Written by Alfonso DiLuca, Vice-President Los Angeles Valley College Anthropological Society
In science, perhaps more than in any other discipline, humans rest on prior experiences to advance and find truth. Like the great mathematician, Isaac Newton correctly pointed out in the 17th century: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
As anthropologists, we can apply this same intuitive principle to many aspects of our study and our search for answers. The history of science has shown us, that in this discipline, progress can be achieved much faster and on a larger scale by working and redefining already known concepts and experiments, rather than devising new studies from scratch.
Our anthropological society at Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) utilized this same principle during our second Anthropology Day celebration in February of 2017.
We stood on the shoulders of the knowledge gained from our previous celebration, and obtained a deeper and richer outcome. By redefining the concept of Anthropology Day 2016, the fruit of our event in 2017 was filled with greater power and fulfillment.
In 2016 we created what came to be known all over our campus as the “Diversity Wall.” This was a concept and experiment that apart from being simple and fun provided us with deep insight into the minds of all the students that participated in it.
The “Diversity Wall” concept came about with the idea to provide a platform (in this case a prominent wall on our campus) where students could express their thoughts about their countries of origin, or about the cultures with which they most closely identified. This was an ideal activity to celebrate Anthropology Day 2016, as it allowed the students of our campus to better understand that a central core in anthropology is understanding humanity in general.
In the 2016 “Diversity Wall” project, students opted for naming countries and associated words that they felt were representative of these different places. Things like food, people’s attitudes, landmarks, etc. became the main descriptions identifying these countries or cultures from around the world. It was an exciting and insightful activity that offered us a broad view of the diversity and attitudes of students in our college. (See our previous article here.)
To celebrate Anthropology Day 2017 we decided to use the same model but with one modification. We decided to ask the participants to: “Name Your Culture, Name The Issue.”
To our surprise, this attracted the attention of many students that passed near our wall. Many contributed to our wall by writing strong opinions about their specific identities. It gave students a place to voice their concerns and wishes of what should be done to improve their different communities.
It became clear as soon as we began, that students, at least on our campus, were not reticent to articulate their thoughts. In the end, Anthropology Day 2017 was another success on the LAVC campus!
Here are some of the lessons learned from the “Diversity Wall 2017:”
1- Focusing on a single request question allowed us to better assess every answer, as they pointed directly to one common purpose.
2- Individuals participating appeared to be easily influenced by other posts on the wall. In future similar activities it is advisable to have participants write their answers at a table away from the wall, so they will not be influenced by existing responses.
3- Most people appeared to be unafraid to express their opinions no matter how strong or controversial these opinions may be. This appears to be especially true when they see others freely expressing their opinions in public. It took much more effort on our part to convince the initial students to contribute to the Diversity Wall. Once people started writing and taping their comments, others followed suit without much encouragement from us.
4- Even though the students participating were from very different backgrounds and distant places around the world, some of the concerns and desires were very much universal.
5- People are very interested in reading about what others think, and for the most part they appeared surprised to find out that other people from around the world have similar problems and anxieties.
|Prejudice against Muslims||1|
I wish to thank LAVC Anthropology Prof. Eugene Scott, M.A. for his unconditional support, insight, and help preparing this paper. Also to Wendy Sotelo, President of our society, for her amazing help and dedication to our group and its activities.
The LAVC Anthropological Society is an official AAA AnthroClub! Learn more about the AnthroClub program on the AAA website.