Ms Erin Williamson (2018)
While an undergraduate at Lee University, I was introduced to anthropology as a powerful tool of insight and understanding. During my M.Sc. in Social Anthropology at the University College London, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork among Pentecostal Christians in Appalachia who practice a century-old tradition of handling venomous snakes in the context of worship. During my research, a death in the serpent-handling community captured public interest leading to the community’s engagement with journalists, often framing the community as different and unusual. Over the past four years, teaching anthropology at Western Wyoming Community College has only reinforced my belief that understanding human differences and similarities is invaluable in breaking down barriers of fear and prejudice. Having worked in refugee and migrant communities in India, Egypt and Tennessee, I have seen how fear of differences can ostracize the imaginary ‘other.’ During my Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at Cambridge, my research will focus on the ethnographic study of time and the value of hope among refugees and asylum seekers of Syrian origin. It is by focusing on the values of hope and the ideal good life that I expect some insight can be gained which situates refugees not as political nor as suffering strangers, but as morally evaluative humans distinctly and deeply informed by their unique cultural experiences.