Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Educators’ Insights on Culture Shock, Identity and Pedagogy
Introduction: Insights Into Otherness
Insights Into Otherness
In the realm of culture, outsideness is a most powerful factor in understanding….A meaning only reveals its depths once it has encountered and come into contact with another, foreign meaning: they engage in a kind of dialog, which surmounts the closedness and onesidedness of these particular meanings, these cultures….Each retains its own unity and open totality, but they are mutually enriched. (Bakhtin, 1986, p. 7)
“What words come to mind when you think about Africa?” I ask students at the various local schools and other institutions where I speak about my experiences in the Peace Corps. The answers are remarkably similar—“violence,” “AIDS,” “malaria,” “wild animals,” “poverty,” “corruption,” and “starvation.” Probing a bit further, I ask if Africa could be a place of health, love, happiness, and good-tasting food. The response: a resounding “No!” “Have you ever been to Africa?” I continue. “Uh, well, no.” When I ask students where they learn about Africa, they tell me TV programs such as “Animal Planet,” “Save the Children,” and the nightly news. They also tell me they learn about Africa through their teachers and their textbooks. When I ask why it might be important to experience a place directly for themselves, they light up: “Because it helps you learn more about a place when you go there yourself,” and because “other people can lie.” They also point out, though, ← 1 | 2 → that not everyone can go to Africa and that...
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