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Undergraduate Researchers

Sarah Solomon, Gender and Women’s Studies

La Revanche Du Coeur: Women’s Oral Traditions as Strategies for Resistance in Mali

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Gloria Chuku

During my semester studying abroad in Mali, I plan to explore the research question: do women in Mali use oral traditions as strategies for resistance? I am interested in gathering stories from women who engage in oral traditions, such as ritual songs, ceremonial songs, and oral stories and family histories. I will investigate whether these oral traditions are liberating for women in Mali by analyzing whether or not they allow women to create strong social networks, to challenge or resist existing gender norms and expectations, or to increase their participation in political, cultural or social activities. I am also particularly interested in the incorporation of women’s oral traditions by contemporary female pop singers in Mali. I plan to research how contemporary pop music is an emerging space in which to examine shifting gender norms among new generations of Malians.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

My mentor was the professor of a class that I was taking at the time I decided to apply for a URA.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I did a research paper on the topic for a class and realized that I wanted to explore further the questions that I asked in the conclusion of my paper.

Is this your first independent research project?

Yes.

Do you get course credit for this work?

I will be getting course credit for the study abroad program in which I am participating, and my research project is part of this program.

How much time do you put into it?

I will spend one semester working on the research, plus months of preliminary research.

What academic background did you have before you started?

Three years of college majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies.

You have a $1,500 Undergraduate Research Award from UMBC for your work. How did you hear about this program?

Through professors and the e-mails constantly sent out by the Office of Undergraduate Education

Was the application difficult to do?

Not at all, it was daunting at first but when I sat down to do it I found that it was very simple.

How much did your mentor help you with this?

She looked over it for me and made minor comments.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research? 

Do it do it do it. It is a wonderful opportunity to do research on topics of your interest and choosing, and it looks great to grad schools.

What are your career goals?             

I hope to receive an M.A. in Gender and Women’s Studies as well as a law degree, and work in the public interest sector.

What has been the hardest part about your research?

I’m sure the hardest part is yet to come, since I have not left for Africa yet.

What was the most unexpected thing?

The most unexpected thing was how my research topic related so closely to the academic work that I was doing in several of my classes, which was great preparation for me.