Motionless Displacement

An article from the Daily Mail says that ethnic minorities will make up 1/3 of UK by 2050 and will have a much stronger association with being British than the white population.

An article from the Daily Mail says that ethnic minorities will make up 1/3 of UK by 2050 and will have a much stronger association with being British than the white population.

Our generation is unique in that in our lifetime, we have seen the world become globalized and interconnected beyond the imagination of those before us. You can now take a flight from Los Angeles to Iceland for $99, FaceTime your cousin halfway around the world, and see immigrants and refugees mixing up the ethnic and social boundaries of previously discrete countries in real time. When I went to public middle school 6 years ago, the school was 20% Asian. Now, my younger brother goes to the same middle school and it’s 50% Asian, a result of a large influx of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean immigrants to San Diego.

As a young person, I’m okay with change; it has defined my generation’s existence. But for those who are experiencing a persistent transformation of what has delineated their physical space for their entire lifetimes, I’d imagine it could be uncomfortable. After all, it is not the physical land or the geographical coordinates of a place that make one feel connected to it. Rather, it is the people, the feel, the culture, and the reliability of all those factors. If those things are drastically changing with the advent of a globalizing world, even those who remain cemented to a physical space can experience displacement.

As the article points out, the discipline of anthropology was constructed around the idea of people being connected to a physical space, a homeland. But as the idea of one culture to one space becomes obsolete, anthropology may have to redefine their tactics.

Empathy: Social or Personal?

The New York Times article “The Boy on the Beach” asks us to analyze our feelings of empathy vs pity in reaction to a few tragic photographs and finds that the fewest degrees of removal we have to the person suffering in the photograph, the more pain we feel. However, this article is written for a Western audience, where readers can empathize much more with a relatively-well-dressed, pale-skinned Turkish boy than an emaciated African child or naked Vietnamese girl. I wonder if the empathy would reverse if the audience were African or Vietnamese, where the readers are “insiders” with an African or Vietnamese group, and “outsiders” with a pale Western population. Further, I wonder if “indigenous-outsiders”, as described in the journal article, who have been culturally-assimilated into a Western culture but retain a connection to another culture (i.e. an African-American whose grandparents are from Africa), feel relatively more empathy for the child who connects more to their society or for the child who looks like them, begging the question: Is empathy a personal or social phenomenon? The picture below is an abstract depiction of one culture colliding with another, a Japanese woman holding a Starbucks cup. Especially in our globalizing world, it would be interesting to analyze the varying allegiances people have to different cultures and how that affects their feelings of empathy.

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