Canli’s Tanzania mission

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Stony Brook University’s own Turhan Canli, a professor in psychology and psychiatry as well as the head and founders of the Mind/Brain center for War and Humanity and of the Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience Center, is taking six students down to conduct psych research with the large refugee populations living in Tanzania.

His mission there will be to investigate the impact of trauma on the refugee population there. This will include work on the subjective perspective that many of these refugees bring to trauma through their culture. Eventually, there is the goal to synchronize these more narrative based views on trauma with the western more hard science-based view on trauma and PTSD (this would fall under psychopathology in the Western view).

Tanzania project is run by the center for International Academic Programs at Stony Brook. There was a long-running summer where students and faculty could travel to Tanzania to study. Canli is now trying to replicate his work in Uganda where he built a relationship with the local organizers and refugees. His work also includes a humanitarian aspect since many of the local camps are undersupplied and staffed. Canli coins this term as “capacitance building” and it involves using the research grant umbrella to help local organizers by providing capital and material.

Tanzania itself is in a very fluid situation being both a safe haven for refugees and undergoing its own political turmoil. Many of the refugees come from neighboring Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Burundi has faced a wave of political repression following the election controversy in 2015 when the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term and further consolidated his control. The violence is estimated to have killed 1,500 and displaced 400,000 (Daily Mail, 2018). The Congo likewise still suffers from several insurgencies from the First and Second Great Congo wars. This has been exacerbated by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down in 2016 (Goran Tomasevic, 2018). Tanzania faces its own brewing political crises with the current president having arrested a popular deputy in the opposition party (World Bulletin, 2018). Kabila had also withdrawn from the UN refugee program which provided aid to the government to settle and integrate refugees within their borders citing missing funding (World Bulletin, 2018).

For this and many other reasons the current plan is still “in development” but applications are being taken until March 10th. Students may receive up to 6 Psychology credits for the research. Furthermore, scholarships are available so the trip may be taken at no cost. More information on the subject can be gathered here.

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