Whitman students land fellowships to study abroad

Damluji will study 'The Adventures of Tintin' while Bergeson will explore children's games.

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WALLA WALLA -- The study of children's games around the world and the international social impact of a long-running comic strip will be the research focus of two Whitman College students chosen as Watson Fellows for 2010-11.

Nadim Damluji, a politics major, and Seth Bergeson, a history major, are among the 40 college seniors chosen from across the country to spend a year abroad researching their proposed topics. Each student gets a $25,000 stipend from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation to cover travel, living and research expenses for one year.

Students in participating private colleges apply for the fellowships, which are awarded each year to promising college seniors who commit to embark on a year of independent and unique study abroad.

Damluji, a San Diego resident, will travel to Belgium, France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and India to pursue his study on "The Adventures of Tintin," a comic strip created by Belgian artist Herg.

Damluji's research proposal is called "Following Tintin's Footsteps: Reconciling the Charm of Herg's Racism." He intends to explore the ways the comic is ultimately beloved but racist.

In each country, Damluji will study the cultural impact of Tintin, the strip's main character, while connecting with modern cartoonists in his chosen countries.

"Through a series of interviews in these five countries I will examine how modern readers make sense of Tintin," Damluji wrote in his proposal.

Bergeson will travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Kenya and India to learn and study children's games. His proposal is "Kids at Play: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Games and Childhood."

To gain an understanding of each society, Bergeson intends to learn the games that children play while also studying the impact of such games on childhood. Along with learning and even playing the games unique to each country, Bergeson has proposed volunteering at schools and working with nongovernmental organizations.

"I will pay particular attention to the effects of ethnicity, class and gender on the games children play, how they play them, and -- importantly -- why some do not play them," he wrote in his proposal.

Watson fellows typically begin their study abroad soon after graduating. Damluji and Bergeson continue a long tradition of Whitman students receiving Watson fellowships.

Last year, Whitman graduate Aisha Fukushima was awarded a Watson fellowship to study "raptivisim," or the social and political impact of rap and hip-hop in Denmark, India, Morocco, South Africa, Senegal, and the United Kingdom. She has been recording a compilation of songs that reflect the musical styles and the political climate of each country she visited.

An online blog with updates on her experiences can be viewed at raptivism.tumblr.com.

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