Alastair Ferenbach ’23
I studied at Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, TN. I majored in Russian and International/Global Studies.
Q: What do you like about UNC’s graduate program in Russian and East European Studies?
The connection to exceedingly well-qualified professors in a university with a long history of excellence in this particularly niche field, not to mention the extensive library collection in both English and Russian.
Q: Why did you choose to specialize in this region of the globe?
Regions like Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Caucasus are especially rich areas for someone with an interest in linguistics and cultural identity formation. I feel that much of the post-Soviet world is underrepresented in both academia and public channels, and the still-widespread use of Russian in some of these areas opens up all sorts of doors for potential research.
Q: Do you have work and/or study experience in the region?
In the summer of 2018, I studied at Ilya State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. Studying the Georgian language and the unique political/ethnic situation in the country has informed my academic research interests ever since.
Q: What are your research interests?
I am particularly interested in ethnic identity formation and boundary maintenance, namely the ways in which minority groups distinguish themselves from larger bodies and how these minority identities arise. For this reason, I am fascinated with the social and political dynamics of ethnolinguistically diverse regions – particularly the Balkans and the Caucasus.
Q: What would you like to do after you graduate?
After I graduate I would like to do some sort of sponsored social research in one of my regions of interest, and to teach whenever possible. I want to pursue a PhD in the future, but not before doing some work and writing abroad.
Q: What are your hobbies? What do you like doing in your free time?
In my free time I love playing music and I get together with other bands and musicians whenever the opportunity arises. I do a lot of hiking and road trips whenever I can string together enough free time.
This view of Stepanatsminda village in Kazbegi, Georgia is the closest I came to capturing the sheer magnificence of the Caucasus Mountains. If looking out over that view doesn’t make you feel like a hero of Lermontov or Tolstoy, I don’t know what will.