Honors Fellows research takes Taylor Garner ’20 to the West Bank

Garner spend two months during the past summer conducting field research that included interviewing more than 20 women about their memories of political violence. 

Taylor Garner ’20 visiting a family in the West Bank as she conducted fieldwork for her research during summer 2019.

This article is one in a series that is highlighting Elon students as they gain experience participating in study abroad, internships and undergraduate research during summer 2019.

Taylor Garner ’20 spent two months this summer conducting field research in the West Bank for her Honors Fellows research that is focused on comparing women’s memories of political violence in Argentina and Palestine.

Garner interviewed more than 20 women from Nablus, recording their narratives about life under the Israeli occupation. In addition, she studied Arabic at an-Najah University and volunteered with Project HOPE, a local community organization serving women and children from marginalized communities, including nearby refugee camps.

Garner with her mentor, Assistant Professor Sandy Marshall

​Garner conducted her research alongside her mentor, Assistant Professor of Geography Sandy Marshall, who accompanied her to Palestine while conducting his own research. This mentorship experience was very helpful for Garner, as it assister her in adjusting to a new culture and finding participants for her interviews.

Garner said the experience was “an incredible way to both work with my mentor on my own research and get the support I needed in this new setting, but also learn from example and see all the work he was doing.”

Marshall agreed. “I’ve been traveling to Nablus for about 15 years, but this was my first time having a student with me,” he said. “It was great experience conducting our research in tandem. It helped me to stay on target with my own research goals. Also, discussing the connections between our projects provided us both with valuable insights.”

Prior to her travels, Taylor conducted research with women in Argentina and completed an extensive literature review of the political situation in Palestine. “It was cool seeing the same themes that I had read about reappear in my own data collection,” she said. “Being there and hearing these women’s stories also made it much more powerful and authentic.”

The interviewing process required that Garner establish rapport with women before asking questions related to past traumas. She recalls spending hours drinking tea and coffee and eating home-cooked meals with the women and families before even getting to her research questions.

​Through this she was able to garner a deep, cross-cultural relationship with the local people who, she says, made her feel right at home. “It also allowed me to understand the impact that the occupation has on the wellbeing of these people who became my good friends,” said said. “I think in the U.S. we only hear about one side of the Israeli/Palestinian problem and ignore the human cost on the other side.”

Garner describes her research experience as having been very informative and she aspires to educate others on this issue.

Being back in the United States and reflecting on her experiences in Palestine, Garner describes it as having been so much more than just research. “I am very thankful for the Honors Fellows pushing me to complete an undergraduate thesis and to the Center for Research on Global Engagement for supporting me,” she said. “When I first heard about the honors research requirement, I thought that meant working in a lab. It is amazing that I can do research on something that I’m so passionate about and that enables me to travel around the world. Through this experience I realized that I love talking to people and hearing stories that are often ignored.”