In recent years, the field of Communication Studies has taken on a more global perspective, looking at the ways people communicate beyond English-speaking populations. Such work, when done well, is never easy, and one person who has been doing great work in this area is our own Lindsay Harroff, PhD Candidate in Communication Studies.
Lindsay started her research at KU by writing her Master’s thesis on the nation’s response to the violence that plagued Kenya’s 2007 elections. However, as she moved into her doctoral work, she wanted to enrich her ability to continue studying violence in the region, so she decided to start by learning Kiswahili, the official language of Kenya and widely used in the region. Since she started studying the language, her research has taken on a new perspective and given her new insights into the culture. As she said, learning Kiswahili “helped me learn about the culture and society I’m studying. Language carries culture, it’s not just a mode of communication.”
A large contributor to Lindsay’s ability to accomplish this enrichment was her recent completion of a two year fellowship with Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS). The Kansas African Studies Center (KASC), in partnership with the Department of Education, offers FLAS Fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students every year to encourage learning one of six less commonly taught African languages: Arabic, Amharic, Kiswahili, Hausa, Somali and Wolof.
Through her time as a FLAS fellow, Lindsay has had the opportunity to both study Kiswahili at KU and broaden her studies to be more interdisciplinary. Through her fellowship, she also got the opportunity to spend time in an African nation where Kiswahili is widely spoken. Indeed, Lindsay was able to spend the summer of 2016 living in Tanzania, giving her a chance to experience the language and culture firsthand.
While she has most recently turned her attention to writing her dissertation, Lindsay is still involved with KASC through her research. As she put it, “African studies is a huge part of what I’m doing and has shaped the way I approach my research.” Moreover, she also noted that her time as a FLAS fellow has given her a wonderful community of faculty and students that have helped make her a promising scholar.