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NGOs + Ghana

For me one of the most fascinating aspects of sociology is the ability to study social problems on many different, seperate but interacting elements of people and power. One of my biggest frustrations when learning and trying to understand the unfamiliar is not knowing where problems or phenomenons are situated in and what elements influence them. I wish our education, was less linear but more cyclical, converging or intersecting. 

When I was in 10th grade I first learned about the IMF and World Bank in my humanities class. I did not fully understand what it meant. I didn't know just how powerful it was or how it was connected to and related to people across all levels of power, privlege, access and suffering. It is through my sociology courses that I learned about how the IMF and WB affect the Global South in detremental ways--feminizing poverty, exploiting labor, stripping access to resources and perpetuating neocolonial ideology and structure. I think it is important that how we learn, question and inquire goes beyond what is in front of us. Socio-historical context needs to be explored. Macro forces and institutions need to be taken into consideration just as much as micro forces and interactions between people. 

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Responding to Presentations

This week I was not sure what exactly the blog post was about. I want to build off of the information that we have been presented during the past week in the class presentations. I was extremely interested in both the language presentation and the story telling presentation. I found it interesting how in the first presentation we learned about the different languages and dialects spoken in Ghana. We were taught this information by students in the 360, none of which are from Ghana. Then a guest, a student, came to talk to us about her experiences as a student and a Ghanain in relationship to language. I was instantly struck by how I became uncomfortable in the classroom. In the begining when there was no one from the country being taught present I was comfortable learning about the culture and language. However, once a student from the country was physically present I became a lot more uncomfortable and uneasy. It made me wish that either we were not 'teaching' about Ghana or that the guest herself was talking instead. However, I then became even more frustrated. People of places are not always 'experts' or good representations of a place, but more importantly, no one person should be forced to be a 'representative' of a place or story. I do not actually have an answer or a final conclusion. I was just very confused myself after class on tuesday about what had taken place. What does it say about me as a learner? my comfort? my discomfort? What difference does it make who is 'teaching' and what they are 'teaching about? 

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Literacy in Research

This week during the guest presentation on Thursday I wanted to ask a question relating to literacy in research. I was wondering how the professor communicated with participants in her research. I thought her research and findings were extremely interesting. I appreciated how she framed it as giving agency to women and discussed them as being resilient. Additionally, I liked how she discussed their agency and role in relationship/in the framework of macro systems and the involvement of SAPs, the IMF and the WB. But I want to know more about her research methods and process: What kind of language was used, what tone, what formality of words? Did how interviewees were talked to different based on their age or experiences or backgrounds? I wanted to ask, which I didn’t, how participants were told about the research they were part of. Did they know why they were being interviewed, what it was being used for and what story was going to be told about them? In research, what do participants get out of the experience? I thought it was a really interesting presentation not just in the content, but that the skill/ experience/ perspective she brought as a guest speaker was her profession and specific research interest. Being a researcher requires competency and literacy in how to do (in her case) qualitative in-depth interviews. Knowing how to frame questions, how to ask them, how to interpret data, code and analyze date are all part of a literacy in social science research.

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Colonial Education

In the class presentation about the Ghanaian education system one specific fact stood out to me. The students in the class presenting said that there was an emphasis on reading, writing in math in the colonial education that was used for Ghanaian students. I immediately thought about our own US public school system and what we focus on. Standardized tests question and evaluate our capabilities in math, reading and writing and put great pressure on teachers to have their students achieve high scores. Because of this, many teachers are left with little time to teach social studies, language, culture, art, history, or anything other subjects. What differences exist in ideology towards education between colonial education and post colonial education? Have any changes been made since the end of conquest in colonized countries? I do wonder if it is possible that currenty the education system still does exist in such a manner as to stifle the embracing of culture, history and language that relates the academic to the individual. In my English Language Learners class last semester we read an article called “True American – Language, Identity and the Education of Immigrant Children” by Rosemary C. Salomone. In the article, the author wrote ‘schooling by its very nature is a prime vehicle for indoctrinating the young in a common core of value and political principles.’ The author argued that school systems are supposed to promote good citizenship, our ‘common destiny’ and are the ‘most vital civic institution for the preservation of a democratic system of government.’

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Marxism, Alienation and False Consciousness

This week there was a strong presence of Marxist thought in both the Education and French literature courses. In last weeks conversation in French we discussed written language as the embodiment, the production and the perpetuation of colonial tools and epistemology for language communication—where the idea of a ‘written’ documented language is one brought by colonizers. In the same way that written language is discussed in post-colonial literature as the very essence of its contradictions, Marxism can be thought of similarly in the context of its presence in the Global South. What was essentially a western ideology permeated deeply into Global South nations and had/has a profound effect on much of the literature we are reading in our 360 course. In Cultural Action for Freedom the quote that stood out to me was, “His alienated culture prevents him from understanding that his thinking and world-expression cannot find acceptance beyond his frontiers unless he is faithful to his particular world.” It is interesting how Paolo Friere uses the ideas of alienation, false consciousness, power and class to discuss access to education and how to educate those we are marginalized and illiterate yet writes in an academic elite jargon that is only comprehensible to an esoteric population.  His writing reminded me greatly of The Power Elite by sociologist C. Wright Mills--the idea of forces larger than the individual controlling knowledge and access to the creation and attainment of truth.

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Arrogant Perception

  • Understanding the Arrogant Persepction

I want to understand this term used by Maria Lugones by first putting emphasis on the word perception instead of the word arrogant which is its descriptor. When first trying to understand this term, I began by discussing the word arrogant before the word perception and my understanding of the text became confusing. However, when putting the emphasis on perception it is easier to begin thinking about how this applies at large to feminist epistemology, colonialism, power, education, etc. despite each of these entities being at times very different from one another. However, they all relate in the sense that how we perceive the world, our perception of the world is colored by hegemonic ideologies that are created and reproduced by people with power. As sociologist C. Wright Mills discusses in his book, The Power Elite, it is the select few with the most cultural, social and monetary capital that create the hegemonic perspective. Ordinary people, the majority of people, except a small population of the intellectual bourgeoisie, as Pierre Bourdieu discusses, consumes thoughts with little doubt or reflection as to who created these ideals and beliefs and for what reasons. The word arrogant then makes more sense in that those who have the power to create perspective, shape them, infiltrate them are those who are arrogant.

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The Danger of a Single Story

I try to think that I am open minded, liberal and a thoughtful individual. However, I have also many times been the reproducer, the victim, the oblivious consumer and the creator of a single story. When thinking about the stories I was told and those that I repeat, I know how easy it was when I was younger to believe the words I heard and take them for fact. It was not until much later that I realized I had to learn the language and culture of questioning what I heard people say to me. I think even how people learn to believe and trust is so deeply contextualized in the many intersections of their identity that influence how they view power, authority and respect.  I think in some communities/societies questioning stories and people is a strength and a quality that gives you agency and power. However, in other communities and families cultura, age or gender can have bearing on how you communicate the ability to question.

 I know that I cling to single stories. I hold onto them tightly as if doubting them is challenging me to confront buried contradictions and hypocrisies of many of my own beliefs. I wonder what is more difficult, to create a single story or to dismantle and destroy the single story perspective?

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