Leavitt ALG Project Proposal
January 4, 2022
Junior standing, third year
Enrolled fall 2019
6th quarter at Fairhaven
Concentration: Narrative Ecologies
Adventure Learning Grant Application
Ecosystems of Edges: A Journalistic Examination of Cultural Edges in Turkey and Morocco
Abstract: Edges are the most interesting part of any ecosystem. The edge is where growth happens, where conflict often begins, where different systems exchange to form something new and distinct. Cultural edges are places where these patterns occur between societies. For this project I will travel to Turkey and Morocco, countries with rich histories of cultural exchange, to find locals who model inclusive values. I will interview them, collect their stories, and compare their narratives to find common principles that characterize their inclusive worldviews. I will share these principles with the Fairhaven Community by keeping an active blog, assembling a booklet and presentation, and publishing my writing in the WWU newspaper.
“Cultural Exchange was a fundamental part of the development of societies. Through this form of exchange, societies were able to acquire knowledge from one and other, and upon doing so enrich their own cultures.”1
Cultural exchange can bring out the best or the worst of human nature, inspiring innovation and a greater appreciation for the human experience and how it differs across the world or inspiring discrimination and sectarian or ethnic violence. I believe that people’s responses to cultural exchange are shaped by underlying personal narratives. The purpose of Ecosystems of Edges is to gain and share a deeper understanding of underlying narratives that foster inclusion and care when encountering the other. The other two objectives of this project are to improve journalism skills related to my concentration and to share my experience with the Fairhaven community in a way that inspires people to reflect on and possibly broaden their own personal narratives.
1 "Effects of Cross-Cultural Exchange." ukessays.com. 11 2018. UKEssays. 12 2021 <https://www.ukessays.com/essays/cultural-studies/effects-of-crosscultural-exchange.php?vref=1>.
Through interviews with subjects in Turkey and Morocco, I will seek to discover common themes and principles across subjects that inspire an inclusive worldview. I am motivated to pursue this because of my own desire to be a contributing member of a global community and because I believe this inclusive outlook is critical to creating a more just and tolerant world.
Istanbul is the perfect place for this project given its history as a meeting point between the religions, cultures, and people of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. “Sometimes as a bridge, sometimes as a barrier, Istanbul for more than 2500 years has stood between conflicting surges of religion, culture, and imperial power.”2 While Turkey is where Eastern Europe meets the Middle East and Asia, Morocco is where Western Europe meets Africa and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a place where cultures have traded, interacted, and fought for thousands of years. “The area that is now Morocco has long been a crossroads between Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, and diverse cultural and ethnic groups have migrated through the region and left their mark on it.”3 Turkey and Morocco are similar enough for meaningful comparisons to be made but different enough to highlight unique aspects of cultural edges.
I am choosing to focus on individual narratives as I believe they are the most compelling. Because empathy, which is a deeply personal process of reflection, is what brings an individual to the perspective of inclusivity and care. By learning about how different people arrive at this
2 Encyclopedia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Istanbul. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Istanbul.
3 Laroui, Abdallah , Barbour, Nevill , Swearingen, Will D. , Miller, Susan Gilson and Brown, L. Carl. "Morocco". Encyclopedia Britannica, 17 Sep. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/place/Morocco. Accessed 4 January 2022.
place, I hope to gain insights about the path to empathy and how it could begin for anyone. In order to collect these individual stories, I will develop a set of questions in an Independent Study with Stan Tag in spring of 2022. The ISP will focus on writing and interview techniques, developing interview questions, continuing to research and plan the trip, and establishing relationships with organizations and individuals in the two countries. This will prepare me to find at least 5 people in each whom I can interview in depth.
While travelling I will maintain a blog, keep a daily journal, take photos, do research, and record interviews. My prior experience documenting and sharing life experience includes an 80-page journal of writings and photographs reflecting on 9 months of travel in Asia (for my “Writing in Place” class) and a 120-page journal of writing, photos, illustrations, and collages about personal experiences with loss (for my “Words” class). These projects have prepared me to find creative and meaningful ways to document and share my experience. After returning, I will use content from the blog to assemble a booklet that can be distributed throughout Fairhaven. I envision presenting this project to classes that deal with journalism, narrative, social work, community relations, and cultural boundaries. I will also reach out to the Western newspaper to get excerpts published that can reach the broader Western community.
This project will provide experience and insight that I expect will guide me throughout the rest of my life. Through it I will improve my skills in writing, journalism, research, and communication. Perhaps more importantly, I will develop an intimate personal understanding of the narratives and principles that cultivate inclusiveness and care in the face of cultural exchange. I will be better equipped to cultivate these values, to maintain them in challenging circumstances, and to share them with others, not only through this project but in my personal
and professional future. Understanding how inclusivity thrives in cultural edges with significant tensions will offer great value to me, the Fairhaven community, and anyone else who learns about it.