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

RGLP Recap: "Action and Participation in Intercultural Communication" with Dr. Uju Anya

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This ongoing series explores sessions of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) through participant narratives. RGLP engages Dartmouth students who have demonstrated leadership skills and would like to extend these skills on a globally conscious level. In this program, students focus on and further develop international leadership competencies, which have become increasingly crucial in corporate, public and non-profit sectors today.

The recent RGLP session by USC Professor Uju Anya, Dartmouth '98, entitled "Action and Participation in Intercultural Communication" was an engaging and insightful examination of the intersectional nature of the many varying identities that comprise who we say we are. Dr. Anya drew on the notion of language as a social action and lead us to think critically about the role that language plays in the construction of identity and in the struggle for truth and power. In describing language as an impactful feature of our relating to others, she stated, "We tend to associate people with what we call them, and ultimately how we treat them." We create identity both on an individual and group level, and these identities cannot be separated from language.

USC Professor Uju Anya encourages RGLP participants to examine the role of language in the construction of identity. Photo by May Nguyen '18.

Dr. Anya also lead us in critically evaluating our own cultural identifications. This helped each of us to realize that we are much more than one singular feature, but rather a the unique blend of a multiplicity of identities, be they racial, sexual, religious, and so on. I carefully worked through the different elements that contribute to my personal identity and through this able to better understand myself.

Steffen Eriksen '17 found the fallacy of "the single story" a helpful lesson. Photo by May Nguyen '18.

I really enjoyed how Dr. Anya brought a talk given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a prominent Nigerian novelist interested in ideas of interculturalism and identity, into the session. One quotation from Adichie stood out to me as particularly profound. "The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story." Stereotyping is so harmful because it takes what may be a singular truth and elevates it above all other equally valid truths. I can see in my own self a mixture of multiple identities, and I can only be best understood when all of the different stories are considered together. Likewise, I must be mindful of this as I seek to relate with others.

-Written by Steffen Eriksen '17, Spring 2015 RGLP Participant

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