Go Pack, Go CHASS - Nora Haenn

Uploaded by alchedia on 09.06.2011

My name is Nora Haenn, and I teach in anthropology and international studies here at NC State.
Part of my research looks at Mexican migration to the United States, but it looks at it from
the perspective of people living in Mexico and the communities where folks might be leaving.
And so I look at how, by moving to the States, families in Mexico change. I look at how,
by having some members in the States—of course their financial situation changes.
It puts a huge pressure mainly on marriages. And marriages have to get reorganized to be
able to sustain a separation of four to five years. And as people can probably imagine,
that’s not an easy thing to do. And so one of the things that migration has
brought to the part of Mexico where I work is divorce. And so for the first time, this
society is experiencing divorce as a common phenomenon.
Last year, I was in Mexico for the academic year, on a grant through Fulbright-Garcia
Robles. So it’s a joint grant between the country of Mexico and the United States of
America. And I spent the year there talking to people about migration to the United States.
Basically talked to everybody. I talked to people who had been to the United States and
come back. I talked to people who had family members in the United States. I talked to
people who had never been, didn’t know anybody, but who had an opinion on the matter. And
so we’re looking at how migration was affecting a whole society.
Just before leaving for Mexico, I applied for a second grant from the National Science
Foundation, and that grant is in collaboration with a colleague in Mexico, a geographer who
lives and works there full-time. And we collaborated on a survey of 250 households, and in that
survey, we’re asking people about their farming activities. We work in a rural area.
We ask them about their financial situation. We ask them do they have people in the United
States—do they have people who have maybe migrated to other places. Cancun is a very
popular destination site for migrants. And then we ask them their general opinions about
migration. Students are looking to teachers for a lot
of things. They want you to be smart. They want you to be fair. But they’re kind of
checking you out, to see, “Is this the kind of person I would want to be?” So I do see
that I have to be my best self. I don’t have to be perfect, I get to be human. But
I need to know that, you know, students are still kind of figuring things out. They have
a lot of faculty they can check out and see if that’s how they want to make their life.
And I should, you know, probably be my best self, so that they can make their own decisions.
One of the things, I’m really insistent both—among my colleagues in anthropology
and international studies and with my students is an intellectual openness. I really think
it’s easy to crowd around the popular idea, but I want to avoid that at all costs. And
I really want people to be able to think for themselves.
I really love teaching classes where students get to do projects on their own, where I’m
overseeing student projects and they’re self-driven and they get to express their
creativity. So, one of the classes I teach is a senior-level class where we have 20 students,
and each one of them is writing an individual research paper on a topic of their choosing.
And when they’re done with the class, each of them has a 30-page senior thesis.
And the topics range, right now, from diplomacy between North and South Korea, to aid to Africa—is
it helping or hurting? To Korean immigration to Japan. Really all over the map.
One of the things about working in a multilingual community is you just have to decide that
you’re going to understand this person, even if you can’t understand what they have
to say. And you’re going to bridge that gap.
This is a thank you for the people in Calakmul in Mexico who have supported my research over
the years. I want to thank all the people in Calakmul
and Campeche in Mexico for supporting my work over the years and accepting me into their
homes even though they have no idea what I’m doing there. And I ask a lot of pesky questions,
but they’ve been very nice in supporting me and I want to thank them.