By Kerry Steinhofer
Centre College students have the opportunity to conduct collaborative research with faculty members during the school year or over the summer. Julia Matthews ’19 and Sarah Holloway ’18, spent three weeks of their summer in Uganda with Assistant Professor of History Jonathon Earle researching the Uganda Railway.
The purpose of the trip was to gather information for a new book project Earle will be working on in the future about the history of the concept of time and the history of the rail travel in this African nation.
“First, we worked in the Uganda National Archives and also worked in the archives of the Kampala Railway Station,” Earle explained. “Next, we conducted field work in Fort Portal, which is in Western Uganda on the Congo-Uganda border. Third, we participated in cultural activities, including a customary wedding (kwanjula), time on the Nile River and time in Kabarega National Park.”
In addition, the team interacted with international researchers working in different areas of Uganda studies and with regional political activists.
“Our goal was to see if Uganda’s archives would open for us the possibility of the project itself,” Earle said.
Throughout the trip, Matthews and Holloway were able to learn more about the research process and what conducting research in the field looks like.
“During the course of our field work, we unearthed the personnel records of the Uganda Railway,” Earle explained. “This was a major find. This collection of material constitutes an under-used body of material that will open new possibilities for rethinking the history of the railway in Uganda. I was also thrilled to see Sarah and Julia experience this, as well.”
For Matthews, she said this research trip opened several doors for her.
“I now feel more confident in my ability to pursue a career in research, if that is what I choose to do. I would encourage any Centre students who are offered a research opportunity like this to take it.”
Holloway learned that there is never one way to understand or conceptualize something.
“While working on the railway project, we talked a lot about the concept of time and how people experience it differently across cultures and generations,” she added. “Being able to see that first-hand, just in how people live and talk about their daily lives, made me think a lot about how I conceive of different aspects of my culture that may differ from someone else.
“Having the opportunity to conduct research in a country I had been able to study in depth at Centre was an amazing experience, and being able to travel to Africa for the first time was truly incredible,” Holloway said.
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