Honors | Constructing Culture: Discovering the Value of Diversity
H303 | 0022 | J. Rollins
1:00-2:15P TR GG 101
The aim of this class is to explore the variety of ways cultures are
formed, maintained and flourish by using a common language, common
values, and a shared history. The course will attempt to create its
own particular culture during one semester and then express this
experience in prose, poetry, art, music and dance. The course will be
divided into two distinct sections: construcing the culture, and
expressing the culture.
The course will use the paradigm of Swahili culture: its social
structure (clans) and language, as a lingua franca, that is a language
cut loose from any specific culture save for what the class creates.
By using a lingua franca each member of the class will be able to
enter and interact in the class culture on an equal footing using the
same cultural referents that may be attached to the language by anyone
in the class. Such distinctions, if any, will be made in the creation
and expression of subdivisions, or kabila (in Swahili) in the class.
Once the community, and the individual clans that form it, have been
developed, the class/community will be asked to solve a series of
academic challenges in different venues across the campus by using
their own specific clan values, which have already been established in
the context of the larger class community. At the end of each
challenge the class will meet together to discuss the roles and
outcomes of each clan's perspective on the academic/social challenge.
The class will be encouraged to see how diverse clan values and
perspectives have added to the solution of each challenge,
strengthening the sense of community across all the clans.
The second part of the class will focus on ways cultural values are
expressed in written and artistic form. For example, each person in
each clan will create a life map in which he draws out his life in a
spatial form and then summarizes his life in one single gesture. All
the gestures are then choreographed into a dance, which in turn is
folded into all the others, until the entire class has merged into one
dance where each individual gesture represents one member of the
The class will also study, in a similar way, Swahili literary genres
and art to allow the class to adapt and express each clan's expression
of Uswahili (Swahiliness) in these forms. The course will be team
taught and will draw upon the expertise of the new African Studies
Language Coordinator, Professor Alwiya Omar, as well as resources from
Honors, Linguistics, the Art Museum, Afro-American Studies, and
additional support from African Studies.