Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Western Point of View

I have been grading a lot of papers lately. I am sure I am not allowed to directly quote some of these students, so I won't, I will just paraphrase. I am a TA for the Anthropology 101 class at BYU. For their final paper they were asked to write a five page essay about three universal aspects common to all human beings and then the second paper is about three differences that societies have. These are anything but exciting. Such a prompt allows some students to make really grandiose statements about the world, such as 'every person is different but some how we are all the same.' or 'Over the span of the entire world, people are constantly asking themselves 'who am i? where am i going?' I think these students are really bright, its just this prompt asked for some grand statement based on their limited knowledge of the world's culture and due to the class readings, mostly isolated tribes in Africa. With this they have to write a paper about 'universals' (I even struggle to answer these questions, mostly the first one).

In these papers, the argument of the west vs. them keeps coming up. It is referred to as 'our western civilization' or 'western culture.' I admit, I make this argument all the time. But is seems post-modernism has gotten a hold of my thought process and I find myself questioning if I even know what "the west" really means? And then I ask myself if I have the authority to put the entire culture of 'the west' in a box like that. When I was in India, I traveled with a girl that had Mexican heritage but was American. People were constantly asking her if she was Indian. Over and over again she would say she was American but some would assert she must have Indian blood, she would then say her parents were American. I remember visiting a school in New Dehli. On a whim, someone asked me to teach a short lesson about America. I got lot of questions about my skin color. I remember saying, like I had so many times before, that America was made up people of all colors and many nationalities, we were not all the same.

And sometimes when I think about the "West" I think of this thing my friend Matt
shared with me

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Sigh of Relief

Today, I finished my thesis.

No big deal, right? WRONG! I feel like celebrating, like going on some grand adventure, or even better listening to some really great music. I have taken 15 hours worth of classes in preparation for this paper, and when I put it that way, the thesis doesn't seem as grand. Its about 20 pages but it full of the data I collected, not some scholar or historian that sits in his office and reads books, or some quanatitative researchers collecting numbers and finding a pattern. I went out in the 'field' and asked women how they really felt and I put it on paper. Eat that.

To celebrate, I am listening to I'd rather than dance to talk to you. It makes me want to boogie.

In the process of preparing for my thesis I found some treasures, pictures of India