Identity Studies at the Dickinson Center in Tbilisi

By Katarina Durham ‘25

In Fall 2023, Dickinson College launched its new study abroad program in Tbilisi, Georgia, in partnership with SRAS. Students on the program take intensive classes in the Russian language, while also immersing themselves in the Caucasus/Black Sea region by enrolling in an ICON elective, which stands for Identity and Conflict in the Caucuses. Classes are taught by professors from different institutions and backgrounds, exposing students to varied approaches in their study of the region. The course has a significant travel component; students travel around Georgia, as well as to Armenia and Azerbaijan after studying these countries.

Students in the identity course also participated in lectures on the history of countries in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe that were a part of the Soviet Union, learning about the histories and identities of their residents. Of the lecture component of the course, Dorian McElrone ’25 said: “Our lecturers are extremely varied, all with different fields and regions of expertise. This enhances our learning of each region, as many of our lecturers are from the region they talk about or have studied it extensively.” For Dorian, a highlight from her trip to Armenia was a lecture by political activist Garegin Chukaszyan, who spoke about lessons that can be learned from Armenia’s history.

Dickinson students Dorian, Colby, and Ava listening to a tour guide at the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan

The ICON course also has a written component; students produce reflections and short papers over the semester. In the first half of the semester, students must write page-long summaries of their trips in the context of their study of the identity, culture, and conflicts of those places. In the latter half of the semester, students develop longer papers comparing identity in the Caucuses and on identity in Ukraine.

Not only does the ICON course provide students the opportunities to learn from professors and speakers at the top of their fields, but they also visit, explore, and interact with the cultures and communities they are learning about. For Colby Fewster ‘25, his favorite trip was the class visit to Armenia, where they stayed in its capital, Yerevan. The trip lasted a week as they explored the country, drawing connections between their coursework and the local context.

A view of the Garni Temple, the last pagan temple in Armenia. Photo courtesy of Colby Fewster.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.