Bob Hohman, director of USCB-HH
Hilton Head Students Impress Visiting Professor
Dr. Charles Jarrett returned to the University of South Carolina Beaufort at Hilton Head unprepared for the challenge ahead. In the process of completing a two year pilot-study on Gullah culture, Jarrett decided to engage his USCB-Hilton Head students in an 'interactive study' of the culture and language. The students have responded to Jarrett's encouragement with a resounding impact. "I'm challenged daily by the enthusiasm and energy of my students," says Jarrett. "The extra time and care required for creating a project of merit has been an enormous responsibility."
A visiting professor of sociology from Ohio University, Jarrett is using an innovative method called "Folknography" to teach undergraduates field research, data collection, and the scientific method. Students taking Jarrett's course in minority group relations have already engaged members of the Gullah/Geechee community on Hilton Head and St. Helena Island. "I was drawn to the course because of the interactive field research," said Charmaine Seabrook, a BAIS Social Science major. "I waned to learn more about the language and culture by talking with people, by going beyond the written word to an interactive experience involving Gullah/Geechee people."
Jarrett and his research colleague, Dr. David M. Lucas, are co-founders of "Folknography." Lucas suggests the term refers to methods used by researchers interested in learning the unique views of native folk. "Students of 'Folknography' must search for the voice of the people, learning to listen carefully for 'emergent themes' and collective interpretations' of a particular 'folk' under study," insists Lucas.
Angel Flewelling, a BAIS Social Science major, says " 'Folknography' teaches students to use 'empathy,' or to interpret the social world from the unique perspective of others." Before enrolling in Jarrett's course, Angel admits she had many preconceived notions about Gullah/Geechee people. "By learning to apply 'Folknography' in the field, I'm better able to understand Gullah people, understand their culture, their beliefs, their values, their social expressions, and their mode of communication," says Flewelling.
Professor Jarrett has enlisted the assistance of Marquetta L. Goodwine, First Queen Mother and Official Spokesperson for the Gullah/Geechee Nation. Queen Quet serves as a liaison between the students and Gullah community. She has challenged students to understand Gullah is an authentic language, not merely a dialect as some may suggest. "Gullah language remains an oral tradition," says Queen Quet. "An emphasis has never been placed on written text. Gullah language resonates with the rhythms of the Sea Island." She believes the language operates as a 'code of the spirit,' a method by which cultural traditions are passed along from one generation to another. Queen Quet begins her lecture for the class, "De Wey Wi Speak, Duh De Wey Wi Lib!" Translation…"The way we speak is the way we live!"
The students meet four days a week at the USCB-Hilton Head campus. With permission from campus director Bob Hohman, students devote one class per week to their 'interactive study.' Dr. Jarrett and Queen Quet have arranged field trips to the Coastal Discovery Museum, historic sites in Bluffton, cultural events on Hilton Head Island, and a socio-historical tour of St. Helena Island. A course finale is planned for the "Gwine Bak Conference: A Socio-Historical Presentation of Gullah Geechee Culture," scheduled for St. Helena Island during July 6-7, 2002.
"Although the campus is surrounded by Gullah influences, the students believe their class project helps complete their education of local cultures "It's very new to me," said Lindsey Easterlin, who was born in Beaufort and grew up on Hilton Head. "It's sad that I don't know more about Gullah culture. I'm embarrassed for myself that I don't." Hagan Richmond, a resident of Spanish Wells, Leiah Castillo, a lifelong resident of Sea Pines, and Susie Neckles, who has spent most of her adult life in the Lowcountry, agree with Lindsey, "The interactive study was a great idea; it adds a dimension of reality to our course and our studies at USCB-Hilton Head."
"The influence of an instructor can be a powerful source of change, and the effects everlasting," noted Dr. Hohman. "Our students have been inspired by Dr. Jarrett's project, and their actions and attitudes reflect an excitement beyond normal expectations." As partial fulfillment of course requirements, students will post their findings on a research specific web site after mid-July. Interested readers may log on to www.southern.ohiou.edu/folknography and read about the experiences of USCB students.