On cultural understanding

25Oct07

Came across this interesting story through Steve Portigal’s blog on how Sian Reid, a sociology professor in Canada decided to teach her students a lesson in culture and enthnocentricism.

“What people thought they saw was an orthodox Muslim female professor. What they actually saw was a female professor wearing a niqab.They had made an interpretation kind of automatically — and in sociology you can’t afford to do that. Observations and interpretations have to be two different things.”

Read Carleton professor’s lesson veiled in delivery

How often have we ourselves looked at that most visible aspect of culture – clothes – and drawn conclusions and made judgments? I find this especially so with most people’s notions of modernity – especially in the Indian context and for women, where Western attire is so easily confused with modern outlook.

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