Hey everyone — the days are passing so quickly! I can’t believe we’re already halfway through the first week of Session 2. Today we discussed a couple of short articles. The first one introduced Edward Said’s concept of “Orientalism,” a mechanism of control in which Western imagination (academic, artistic, political, etc.) depicts “the Orient” as subordinate, usually either through the exotification or villification of Arab culture. The second article examined the concept of “Othering” and explained that Arabs are by no means the only cultural group that has been “Othered” by in the United States; other examples given were African-Americans, native Americans, Asian Americans, and immigrant European Americans. The article also explained three common forms of Othering: representing people as similar to animals, as closer to nature (“savage” or “barbaric”), or as more infantile than “civilized” people. While not Arab themselves, YES participants, who are Muslim, recognized the ways in which they themselves — through conflation of “Arab” and “Muslim” — are negatively affected by the tendencies towards Orientalism sometimes exhibited in Western societies. At the same time, the girls also were optimistic, explaining that they encounter people over and over who are open-minded and curious to learn about Somali religion and culture.
Our workshop portion today was spent doing more work on the mural. Some of us continued decorating banners with messages of peace, while others worked to draw houses, mosques, and traditional Somali dwellings representative of a culturally-situated, yet global (via diaspora), Somali community. The messages of intercultural communication in this mural are so inspiring… I can’t wait for you all to see it!
‘Til next time,