Zerrin Holle ’14

Zerrin is a dual citizen of Turkey and the United States, majoring in anthropology at Bard with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies. Zerrin conducts research on displaced Kurdish families in Turkey and works with local human rights organizations. She’s preparing to study abroad in Cairo, and looking forward to a career as an anthropologist.

About a year ago I started doing ethnographic research on minorities in Turkey, specifically the Kurdish population, looking at forced migration and forced resettlement. I’m working with families and youth on intergenerational trauma, to see how displacement 20 years back affects the next generation. I intern for a human rights organization in Istanbul, and I conduct interviews with families around the city and in the southeast, the area from which a lot of them migrated. The research is going really well, though it’s been a difficult climate to work in. Turkey has the highest number of journalists in prison for working on the Kurdish situation right now. There’s a lot of state pressure not to get involved.

Both the Middle Eastern studies and anthropology programs have provided an exceptional support system here. I’ve grown as an anthropologist academically and in terms of the fieldwork. The faculty support has made the research possible; they’ve helped ensure that my practices are ethically sound and taught me how to apply for research grants. I received the Bard Human Rights Project Summer Research Grant and the Center for Civic Engagement Research and Internship Grant, which have been the main funding sources for my work for the past two summers.

Students on campus have been interested and encouraging. I organized a panel this past fall and we had a great discussion on how, as students of anthropology and Middle Eastern studies, we can bridge the gap between the classroom and fieldwork. That’s something exciting about Bard students: just like the professors, they’re a motivating force to continue your work.

I really can’t picture being at another educational institution, with the relationships I’ve formed here with professors, the classes I’ve taken, and all I’ve learned about research and funding. All these things aren’t offered at most undergraduate programs. It’s a place that’s allowed me to hone in on what my interests are. I think that’s one of the reasons why, even after graduation, I’d like to be connected to Bard in one form or another. It’s been a life-changing experience.