Vaneeta Palecanda presented on Post-Colonial literature and film theory. Using three films, Nowhere in Africa, Beat the Drum, and The Wooden Camera in combination with Nadine Gordimer’s novel, July’s People, Palecanda approaches teaching from a global perspective by providing her students with materials, questions, and subject matter. By drawing attention to the human condition and/of displacement, the texts are used to further analyze the “Self and Other” discussion within the framework of colonial tensions in Africa. Palecanda uses Nowhere in Africa and July’s People to initiate conversations between white character experiences of being displaced and the lack or deep affinity and understanding for the black Africans who have also been displaced by colonization (and Apartheid). Next in the process, the first three minutes of The Wooden Camera and Beat the Drum are shown to the students. Questions about the African native/ the “Other” and colonial tensions are presented differently in these films— intimately and voyeuristically. A question in teaching comes up in asking, how does one incorporate understanding to reflect the Self, not the Other? To answer this question, the global perspective is brought into the conversation. In this conversation, the social, political, and economical transformations and conditions that people live in can be seen and applied to the literature and films. It is also important in teaching to avoid/reduce universalisms and to recognize that what happens to the individual also happens to nations. This brings the focus back to the incorporation of an understanding to reflect the Self, and not the Other.
Ben Schwab presented on how his grant-funded trip to Tokyo, Japan has influenced both his art work and his teaching. Schwab stressed the importance of a research element in his drawing while in Tokyo (studying the work of Hiroshige, for example), and this is a skill that he passes to his students. Schwab requires his advanced drawing students to research historical and contemporary artists and present their findings as part of a course research element. Schwab recognizes the importance of this element, as it gives students experience in public speaking, and engages them in their own work as they make connections between their work and the work of others. Schwab reflected on his experiences as an artist as it relates to what and how he teaches, and this includes viewing the art of different cultures. Widening his experience, his engagement with Japanese culture and art enhanced his perspective as an artist and as a teacher. Schwab has planned, in coordination with Scott Brodie, a study tour for the summer of 2011, where he will take students to Japan for a few weeks and immerse them in the culture and have them draw and create art every day. Schwab will draw on his own experiences to teach and help the students grow in their own artistic perspective in this study.
Colleen Flynn Thapalia presented on her methods of teaching Com 242, Communication and Culture. This course, most commonly taken for students with a teaching requirement, seeks to address and nullify anxiety that the students have about interaction with people from other cultures. The methods of reading, writing, and synthesis are used to facilitate learning on the cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels. Three immersion projects are used to create positive experiences for the students in working with others who are not like themselves. Games, a “fish out of water” experience, and an interview activity help students use personal experience, in combination with reading literature and writing, to flesh out aspects of identity, communication, and cultural adjustments, with an overall goal of reducing anxiety and fear of the “foreign” or “other.” In dealing with the immersion and interview experiences, Thapalia highlights that respectful and engaging conversations are key in these interactions, again, reinforcing a positive environment/positive experience. Thapalia also commented on the general positive effects these activities and processes have had on her students, helping reduce anxiety and reservations commonly associated with intercultural communication.
Communication & Culture (Com 242) In-Class Interview Activity
- Explore issues from readings (aspects of identity, verbal/ non-verbal communication, cultural adjustment, etc.)
- Overcome fear of engaging in conversation with someone “foreign”
- Interact with international sojourner
- Prior to arrival of visitors, form groups
- Brainstorm list of possible interview topics
- Groups select topic of interest and jot down ideas for questions
- Visitors arrive and are introduced
- Conduct round-robin style (or speed dating) interviews with visitors
- Cap interviews at 10 minutes
- Groups reflect and make some notes on themes that emerged from interviews
- Interviewees also debrief and note interesting aspects of being interviewed
- Finish with group discussion and lessons learned
- Students enjoy conversations with others, especially those who are close in age and may share common interests/concerns
- Students report that having the conversations facilitated by a class activity takes away some anxiety about how to begin to interact.
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Gudykunst, W., & Ting-Toomey, S. (1991). Taming the beast: Designing a course in intercultural
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Spitzberg, B., & Changnon, G. (2009). Conceptualizing intercultural competence. In D.K. Deardorff
(Ed.), The SAGE handbook of intercultural competence (pp. 2-52). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.