The Ellison Center Welcomes New Faculty and Visiting Scholars
Katy E. Pearce
Katy E. Pearce joined UW this year as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, and an affiliate faculty of the Ellison Center. Her expertise is in technology and media use in the REECA region, with a particular interest in the South Caucasus. Pearce received her master’s in international studies from the University of London School for Oriental and African Studies in 2006 and her PhD in communication from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2011. She headed public opinion polling for Eurasia at Department of State and taught for a year at Georgetown before coming to the University of Washington.
Pearce’s interest in studying technology in the Caucasus began during her undergraduate career at the University of Michigan, where she pursued Armenian and Soviet Studies. Pearce says she “randomly stumbled into Armenia” when, unable to register for a class she had planned, she took a course in Armenian history instead. “It was the first time I was ever exposed to research, and I liked it,” she says. At the suggestion of her professor, Pearce spent the next summer in Armenia learning the language — an experience she greatly enjoyed. The trip was the first of many as Pearce developed her interest in the region. Pearce says she, “realized that this was a fairly impractical thing to focus on,” but after graduation, a job opportunity establishing computer labs in schools in the Caucasus arose, nicely coupling her interests in Armenia and technology. While the project did not work out as expected, it opened the door to Pearce’s continuing research in the region.
Pearce returned to Armenia a few years later to discover a change in technology usage. “People in the mid-2000 were totally obsessed with their phones,” she says. “This confused me even more. Nobody wants to use the computer lab, but everybody loves their phones?” Finding the answer to this question prompted Pearce’s return to graduate school in both the fields of international studies and communication. Pearce says she appreciates communication as a field because it is friendly to international studies and allows for research on both the individual and societal levels.
Through her doctoral work and as a Fulbright scholar in Armenia in 2007-2008, Pearce says many of her original questions have been answered. Her research interests have moved from the basic reasons people choose to use or not to use technology, to understanding how technology is used in the region. “I’m starting a project soon that looks at the lack of women using technology in Azerbaijan — 75 percent of internet users in Azerbaijan are men,” says Pearce. The relationships between technology, democracy and equality are central to her current work. “When you’re studying technology, it’s hard to predict what will come next,” she says.
Though she enjoyed her time on the East Coast, Pearce is happy to be in at UW. “We’re more West Coast people,” she says. Pearce says she’s fitting in with environment here, both in the Department of Communication and the Ellison Center. She says others in her department are working on similar questions in transitional and developing regions, and she is excited to be at UW with other scholars of the REECAS region. “It’s a win-win for me,” Pearce says.
Pearce is currently teaching courses on mobile communication and will instruct a graduate-level course on methods next semester. While she doesn’t see herself teaching anything region-specific soon, she may teach courses on cross-cultural technology usage in the future. She says she is “happy to chat about the Caucasus” with REECAS students. Though she has moved away from major research on Armenia, Pearce says she still tries to conduct a small project on Armenia each year. “My heart is still there,” she says.
Enayatollah Yazdani is a visiting scholar from the University of Isfahan in Isfahan, Iran, where he is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science. He completed his master’s in political science and Islamic studies at the University of Tehran in 1991and received his PhD in political science and international relations from Australian National University’s Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies in 2005. Yazdani’s PhD thesis on U.S. policy in Central Asia after the collapse of the Soviet Union was nominated for best thesis of the year by his academic examiners. On sabbatical from his home university, Yazdani is spending six months at the University of Washington exploring Iranian, Turkish and Saudi Arabian policy in Central Asia in the aftermath of the post-communist era.
Yazdani is particularly interested in the relationships and competition between these countries, and their political, economic and cultural impact on the region. “Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are quite interested in Central Asia, but each of them from their own perspective,” says Yazdani. In addition to other publications, he has written two papers on this topic thus far, one on Iranian and Turkish policy toward Central Asia, the other on Saudi Arabian policy on Central Asia. “We do have a lack of resources [about Saudi Arabian policy in Central Asia], so I thought that it would be a good idea to write about this issue,” Yazdani adds. He hopes his research over the next few months will expand the discussion on international competition for influence in the region between the U.S., Russia and China.
Yazdani’s interest in Central Asia developed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and he began research on the region in 2000. “Then the events of 9/11 happened, so the region was quite important,” Yazdani says. For his time in Seattle, Yazdani has prepared several lectures on the significance of this region, including lectures on Central Asian international relations and regional competition. He is working both with the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and the Ellison Center at UW. This is Yazdani’s second experience working with UW’s REECAS program. In 2003, he did field work in the U.S. at a variety of different universities across the country, including the University of Chicago, Harvard, Indiana University Bloomington, the University of Utah and UW. Though the name has changed, Yazdani said the Center is much the same, but he hopes to see it expand to have more contact with people and centers in the Central Asian region. In addition to working with specialists at UW, Yazdani has taken advantage of the resources UW has to offer. “The library is quite strong,” he says. “You can find many e-books, journals and papers online in the library, and also hard copies of books. The library is nice, very helpful.”
Though this is Yazdani’s second time in Seattle, it is his first time living here with his family. With two children in Seattle schools, Yazdani expects to develop a new perspective on life in the U.S. “I think I will learn more about U.S. culture and behaviors because I am more involved.” In addition to adjusting to days of rain compared to the dry climate in Isfahan, Yazdani and his family are learning more about the States. “As we are living in a religious country, an Islamic country, the lifestyle in our country is quite different from here. The U.S. is an example of Westernized style of life,” Yazdani says. "Our clothes, our food, our communication, our relations in Iran is based on our Islamic law and orders, so it is quite different.”
While in the U.S., Yazdani and his family hope to experience more of the Pacific Northwest. While he is busy with his work on campus and looking toward future projects, they still hope to visit other states. “I have to thank all the people here, staff and also colleagues,” Yazdani said. “And I hope that once again I will come here and do more research here at the Center.”
Svitlana Khutka is visiting UW this quarter as a Carnegie Fellow from Kyiv, Ukraine where she is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Khutka received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and defended her PhD thesis in sociology at Kyiv National University of Taras Shevchenko in 2010. She was awarded the Great Silver Medal on behalf of Natalya Panina and the title of “Best Young Sociologist of the Year in Ukraine” by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine for her research project, “Social Stratification and Subjective Well-being of Personality under Radical Transformations in Ukraine.”
While this is her first trip across the Atlantic, Khutka has spent several years working on various international projects. For last two years she has been an associate researcher at the Laboratory for Comparative Social Studies (Russia), under the academic supervision of Ronald Inglehart. Here at UW, Khutka has finished her first comparative cross-national project “Human Agency and Subjective Well-being in Transition vs. Non-transition countries” – on the basis of 83 countries from World Values Survey data. She will present this project in Moscow this November.
Khutka’s previous work has included research on social mobility and life-coping practices in regions of Ukraine incorporated into the USSR in 1939 and 1940; Ukrainian contemporary self-perception of national identity; and life satisfaction/happiness, human agency and social inequality structure. This turned her attention to the role of human agency, social capital and social networks under conditions of radical social change, issues of social memory and national identity (re)construction. As a Carnegie Fellow at the Ellison Center, Khutka is finalizing her book, which examines social structure and personality under the early stages of post-socialist changes in Ukraine. She is also preparing materials for her next book in which she uses World Values Survey data to examine the nexus between changes in “national accounts of well-being,” values, identity, social inequality and institutional changes in transition countries (mainly post-socialist) compared to non-transition countries. She will give a talk on her research on Monday, November 26 at 12:30 in Thomson 317. She hopes to bring her work into the public discourse in Ukraine upon her return, and has a goal to organize a TEDx talk on national accounts of wellbeing and happiness.
Over the past few years, Khutka has discussed her research ideas with established scholars in the fields of sociology and political science. “It is inspiring for me [to be] doing ‘intellectual bungee-jumping,’” Khutka said. “It is really important, being involved in discussions and cooperation with experienced researchers, with the top experts, using the contemporary methods of data analysis and interpretation, revising different dimensions of social transformations.” Khuta is excited to be at UW, because the University is “providing a really great opportunity to be involved in discussions on the merging of different disciplines.” She appreciates the support from the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, as well as the help of colleagues at the University.
Despite her busy research schedule, Khutka is taking advantage of what the UW offers beyond academics and doing her best to experience Seattle. She has made connections at the Foster School of Business where she enjoys discussing Ukraine’s business culture. She has also connected with the Ukrainian Association of Washington State, and wants to support their effort to develop a Chair of Ukrainian Studies Endowment at UW. She is impressed by the museums and fascinated with Native American sacred art. She enjoys the UW not only for the intellectual and scholarly value of the faculty and library, but the green environment, bicycle-friendly culture and architecture. “The ‘Harry Potter’ [reading room] is amazing,” says Khutka. “Here, at UW, you have the feeling of an old university, but a university on the cutting edge.”
Though she has visited many countries, Khuta said she has never had “culture shock.” She expected to experience it during her first visit to the U.S., but crossing the Atlantic was enjoyable. She has added to her collection of photos with the “really fabulous colorful views of autumn Emerald City, sky, mountains, lakes, Leavenworth; [and] of course, UW campus mix of modern and old architecture.” She said the experience of the UW culture is “quite full of fun.” She laughs and admits she has become a Husky fan. “I like the whole enthusiasm that surrounds that tradition. And no cultural shock, again!”