Intercultural Literacy

May 12, 2003

Greetings from southern New England, U.S.A.

I am a cultural anthropologist (among other things) teaching sociology and anthropology at a small "community college" in northeastern Connecticut. Here in the U.S., community colleges are institutions for college and professional learning, that usually have an "open door policy," for who may attend. Every effort is made--financially, and through remedial/assistive programs--to extend the possibility of a college education (at least two years of it) to anyone who wishes to pursue this. I am not sure how prevalent this model is in other parts of the globe, but it has a 40-50 year history (at least) here in the U.S.A. Such colleges are supported by public funds-- by state or by county-- as well as by tuition, which is generally much lower than any other colleges or universities. Here in Connecticut, the 12-college system in fact serves over half of all students in the state who are in higher education. This is quite significant, in fact, since Connecticut has many other 2 and 4 year colleges and universities, both public and private.

As a cultural anthropologist, I had to convince my advising team in graduate school that it was time for at least a few anthropologists to "come home," and study our own culture(s) here in the U.S. Consequently, I did not become a "specialist" in someone else's culture, but deliberately worked to find ways that cultural anthropology as a discipline could shed light on the culture(s) of the "First World" (thinking here in terms of the 1950's-1960's geopolitical divisions of first- second- and third-worlds).

But my aim was not simply to do cultural anthropology in a different place (home); instead it was to find ways that the critical insights and tools of the discipline could be used to understand how people--as subjects rather than as objects--in western, industrial, post-industrial U.S. are themselves shaped and defined by dominant culture in its further definition of the world.

This kind of focus and underlying motivation, in part, is what also drew me to work with others to give shape to WAOE.

Well... that is a bit of an introduction, for a start....