I just finished reading the first reading of my final class at Jacobs. Chapter 1 & 2 of Warren & Fassett’s Communication: A Critical/Cultural Introduction (2015). Perched on my office chair around midnight I read while in the background a lovely casual list of recently found music is playing.
Introduction to communication studies-a whole new discipline to acquaint myself with. How fresh can it be?
The authors highlight communication as a process-of building meaning collaboratively through dialogue and discussion.
When I came to Jacobs from USA college was a career confirming path. African-Americans could be referred to as colored. LGBTQ was a terms for activists.
Social Activism through communication: reconsidering the subtle and straight ways we affirm social norms and beliefs which often marginalize certain groups. Sexism, racism, classism etc.
The examples in this text all about ‘people of color’. The privilege of being white, more so, male. In the grocery store. In the classroom. At home.
For a textbook aiming for the ambitious goal of broadening perspectives through everyday speaking habits this seems a very narrow focus.
So I’m sitting in northern Germany at a small but very international university and scratching my head. People of color?!
This book practically begs us to go ask anyone beyond the Caucasian developed population of the world and find an- find any other perspective. Since the time of European exploration of the American continent till today. “…Though I wouldn’t want to lump social scientists in with European ‘explorers’, … the perspective makes some sense: If we only ever look through the eyes of white explorers the land is new- new to them. If we don’t consider other perspectives then we may miss the big picture.” (Warren & Fassett, 2015. p.28)
This book is still written by white educated, reportedly middle class researchers. They claim their own perspective limited and incomplete. And their right. Academia begs us to bring in the expert perspective of populations historically excluded in the communication discourse-and countless other scientific disciplines.
So this is what Jacobs University has done. Brought in the brightest of multiple countries, cultures and academic traditions to create a dialogue that redefines, creates new meaning to what it means to be educated. The time is past to covet our separate wisdoms; we can forget about establishing cultural superiority, one over another.
So when I think of educated, I no longer think of a Caucasian male. When I consider racism, whites/blacks are certainly not the first or only issue that comes to mind.
The authors of my Communications textbook would be glad to hear that some of their standard examples already seem outdated, if not obsolete.
It is thanks to Jacobs I can say this. Backed by the 112+ nationalities on campus, and the culture we create. Thanks to Jacobs for hope; for the diversity of wisdom.
What kind of knowledge are we creating at Jacobs?
Interested in Communication?
Warren, J. T., & Fassett, D. L. (2014). Communication: A Critical/Cultural Introduction. SAGE Publications.