diffusing the light and creating tiny rainbows.”

Photos courtesy of Holly Dobbins
river
Sylvia Grinnell River, near the Nunavut capital of Iqaluit   A day on the ice with SU Abroad students

For three weeks this past May, Dobbins shared her appreciation for the region with seven students who enrolled in Arctic Journey: The Inuit and Their Land. The six-credit interdisciplinary program, offered through Syracuse University Abroad, introduced participants to Inuit culture through interactive courses, school and government visits, and a camping trip led by Inuit elders. The idea for the program grew from the discovery of a strong connection between the Inuit and the Onondaga Nation, whose members once helped negotiate peace during an uprising in Oka, Canada, that influenced federal decisions regarding Nunavut. Dobbins agreed to lead the expedition under three conditions: money spent during the journey would support Inuit-owned businesses; two Native American students would receive financial support to participate; and two Inuit students would receive the opportunity to attend SU. “This was a very meaningful program that brought me full circle,” Dobbins says. “It was a way to give something back for all I’ve been given. I’ve been very fortunate to travel the world, experience wonderful educational opportunities, and meet people and talk with them in personal ways. And it was a way for those of us in the program to become part of the Inuit story. Now, we have a responsibility to the people of Nunavut. It is not only about what we experienced for ourselves. It is about taking that experience and using it to benefit others.”

—Amy Shires

 

bridge

 

dharwadkar

 

dot

Understanding
the International Workforce

RaviDharwadkar

 

Whitman School of Management professor Ravi Dharwadkar was just a youngster when the first data were collected for his research on the careers of Japanese white-collar workers. The 25-year study tracked 65 employees at a large multinational company to find a pattern that would accurately predict employee success. His mentor at the University of Cincinnati, Professor George Graen, began the study in the 1970s while living in Japan. Three decades later, Dharwadkar completed the study. “When I was a doctoral student at Cincinnati, another colleague and I were interested in taking a new look at the data from the research that had ended in the 1980s,” he says. “We wanted to see what predicted the careers of the Japanese employees over the long term.”

Dharwadkar, Graen, Rajdeep Grewal of Pennsylvania State University, and Mitsuru Wakabayashi of Aichi Gakuin University in Japan figured that long-term career progress could be predicted during the first three years of employment, despite a system that espouses a level playing field. “If you ask a Japanese economist or manager, he says for the first 15 years everyone is treated the same, and promotions are based on seniority every few years,” says Dharwadkar, a management professor and Whitman Teaching Fellow. “After 15 years, promotions are staggered. Smarter employees advance faster, and weaker ones move more slowly up the corporate ladder, are made to retire, or move to smaller companies.”

The researchers, however, found that, even after 15 years, promotions were linked to early employee experiences. They looked at employees’ educations, job performances in the first three years, and relationships with supervisors. “We showed that what happens in the first three years predicts where they will be 25 years later,” Dharwadkar says. “We believe company executives know from the beginning who the smarter employees are, but don’t disclose that because if they do, others will lose their motivation to perform.” The findings were published in the prestigious Journal of International Business Studies. The key point, Dharwadkar says, is that the beginning of a person’s career is very important. “This notion that someone can be molded over time doesn’t work—at least for this one large company,” he says.

Beyond that research, Dharwadkar is focusing on the implications of globalization for workforces in developing Asian nations. In his latest project, he and doctoral student Diya Das are collaborating on a study of how Indian workers assume American personas at call-support centers for U.S. companies in India. The employees take cultural neutralization courses and adopt American names to use on the telephone. “We’re trying to see how this affects their work, and their regional and national identities,” he says. “It’s probably difficult for Americans to imagine taking on an Indian name and acting like an Indian for the next eight hours.”

Dharwadkar, who teaches the core undergraduate course in international business, emphasizes the importance of international research, encouraging students to study such burgeoning Asian nations as China and India. “For example, in Mumbai, there are huge amounts of economic activity, construction, increased cell phone usage, etc.,” he says. “There is still a lot of poverty, but there are a lot of long-term growth opportunities.”

Dharwadkar plans an international trip every year to talk to executives and keep up with the latest business practices. He recently visited corporate and government officials in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. “Businesses are becoming much more global,” he says. “More and more people worldwide have aspirations to make it big and have the ability to do so. I want to make students aware that competition is heating up.”

  —Kathleen Haley

JoanneWaghorne
dot Singapore: Crossroads of Religions

WaghornePerhaps no place on Earth has come to symbolize globalization as much as Singapore, an old trading city on an island off the Malay Peninsula of Southeast Asia that was developed into a major port by the British East India Company during the 19th century. Its gleaming skyline speaks to its position as a citadel of worldwide economic power and the teeming streets below are alive with the synergies of multiple cultural traditions. “I love walking down Waterloo Street,” religion professor Joanne Waghorne says. “The street name, of course, is a legacy of Singapore’s years in the British Empire. You find a Chinese Kwan-Yin temple and, just two doors down, a temple devoted to Krishna. You can see the blending of people and cultures right on this street.”

Waghorne, whose Diaspora of the Gods: Modern Hindu Temples in an Urban Middle-Class World (Oxford University Press, 2004) won an American Academy of Religion excellence award, conducted research in Singapore this year for a study concerning Hindu-derived, guru-centered movements. “Gurus—teachers—who once traveled by foot are becoming globetrotters who make Indian ideas available all over the world,” she says. “In Singapore, for example, so many Chinese have become devotees of Satya Sai Baba that two nights a week are set aside at the Baba center for bhajans [hymns] sung in Chinese.” Internationally popular gurus, such as Baba and Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (known as “the hugging guru”), speak to religiously diverse audiences without attempting to win formal converts to Hinduism.

Krishna Temple
Krishna Temple, Waterloo Street, Singapore

Singapore’s dynamic economic ascendancy makes it an exciting and fruitful place to study contemporary religion and culture, according to Waghorne. Since breaking away from the Malay Federation in 1965 to become one of the modern world’s only city-states, the tiny nation (about a third the area of Onondaga County) has developed entrepreneurial and employment opportunities that draw immigrants from across Southeast Asia and around the world. “About 4 million people live in Singapore, but you will not find a slum anywhere,” Waghorne says. “As amazing as that is, to those of us interested in contemporary religion, Singapore is the multicultural global city.” Religions abound in close quarters and relative harmony. About 40 percent of the population, including most of those who are of ethnic Chinese descent, count themselves as Buddhist (and they can be further divided into followers of Taoism, Confucianism, and other denominations), and about 14 percent are Christians (mostly Anglicans and Roman Catholics). The indigenous Malays tend to be Muslims. Among Indian ethnic groups, one finds Hindus, Sikhs, and followers of the Baha’i Faith. The tiny republic contains Shinto temples and Jewish synagogues as well.

People leaving their homelands for economic reasons often believe they can carry their religious traditions with them. But as Waghorne points out, making accommodations to a new environment inevitably brings change. “In Singapore, much like in the United States, second-generation Indian immigrants often view the temple as more of a social and educational institution than a spiritual one,” she says. “As a result, they reject religious ritual as ‘mumbo-jumbo’ and are attracted to practices and principles they can understand.” Waghorne finds this unfortunate because performing rituals, especially in the home, has always been central to Hindu practice, but she embraces the bright side: the yearning for religious understanding among mobile populations. “People look to religious organizations to find others who share their values,” she says. “In Singapore, about 15 percent of the population consider themselves ‘free-thinkers,’ and they are doing just that: searching for the best ideas and values that religions have to offer, and incorporating what they find into their lives.” Asked if Singapore provides a vision of the future of religion, Waghorne says, “Yes—and it is thriving.”

—David Marc

 

MarkRitchie
dot Data from South African Dung Patches
Provide Insights on Coexistence

Day after day, biology professor Mark Ritchie trekked across the sun-baked savannahs of the 370-square-mile Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, located in the heart of South Africa’s Zululand, searching for evidence of fractal geometry in nature. But it was not the regional acacia, velvet bushwillow, or buffalo thorn that attracted his attention, nor did the native zebras, giraffes, leopards, lions, reedbuck, or bushpigs earn more than a passing glance.

Ritchie’s quest was a bit more basic. He was looking for animal droppings and the insects that inhabit them. Specifically, Ritchie was hunting for dung beetle communities—insect groups that rely on fresh herbivore dung to feed and reproduce. “One of my areas of interest is determining how species of different body sizes coexist when they use the same resources,” Ritchie says. “Because the beetles’ resource—dung—occurs in patches of measurable size and quality, this represented an ideal system for testing the predictions of theoretical models.”

Ritchie

To that end, Ritchie applied the principles of fractal geometry, which suggest that spatial patterns of such objects as trees, soil, coastlines, and rivers, are the same across several scale sizes. Through fractal geometry, Ritchie says, scientists can incorporate information about the distribution of food and nutrients across a landscape, along with the size of the organism studied, into mathematical models of how species coexist.

For his research at Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, Ritchie selected 52 dung patches of varying sizes, based on the animals that produced them. “The largest patches were from white rhinos, and were about the size of a kitchen table,” he says. “The smallest, which were no larger than a marble, were from impala.” Other animals produced dung somewhere within the rhino-impala range, including wildebeests, whose bagel-sized patches had the highest nutrient content of all.

The dung beetle communities living in these patches are composed of many species, in sizes ranging from the head of a pin to a small mouse. “By studying dung beetles in different patches, I found that the species coexisted through ‘sorting’—selecting different types of dung based on nutrient content,” Ritchie says. The larger, mouse-sized beetles were fewer in number and were mostly found on the larger dung patches, which had lower nutrient content. The pinhead-sized beetles, meanwhile, had the greatest numbers, and tended to populate the smaller, higher nutrient dung. Virtually no beetles were attracted to the smallest, marble-sized dung patches of the impala.

By applying fractal geometry to these observations, Ritchie explored theories of species richness that attempt to account for competition for resources and habitats that exhibit spatial similarity across scales of observation. “This approach has yielded models of how organisms select food and nutrients, how this selection determines the number of species or groups of species that use the same resources, and how habitat destruction and fragmentation by humans affects the growth of populations and the number of species living in the environment,” he says. 

The research also opens the door for future studies into ways competition for food might influence how and whether organisms disperse to particular environments and colonize them, and how this might change with the body size of organisms. “This work has broad implications for the conservation of biodiversity,” Ritchie says. “It is especially relevant to the calculation of acceptable levels of the amount and arrangement of habitat fragmentation to conserve species. The proportion of the Earth’s land and ocean affected directly by humans now exceeds 50 percent, so such calculations may be critical for saving the majority of species on a human-dominated planet.” 

—Jeffrey Charboneau

 

MaryAnneOcampo
dot Navigating the Architecture of Manila

Ocampo

According to legend, the sea created the 7,107 islands of the Philippines as a shield to protect herself during a fight with the sky. Since then, the nation has had a unique relationship with water—a history as winding as the esteros, the network of small rivers that flow through its capital, Manila. Architecture professor Mary Anne Ocampo focuses much of her attention on the relationship between urbanism and architecture in this water-based city. “Water has been the most important facilitator of growth and development in Manila’s history,” Ocampo says. “Although it was known as the ‘Venice of the Orient’ during Spanish colonial rule, today Manila has a system of waterways that is buried, plugged, or polluted. It is lost under the metropolis.”

Ocampo is investigating the city’s history to better understand what she calls its current state of “amnesia.” During 300 years of Spanish rule ending at the turn of the 20th century, the city developed along the esteros. But the arrival of railroads and paved roads in the 20th century turned the city inside out. “The backs of buildings suddenly became the front facades as people turned toward the paved roadways,” she says. “What once were celebrated tributaries are now just sewers or forgotten voids. People just look past them, and water—as both a physical and virtual presence—is not regarded in a way that contributes to the city. That’s the notion of amnesia.”

Ocampo
Estero de Binondo, one of Manila’s once grand waterways that is now a disregarded piece of the past

Ocampo, who is half Filipino, spent summer 2004 living in and studying the city. In her research, which is driven by a personal quest to connect with her roots in Manila, Ocampo is uncovering remnants of the former grandeur of Manila’s water system. “These pockets of the past offer insight into the city’s rich history, and you start to piece together the traces of what was and the erasures that are occurring within the city,” she says. “These changes are tied directly to whoever has colonized the area, and the city responds to those economic, political, social, and cultural forces.”

The memory of Spanish colonialism is being literally and figuratively washed away. To fully investigate its influence on the city’s evolution, Ocampo will travel to Madrid this spring on a Faculty Works Grant from the School of Architecture to review old maps and documents relating to the former Philippines colony. She will also compare such distinctive architectural features as the Intramuros, the walled city within Manila, and Manila’s street grid with its counterparts in Spain. Once she establishes a foundation for its urban history, Ocampo plans to construct a new model of urbanism that includes Manila’s history and contemporary condition as well as its relationship to nature. Now in the initial stages of mapping the city, she strings together photographs from various points in time, noting name changes and other bits of historical information. “This gives me a representational technique or methodology for studying the city by visually linking yesterday to the future,” she says.

Ocampo hopes to develop a methodology she can then apply to other “floating cities,” such as Venice and Hanoi. “I’m creating a theoretical framework on how we can ‘read’ cities that are subject to the ephemeral nature of water,” she says. “I am not trying to find a solution to ‘fix’ these cities, but trying to find multiple ways of looking at them so I can turn those observations into architectural proposals and speculative visions of urbanism.” 

—Margaret Costello

 

Syracuse University Magazine | Syracuse University | 820 Comstock Ave. | Room 308 | Syracuse NY 13244-5040