& A with Bridget Rhinehart '12
After working last summer
through the Praxis Internship Program, as a research assistant
at the Nyrere Center for Peace Research in Tanzania, Bridget
Rhinehart ’12 was invited last month to present her findings
at an international conference on criminal law in Africa
at the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg, Germany. Rhinehart
was the only undergraduate invited to present at the gathering
of international scholars. She recently responded to questions
about the internship and the conference for the Gate.
Can you describe your Praxis internship in Tanzania?
Bridget Rhinehart '12
visiting a spice farm in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania,
painted with a paste made from nutmeg and carrying a
palm leaf cup for holding spices.
Rhinehart: I focused on two main projects: 1) research and
writing for a book on Hissene Habre, the dictator from Chad
(1982-1990) and the prosecutions against him internationally
for human rights abuses committed during his regime. I was
asked by the three authors of the book (including my supervisor)
to write a chapter in the book on the political history of
Chad and the Hissene Habre regime. I completed the chapter
in September upon my return to Smith and I am continuing
to work with my supervisor with research assistance on the
rest of the book. And 2) indexing African Union Peace and
Security Council (PSC) decisions for conflict analysis, from
2004, according to country and topic. This will be published
in a book on the African Union PSC. After completing this
I began work on a short conflict analysis for the country
of Libya in relation to the PSC decisions from 2004. This
will be published in 2012 with other country analysis.
How did you become interested in Africa, and in Tanzania?
BR: I first became interested
in Africa in high school through work with the Darfur movement
and a job shadow with the department of Refugee Services
in Portland, Maine. At Smith I am an African Studies minor
and I have been taking Swahili since my first year. Swahili
is primarily spoken in East Africa, and this is what led
me to decide to study abroad in Tanzania. During my study
abroad program I studied at the Nyerere Center in conjunction
with my program. I applied for the internship through Praxis,
and the work I have been doing is a result of the needs of
the center at that time. I am particularly interested in
peace and security studies and hope to work in conflict resolution
some day, so the work with Hissene Habre and the AU PSC fit
directly with these goals.
All of the subject matter I
dealt with this summer related to African politics, development
and society. I found that my studies in international politics
and international law also helped me greatly in providing
perspective and a wider context for my work. Additionally,
I found that the accumulation of research and writing that
I have done at Smith was invaluable. I found I was more qualified
to do the writing and research than other coworkers my age.
What was the focus of your presentation in Freiberg?
The focus of my presentation was on the research
and writing I did for the book on Hissene Habre. At the conference
I presented the facts of each of the legal cases against
him. I presented my own analysis of how this case study is
an example of a failure to find a solution within Africa
to an African problem.
Gate: What does it mean to you
to be the only student invited to present at the international
BR: It has been an incredibly
humbling and honoring experience. I was in the midst of doctoral
candidates, lawyers, UN professionals, professors and people
from the African Union and the International Criminal Court.
I felt under-qualified but realized that the information
I was presenting was knowledge that not many people had.
I looked at it as providing information to the conference
participants who may then put it to practical use in their
How important was the Praxis Program in enabling your research
BR: Praxis was absolutely critical
to my ability to pursue this project. Prior to last summer
I had not been able to ever go abroad or pursue an internship
because I had to work and make money to pay my tuition. Praxis
allowed me to pay my tuition contribution
and do work that was truly meaningful and invaluable to my
education and career aspirations.