The guest lecture that stood out to me most was Dr. Soren Larsen’s on “the power of places.” I really liked learning about the Cheslatta and the history of indigenous groups outside of America. I’m so used to hearing the term “Native American,” but it was interesting to learn about what was happening in British Columbia, Canada.
And sad too. Their story of displacement was reminiscent of the Trial of Tears indigenous groups in the U.S. faced in the 1800s. The forced migration is relatable for many refugees today as well, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose your home. Which was kind of Larsen’s point. A lot of this stuff is very hard for us to wrap our heads around, like animalism — the belief that everything (including objects like water) has a spirit and can have communications with spirits. And that makes it difficult for people in power to understand why relocating these people is not just an act of eminent domain, but tears a community a way from their Spirits and prevents them from being able to perform the customs and ceremonies essential to honor their beliefs.
The Cheslatta were eventually granted $7.3 million in a court case. While the relocation and mistreatment from the Alcan company never should have occurred, the Cheslatta are rebuilding. Their inherent connection to the cemeteries of their ancestors brought them back and helped them grieve and begin the process of forging a small but powerful community again! Larsen, who did not grow up with the Cheslatta, said he became “all tangled up” once he arrived in British Columbia and started to learn firsthand about their experience. I thought that was really inspiring too, and another reason why I think his lecture stood out to me.
While I was researching Turkey, I realized I really didn’t know anything about Turkey, or most of that region. I think as I was researching — just trying to pull some understanding out of a long, complex nation’s history and current problems — this was probably the most substantial insight that I had: My almost complete lack of any other background research or knowledge to go off of.
I think a lot of people in the West don’t take the time to learn about the geography and history of nations in MENA, or anywhere, for the most part. While Americanization and Westernization remain dominant forces of influences across the globe, we as a developed “superior” nation rarely reach out to learn about other nations’ cultures. And that can make us ignorant, which can cause severe problems of cultural misunderstandings or misconceptions about what is good and bad, right or wrong, oppressive or free — like the misconceptions that sparked the headscarf controversy in “Politics of the Veil.”
My biggest takeaway from this blog was not what I learned about Turkey’s history coming out of the Ottoman Empire or its role in the Syrian refugee crisis or the suspected insincerity in President Erdogan’s motives, but just the simple fact that there was so much for me to learn. This blog has helped me understand so much I didn’t know about Turkey already, and I barely grazed the surface. I think there’s a lot more I can learn, and I hope a lot of others try to learn this stuff too.