Monday, April 11, 2011

Cultural Safari

This semester I am in a mandatory class of which I am not super fond. (I know it's awkward. But I just couldn't end my sentence with a preposition). This class is meant to "explore various traditional and indigenous cultures from around the world."  I think this is great.  I'm all about learning about other cultures. Until it starts to feel like you only have culture if you're brown. . . like white is regular and good and normal, brown is the other, bad, lesser, study-able. (Note: This is not the teacher's intention. I hope.) They say ethnic like it's a bad thing. It's not.  Everyone is ethnic.  Ethnic is defined as: pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a group (ethnic group)  sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.
Ergo, everyone is ethnic.  And interesting article along these same lines, which we read in class, is "An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance" by Joann Kealiinohomoku. I found it to be a rather interesting article.  And from her logic, all dance is ethnic dance, same as all people are ethnic people. ie Ballet isn't better because it originated in rich, white Europe. It rose out of the people and reflects the time in which it originated. And honestly, contemporary ballet is still fairly reflective of our culture. 
And yet, as we discussed this article in class, people were still having a problem with it. As far as I understood, they couldn't exactly say  what they had a problem with, either because they couldn't acknowledge it within themselves or couldn't bring themselves to admit it.  But I just felt like some of the girls legitimately thought -- and probably still think -- that Ballet is High Art and other dance, African, Polynesian, Folk, all the other forms we have studied in this class, are low art.  I thought we were over that. 
But that wasn't supposed to be the point of this post. The point was supposed to be about our Final Project: the Cultural Safari. In the syllabus the assignment is stated: "Students will venture into the local, regional, national, or international community to experience a cultural event which includes dance and music."  Great.  Okay. Except, yet again, this community or cultural event should be something different from us. Read: Brown. And we were assigned groups. It really was a good assignment in theory.  The Professor's intentions really were great. But I am seriously worried about presentations next week. This class has not shown itself to be very open minded. Some of the girls are great; they make the class bearable. And others are so ignorant that they don't even know that they're racist.

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