Monthly Archives: April 2014

India’s Hijra

As of April 15, India now recognizes transgender people as individuals that deserve full rights and recognition under the law. The momentous court ruling views transgender people as a third neutral gender, neither male nor female, and alters government documents to give the option of identifying as a third gender. Article 15 of India’s Constitution states antidiscrimination rights on the basis of caste, race, religion, and sex, but discrimination was still prevalent among the Hijras, which have a long history in India. When handing down the court’s ruling, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan proclaimed, “Transgenders are citizens of this country … and recognition as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue.” Image

The Hijras had a long and storied history in India. There are stories about them in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. They were normally devotees of the mother goddess Bahuchara Mata or Shiva, identifying with these gods’ gender ambiguity in their various incarnations. During British control over India, the British Raj tried to eliminate the Hijras, believing they were indecent and giving legal sanction to the discrimination that continues today. The over 3 million Hijras are easy targets for discrimination, as their culture promotes unusually bright colored attire and performing certain religious and cultural activities. Often these activities make them extremely visible in communities that contain hostile elements, leaving the Hijras vulnerable to abuse and violence.

Third gender people are recognized and a vital part of numerous cultures throughout the world. Outside the Indian subcontinent, Amerindian populations in North and South American recognize third genders, such as the Zuñi male-bodied Łamana, the Lakota male-bodied winkte and the Mohave male-bodied alyhaa and female-bodied hwamee. The Zapotec’s In Mexico include a third gender, the Muxe. With the court ruling, India joins several South Asian countries to give limited (but important none-the-less) recognition to a third gender, including Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The first western nation to give limited recognition of third gender identity was Germany, when last year they allowed parents to mark “indeterminate” on birth certificates. The India court, by declaring that “transgender is generally described as an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to their biological sex,” has taken a small but vital step in the recognition of common human rights. Or as Anitha Shenoy, one lawyer who helped argue the case, more elegantly states it, “This is an extremely liberal and progressive decision that takes into consideration the ground realities for transgender people in India…The court says your identity will be based not on your biology but on what you choose to be.”

Ferraro, Gary and Andreatta, Susan. Cultural Anthropology: An Applied Perspective (9th Ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012.
Limaye, Yogita. “India court recognizes transgender people as third gender.” BBC News, April 15, 2014.
Lalwani, Nikita. “India’s Supreme Court: Transgender is a Third Legal Gender.” The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2014.


Take Back the Night 2014

Since it is Easter time, a confessional seems appropriate. It is something that I hate to admit, but I used to be a misogynist. As the youngest of five, with three older brothers and significantly older parents, my family situation was far more Donna Reed than Hilary Clinton. When I was thirteen and fourteen, I was wrestling, getting into amateur kickboxing, and watching MMA. My mother, concerned with my burgeoning machismo, decided to do something about it in her own way:  she stopped cooking. After a couple weeks of cereal, I quickly learned to how to cook food for myself. While I still enjoy watching a good kickboxing or a MMA match, I enjoy cooking and especially love cooking for others. A few short years later, I discovered Andrea Dworkin and experienced guilt because I have been unknowingly taking advantage of the opportunities that are built into an inherently unfair and unjust system. I am now a gratefully recovering misogynist, and although I have a tendency towards misandry at the moment, which is not good either, I am doing better. I guess like all people with a problem, admitting it is the first step.

dfghdfMy confessional ties nicely into the event that I want to talk about now, as Andrea Dworkin was instrumental in founding Take Back the Night. On Thursday April 24, beneath the Wiekamp Bridge, at 7:30 pm, The Feminist Student Union at IU South Bend will be hosting Take Back the Night. Promoting solidarity for all survivors of sexual abuse, Take Back the Night is an international event and all genders are welcome. The event normally has some speakers, a candlelight vigil, and a unity march around campus. Sexual violence is an issue that affects everyone:

  • A sexual assault occurs every two minutes in the United States.
  • 20-25% of US college women experience sexual violence while in college.
  • 1 in 6 females and 1 in 33 males reported experiencing sexual violence                                    at  some point in their lives.

IU South Bend has a long history of hosting and participating in these events, and I strongly encourage everyone to come to this event if it is at all possible to show that this cruel and dehumanizing behavior will not be tolerated.


“Women are often told to be extra careful and take precautions when going out at night.           In some parts of the world, even today, women are not allowed out at night. So when women struggle for freedom, we must start at the beginning by fighting for freedom of movement, which we have not had and do not now have. We must recognize that freedom of movement is a precondition for anything else. It comes before freedom of speech in importance because without it freedom of speech cannot in fact exist.”  -Andrea Dworkin

Interns Needed

Students are invited to apply now for spring internships in international programs.

Ideal interns will be passionate about  international education at IU South Bend, as well as mature and reliable. In addition, they will be self-starters with creative ideas about how best to promote IU South Bend international programs.

Students can complete this internship as a course for one to three units, be paid as work-study students, or contribute as volunteers.

We will have a weekly staff meeting that students will need to attend.

Interns will each choose their own specialties (some examples below)
-organizing and conducting class presentations
-new media – creating videos or enhancing our website
-social media – enhancing our presence on our blog, Facebook, Twitter
-old media – reading newspapers and journals for interesting articles to link to our blog
-international education week and other events organization
-outreach to the South Bend community.

Interested students should submit a cover letter describing relevant qualifications and the name of one academic reference.

For more about international programs at IU South Bend see our website:

Contact me Lisa Fetheringill Zwicker ( for more information.

The Continuing Provence Travelogue by Former EVCAA Guillaume

Driving in France offers its challenges.   The narrow passageways of ancient towns and villages that easily handled the flow of ox carts and pedestrians present obstacles for modern day modes of transportation. Sometimes traffic flows in both directions with little space separating the passing cars. And there are times when only one vehicle can pass through.

Row of platanes, typical along French national roads

Row of platanes, typical along French national roads

Even in the more urban areas, vigilance is de rigeur.   Not much space separates vehicles and pedestrians.   After five weeks, I have a heightened attentiveness to my surroundings.  Pedestrians have priority; motorists have to be ready to stop on a dime as pedestrians often launch themselves forward into oncoming traffic. Adding to driver anxiety are motorcyclists that unexpectedly weave in and out. Even the open road has its unique trials as shoulders are lacking on many of them.

Inattention can result in a precipitous drop along winding hillside roads. A hairpin turn, and there are many, can spell disaster for the unobservant driver who unexpectedly happens upon a group of bicyclists.    But these are just minor distractions obviated by the joys of driving in the captivating Provence countryside.

Since my last blog entry, our wayfaring journeys through Provence have taken us to distant northern towns like Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, in the east along the Riviera to Antibes, and toward the west to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.   Along the way I’ve reveled in the luscious greens of the rolling hills, the reddish orange tinge of the rocks, the crisp blue of the Mediterranean sky, the aquamarine of the sea, and the rustic wooded colors of the ubiquitous vineyards spread out in the valleys or tucked away among the hillsides, lazily soaking in the sun’s rays.   The olive trees too, in neat rows, parade their gradated green foliage.   The colors of spring are teeming as trees and flowers bloom.   Small wonder how this area seduced artists like Cézanne and Van Gogh.

Of all the places we’ve visited within the last couple of weeks, it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite. Each has its unique joy. At Aix-en-Provence, we visited Cézanne’s hillside studio.IMG_3042 (5) As I listened to our guide give details of Cézanne’s daily routine, I imagined him painting in this squared space with large wide windows on facing walls. The windows draped with curtains permitted him to alter the incoming light from diffused to intense as he worked on his canvases.   I particularly enjoyed walking around the gardens surrounding his home. We also walked further up the hill to a favorite spot where across the valley Cézanne enjoyed a panoramic view of Mont Sainte-Victoire.   That view, repeated in several of his tableaux was instantly recognizable. Four of the nine paintings of Mont Sainte-VictoireIMG_3040 that I am aware of are in the United States, at Princeton University, Kansas City Museum of Art, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.   Although the exact location where Cézanne sat with his brushes and easel is heavily urbanized, the valley below and Mont Sainte-Victoire remain unchanged from the way I imagined he saw them.

Not far from Aix was our visit to Silvacane.IMG_3030  Like the other two Cistercian abbeys in Provence, its graceful architecture mirrors the simplicity of the monastic life.  And like the others, the acoustical sound in the chapel is impeccably crisp.  During the late spring and early summer months, concerts are held there regularly.  We’ll keep that in mind when we schedule our next trip.  Imagine IUSB’s Euclid String Quarter performing there!

Another favorite trek was to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a Medieval village in north Provence in an area called la Verte Provence, Green Provence. Nearby is the area called the Grand Canyon of France. Situated atop a hill, as many of these Medieval villages are in Provence, Moustiers is noted for its faiencerie (ceramics). Though the day was overcast, we enjoyed walking through the tiny cobblestone streets of this isolated place. As we climbed the steps, meandering from one small street to another, we happened upon a little restaurant, tucked away from the center of town, La Grignotière. There we had a delicious lunch. Melanie ordered the plat du jour of pork filets with the most delicious ratatouille imaginable.   We were among only three customers, and much to our delight, we had a glorious time chatting with the cook (the proprietor) and her daughter, our server. IMG_3049  Luckily for us, the tourist season had not yet begun, allowing leisure time for conversation and pictures with them. We chatted also with the other customer, an accountant who travels occasionally to Moustier on business.

In a week of highlights, our visit to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, another perched village from the Middle Ages, was equally spectacular. There we visited Fondation Maeght whose permanent collection of paintings and sculpture is indisputably impressive. The collection of buildings, where art and architecture come together in conversation, was designed in 1964 by Spanish architect Josep Lluis Sert in concert with other artists like Miró.IMG_3132 The open and airy glassed-framed spaces create unimpeded distance between interior and exterior environment.   Sculptures by Miró, Giacometti and Picasso grace the gardens creating a gallery of art contiguous with the art by Chagall, Léger, Braque and others in the interior spaces.     At the front entrance of the buildings a potpourri of Miró sculptures across a grassy green lawn greet the visitor.     In the middle of two of the buildings sits a sculpture garden of Giacometti pieces, at the end of which lies an expansive panorama of the valley below.   To the right of the Giacometti garden is a labyrinth of Miró sculptures planned by both Sert and his friend, Miró. Prior to this visit Melanie and I had never known Sert.   Apparently, he is one of the major architectural giants of the twentieth-century.   Many buildings in European cities bear his signature. He was also a former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design .   Several buildings on campus bear his architectural imprint as well as a re-design of Harvard Square.

After our visit to the Maeght Foundation, we took a stroll in the old village with its charming maze of narrow streets and alleys. For the first time, in our stay in Provence, we encountered hordes of tourists, mostly English and Italian. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is the most visited village in France. And we now know why. The village is a center of chic clothing stores and high-end art galleries. We didn’t dally long,  preferring to lave the crowds, but not before walking to the end of the village where over a lovely vista sits the cemetery and Marc Chagall’s grave.

From Saint-Paul-de Vence, we headed to Antibes and Juan-les-Pins to visit the Picasso museum and to say hello to the brother of one of Melanie’s former English as a Second Language student. And we celebrated my sixty-seventh birthday there. In fact, we visited two Picasso museums, one in Antibes and the other in Vallauris. In Antibes, Picasso established his studio in the Grimaldi chateau along the Mediterranean. The museum housed a number of his paintings, sculptures and painted ceramic plates. The painting that struck me most for its simplicity of line drawings, made all the more enchanting by suggestive playful movements and shades of coloring, was La Joie de vivre. The wall of painted plates of faces and linear, triangular and octagonal drawings, might have seemed bland done by an artist whose name was not Picasso. The Vallauris museum was less impressive, save for its powerful wall painting, La Guerre et la Paix in the chapel of the chateau there, and the statue, L’Homme au mouton, that Picasso made of himself and gifted to the town.   In Vallauris, a town noted for its ceramics, we stumbled upon an interesting exhibit space of Jean Marais paintings and ceramics. Marais, an actor in La Belle et La Bête, starred in many Jean Cocteau films. After retiring from film and theater, he took up residence in Vallauris and learned the trade of ceramics from some of the masters. Melanie and I were quite impressed with his work.

Closer to home, we visited with friends, Jacques and Daniele Martin, the Museum of European Civilizations and the Mediterranean (MUCEM) in Marseille. Opened about a year ago, the museum at the end of the Vieux Port is a catalyst for urban renewal. Indeed the site offers expansive vistas of the sea and where we watched the car ferry from Algeria arrive.  The MUCEM grounds are a gathering place for visitors and local residents alike. As our friends say, the French like to denigrate the tawdriness of Marseille but take great pride in its ancient and cultural history. It’s well worth the visit to the MUCEM to explore the ancient beginnings of the civilizations along the Mediterranean. There were also two fascinating temporary exhibits, one on the Roman sculptures of Morocco and the other on Mediterranean and European carnivals. After a two-hour visit and then lunch, we walked through the immigrant quarters of town near the old port to La Charité to see an exhibit of Picasso, Warhol, and Magritte, titled Visages (Faces).   Ninety artists were represented in three themes: Visages de la Société, Visages de l’intimité, and Visages de l’esprit. I’m not a fan of the modern abstract idiom, but I found myself liking several pieces, particularly by an exiled Prague artist, whose name I remember as Marie Tolen, but whom I can’t find on an internet search.   Like so many in the exhibition, her pieces were melancholic and dark. But it was an excellent introduction to artists that were new to me. There were, of course, several Warhol pieces, but was deeply disappointed that there were only two canvases each by Picasso and Magritte. I’ve been to exhibits like this in the States, where the name of a famous artist is used as a ploy to attract visitors. Not long ago at Notre Dame, there was an exhibit of Mary Cassatt and her generation; a fine exhibition but, disappointingly, only one tableau of hers.

It seems as if this accounting of continuous Provence travels has been a survey of art exhibitions. And indeed, the seduction of this beautiful region is its rich artistic and cultural legacy. But we’ve spent lots of time with friends here, almost always around a good meal accompanied with the requisite cheeses and wines.  On the very first really warm day here, our friends, Jean-Louis and Catherine gave us, with several of their friends, the first barbecue of the season at his vineyard, Chateau Trians.IMG_3105  Jean-Louis is a financier who has worked in New York, London and Paris, and now Monaco.  Catherine teaches Chinese in a lycée.  I met her a few years ago she she was teaching at the university in Toulon.

One evening Melanie prepared a Moroccan fish tagine, which is becoming one of her signature dishes.   It was such a hit that we’re going to have the same dish again tonight for other friends. Locally, we did a tour of an olive orchard not far from our apartment where we listened to absorbing facts about the cultivation of olives and the production of olive oil. And we spent an afternoon in the neighboring hamlet of La Garde walking through –you guessed it — the Medieval section.  But the most unusual thing we did was to search for wild asparagus in the nearby woods with our friend MariThé.  Later that evening, Melanie made a delicious omelet with them.

Within a week, we’ll be in champagne country and Paris, and then a few days in Amsterdam before heading home. I’ll miss Provence and treasure the memories as I hold her dearly in my heart, taking comfort in knowing that I’ll travel this way again.IMG_3108

Melanie in italics again

Alfred spoke of the small streets and the tight driving conditions. But what has fascinated me is how the French have adapted to this closer living. For the driving, it’s obviously smaller cars, narrower lanes and parking spaces, making narrow streets one-way or eliminating traffic altogether and creating pedestrian areas, which have the advantage of opening up a communal and festive space. In those pedestrian areas, sidewalks are used as dining rooms for restaurants, sales spaces for small stores, and places to erect a merry-go-round for children. On market day, parking lots and/or streets are closed to make space for vendors of clothing, flowers, and fruits and vegetables. Then when the market is over, a truck comes through with water hoses to clean up, and the space becomes a street or parking lot again. Multiple uses.

 One of the things that has really impressed me is the French ability to parallel park. You can imagine on a busy narrow street through the village, a person who cannot parallel park well. That driver would stop traffic in one direction while he/she tried multiple times to get into a tiny space. Tempers would flare. Well, over and over, we have watched as drivers make perfect 3-point maneuvers in a matter of seconds. Sometimes this also involves putting two tires up on the sidewalk. Other drivers wait patiently and then proceed quickly.

Parking can really be a problem so most people walk to the market and carry their own baskets or take their rolling carts. Others walk to the stores and then take the bus home as another lady and I did week. Uphill with groceries is not a picnic.

The other thing is bathrooms. Where do you put restrooms in a small building that originally didn’t have any? Once again, you adapt. Many restrooms are unisex, others are separate, but the hand-washing station is for everyone outside the toilet area. A corner can be used to make a triangular area with tiny sink. Or restrooms are public in parking lots or squares. And we have been impressed at how clean the modern ones in big cities are.

As I used to say to my students over and over, customs fit the culture; they are not good or bad necessarily, just different.





My first impressions of Costa Rica and Zip-lining!

The anticipation was killing me. Here I was on a plane embarking on my very first adventure out of the country and I did not know whether to be terrified, nervous, or excited, but to be honest I was probably all of those things. I had never been to a foreign country in my life – the closest thing I had gotten to Costa Rica was Florida and that is still very far off in terms of culture and region.

At that moment, all I could do was wait. My back was killing me from the 5 hour flight and I had been up super early that morning (at 3am to be exact), but I could not sleep. So many things were running through my mind. What was the country going to look like? What was I going to see? What was my host family like? Are they friendly? What do they look like? Before I knew it, I had bitten my nails so far down that they hurt BAD.

Suddenly, the plane began to fall slowly and after the brief panic that we were about to crash, I realized that we were landing. We were finally there! When the plane landed, I was thankful just to be able to stand and stretch my legs. I could only see a small glimpse of the country’s landscape through the plane’s small windows and from what I could tell, it was already beautiful! I was also very much relieved to not see a speckle of snow in sight, since I’d left so much behind in South Bend!

When our group made it through immigration, I exchanged $60 in US currency for Costa Rican cash called colones, and we met up with the amazing Alberto, our guide and one of the many Spanish teachers at the school that we would be attending, Academia de Nicoya.

When we entered the bus, I was still in complete shock and denial that I was actually in Costa Rica. Nothing seemed to be real. While Alberto began his introduction and welcomed us to the beautiful country of Costa Rica, I could not help but to just stare contently out my window at the gorgeous scenery. It seemed that my camera had a mind of its own, as it could not stop taking photographs out the window! To my surprise, the landscape was not as green as I had thought it was going to be. The grass appeared to have a brown hue to it and the trees looked brown as well. I found out that this was because we had entered the country during the dry season. However, once we arrived in Monteverde to our hotel (our first stop for the night) we would be seeing much greener and wetter scenery; hence, the name Monteverde which means “green mountain”. Nonetheless, the scenery was still breathtaking.

When we finally were able to go outside to our bus, the sun finally hit my body and man was it warm – 95 degrees to be exact! And yet, it was not an unbearable heat like I had imagined. Unlike Indiana, Costa Rica’s heat feels more so like a dry heat opposed to a humid heat, and let me tell you I could get used to the dry heat!

When we arrived at our hotel (which by the way was after we had to go around and around and around a narrow road which spiraled up into the mountains where the hotel and the small town resided), I was exhausted, but I still did not want to sleep! I was too excited and I wanted to see and take in EVERYTHING. We ate dinner at the hotel, which served beyond amazing food! We were given a choice between casado (A traditional dish which must come with rice and beans) with beef, grilled chicken, or vegetarian. I chose grilled chicken, and here is a picture of the delicious meal:

chickenAfter dinner, we were able to go on a night hike where we saw many different animals and insects in their natural habitats. Soon after that it was time for bed, and by that time, around 10pm, I felt like a zombie and fell asleep as soon as my body reached the bed.

The following morning, after eating breakfast at the hotel came the most nerve-wracking day of my life because that afternoon was the day we would be zip-lining! Before we all had arrived to Costa Rica, I will be honest to say that I was extremely nervous and scared to zip-line and my mind told me absolutely, under no circumstances should I do it! When going on the trip, you have the option to either zip-line or experience a canopy hike tour of which you walk out onto suspended bridges and get the chance to visit nature buildings such as a butterfly house. For the longest time, I told myself that the hike was the way to go! However, when the rest of the group decided to zip-line, I decided that I did not want to hike by myself and that I needed to do something that was out of my comfort zone. I mean, let’s be honest: how cool would it be to say that I actually went zip-lining in Costa Rica? How many people can actually say that?
zipliningWell, to make the long story short, let me just say that I do not regret zip-lining at all! While I zipped along hundreds of feet up in the air, I felt so liberated and free! I told myself, “Wow I really can do anything, nothing can stop me now!” To be honest, I had never had so much fun in my whole life! It is a feeling that is beyond describing as you would have to experience it yourself! It was absolutely amazing and I could have zip-lined all day if I had the chance! When looking back at all of the things I was able to do in Costa Rica – zip-lining, nocturnal night tour, kayaking, river boat tour, going to the beach, seeing Arenal volcano, the La Fortuna waterfall, relaxing in the hot springs – zip-lining was definitely a highlight of the whole trip and it is something that I will never forget! If you have any hesitation toward zip-lining, I totally understand because I was there once too. But, trust me when I say you will not regret your decision if you decide to go for it! You will feel so free, so liberated, so accomplished for nothing feels as good until you conquer what you had originally thought you would be too scared to do!