Rather frequently, diversified indigenous civilizations of Africa appear indistinguishable in museums that structure their cultural exhibits through a Western hegemonic perspective. That is to say, each society’s cultural significance is presented solely in the dominate interpretation of a western ethnographer. The Hall of African People in the Museum of Natural History has transcended its ethnographic practices away from this in attempt to characterize the distinctive cultures in Africa through framing the norms, values, and achievements particular to each society African culture is not one culture but one of many. (quote).
The portrayal of a static and uniform African culture is as meaningless in value as it is inaccurate in truth. The museum’s hall decolonizes this notion of homogeneity by appealing to a more convoluted representation of African culture – the scope where Afro-societies lie as culturally divergent in religious beliefs, ideological values, and respected achievements but are nevertheless equally indicative of this manifestation. In reference to this explicit approach, defining African culture in singular terms does not connote totality of diverse lifestyles, but rather adheres to the individuality of the cultures within its multifaceted field.
While the Hall of African People succeeds in particularizing the diversity of African culture through the recognition of internal cultural borderlands, it fails to incorporate the borderlands between African societies and external forces into the perception of the culture’s dynamic heterogeneity. The foreign borderlands are relegated to the remote corners of the hall in regard to prioritizing the impact of internal borderlands on inherent ways of life, and in turn, on the intricacy of African culture. The ethnographic narrative of this hall centralizes the mixture of African culture in terms of internal cultural borderlands rather than also in relation to borderlands that exist between Africa and its myriad external influences.
Renato Rosaldo defines “cultural borderland” as an intercultural line, dividing two or more cultures in the same geographical region. Rosaldo’s term is acknowledged throughout this discourse. In internal and external borderlands, members of African society identify their particular culture to the extent to which they retain their origins and adopt foreign cultural characteristics. As a result, the development of their multicultural identity affected by borderlands is a key aspect of the complexity of African culture.
In terms of internal borderlands, political, economic, and religious aspects of distinct African cultures are present. In mountain grasslands of West Africa, the Northern Nigerian tribes adopted political authority for the centralization of its people through elections. There is a dynamically changing position of power to control dominance, unlike other eastern tribes. The museum shows that democratic political systems in other parts of Africa eventually adopted this form. Eastern upland tribes resisted this form and instead continued to practice forms of absolute power through a static passage of power through the lineage of seniority. This internal cultural borderland affects the two cultures in terms of their normative practice of ruling. Both are exposed to both types and they choose which to adopt and which to not. Both decided to maintain their origins. The political distinction between these two African subcultures can be seen as a representation of the complex entirety.
The economic aspect relates to the Nilotic culture of both the Pokot people and Masai people. In Northwest Kenya, Pokot people adopted cultivation, or farming, while continuing to practice their herding culture. “to keep the notion of wealth and prestige linked to their native values” (ANHM). Cultivation formed large, permanent settlements, aiming for a more profitable way of life – to link the people physically and spiritually to one place. Masai from the Nile valley stuck to herding observed by the herding artifacts: milk bucket, spear, and cattle whip. This borderland affected the Masai with limitations of where they can roam to and thus find difficulty in forming their culture of nomad.
Economically, the internal cultural borderland affected the Pokot tribe culture due to a drastic change in the tools needed as seen in the farming instruments. More appreciation for material culture grew since they had to recreate the tools, as well as new religious worships of fertility and revitalization. The culture as a whole confronts the integration of two economic forms of life that stand out because Pokot culture idealizes economic fertility through the sacred bonds with their land, while Masai culture holds migration to a higher value. These two may fuse through marriage to increase cooperativity in their bicultural identity.
Social interaction between herders and cultivators thrived in the medium of marriage practices in order to increase cooperativity between these two economic forms. The Kwele people, formally cultivators, adopted forest economic practices, including fishing and hunting. The forest work impacted their way of live, causing them to move from a large-scale society to one of autonomy (AMHN) to prosper. They idolized material culture even more now. The Mangbetu in same areas as the Kwele also have these practices but retained the centralization of a non-autonomous society.
Switching to external borderlands, they are placed on the outskirts of the hall and may be for their very disturbing attributes of foreigners instilling superiority. The impact is thus momentous. So why is it not included as part of the representation of African cultures? Dealing with Christianity in Nigeria, Yorban people partake in a slave wedding. This display shows that even though African people were exposed to hostility and oppression during slavery, while some of them continued to practice their cultural traditions of family ties, their native religion, and skills in agriculture and pottery. Others adopted Christianity to give them peace and unity which has influenced the religions within the African culture. North America today has a lot of African roots linked to dance, literature, and arts. “There is possibly a greater knowledge of the Yoruba religion in Harlem than in Nigeria.” (AMNH).
When Islamic influences emerges in Africa, another form of externally influenced culture borderlands existed. The Senegambians of the complex desert society adopted aspects of Islam into their own culture, causing a more intricate hierarchy system, and thus joined the people under a political unity as they learned about military defense. (as seen through the the luxury of religious jewelry for those of greater rank and power). Their lack of educational value was changed to the Islamic tradition of formal education. (ex: allowed the rise of ancient university). The Senegambians then created an internal cultural borderland with neighboring Bambara people, who retained their dependence on land and had less interest in status structuring and political authority (AMNH). Some North African societies differed from Islamic influence by not subjugating woman to a lower status.
- Rosaldo, Renato “The Erosion of Classic Norms”
- The American Museum of Natural History. “The Hall of African People” Exhibit
“Higher Learning”: A Film On The Importance Of Intercultural Communication
I decided to do my Intercultural film on The movie Higher Learning produced by John Singleton. Higher learning is about a group of incoming freshman and how their college lives are impacted by cultural diversity. This film highly relates to intercultural communications because it shows how diverse college is but also distinctive.This movie mainly focus on three characters Malik Williams a black track star, Kristen Connor, a introvert girl thats trying to find herself throughout college ; and Remy, a white man confused and trying to fit in with people in college but seemingly out of place in his new environment, When these different type of culture come into conflict in the movie they seem to not agree on anything and all have different views things can go south and be very menacing and brutal.
The three main characters all have very different views on how they see each other and how they approach Society. First we are going to talk about Malik, the black track star. Malik was highschool sensation running track where he was able to attend Columbia University on a scholarship. When Malik arrives on campus it’s not what he expected, stereotyped by students and his professor on just “being an athlete” not a student. Malik meets a friend named Fudge, an Afrocentric and militant senior who opens up his eyes and gives him knowledge on his ancestors and how white America teaches black people to be modern slaves. One night while Fudge and Malik are sitting down playing board games, Fudge questions Malik on why he is even going to Columbia University.
Malik responds saying “that’s what you need to do to make it in the country”. Fudge then says “what’s making it” Malik answers “you know getting that degree, making long dough”. Fudge then asks “are you in it for the money or the knowledge”. This was the most influential part in the movie I believe. Being a African-American athlete in college my main focus is playing ball and getting a scholarship for four year so I can get my degree to be successful in the future, I really didn’t care about actually learning. I just did everything required to pass all my classes. That’s not just college athletes problems but more like 90% of college students. We attend college to have a successful future not to actually gain knowledge which I feel we need to change our actual mindset and that’s what Malik did.
Remy, an incoming freshman who is a typical loner but tries hard to fit in with the rest. As each of these three main characters try to find their type of crowd on campus they all seem to fall into the more older crowd. Malik Crowd was Fudge crew which were considered the “Super Seniors” but Remy crowd changed his life completely. Remy was introduced to a group of white supremacist skin heads. He knew that the group wasn’t a great fit for him but all he wanted to do is fit in and that’s what they did treated him as a “brother”. He started getting in altercations with Malik group and started targeting non-white people but mainly blacks. Later in the movie he shoots Malik’s girlfriend to prove to his white supremist gang that he’s not scared to kill a black person, this act caused him his future of wanting to be a lawyer and his own life that he took . We all know that when you find yourself hanging with the wrong crowd you can get yourself in deep trouble fast and this what Remy did.
Kristen Connor is a girl from Orange County, California who is attending Columbia University . She is new to the whole college experience and want to try new things so she goes to a frat party and gets drunk. She eventually finds a guy while she is drunk who cant take no for an answer and forces himself upon her. She never tell anyone what happen but it did affect her perspective on her college experience . After the incident she joins a ‘women rights ‘ club where they talk aout their past trauma and experiences of men taking advantage of them. Taryn is the group leader of the women rights club and give Kristen some comfort to open up. Kristen eventually started feeling comfortable around Taryn and later on found out that Taryn is into girls. Kristen the confuse freshman didn’t necessarily know what she wanted, she started catching feelings for Taryn. Its clear that Taryn like Kristen but Taryn is content about letting the friendship develop at its own pace. While Kristen Connor feelings grow stronger for Taryn she meets a freshman student name Wayne. At first she didnt trust or give Wayne a chance due to her rape incident, but she eventually started catching feelings for both and didnt knowwho to choose. She ends up having intimate sexual scenes with both of the leaving her confused about who to choose
As I described the three main characters from all of their perspectives and experience their freshman year from being a black male in college being targeted by society, to trying your hardest to fit in, to confused about your own sexuality. These all have a social impact on our society today. Malik Williams is a prime example of the black community on education as I already mentioned before Malik is only going to Columbia University to run track not for education. 9/10 every athlete that plays a sport in college they are in it to go pro and not necessarily to learn and big universities are fine with that. Football and basketball players main priority playing college ball is their sport comes first. My cousin who plays division 1 (FBS) football for the University of Alabama Birmingham says their main focus is playing football they have the best of the best resources and tutors for they classes and when they are forced to miss class their tutors do their work for them.
As Fudge said in the movie “are you in it for the money or the knowledge” and most of the black athletes are in it for the money.Second we are going to cover Remy (The school shooter) a white freshman who originally wanted to be a doctor but also didn’t want to feel left out of not fitting in with the regular students in college. He would attend parties he wasn’t invited to, try to act cool in a sense by talking trash to people in the frat but none of that actually worked . He was introduced to a neo-nazi gang where they specifically targeted black folks. There’s one scene in the movie where he got into a fight with Malik crew which escalated to him shooting a sniper into a large crowd where he killed Malik’s girlfriend then he killed himself trying to escape from the police. Remy and like many other people that most likely don’t fit in with the popular crowd will do whatever it takes to feel like they fit in but usually it will affect their regular life. Malik and I have several similar characteristics and also culture similarities, like being a black athlete in college from being discriminated by your peers based off your skin color.
The other two characters Remy and Kristen I have major cultural differences from the two. Remy and I are the complete opposite he try to hard to fit in with others, on the other hand I really don’t care who I hang out with ill always be myself. Also Remy didn’t like black people because they’re “taking over” according to his gang and I’m black myself so I know I wouldn’t get along with him. There was a scene early in the movie where Kristen was in the elevator going to class and Malik entered while in the elevator Kristen looked at Malik and clutched her purse tightly assuming Malik would try to snatch it because he’s black. I can relate to this scene because I’ve been in Malik position before people will automatically believe you’re a bad guy because of your skin color and get the wrong perception about you.
If I walk inside a grocery store it’s a 50% chance one of the employees will be following me around just cause I’m black . At the end of the movie the word “unlearned” is typed across the screen. Higher learning is synonymous with the term higher education, meaning education at universities and colleges as is referenced in the dictionary. However, in this film, it refers to the movie’s title, “Higher Learning,” and it means that higher learning is the process of unlearning preconceived ideas and biases. Additionally, racial discrimination-induced violence is related to the abnormally high self-esteem of the perpetrator based on his or her race alone, though otherwise the person has very low self-esteem
The College Experience And Embrace Of Mental Health
Us college students feel it all the time. The sense of urgency, anxiety and even lack of sleep, are all results of one common precursor: stress. Stress was originally a mechanism developed by animal ancestors (including humans) to respond to emergent situations in order to ensure survival. This way, the sense of threat would be materialized into different psychological and physiological reactions. This mechanism is referred to as “the flight or fight” response. The fight or flight response is an automatic response that involves two pathways which activate the nervous and endocrine system. In summary, a bombing of neural transmitters will activate a cascade of hormones causing various effects on the body. The college student population presents a repeated activation of these pathways causing many consequences in their day to day health.
After the initial stimuli of stress, the sympathetic branch is the first division of the human brain activated. This division helps the body focus on what is urgent at said moment. Almost instantaneously, the human brain stops secondary functions and concentrates on releasing noradrenaline and adrenaline. As a result, the body will experience increased heart rate, constriction of the blood vessels in organs performing secondary functions and dilatation of the blood vessels associated with skeletal muscle. This occurs to increase the blood flow to the organs that will be performing the action to ensure survival. The initial response is short of duration.
However, the secondary response to stress has a longer duration and it is the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis also referred to as the HPA axis. In this pathway, a cascade of hormones is released to the body in order to obtain a final product: cortisol. A vast number of cells in the human body have cortisol receptors, for this reason this hormone can cause many changes within blood sugar, metabolism, water balance and even blood pressure.
The problem, nowadays, is the hyperactivation of these stress responses, even in non-emergent situations. Humans have adapted a way to teach their bodies to respond to non-mortal stress the same way they treat a life or death situation. Amongst the population with high rates of stress are college students. ABC news published an article titled: “3 out of 4 college students say they’re stressed, many report suicidal thoughts: Study”. This article discusses a study conducted by Cindy Liu, PhD which consists of a survey of stress in college students. College can be a very stressful stage. The change from schooling to college may be very brutal. An 18-year-old kid has to choose what to do for the rest of their lives. Upon the entrance of college, a young adult faces the consequences of adulthood: educational bills, expenses for living, and some even need to start working. As if it were not enough, the pressure of all classes such as deadlines, presentations and homework can lead a person to a mental collapse. Liu’s study found that 1/5 students have thought of suicide and 1/10 made an actual attempt. Dr. Italo Brown (2018) claims that this rate is more than double than the national average for adults.
Stress is a mechanism designed to help humans adapt to survival situations. It has a physiological and psychological effects on the body. Via the activation of hormones, it pretends to assist an organism in life threatening moments. However, the body does not recognize when stress is being activated for life threatening reasons vs non-life-threatening reasons. Every day, humans expose their bodies to stressful situations and activate said pathways for non-emergent situations. College students are a great example of people in non-emergent yet stressful situations. Prolonged exposition to stress may lead to undesirable effects in the human body. In a survey conducted by Dr. Liu, college students reported thoughts and even attempts to suicide. For this reason, society must take a look upon the college experience and embrace mental health in this particular stage of life.