Aiden Chisholm ’23 in Granada, Spain

Aiden Chisholm ’23 knew he wanted to apply for a Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS) research grant during his junior year – it was a matter of finding the right research project. After spending time considering a question to explore, a topic that combined his academic interests in Spanish and Arabic became apparent during his semester abroad in Granada, Spain. With a Grossman Global Studies grant, he conducted research this summer studying Orientalism in tourist shops in Granada and Cordoba.

Chisholm describes the inspiration for his research as a combination of his experience abroad and his final paper in Professor Zayde Antrim’s class Global 1,001 Nights. Chisholm came across the book “Tales of the Alhambra” during his semester aboard and immediately thought of the Global 1,001 Nights class. As he flipped through the pages of the book  by Washington Irving, Chisholm thought of his final paper in the class, where he argued that the 1,001 Nights stories orientalized Al-Andalus. “My research was inspired by parallels between Irving’s book and how tourism operates in Granada,” he says.

One of the tourist shops Chishom visited during his research

Chisholm used an ethnographic approach when conducting his research. He did this by observing, sketching, and taking photographs of the different tourists shops he visited over these two weeks. When visiting the tourist shops, he described them as having, “hanging and magic lamps from Aladdin and carpets which have no historical basis in Al-Andalus.” By observing the shops and the products they sold, he was able to see how Orientalism of near east culture appeared in Cordoba and Granada.

One of the tourist shops Chishom visited during his research

After conducting research over the summer, Chisholm took away a new appreciation for how tourism operates as an industry. The project helped him identify how tourism presents an unequal emphasis on consumption with less attention being paid to exploring and learning about unfamiliar places. His observations promoted him to ask, “Is tourism really bringing people together from different backgrounds? Or is it continuing exoticized perceptions of others?”

The semester away in Spain not only guided his research, but allowed Chisholm to put his studies to work. As a Hispanic studies major, language skills gained in his prior coursework allowed him to use literature written in Spanish for his research. Chisholm says it was a really fulfilling experience to be able to incorporate a language that he has been studying and practicing. Not only was the experience applicable to his academic work at Trinity, but Chisholm also used this research as “a small test to see if this is something I really would like to pursue.”

The Grossman Global Studies Fund allowed Chisholm to explore Orientalism in Granada and Cordoba. By executing a long-term project with the added difficulty of navigating a foreign country, Chisholm proved to himself his capabilities and fostered his interest in future projects. For now, Chisholm is working up on finishing his International Studies, Political Science, and Hispanic/Arabic Studies majors and is looking forward to new experiences abroad post-graduation.

All photos by Aiden Chisholm