Learning to Unlearn

On February 1st, the Masters of Anthropology program organized a brief intro session for all of the students in the program. I expected to be a brief meet and greet and introduction of the logistics for the program and for the university. Much to my delight, it was really stimulating and inspiring! Our day started with a keynote address by one of the Anthropology professors in the department. She spoke about different perspective and different ways of conducting ethnographic research. She also showed us images of classic optical illusions, like the black vase/white faces or the old woman/young woman,and demonstrated how people can look at the same image and still see two different things. Anthropology is similar in the sense that your position – your collective experiences – can change the way you perceive a culture vs. your colleague who may perceive the same culture in a different way.  Her presentation was incredible. Truly a great start to the year.


Our class is composed of 17 students in total: 15 girls and 2 boys. Thankfully, I am not the only international students. We have students from England, Hong Kong, Italy, Russia, Germany, the United States, and of course the Netherlands. The format and workload resemble my Ethnographic Writing class at uOttawa. I wasn’t happy about the workload of the 3rd year class at the time, but I can see now that that professor was preparing us for higher education. For each class, we have to read articles and write a position paper reflecting on the articles and their connection. Some of the topics we discuss in class include race, nature vs. culture, positionality, living vs. dwelling, and nostalgia. I’m really enjoying my classes. This is exactly the kind of constructive learning and discussions that I was looking for.

As we take this course, we also have to reflect on our future research projects. As some of you may know, I want to study anti-refugee sentiment/movements in Western societies. Although the core premise hasn’t changed, I’m reconsidering some details as I unlearn what I thought I knew and learn new things. In particular, I think I want to focus on national identities in Western States and how some cultures feel threatened by increasing refugee migration. In other words, how does the national identity construction influence the way that said culture interacts with another ethnic group? Do national identities justify cultural misrepresentations? Does it justify the mistreatment or segregation of refugees? Bleh. Still too many ideas rattling around in my head. I’m really looking forward to being matched with a thesis advisor and having a frank discussion about what is achievable and what is not for three months of fieldwork. Fingers crossed that that will be in the next week!

All in all, I feel like I belong with my peers in this program. I’m looking forward to my course on ethnographic fieldwork and methodologies. Although I’m not even close to ready for the field, I also feel like I’m learning a skill that will be useful for my future career.

Sorry, not very many photos this time. The ones below are a photo of the main lobby at Roeterseiland Campus (which looks like a museum of modern art to me), and a photo of the South East side of the campus on an unusually sunny day.  There will be lots though when I write about Dutch culture and Dutch life!


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