Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coursework and Cultural Proofs

Another very important way that I mediated my experience was through ten credits of BYU course contracts.  In order to conduct my research on the authenticity of experience, not only was the avatar, or the lens I used to see my experience, vital, but also the ways I recorded it and how and why I spent my day doing what I was doing.  A larger factor in that was in the classes I was required to take going into the field.  I ended up taking Travel Writing, West African Literature, Cultural Proofs, and a 1 credit IAS course for the Kennedy Center.  At times it was frustrating when my coursework got in the way of say, watching the World Cup, but after looking over my field notes I can now see what a crucial role these contracts played in the experience I had. 

  • Cultural Proofs- a three credit class that had different cultural immersion activities that helped me integrate in the community on a deeper level.  All of the activities I selected have been published on this blog.   Learning names, mapping the village, and singing with the neighbors all helped me establish valuable friendships.  While sometimes these required activities seemed like busy work, they really did help me build rapport in the community.  They were really valuable to my experience
  • Heightened my sensitivity to things that could be overlooked without putting in the effort
  • Was able to relate my experience to the different books that I was reading for my classes
  • It gave me a much more meaningful experience than if I had skipped along as a tourist
  • There were some days when I had to stay home all day to catch up on work instead of experiencing (FN:40:1)
  • Got stressful at times when I started qualifying my data (FN:40:3)
  • Sometimes the formal coursework felt less personal and were not only more difficult to write, but were not as enjoyable to read, also running the risk of being like a book report instead of being personal to my experience
  • Being in Ghana made me realize that there can be a gap between real life and a book (FN:36:12)

    To put the weight of coursework on my particular experience into perspective I wonder how different my project would have been if I would have had different activities for cultural proofs, if I was taking a poetry class instead of travel writing, and if I would have been reading a cultural anthropology book rather than African literature.  Each played a significant part in the way I experienced each and every day.

    Photo credit to the carpedimenproject on flickr

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