final speech…Frankenstein’s monster

I often think of the Global Study Program as some sort of Dr Frankenstein’s monster. You know the story: against all odds and the warnings of the academic community, Dr Frankenstein creates a human being out of pieces of dead bodies that he revives through some sort of electric jolts. In other words, Frankenstein was an unorthodox scientist using unorthodox means to achieve the impossible. Does that sound familiar?

 GSP asks from you what may seem to be the impossible: overcome a series of challenges related to time, communication, collaboration, academic expectations, and of course your own selves, in order to, against all odds, propose something new and sometimes unorthodox.

 The program is also created in an unorthodox manner, not only because it uses bits and pieces from several fields of research (this time, may I remind, that documents, lectures and arguments were inspired from the fields of archaeology, sociology, development studies, agricultural policies, museology, tourist studies etc.), but also because much of the program is in constant reconstruction, as it tries to make the best of the situations arising in front of us every day. In fact, not only us, but you too are participating in building up the program, because your daily reactions influence not only the direction of the final objectives, but also the structure of the coming days. In this sense, the program is a monster, because it is incomplete: there is always more that could be done to perfect it, and there are many ways to experience it and to take something out of it, some of them fairly abrupt and hard, others needing more feeling than knowledge.

 This is of course because the program is also a monster with a heart; a heart that, like the original Frankenstein’s monster, craves for passion. And I think that passion is what best describes what we have progressively observed arising in the minds and hearts of our participants; a passion to get through one’s ideas to the rest of the team and to get through to the end of the assigned tasks.

 Now, of course, since the program is a monster, it also is unpredictable. Although in my mind I have very specific hopes as to what I would like each of you to achieve, I cannot control individual experiences and interpretations. Some of you will hopefully go home realizing that language skills are not everything one needs to realize his or her ambitions. Others might return to their daily lives enriched with new ways of looking at their routine and at what they once had maybe thought as “normal.” Indeed, if I call the program a monster, it is also because, I hope that, at different levels, the program has broken down what you had thought off until now as “normal behavior” or “common sense.” Yet others will also have hopefully got an understanding of the fundamental issues related to considering archaeological sites as national heritage and as opportunities for local development. Some, indeed, may have realized the limitations of even the notion of “public archaeology”; to such students I can only say BRAVO: your work will remain forever in the annals of GSP’s unique achievements.

 If you are still following my metaphor of Dr Frankenstein’s monster, you should be by now thinking: “did not the monster eventually turn against its creator?” Well, yes.

 First of all, the monster has already taken a lot from us, the organizers of this program. Do not forget that this process started more than 6 months ago. I always say that to make a good academic program sweat and sleepless nights are not enough. You need to give out also a bit of yourself. A bit that you will not get back and that your family may hold you responsible for, for several years to come.

 Secondly, the monster is turning against us in other ways too. Many of you have probably at some point during the duration of this program (and even maybe now) cursed me (silently) for asking you to do more than you thought necessary to do, or for answering to your questions or comments with less information than you had expected me to give out. I clearly remember some of these scary eyes. I think that there may be even students who will not want to see my face for a while after we return to Japan. They have had enough! And I guess I can understand them, but,

 …let me finish with a pun, an imitation of what a famous Japanese idol said on the day of her retirement from her band, to ease the spirits.

 私のことは嫌いでも、GSPは嫌いにならないでください!

Even if you hate me, do not hate GSP!

 Thank you and I hope our paths cross again some day.

 Ioannis Gaitanidis

28 August 2016

 

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