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857 - Cultural Education in an Accelerated World: Case Studies from Native North America

18.07.2012 | 17:30 - 19:30
19.07.2012 | 17:30 - 19:30

Convener 1: Kasprycki, Sylvia S. (none , Altenstadt, Germany / Deutschland)

North American indigenous communities face a variety of challenges in the early 21st century, which is marked by multidimensional acceleration of societal processes. It can be felt in terms of social dynamics, e.g., the distribution of wealth between as well as within tribes becoming increasingly uneven. But “acceleration” is also a media phenomenon: new media technologies seem to bring closer together rural and urban lifeworlds, while stark social contrasts between both persist. Accelerated spatial mobility leaves memberships widely dispersed, with only minorities remaining in their respective, mostly rural, “homelands.” Today’s Elders, contrary to those of 20 years ago, have usually gone through (boarding) schools themselves but are still expected to provide a distinctive cultural and educational resource. Given the diversity of collective experiences, how can today’s indigenous communities maintain and possibly expand their tribal autonomies – aside from legal and economic strategies – at the cultural level? Education stands at the center of this ongoing small-scale nationbuilding within nation states – understood here in a broad sense, encompassing all generations and all possible ways of sharing knowledge, skills, and value systems between the different collectives that constitute contemporary heterogeneous “tribes.”      

Educational debates within contemporary indigenous communities focus on both form and content . Should, in terms of form, a traditional model of teaching (slow-paced storytelling, implicit teachings of fluid contents, “first watch silently and listen”-approach) be adhered to – methods bound to be labeled inefficient by external standards? Or should rather stringently formulated curricula be applied (fast-paced activity-centered teaching of concretely defined contents and explicit morals, a “get involved and speak up”-approach), more in tune with Euro-American and/or urban organization of time and demands for efficiency, but at the expense of traditional expectations for behavior and attitudes?      

Further suggested topics include the following questions: 

– What is the role of contemporary art forms and their protagonists in community-wide education, especially when some outstanding contemporary artists feel alienated from their home to the degree that they state a sweeping “anti-intellectualism” among their own tribal elites?      

– How are indigenous mass media situated when it comes to fostering a sense of belonging between rural and urban members of a community, in contrast, e.g., to social platforms ?

– What are the concepts of personhood involved in tribal cultural education, in other words: what is the relation/tension between the goal of maintaining and expanding collective autonomy vis-à-vis the development of individual autonomy among tribal members?  

– What is the position of indigenous ways of knowing , given that modern tribal archives/museums are of growing importance alongside contemporary Elders as a cultural resource?  

– What is the role of Pan-Indianism – which has proven to be a viable resource of indigenous

Keywords: Native North America, cultural education

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