Two UCLA Anthropology graduate students have won the Social Sciences Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) Program photo contest. Both are currently conducting field research, in Japan and Turkey, respectively.
Edwin Everhart: Sominsai Solidarity
I was invited to participate in the outdoor, overnight Sominsai festival at Kokuseki-ji temple, where this festival has allegedly continued for over 1200 years. Every February, a couple hundred local men strip down to the fundoshi (cotton loincloth) and participate in a series of physical challenges from 10pm to dawn. These feats serve, in part, to guarantee good fortune and a good harvest for the coming year. Pictured here is part of the first challenge: climb the slope behind the temple, come back down; then wade thigh-deep into a freezing mountain stream, and pour three huge buckets of its churning icy water over your shoulders and head. Repeat the circuit two more times, ice water included, and you’ve finished the first stage of the festival. The other stages start to get more dangerous, because they involve flaming logs.
Anoush Suni: Among the Ruins of the Monastery of Surp Grigor
The Armenian monastery of Surp Grigor was built in the thirteenth century on the southern slopes of Erek Mountain east of the city of Van. It contained two conjoined churches and another small chapel at the top of a hill. In this photo I am taking a documentary photo of the ruins of the chapel. Behind me in the distance are the remains of the two churches. Interestingly, a famous Islamic theologian, Said Nursi, spent some years living and teaching in the upper church, and the site has become a pilgrimage destination for his followers. However, this has not deterred local treasure hunters, who continue to dig around the ruins of the church.