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Visiting Sociology Professor at UW-Eau Claire Earns Fulbright Scholar Award to Visit Benin

RELEASED: July 7, 2006

Yanick St. Jean
Yanick St. Jean

EAU CLAIRE — Yanick St. Jean, a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, has received a Fulbright Scholar Program award to lecture and conduct research in the West African country of Benin beginning this fall.

L'Universite Catholique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, located in Cotonou, Benin's largest city, will host the Fulbright Scholar during her visit. She will stay until July 2007.

St. Jean, who began teaching at UW-Eau Claire in 2005, will continue research she has been conducting on the impact of religion on antiracism, with a special focus on the sacramental imagination. St. Jean describes the sacramental imagination as "a religious viewpoint which envisions the world and everything in it as permeated by the presence of the divine."

To understand the sacramental imagination and its impact on diversity, St. Jean interviewed more than 100 self-identified Catholics in the Midwest region of the U.S. about their attitudes toward various racial and ethnic issues. The majority of those interviewed were of European descent, but the sample also included ten African Americans and ten Haitian Americans. St. Jean, who is originally from Haiti herself, said she found the resulting data rich and fascinating and that many themes useful in understanding the sacramental imagination emerged.

"Contrasting Haitian and African American responses I found linguistic and other cultural expressions separating these two ethnic groups," said St. Jean. "Some issues raised by the Haitians did not surface in interviews with African Americans. My goal is to add a West African dimension to this research to refine my understanding of the sacramental imagination, the Haitian sacramental imagination, and the differences between Haitian and African Americans that surfaced in my interviews."

St. Jean, who earned her doctoral degree from the University of Texas in 1992, has previously conducted research and published articles on topics such as race, ethnicity and immigration. She co-authored, with Joe Feagin, the 1998 book "Double Burden: Black Women and Everyday Racism," which The Midwest Book Review described as "the first book to handle the special problems black women face in their communities." The journal Gender & Society wrote, "Double Burden is a useful text for anyone interested in understanding the daily experiences of injustice, harassment and discrimination faced by Black women…The narratives offered in Double Burden serve as a wake-up call for those who believe sexism does not exist in the Black community and that racism does not exist in white-dominated society."

St. Jean, who previously taught at the University of Nevada and UW-Parkside, is one of approximately 800 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad to some 150 countries for the 2006-07 academic year through the Fulbright Scholar Program. Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program aims to build mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.

Recipients of Fulbright Scholar awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and because they have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in their fields.

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