Mount Allison students, professor embark on cultural research in Nassau
Two Mount Allison University students, Aidan Legault and Percephone (Percy) Miller, took their archival research international this summer. The pair travelled to the Bahamas to conduct onsite research exploring the role and influence of the Bible on the islands.
Legault and Miller are working on the project with Dr. Fiona Black, professor of religious studies. The research is part of a larger, multi-year study which sees Black looking at Bahamian cultural identity through several lenses, including the role Christianity and the Bible play in what it means to be Bahamian in postcolonial society.
“There are many areas in Bahamian culture and politics that have strong and persistent biblical influences,” says Black, who was born in the Bahamas, lived there as a child, and still has extended family there. “Bahamian society remains largely traditional, but it also has to navigate strong external influences, the most obvious of which are tourism (which brings behaviours that mainstream society may not like) and illegal immigration. In effect, for Bahamians, it becomes a double conversation: who do we say we are and who do outsiders need us to be? Our research is looking at these complex dynamics of national identity formation since the islands’ independence in 1973, and as it persists into an increasingly global world.”
Black has been formally studying Bahamian culture and religion’s influence on it since 2011 and is part of a network of scholars examining what religion looks like in postcolonial island nations. She thought the onsite research experience would be a beneficial one for her students.
The trio spent a week on the Islands, conducting research in the national Bahamian archives and the library at the University of the Bahamas, and visiting galleries, tourist sites and observing Junkanoo-Carnival.
Legault, a political science major and religious studies minor, received an independent student research grant from Mount Allison to help fund his research — Uses of the Bible in Secular Democracies: Case Studies in the Bahamas, Canada, and the United States.
Miller also received an independent student research grant for her study entitled, Heavenly bodies: an examination of the female experience through literary and religious space. Miller is completing her Arts degree in English and religious studies
“My time in The Bahamas was intriguing and challenging,” says Miller. “Being able to do research with archival documents as well as observe some of the cultural phenoms we were reading about presented an excellent and unique learning experience.”
Both Legault and Miller will be continuing their research projects throughout the summer and will return to campus this fall for their final year of studies. Black will be continuing her research with plans to publish results for wider audiences.
Photo captions: Mount Allison students Percephone (Percy) Miller and Aidan Legault travelled to the Bahamas to conduct archival research this summer with religious studies professor Dr. Fiona Black