Anthropology major Amanda Kaste '16 has combined her love of diversity, global cultures, social justice, and religion in several unique and innovative ways during her time at Gettysburg College. During her junior year, Amanda studied in Uganda as part of the SIT (School for International Training) program entitled “Post-Conflict Transformation.” Northern Uganda was, from 1988 to 2008, a region plagued by guerrilla warfare. Civilians suffered at the hands of Joseph Kony, the leader of the religious-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was infamous for orchestrating the mass abduction of child-soldiers. The LRA wreaked such devastation in the region that millions of people had to be displaced to government-run camps, where they lived for many years. Now that violence has subsided and people are being resettled, Amanda, through her SIT program, was interested in examining the human costs of the conflict, and the ways that local communities are fostering peace, economic development, and sustainable reconciliation.
After a course in the Acholi language and some topical seminars, Amanda embarked on an independent research project that focused on Acholi women’s perceptions of peace and reconciliation. Her research among members of two women’s groups employed anthropological methodologies, such as semi-structured interviews, participant-observation, and focus-group discussions. Her research paper, available on the Cupola (Gettysburg College’s open-access hub for scholarship), is entitled, “Perceptions of Peace and Reconciliation: Case of Lokokwo Peyot Women’s Group in Paidwe Parish, Bobi Sub-County.”
Amanda is now back at Gettysburg College, and is continuing to explore Acholi women’s experiences of war through an anthropology honors thesis that examines the post-conflict repercussions of sexual violence. Working with faculty mentors, Amanda is reading comparative studies of sexual violence from around the world, and is accessing written accounts from, and about, rape survivors in Uganda. These written accounts include life histories, newspaper articles, and field-notes from her independent study project in Uganda. Amanda’s honors thesis will be presented at the end of the spring semester and published on The Cupola.
Amanda has also kept busy through her work with the Religious Studies Department, home of her second major, and the Center for Public Service (CPS), where she currently serves as Program Coordinator for immersion projects. In the summer of 2015, Amanda was granted a Mellon Summer Scholarship, which enabled her to build on a CPS-sponsored immersion trip that she had taken to Alabama, where she had visited sites prominent during the 1960s civil rights movement. For the Mellon Summer Scholars Program, she studied the role of religion—specifically, the importance of Judeo-Christian ideals and liberation theology—in the civil rights movement. Amanda will present this research at Celebration in April 2016.
In January 2016, Amanda participated in another CPS immersion trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, where she probed diverse, and often conflicting, views of immigration through meetings with border patrol agents, immigrants, residents on both sides of the border, human rights workers, and immigration reform leaders.
This summer, Amanda will take part in the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights, which hosts teaching and research workshops on human rights, global conflict, humanitarian aid, and peace building. Her aim is to yet further deepen her knowledge of global social injustice, and to work with the group of scholars and human rights advocates who will gather there to develop constructive solutions to these injustices.