Senior Sociology Major Chats with New York Times Best Selling Author About Upcoming Talk on Campus

Eliza Griswold, author of The New York Time best-seller “The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), will be on campus to talk about talk about her travels and research in North Africa and Central Asia, where high concentrations of Christians and Muslims live, on Thursday, April 19 at 4:30 p.m. in Rehm Library. 

The lecture, intended to “explore the cradle of Christian-Muslim relations,” is part of the Deitchman Family Lectures on Religion and Modernity, presented by the College’s Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture. 

I recently read Griswold’s book in my sociology seminar, “Good Books, Good Sociology,” with Jerry  Lembcke, associate professor of sociology, and was lucky enough to chat with her in the midst of her travels, about her latest book and her future plans.   

Following your recent work, I noticed that you have been in Afghanistan. Are you able to elaborate on your recent travel and what you are currently working on? 

I am currently working on stories of women of color. I am planning on eventually taking another trip to Afghanistan to complete my work there. 

However, my main focus right now is on poverty in America.  I am planning on publishing a book about this topic, but I haven’t started it yet. I am in the research phase so it will be another year or two. 

What are your future plans? Have you been back to Africa since writing “The Tenth Parallel?”   

I have not been back to Africa since the book was published in 2010.  Considering the violence in countries along the tenth parallel, I am trying to plan a trip. I am currently trying to go to Mali Land this summer to follow up. (NOTE: Mali was not included as a case study in Griswold’s book but is located in close proximity to Nigeria which she highlights.)

How do you think (or are you aware) how your book would be perceived if reviewed by non-Westerners? Have you received any feedback from some of the key individuals that you interviewed for the book? 

I have received some good feedback after talking the book over with some of the key individuals that I included, specifically from the imam (leader of a Muslim community) in Nigeria that I worked fairly extensively with. Also, Dr. Hawa Abdi from Somalia has provided me with good feedback on my work for the “Tenth Parallel.” She was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

With the conflicts rooted so deeply in history, geography, and moral and cultural beliefs, what do you believe is the first step toward peace? More specifically, what do you believe is the role of the public in resolving and/or contributing to the violence along the tenth parallel? 

Well, first of all, our role is to educate ourselves about the issue. We need to begin there, with education, to change any significant issue. Once we know more, it becomes clear that even acting locally can help globally. Once we educate ourselves, we can see in our everyday lives what we might be able to do to change ourselves and the world around us. 

Have your goals and intentions for publishing this book been met? 

Yes, they definitely have been met. My goal was to bring serious attention through education about the issue (the violent clashes between Christianity and Islam along the tenth parallel) to other parts of the world. In terms of spreading awareness, my goals have been exceeded. 

by Emily Comstock ’12 

NOTE: Emily Comstock is a sociology major with a concentration in peace and conflict studies, and member of the premedical program at the College. She has spent the past two summers working and living in East Africa, which included a summer study abroad program with Judith Chubb, professor of political science, at the Catholic University of East Africa and Hekima College in Nairobi, Kenya, where she interned at Ushirika, a comprehensive public health clinic in Kibera slum; she also interned through the chaplains’ office in Gulu, Uganda, one of the main areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army, where she taught English and science at a secondary school.

Upon graduation in May, she hopes to volunteer abroad in a medical setting before applying to graduate programs in midwifery and global health. 

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