Ruth Benedict, one of the first women to earn international recognition for her work in anthropology and folklore noted, “The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences”. And one major difference that is observed today is cultural difference. In a fast globalizing world, one is constantly exposed to different cultures. By sensitizing ourselves to the different cultures, and also learning from them, “human differences” are much easier to deal with.
What are we, if not bearers of our culture? Ethnocentrism is a powerful force, used in the right way, can unite cultures, rather than separate them. As sociology students, we explored this very important domain of our lives. Having many foreign students amongst us, we were exposed to various cultures.
What started out as a “cross-cultural experience and exposure” tantamounted to something much more: a profound learning experience too. Students from various countries like Bhutan, Thailand, Korea, Nepal and Japan enlightened us on their respective country touching upon several significant areas including Education, Polity, Religion, and overall social status. We gained essential insights on their cultures. They were indeed, anthropological ‘informants’ in the truest sense. They were not only knowledgeable about their culture but also were able and willing to transmit this knowledge in a comprehensible way to an outsider. As Claude Levi-Strauss said, “In order for a culture to be really itself and to produce something, the culture and its members must be convinced of their originality and even, to some extent, of their superiority over the others” We learnt much about the public welfare propagandas of Bhutan, the much celebrated self-sufficiency of Thailand, the importance of education in Korea, the socio-political structure of Japan and the life-loving culture of Nepal; to name a few. After these students conveyed all the information they could, the floor was open to a question-answer session. Students were most enthusiastic to know more about these cultures and gain more insight. Thus ended the cross-cultural experience and exposure event.