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My Swat Story: Elyse O'Bannon '20

Elyse O'Bannon '20

Majors: Religion and Black Studies
Hometown: Dallas, Texas

She Studies the Macabre

"It is interesting to me that death, this thing that we don't really talk about that is a dark and hidden part of society, has such a vibrant history with so many quirky facts. I read a book about famous people whose bodies or body parts were stolen. People tried to steal Lincoln's corpse. After Beethoven was autopsied, someone stole his ear canal. Someone took half of Albert Einstein's brain. They are pieces of history sitting in jars in people's houses and learning about it made me interested in how we remember people and allow them, or pieces of them, to live on after death.

So I became a religion major and was interested in looking at different funeral practices. Some of my research has looked at memorialization online, how consumerist trends in the funeral industry have been transposed, and how memorialization and grief is enacted and performed within digital space."

Letting the Good Times Roll

"I roller skate around campus and I'm also interested its history in America. Often, you see roller skating rinks as places of sanctuary in Black communities. In these areas, there might be violence within the community because of gang activity or an overabundance of police. The rink is where you can go to be safe, not get into trouble, spend time with your friends, and be expressive and active. You've got generations of Black people who grew up skating and teaching their kids how to do it. You've got older people who stay active through roller skating. And you watch them rollerskate and it's amazing! You've got some guy in his eighties who's on his toes on the front two wheels rolling around!"

She Came to Swarthmore for the Conversation

"When I came to campus, my interview was amazing and I really hit it off with my interviewer, a student at the time. We got on really well and it was a good conversation. And I thought, "If I met this person and had this conversation with them and they're just an interviewer, someone who is doing this job for a summer, I'm sure I will find other people who will be in my year who I will be able to communicate and have strong bonds with," which definitely turned out to be the case."