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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Minnesota State Mankato Research Symposium Considers Serious Issues

Event promotes communication, understanding.

2012-04-10
Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press, 4-10-2012

Sabaina Khurram was lucky to be born into a family long estranged from certain cultural norms of the country from which she originated, she said.

A native Pakistani (albeit briefly after birth), Khurram may have been party to an arranged marriage by now. Or, if she were to lose her virginity before marriage, she said, she would be seen as a negative influence, bringing dishonor to her family.

“Even if I was raped,” she said.

Khurram presented research with regard to “ honor killing” in Turkey and Pakistan, as well as other cul­tural stigmas attached to women, at the Undergraduate Research Symposium Monday in the ball­room at Minnesota State University. Surrounded by dozens of other students presenting research on topics from Minnesota’s native plants to nurs­ing burnout and its effects on patient care, Khurram discussed the lack of laws and protection of women’s rights.

As is demonstrated in the 2007 Turkey film “Bliss,” Khurram said, many of the problems lie in culture and customs. It’s about “changing minds,” she said, before laws would be effective. Citing an example from “Bliss,” she said Meryem was a 17-year- old girl who was raped in Turkey, and it was her village’s cus­tom for her to be killed to restore honor to her family and village. But the son of the village leader ordered to kill her couldn’t go through with it, so the two ran away together.

As a gender and women’s studies major, Khurram said her research was of great personal interest to her. And the fact she’s Pakistani-American made her feel an even deeper connection to the project.

Unfortunately, she said, the problems strike at the heart of culture and identity, which often mean only time and exposure to outside influence will create change. And with small, insular villages like the ones she researched, change won’t come quickly.

“It’s a topic that can’t be easily resolved,” she said.

Although much more optimistic in her findings, Tiffany Ranweiler also researched a complicated, multi-layered project for presentation at the symposium: “Cultural Survival of Dakota People,” which delved into how Dakota people perceive their culture today, despite widely accepted stereotypes and misrepresentations. A timely subject, given the 150th anniversary year of the U. S.- Dakota War, what drew Ranweiler to her research is the revitalization and reemergence of Dakota culture in the larger Minnesota community.

“My big thing here is connectedness,” she said, citing that numerous Indian communities in the state are growing and reemerging together. “The Dakota people are proud of their legacy.”

Ranweiler, a humanities and literature major, conducted interviews with Dakota people, including elders, and she also researched the American Indian Cultural Corridor in Minneapolis, which was inaugurated in 2010. In the 1950s and ’ 60s, the federal government encouraged thousands of American Indians to leave reservations and move to cities.

Franklin Avenue soon after became a gathering place for Indian people, an identity it keeps today.

According to American Indian Cultural Corridor website, the area surrounding the corridor is the densest concentration of urban American Indian people in the country. This reemergence of Indian people in American culture is exciting to Ranweiler, and it’s something she plans to keep studying when she pursues her master’s and Ph. D. But she knows the issue is complicated with cultural, historical and identity factors standing in the way of a true reconciliation of cultures.

“Through communication and education, we can move toward a better understanding of one of Minnesota’s important cultures, and a better understanding of each other,” she wrote about the project.

To see the entire story, go to www.mankatofreepress.com.

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