Letter from the Editors
Welcome to the 2023 issue of The Scholar.
When we selected our theme in October, we had no idea that the concept of “aftershocks” would prove to be so powerfully and painfully apt. The earthquake that devastated massive parts of Türkiye and Syria in February was a visceral reminder of the immediate horror that can emerge from one kind of crisis: a sudden, unexpected shock. Yet, over the following weeks, it emerged that other factors before and after the earthquake—such as the inadequate enforcement of building standards and the lethargic distribution of international aid—transformed a geological hazard into a tragedy. In this way, the earthquake is like so many other kinds of crises: in part, inevitable, but also potentially avoidable.
This is part of the paradoxical nature of crisis that our contributors wrestle with as they interpret this year’s theme of Aftershocks: Navigating a World of Crisis. What does it mean to live amidst crisis? What are the skills, frameworks, and narratives people do—and, indeed, should—cultivate to exist with crisis? When, if ever, is a crisis over—and who decides this? How can the aftershocks of crises create opportunities for reinvention and evolution?
We are so honoured and excited to share this truly kaleidoscopic collection of work that addresses diverse crises and their aftershocks in countless enlightening and enlivening ways. The submissions we received coalesced into three subthemes that represent different possible trajectories in the wake of crisis. Some aftershocks lead us to unearth neglected truths and new perspectives. Lance Owen (‘06), for example, chronicles the unexpected ways mapmaking enhanced and hindered responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Tathagat Bhatia (’21) considers the use of crisis rhetoric as a political tool in the context of real and perceived food crises in modern India. Other aftershocks give us chances to adapt to new realities. Ellen Purdy (‘19, ‘20) dissects the practical and ethical connections between museums and climate change. Nimrod Hertz (‘22) reflects on his own experience learning to practise psychotherapy with remote tools in the early months of the pandemic. Finally, when all else fails during a crisis—we can resist. Yara Kyrychenko (’22) explores the promise of social media as a tool for solidarity and survival during the Russian occupation of Ukraine. And Nathanael Lai (‘21) experiments with fiction as a way to think about the politics of archives and the possibilities of everyday resistance in constricted political landscapes.
Throughout all three subthemes, there is also a wealth of multimedia pieces to hear, see, and watch. Marabel Riesmeier (‘21), for instance, delivers and discusses her original poem “Resistance” in a video performance and interview. Matthew Blacker (‘22) processes his growing concern about what may be a dead-end approach to theoretical physics in a creative audio piece. Sofia Dartnell (‘22) turns to photography to show that pollinator extinction is about more than just honeybee decline.
And we are especially thrilled to introduce for the first time an accompanying podcast series, featuring extensive conversations with several Gates Cambridge alumni about their own work investigating and navigating crises. In addition to our website, all four podcast episodes are available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify for you to enjoy whenever and wherever you want.
Finally, we hope this magazine can help you feel more connected with the wider Gates Cambridge community through updates from our current Scholars’ Council President and Vice-President, as well as from the Gates Cambridge Alumni Association Co-Chairs and the broader alumni community.
Of course, we can’t describe every part of this year’s edition of The Scholar, so we hope that you will take some time to explore this website yourself and find articles, videos, conversations, and images that surprise, delight, and move you.
We extend our sincere thanks to the Gates Cambridge Trust and Council for their continued support of this publication. Above all, we are so grateful to our contributors for taking the time and energy to share their wisdom about navigating our world of crises and, perhaps, building a better one.
We hope you enjoy reading, watching, and listening to their work.
Maya, Ila, Matt, Seetha
The Scholar 2022-23 Editorial Board