Bulgarian wine industry and Balkan adventures is focus of fun and scholarly online talk Feb. 11

Anthropology Professor Yuson Jung brings her international research back to the classroom

Anthropology Professor Yuson Jung in Belogradchik, Bulgaria

A glass of wine can be more than just a glass of wine - it may even represent the historical transformation of a nation’s industry sector.

Yuson Jung, associate professor of anthropology, will give a virtual talk at 7 p.m. Feb. 11, “Unusual Wine Stories and Adventures from the Balkans,” in which she shares stories she’s learned and pictures she has collected from firsthand interaction and international research with Bulgarian wine professionals and consumers. Participants are encouraged to grab their own glass of wine or favorite beverage and, hopefully, think more about what went into what they are drinking.

“My area of expertise is economical anthropology and consumer culture, and what the underlying cultural logic is for a group of people, such as the Bulgarian wine industry professionals,” says Jung. I’ve done research on the consumer culture in the aftermath of state socialism in Eastern Europe as well as the organic food movement in Bulgaria. My international research has translated to local research in Detroit and around Michigan, I have used that international experience for a cross-cultural and comparative approach.

“As anthropologists, we have these comparative perspectives. By trying to understand the so-called ‘others,’ we are able to raise new questions about ourselves. International research proposes challenges to our assumptions about how we function as humans and why we do the things we do. It helps us take a look at our own routine, everyday behavior by examining another culture and group of people.”

For Jung, the event is a way to bring her research to a wider audience.

“The Alumni office was looking for some accessible talks based around faculty research, and they approached me,” says Jung. “We organized it around Valentine’s Day to facilitate a conversation with a glass in hand. I was happy that I have an opportunity to talk to a larger amount of the public. It’s going to be a casual event, just a fun way to bring some attention to some people and industries that don’t get talked about a lot. Bulgaria’s wine industry goes all the way back to the communist era in Eastern Europe. There’s a lot of fascinating stories coming from this transition that the numbers such as production amount for example, can’t tell, so I’m tasked with relating those stories.

“I hope people take this opportunity to challenge their assumptions about wine and hear some unusual stories that are behind huge industries like this. It is really important for anthropologists to show that as humans we all carry preconceived notions, but opportunities like this allow us to ask questions and challenge those notions.”

Jung says that she, as well as the entire anthropology department, stress the importance of firsthand experiences and international studies to students.

“You have to be there and immerse yourself in the situation,” says Jung. “The basic methodological approach of anthropology is to study the people. When we go to the field to engage in research, we immerse ourselves in the everyday lives of these people. We base our questions around the experiences we have in the field. We are able to ask questions to study subjects in ways that make sense to them rather than imposing an outsider’s view and asking questions that don’t resonate with them.”

Jung says that Wayne State is very supportive of international research efforts. “We’re a very diverse student and faculty body, and a lot of us, especially in our department, do international research,” she says. “Most of us have international and domestic projects. I feel very encouraged and supported to do international research. Especially because I’m a cultural anthropologist, its very important that I keep my international research work alive.”

For students who wish to expand their own fields of study, Jung says international research is extremely valuable. “Every field has a different kind of approach to formulating their research agenda,” she says. “If you’re interested in diversity, doing international research provides a very productive avenue to examine different issues, and then bring those insights back to our own society, and ask questions and utilize insights we’ve gained from interacting with a completely different culture. Hopefully, more students will be interested in this approach.”

RSVP online now to receive a link to join the presentation.

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State's global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university's global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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