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Seeing Culture

October 11, 2022

Fall Sunset 2022 Milan

“Education is all a matter of building bridges.”
Ralph Ellison

“Insight, I believe, refers to the depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours and mine, familiar and exotic, new and old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another.”
Mary Catherine Bateson.

“Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity?” 
Cesar Chavez

“The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them. To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.”
Stephen Covey

When you look at this image of Milan that I took at sunset a few days ago, what do you see?

Do you see anything that represents culture? How many different kinds of culture do you see? 

And what about this picture, also from Milan?

Do you recognize culture here?


Is this a culture?


What about this?

One final image, with this same question:


Sometimes students say they don’t have a culture. But they do: they just don’t see it to recognize their culture because it is the dominant culture.

What is culture anyway? 

“Culture is the acquired knowledge people use to interpret experience and generate behavior,” states James Spradley, Anthropologist

Wayne W. LaMorte, MD, PhD, MPH, a professor at Boston University School of Public Health explains it this way: 

“Culture (from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “to cultivate”) generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance. Cultures can be “understood as systems of symbols and meanings that even their creators contest, that lack fixed boundaries, that are constantly in flux, and that interact and compete with one another.”

He continues by saying, 

“Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called “the way of life for an entire society.” As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, art. norms of behavior, such as law and morality, and systems of belief.”

Following our Adventures at VC Scavenger Hunt and presentation, we embark on a different research journey. The purpose:

  • To facilitate personal and cultural self-awareness.

  • To help create a community of writers.

  • To provide tools to look beyond stereotypes and to relate to readings.

  • To generate ideas for writing assignments.

ASSIGNMENT has these four parts:

1. RESEARCH/INTERVIEW. Turn to your family members to learn more about your background; as part of your research, interview someone. In your research, find something significant to share with the rest of the class about your cultural heritage. If you do not have an object to bring from home, PRINT an appropriate picture from a magazine or book, download an image from the Internet, etc. Remember, the visual component of this exercise is important.

2. ARTIFACT. Select an artifact that tells a story about your cultural background that you can share with the class. This artifact can be a picture, coat of arms, or object (a piece of clothing, jewelry, a tool etc.). You will want to select an object that is easy to transport to class. If possible, choose an item that illustrates something about your cultural background that is not obvious. We want to learn something about your background that is not readily apparent. If you cannot find a “hidden” part of your background, teach us about what we may not know about your culture.

3. NAME. As part of your presentation, prepare to tell us about your name. Include how your name reflects your cultural heritage.

4. FOOD. Each person will bring a “cultural” food item to share during class by arrangement. Prepare to do a 3-5 minute presentation using written notes to tell the origin of your name, describe your artifact, explain why you selected it, answer questions, and talk about your food item.


When we are finished, we will do an in-class writing activity about what we learned. Questions to consider include:

  • What was the purpose of this activity?

  • How did this activity help you learn about/or increase your awareness of yourself? Of others?

  • How does the difference between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you affect

    you as a student?

  • What have you learned about culture?

  • What are some connections you can draw between this activity and the readings?


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