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Winthrop professor heads for Jamaica

The Fulbright Program, an international education exchange sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has helped thousands of faculty continue researching or teaching abroad.

Christina Brooks, an anthropology and sociology instructor at Winthrop University, is now one of them.

She will spend the 2012 spring semester in Mona, Jamaica, lecturing in the history and archaeology department at the University of the West Indies and continuing her personal research on cemeteries of enslaved Africans.

Brooks talked to The Herald about why she decided to apply, how her research is going and what she's looking forward to.

Why did you apply for the Fulbright Program?

I was very eager to travel overseas. I wanted to immerse myself into a completely different society for a few months and still be involved in my research, which has become a dear part of my life.

How did you feel when you found out you'd won it?

Receiving a Fulbright is kind of a big deal, but then the terror of the unknown set in. Would Winthrop support this endeavor? Would USC and the new PhD program I just entered support this endeavor? Would my husband and family support this endeavor?

I have received amazing support from all of the above. Now I am in the final stages of planning and preparing to go.

What attracted you to teaching history and archaeology in Jamaica?

I chose Jamaica because of its rich history in the African diaspora, my research focus.

I wanted to compare a place like South Carolina, with its involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, to a place like Jamaica, with a similar yet so strikingly different history.

What kind of experiences have you had so far in surveying the cemeteries of enslaved Africans?

I have surveyed several cemeteries in the Carolinas and Tennessee, including the survey we just finished up at the Historic Brattonsville Enslaved African Cemetery. There are several more sites that my students and I will survey when I return next fall.

What do you hope to do in the future with this experience?

I hope this experience is the first of many international research experiences that I will be able to share with my students. I hope that connections will be made and relationships formed that can be carried with me for a long time.

I hope to stay involved with the communities I hope to be immersed into while in Jamaica. I hope to be able to share my experiences with those interested through lectures or just casual conversation.

I hope to be able to take students back with me to Jamaica, and I hope to be able to bring students from Jamaica back here for a visit. I hope in some way to bridge the gap - socially, economically and geographically - that separates my students here at Winthrop from my future students at the University of the West Indies.