Look again at the cover of this issue. The proportions of the continents, if you didn’t notice already, are a bit skewed in favor of North America. The true area of the United States is about one-fifth the area of Asia, less than one-third the area of Africa and just over half the area of South America. Our map, however, plays off the ethnocentric world view that Americans are sometimes accused of possessing.
Of course, all people have a tendency to view the outside from the perspective of their own national or cultural background. To an extent, this is inevitable; it would be impossible to detach ourselves entirely from our own identity when interpreting our place in the world. Nevertheless, Americans are often considered the textbook example of this global egotism. And whether or not that generalization is fair, it’s undeniable that most of us could stand to be more aware of the world outside our borders. With that in mind, we begin this academic year with the International Issue.
Much of this issue deals with populations that most of us, either by choice or circumstance, don’t often see. But even though we may not regularly interact with, for example, the immigrant cooks who prepare our food, they are far from irrelevant. In “The Summer People,” Colleen Goodhue reflects on the ambition and the struggle of the Brazilian immigrants with whom she worked. And following the idea of cultural isolation by choice versus circumstance, Chelsea Theis, in “Not On My Watch,” asks why it is so difficult for student activists to move their peers to action against horrific violations of human rights such as the crisis in Darfur.
We’ll introduce you to a highly marginalized group of Moroccan matriarchs who make a great effort against traditional prejudices to provide for their families in a rural village. We offer the first part in a series on refugee and immigrant populations living in Central New York—our own backyard, as it were. Maybe you’re already familiar with these stories, but if not, then we offer them to you as a brief window to a new and unexplored place.
There’s always something to learn by stepping outside one’s own experiences. In anthropology, it’s called the emic perspective—absorbing the unfamiliar and observing it from a place within its original context, thereby taking away a new understanding of human interactions.
It is as Omar Bajwa said in regards to interfaith dialogue during our conversation with him and Michael Faber (see page 14: “Defying Intolerance”):
The first stepping-stone is that you understand that [others are] human beings – that they have beliefs and rituals and practices that are different than yours, and there’s a beauty to that, and it should be respected for what it is. And then the second step, ideally – the mature response – is then that merging [towards] some sort of common vision.
And because one of Buzzsaw’s main goals is to encourage dialogue on campus, we’d love to hear anything you have to add to this discussion.