February 2, 2006
As the only undergraduate presenting at the 2005 Middle East and Central Asia Conference, Oklahoma Baptist University senior Elise Anderson had a unique perspective. Anderson presented her paper “A Unique Sociocultural Identifier: The Muqam in Modern Uyghur Life,” at the conference at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Anderson realized her interest in the Muqam, a music tradition of the Uyghur people in China, while teaching in China, the summer after her sophomore year at OBU.
Since 1987, OBU has sent teams of students to teach English at Xinjiang University in Urumqi. Anderson, who is pursuing a bachelor of musical arts degree in voice with a minor in anthropology, spent four weeks in the inland province which has a larger Uyghur population.
“Visiting China was a turning point in which I began to integrate what I had learned in classes at OBU, such as philosophy and western civilization, into who I am as a person,” said the Tishomingo, Okla., native.
According to the Middle East and Central Asia Conference website, the objective of the meeting is to bring together academics, analysts, and policy makers interested in the Middle East and Central Asia who wish to network and share their research endeavors.
“The conference was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my academic career,” said Anderson.
She wrote the paper during her junior year as a class project for a social science methods research course. Dr. Ron Duncan, OBU professor of anthropology, assisted her in how to conduct her research on the connection between society and the Muqam in the Uyghur tradition.
Anderson submitted an abstract of her paper to the conference and received confirmation during spring break of 2005 that she had been chosen to present the work.
“I spent the first half of my summer reanalyzing the information in my paper against more recent research I had done on the Muqam to make sure that I still felt that my conclusions were correct,” said Anderson, who continued working on her paper while a summer counselor at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan.
Anderson plans to continue pursuing her interest in the Muqam in an ethnomusicology program in graduate school, and intends to spend the upcoming summer in intense language study of Uyghur.
“I can see many possibilities – human rights activism, further language studies, teaching at a university. I’m not sure which direction my life will ultimately take,” she said.