World Studies | Unit 2 – Cultural Interactions Summary: Unit 1 attempted to philosophically and historically understand how ideas about the world become reality. Namely, how philosophies on human nature determined the construction of the actual world through rules, laws, customs and norms that are then reproduced across generations. Schools, families, institutions and our peers play a central role in “checking” our behavior, speech, ideas and even our clothes and for the most part, this is a good thing. However, when these institutions and groups “check” our behavior in an oppressive and demeaning way – in a racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic way – that reproduction must become the central target of social change in order to liberate, or free, ourselves from the chains of history and bigotry.
Unit 2 will further that exploration of human construction and reproduction of social values and culture by studying the ways that cultures interact. Namely, through the ways that cultures have interacted on an equal footing versus through one oppressing another through imperialism. The colonization of Africa in the 19th century is perhaps the best example of the oppressiveness of imperialism – both physical and cultural – as well as the methods of resistance that then formed new ideas and culture as a result. While the study of oppression is important, it is only useful when seen as a tool for also understanding how human beings resisted this oppression. By fighting European (and American) imperialism, the participants of the African independence movement changed themselves and the world around them in positive ways. This resistance had a profound effect on Black Nationalists in the United States and Latin America, and vis versa.
While imperialism and resistance to imperialism is going be the majority of the Unit, we will also explore the contemporary topic of urban gentrification. Our emphasis will be on a basic understanding of community change and how it occurs and can occur, but our focus question will be a comparison: is gentrification a form of cultural imperialism? Students will explore issue of culture by race and class and how these ideas are shared and imposed on our neighbors.