The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RGLP: Cultural Identifications with Professor Claudia Anguiano

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Professor Claudia Anguiano began her two-hour session on Cultural Identifications with a PowerPoint presentation that revealed how minor differences in terminology can have major impacts on a population’s perceived identity of certain groups. As an example, she challenged us to exchange the word “illegal” with “undocumented” when saying the phrase “Illegal Immigrants.” The group and I quickly realized that, though similar, the difference in wording has a major impact on the perception of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Not only are undocumented immigrants affected by the harsh labeling of their current position but other groups as well.

I believe that the most enlightening portion of the presentation was the TED lecture “The danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Chimamanda spoke about the ease a person can group an entire population or culture according to their understanding of “one story" and consequently overlook the beautiful differences and “various stories” that form the true identity of a given culture or population. She spoke about her own experience in the United States, and how she had commonly heard the story that Mexicans were “poor immigrants.” Chimamanda, not knowing much about the Mexican culture and Mexico as a whole, believed this story. However, once she visited Mexico, she was embarrassed to find out that her story was entirely wrong. At that moment, she learned that it is dangerous to generalize a specific culture or population under one understanding or “story.”

--Roberto Rodriguez '14, RGLP Spring 2014 Participant

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