Sunday, March 26, 2006

Culture and resilience

Yet another collage, my goodness this girl sure has fun with her photoshop!

I was looking at my friend Savneet Talwar's website while preparing my multicultural course for NYU. Savneet is doing wonderful things. I wish I lived a little closer, I'd love to do a girls evening out and mull over ideas... but never mind, I'll mull here and see what I come up with.

One of the biggest problems with teaching a multicultural approach for the art room is the same problems that fish have with explaining water to younger fish. It's very hard to see the thing that you are immersed it.

So I'm always on the prowl for things that will give students "ah-ha moments" when they can suddenly see the culture or cultures that they are immersed in, and of course see how these cultural affiliations help us and harm us.

Savneet has some lovely PDF files you can download and play on your computer like a slide show. One is a presentation for the November 2005 American Art Therapy Association Annual Conference. The title is Journeys Across Borders and the presenters were: Jayashree Iyer, DA, ATR-BC (Hi, Jayashree), Savneet Talwar, MA, ATR-BC (Hi, Savneet), and Pramila Venkateswaran. PhD.

In this presentation I found these questions:

What is the meaning of power and privilege? These words seem to become jargonized, remote, and eliticized by the common parlance of academic worlds. Power and privilege are borders that divide people and become instruments of oppression. In more local terms, we ask, how do people manage or mismanage their relationships with each other? How do people maintain borders as communities keep their distance, vilify and hurt each other? How do people erase the borders to cross over and meet?

This is the very thing that I look for, simple language that we all share, free of jargon, warm hearted and welcoming thought and dialogue. I'm all for it.

One of the presenters,Pramila Venkateswaran (2002, p. 46) created the possibility for permeable boundaries, for an end of violence and elitist attitudes when she said:
I want to receive you without
the interruption of fences
without dagger-tips.

I asked Savneet if she had any suggestions for people interested in examining the meaning of power and privilege in a real way, in an open hearted, non-defensive way, and sure enough, Savneet sent me to look at
Jean Baker Miller Training Institute which is a part of Wellesley College's Stone Center.

The work of the this Institute is based on Relational-Cultural Theory (okay, that sounds a little jargon-y but I'm willing to read on), a model of psychological development that grew out of the collaboration of scholars, researchers, and clinicians at the Stone Center. And Relational-Cultural Theory suggests that "growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity and disconnections are the source of psychological problems."

And this is jargon free. We can work towards creating a false sense of personal power by creating elitism and snobbery of all kinds and we will end up creating walls and disconnections. Or we can create connections through growth-fostering relationships, open hearted communication, and permeable boundaries. And of course we become more resilient when we create better relationships.

But to really create these connections, I guess we have to be willing to sit down and really look at culture, power, and privilege, where it's real, where it's illusory and keeping us bound and colonized, continually looking to "the authority" for our sense of power and satisfaction. Remember what Adela said in the March 20th blogspot, "if you want to know about resilience just ask the women." We don't need to look to the authority, we can look within ourselves and share the treasures that are there.

So thank you Savneet, Jayashree, and Dr. Venkateswaran for giving me some thoughts to mull over. I do appreciate this very much. And I would suggest if anyone reading this is interested in this topic to visit Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, Wellesley Centers for Women, and Savneet Talwar's website. Meanwhile I'll go mull some more and do some more art and see what happens.

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