Welcome to Mirroring Hope
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Peggy (Peg) Spitzer Christoff, Senior Lecturer, Stony Brook University
Jamie M. Sommer, Assistant Professor, University of South Florida
In the course of teaching in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, Peg learned about the tremendous pain and suffering caused by the 2001 Gujarat earthquake in India; and that the resulting massive flooding in the monsoon season affected nearly 450,000 people and relocated more than 130,000 to homeless shelters. However, it took a trip to India and many interviews with those who lived through this tragedy to appreciate the way this climate change disaster had affected women’s lives.
In 2016, Peg hired Jamie (who was a doctoral student at Stony Brook at the time) to learn more about the Women for Results program sponsored by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC’s sponsorship and a subsequent publication by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Global Gender Office described an innovative program, Bhungroo (“straw” in English), that used an irrigation technology to turn a humanitarian crisis into a powerful opportunity for women who previously had little voice in their homes or communities. They learned that, traditionally, women in India could not own land; however, the Bhungroo project introduced a brilliant work-around strategy to give women rights to the irrigation technology. Peg and Jamie first interviewed the creators of the program, Trupti Jain and her husband, Biplab Paul, via Skype; and, then, in 2019, with a grant from Stony Brook University, they traveled to Gujarat to interview farmers in three villages to understand the project’s impact on women’s social status in their communities.
In this digital collection, you will find all interview materials from their field research, including interview release forms, audio and video recordings, translations of the interviews from Gujarati into English, short videos, and photographs. Also included are two related student undergraduate research projects that Peg supervised and interviews with those who were to be part of a spring symposium prior to COVID-19.
This oral history project serves to inspire visitors to formulate their own research projects – and incorporate global dimensions of environmental social justice. It turns out that everyone involved came to recognize the power of practical solutions to inequality; and that the context within which solutions can be achieved requires a different lens. “Mirroring Hope” means that you not only need good translators to get it right, but you also need to be aware of your particular frames, confront the geopolitics of knowledge, unlearn hegemonic ideology and most importantly, admit when you are wrong.