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Middle East Studies

Student Spotlight: Asya Igmen '17

Name: Asya Igmen

Concentration: Middle East Studies and Political Science

Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey and Subiaco, Italy

What was your focus, and why, during your studies at Brown?

My focus at Brown has been human rights. I was eager to learn about global governance structures and how they relate to collective and individual rights. I've studied the interplay between international law, the legacy of colonialism, democratization, ethnicity, and people on the move -- all in the hopes of better understanding the abuses of human rights in the Middle East (and elsewhere) and their potential resolutions.

What are some thoughts on Brown Middle East Studies, and your experience as a part of it, that you'd like to share?

Middle East Studies encouraged me to rethink everything I thought I knew about the history and contemporary realities of non-Western politics and peoples. I uncovered many assumptions I never knew I even had about the region, as well as the Global South more generally. For the first time during my studies, my professors turned the analytical focus on me as an individual researcher and encouraged me to explore the role my background played on my understanding of the world. This allowed me to analyze my native Turkey from a different perspective -- one that I had not been exposed to growing up.

Can you tell us about your experience working abroad over the last summer, and how that experience informs your work now?

Although I'm a MES concentrator, I traveled to El Salvador my sophomore summer. I was keen on exploring the complexities of Central America in relation to the Middle East. There are many lessons to be learned in comparing and contrasting Latin America and MENA: Why and how do people migrate? How has colonialism shaped the social fabric of societies? How has economic development impacted the emancipation of people and their human rights? What are different forms and qualities of democracy? Living in El Salvador and seeing the similarities, as well as differences, between my experience in Turkey helped elucidate these questions further.

And finally, any idea as to your post-graduation plans?

I want to start my professional career by delving into the most important (and least political) right and need: access to quality healthcare. I'm interested in understanding how population health can be improved on a national and international scale. I plan to stay in the US initially -- maybe live in DC and meet like-minded individuals. Eventually, I plan to engage in more field work and earn a graduate degree.

Interview by Kutay Onayli '17.