Student Spotlight: Jennifer Boum Make

Department of French & Italian

Explain your area/s of research

jen boum make

Broadly speaking, I look at literary representations of otherness in post-colonial encounters in the Francophone world, and how they respectively reflect and/or interrogate ideas of hospitality. In particular, in the context of migration in the Francophone world since decolonization, I focus on identifying and confronting strategies for the articulation of socially productive forms of association and approaches to cultural differences. I use the concept of ‘hospitality’ in order to bridge Mediterranean and Caribbean Studies, and test the necessary conditions for developing a mutual acquaintance with cultural variations.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

Since I started my graduate degree at Pitt, I have been particularly interested in exploring questions about mobility and circulation of people and cultures in Francophone spaces since decolonization. But I think certain recent developments relating to international migration and humanitarian work, such as the ‘refugee crisis’ (as the media have dubbed it), the ‘Calais jungle,’ and the resurgence of nationalism and protectionism at a global scale, have encouraged me to inscribe those questions in a very contemporary setting, in the midst of a very agitated early twenty-first-century.

Explain the importance of your research

In mainstream media and political prose, the word ‘hospitality’ is often thrown out there with no question asked as to what it actually implies with regard to, for instance, refugee and humanitarian assistance, welcome policies, and socio-cultural agendas. Exploring the literary and artistic forms of expression around this vague notion is one way to reactivate ethical and cultural interrogations as to shaping hospitable situations in moments of encounter with others.

What has influenced you as a scholar?

Clearly, my interactions with colleagues across fields at Pitt and elsewhere, and the projects we have been able to put together over the years have been most influential for me. I find myself becoming increasingly aware of the preconceptions that we might have about what it is each of us do as scholars in our respective fields, and my past and current collaborative projects have revealed to me the effort of so many of us to make sure that ‘interdisciplinary work’ is not just a buzz-word.

Why did you choose Pitt to pursue your graduate degree?

I arrived at Pitt in the summer 2012. Back then, I was an exchange-student coming from a French university and finishing an MA in English Studies. During my exchange year, I started working closely with a faculty member in the department of French and Italian (who is now one of my dissertation advisors), moving away from the research agenda I had set for myself in France. The support I received early on from faculty and fellow graduate students in making sure I had a smooth transition across different academic trainings was crucial to my decision to continue my graduate studies at Pitt.

What are your plans after graduation?

I would like to continue working in a university-environment where I can continually expand and refine my research interests as well as develop curricula for engaging students in their learning. I am also considering working for a non- or intergovernmental organization focusing on refugee and humanitarian assistance.