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Culture, Identity, & Religion

Cultural topics such as "Who you Are?" and Religion.

Flag of the Week - Greece

Greece  is a country in Southeast Europe. According to the 2011 census, Greece's population is around 11 million with Athens as the nation's capital and largest city. Greece is strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the northeast. The country consists of nine geographic regions and the Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the 11th longest coastline in the world, featuring a vast number of islands (approximately 1,400, of which 227 are inhabited). Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains, of which Mount Olympus is the highest, at 2,917 m.

Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of Ancient Greece, considered the cradle of Western civilization. As such it is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy. This legacy is partly reflected in the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Greece, ranking it 7th in Europe and 13th in the world. The modern Greek state, which encompasses much of the historical core of Greek civilization, was established in 1830, following the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Greece is a democratic, developed country with an advanced, high-income economy, a high standard of living and a very high Human Development Index. Greece is a founding member of the United Nations, has been a member of what is now the European Union since 1981 (and the eurozone since 2001), and has been a member of NATO since 1952. Greece's economy is also the largest in the Balkans, where Greece is an important regional investor.

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Flag of the Week - South Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It has 1,739 mi of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans.

South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world.[11] Two of these languages are of European origin: English and Afrikaans, the latter originating from Dutch and serving as the first language of most white and coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fourth most-spoken first language.

About 80 percent of South Africans are of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (white), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (coloured) ancestry. All ethnic and linguistic groups have political representation in the country's constitutional democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the "Rainbow Nation," as a metaphor to describe the country's newly developing multicultural diversity in the wake of segregationist apartheid ideology.

South Africa is considered to be a newly industrialised country. Its economy is the second largest in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world.. South Africa has been identified as a middle power in international affairs, and maintains significant regional influence.

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Our Voice: An Interview with Nandhini Narayanan

Our Voice is a monthly series that highlights students and alumni by Rinzin Dorjee, a student programming assistant at the CSGD. The goal of Our Voice is to create a space for conversations related to LGBTQ issues and the Duke experience from the perspective of students and alumni from different social, cultural and political backgrounds.  For October’s installment, Rinzin interviews Nandhini Narayanan from Chennai, India pursing a Masters in Engineering Management.

 

Rinzin: Hi, I am really happy that you agreed to have this conversation with me. I know we have met before but for our readers, could you introduce briefly, where you are from, where you grown up, etc.?

Nandhini: Sure! My name is Nandhini. I am from Chennai, India. I grew up in a lot of cities in India and I speak about four different Indian dialects. I love India because of its unique culture and food! I enjoy reading and usually read a book ever week. Being here at Duke is extremely hectic but I am not going to give up reading.

 

Rinzin: What kind of books do you read? Is there one you’d particularly recommend to our readers?

Nandhini: I like reading science fiction. I think I’d like to recommend “The Fountain Head”. It proved a wonderful read. Everyone should read it.

 

Rinzin: So, I understand that you are a graduate student here at Duke. What is your stroke? What do you enjoy during your free time? (I doubt anyone here at Duke has it!)

Nandhini: I enjoy meeting new people and Duke is a great place for that. I am into my first semester here at Duke now and so far, it has been great. I will be studying engineering management for the next 18 months of my stay.

 

Rinzin: What was your first impression of Duke?

Nandhini: Gorgeous campus, friendly people who would hold door for you and say hi despite being complete strangers.

 

Rinzin: How is being here at Duke different from your previous institution in India, especially as relates to the LGBT community? Have you any experience with LGBT individuals at your previous school?

Nandhini: Yes, there is a huge difference. I worked with HIV positive men while I was in India for some time and I realized that there isn’t really an open discussion or a discussion of any sort that would bring attention to these kinds of issues. And these things really need to be talked about in an open discussion! I think people back home still associate the term “Gay” with being happy and the like. We are still in that state, probably at least 50- 60 years behind in terms of our knowledge regarding LGBT issues. People are still not aware of what it means to be an LGBT individual or if such an individual exist in the society at large or in their family. Kissing someone you love is still seen as an aberration. I honestly think that we are 60 years behind. It is quite sad in that sense.

 

Rinzin: I was born in India and I have lived there before leaving for the UK. I had the impression that a lot of adolescents are developing an interest in LGBT issues, if not the wider Indian society. What is your opinion on this?

Nandhini: Yes, this is true. A lot of youngsters are learning about these issues directly from US TV series such as Glee, which for one is quite US centric but it deals with LGBT issues to some extent and because it is such a popular show in India, it has its perks. There are several LGBT related organizations in India such as LGBT India that support groups in elevating the level of education regarding LGBT issues, exposure, awareness and what it means to be an LGBT individual.

 

Rinzin: So, now that you brought up this important point. What does it mean to be an LGBT person in your opinion?

Nandhini: I personally think being an LGBT person means being absolutely no different from a straight person.  For the individual, it would mean coming to terms with his or her or their own skin, that this is who he or she is or they are. In the US, you have actual space to do this and people living here are fortunate in that way. Like I said earlier, being an LGBT person means nothing different from being a straight person. You do not wake up in the morning and become a straight person, an LGBT person, a dinosaur. You are who you are and everyone should respect you for your being.

 

Rinzin: Why do you support LGBT rights? Why do you think it is important?

Nandhini: Because it is human to stand up for it. A hundred years ago, people discriminated against people because of their skin color and look where we are now. We have so much to learn from each other if we overcome our differences.  There is no reason whatsoever why someone should isolate or discriminate against someone who is different, who has a different sexual orientation. I think I am just being human when I say I support sexual and gender diversity. I need to and have to associate with someone who is different, who has a story to tell. This is one of the reasons I left India so that I’d be exposed to more cultural openness and understanding. I am a biologist. I tell you one thing – homosexuality exists in nearly all mammals but homophobia exists only in humans.  What does this say about us? Come on, we can be so much better! Like I mentioned earlier, shows like Glee has played a big role. Its popularity among the youngsters has sparked a lot of awareness and discourse, have led to many political statements. I mean in India, even heterosexual relationships are under scrutiny, let alone homosexual relationships.  Important issues related to the spread of AIDS and different types of STIs are not very much talked about. It’s considered taboo. What is education and awareness in this country is seen as taboo there. How can I emphasize this enough? In India, people get disowned because some parents do not approve of their partners and these are heterosexual relationships. My cousin married someone of a different religion and she was disowned instantly. So, you get what I mean when I say we are about 60 years behind. On the bright side, many Bollywood movies such as Dostana brought discussion related to LGBT issues to the dining table. My friend who took his family to see this movie was able to discuss homosexuality with his parents after watching it. Dostana had a huge reception at the LGBT community in India.

 

Rinzin: It is always very interesting to hear what someone from a different cultural background has got to say about being an LGBT individual in a different cultural context. It is insightful in that it gives a picture, very different from the US centric one that we are aware of. To wrap up, could I ask what is one of your favorite quotes?

Nandhini: There are quite a few. Do you know this one – “it is not the mountain ahead that wear you out, it is the pebble in your shoes”. Again, this relates back to how it is crucial for people to change their mindset and try to look at the world differently. Respect everyone for who they are irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation and learn from their personal experience. We have so much to learn from each other.

 

Rinzin: Lastly, what is the one most played song on your Iphone?

Nandhini: Adam Lambert! His voice is made in God’s design studio. I love what he stands for – being bold and different. When he competed in American Idol, his style was deemed too theatrical and despite being predicted by judges that he will not stand a chance, he kept forging ahead and pulled it off in the end. His voice is so powerful. It gives me chills.

 

Rinzin: And, your most embarrassing moment so far at Duke?

Nandhini: Ordering food anywhere on campus!

 

If you would like to be featured in an issue of Our Voice please contact the CSGD at csgd@studentaffairs.duke.edu with the subject title : "Our Voice"

 

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Not Insignificant

We had just wrapped up at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, drained from taking in all the incredible history exhibited in the museum’s three buildings. The consensus was to take the tram to a spot for lunch, then hop on it again to find a baklava shop we’d heard is amazing. The tram is one of several fantastic methods of public transportation used by what feels like everyone (at the same time) in the city of Istanbul. A seat on the bus, metro, or tram is a highly coveted spot that is not easily attained. In fact, sometimes just getting on any of these vehicles is a nearly impossible feat because they are so crowded. “Maximum Capacity” doesn’t seem to be a concept as firmly held here as it is in the U.S. As we approached the tram, desperately seeking nourishment after an exhausting outing of museum-going, we discovered hoards of other people on the platform who we would soon have to fight for a spot. The tram arrived and its doors opened, the poor passengers inside desperately trying to escape before being trampled by the masses boarding. Amidst this commotion, while trying to edge my way in without elbowing an elderly woman in the face, I felt a hand squeezing my butt. Suffering some sensory overload from the experience of getting on the tram, it took me a few seconds to realize this was happening, and to notice that the hand had not let go. When I did finally realize, I whipped around—no easy task when one has no more than a half-inch radius of personal space around her—and attempted to identify to whom the brazen hand belonged. My friend had witnessed this all go down, and pointed to a short, middle-aged man in a blue dress shirt and grey slacks who was holding a briefcase. He had turned to face the door, but looked over his shoulder a few times at me as I glared at him and shared some choice words I wish I knew how to say in Turkish. Our stop came soon after my futile attempt to give him a piece of my mind, and he was quickly lost in the crowd of passengers exiting.

The incident, his subsequent looks of complete indifference at me as I uselessly berated him, and the absence of a reaction from any of the passengers nearby who’d also watched it all happen brought me to the disturbing realization that what I had just experienced was, in a word, insignificant. I felt violated and uncomfortable in my own skin. The members of our group did their best to console me, through belatedly cursing the perpetrator or sharing their own stories of being publicly groped by strangers. I was overwhelmed with fury, but social etiquette urged me to stifle my anger and attempt to distract myself until I could be alone and reflect.

I never thought I would feel more like a compilation of body parts, assembled solely for the purpose of being assessed, criticized, and used by men, than at a Duke fraternity party—until I came to Turkey. I was warned, of course. Both of my parents effectively told me to put my feminist identity on hold during my time in Turkey, reminding me constantly that my views would not be received well in a country whose deputy prime minister told women they shouldn’t laugh out loud in public. They and many others warned me that life would be different as an American woman in Turkey—especially one who does not look Turkish in the slightest—and I would be expected to adapt. I’m okay with adapting. I want to be challenged. I enjoy exploring beyond my comfort zone. Being transformed against my will into a walking piece of meat for men to invade with their stares and debase with their words, among other things, does not fall into any of those categories. Nor does being expected to accept it as normal.

Throughout my first month and a half here, I have already met several incredibly intelligent, outspoken, headstrong Turkish women whose respective brilliances inspire me. Simultaneously, I have seen how the day-to-day culture of male entitlement, especially as expressed through street harassment, treats these women and all women as disposable objects. My experience on the tram was insignificant—to be expected, even. Because, from my western point of view, if you identify as a woman in Turkey, you automatically forfeit the basic human right of being treated as an equal to someone who identifies as a man.

The realization that the previous sentence requires no “in Turkey” to be true is an incredibly uncomfortable truth to accept. The idea of women as objects—to be owned, to be used, to be disposed of, to be replaced—is certainly not unique to this country. As I mentioned, the most objectified I’ve ever felt prior to coming to Turkey is when in attendance at a frat party at Duke. I have realized how easy it is to sit on the high horse of a westernized perspective and criticize other countries for the inequalities they are enforcing and perpetuating. It is far more unsettling to recognize the fact that, though it may manifest itself in different ways, gender inequality is as much a constant in our society as it is anywhere else. Being violated by a stranger on the tram was a blatant reminder that I am living in a man’s world, a world in which my womanhood renders my rights, my experiences, and my value insignificant.

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Top 50 Colleges with Active Jewish Communities - Best Colleges

For many incoming Jewish freshmen, the presence of a Jewish student body is crucial. Learn more about the top schools with active Jewish communities.  Read more.

 

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HOW TO MAKE AMERICAN-STYLE SMALL TALK - IHouse CLG workshop

“I like your boy’s haircut”, said the Duke bus driver to me, and thus began a very delightful conversation about school, teens, peer pressure and before I knew it my stop had come. I am sure all of us have been in similar situations, but we may become tongue-tied because we are shy. At this week’s CLG Workshop, the host Paige Vinson of IHouse helped us to become “conversant” with how to recognize attempts at small talk, start a conversation, maintain and end it politely.

Paige broke the ice by introducing herself and then gave the participants a chance to practice among themselves. Like many people, I used to think that small talk is just that – talking. Now I know that it could be the start of some meaningful conversations and wonderful friendships. Even people who enjoy talking, may be at a loss for words when they want to start a conversation with someone. Through the presentation, we learned some interesting opening lines. Some of my favorites are:

  • Hello/Hi/Hey, I’m Paige – Nobody can go wrong with this.
  • Nice weather, isn’t it? – This one is evergreen.
  • I really like your scarf/necklace – Makes me feel good about my choice.
  • I haven’t seen you for ages – Wow! She still remembers me.

Once you have picked up courage and started a conversation, how to keep it going beyond the initial exchange?

  • Find a meaningful topic
  • Give extra information
  • Pay close attention to what is said and how it is said
  • Use active listening, Trial and Error

Before you start making small talk, prepare yourself by identifying some “hot” topics like books, movies, restaurants, hobbies and travel. And, some topics to be avoided are: Personal, health, money or family problems, death, crimes, moral values, or any social, economic, political issues.

While it is important to make a good beginning, it is equally important to end the conversation on a positive note. During the course of the workshop Paige explained the difference between Ritual Interactions and Literal Invitations. In her inimitable way, she also gave us some useful tips and tricks on what to do when you don’t remember somebody’s name or if someone doesn’t respond to your attempts at making small talk. By the end of the workshop, I saw the participants eagerly practicing their conversation skills with each other and ending it on the right note too, with invitations to meet again.

Good-bye, or shall I say “Let’s keep in touch”.
 

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Flag of the Week - Jamaica

Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, comprising the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles. The island lies south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola, the island containing the nation-states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Jamaica is the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean.

Once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, in 1655 it came under the rule of England (later Great Britain), and was called Jamaica. It achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962. With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. Kingston is the country's largest city and its capital. Jamaica has a large diaspora around the world, due to emigration from the country.
Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, currently Patrick Allen. The head of government and Prime Minister of Jamaica is Portia Simpson-Miller. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.

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American Culture 101 : Music, Party Culture, and Food -CLG workshop at IHouse

During my last trip back home, my niece started asking me questions about life in America, especially about college life. I knew Dukies worked hard and partied hard, but beyond that I was clueless. The CLG Workshop on American Culture, hosted by SangHee Jeong, IHouse and presented by Duke students, Joanna Blaszczak and Ellen Gambrell gave us a brief peek into American Music, Party Culture, Food and more.

American Music
Joanna started the presentation with the National Anthem – not singing it, but talking about it. Then we were introduced to the various genres of American classics like
Folk –    Bluegrass, Appalachian, Indie folk
Blues – Originated in the Deep South
Jazz – New Orleans, Jazz Capital of the world. You can listen to Jazz at Duke’s Mary Lou
Williams Center @ 9:30 pm on Wednesdays.
Country – Originated from American folk and Western music


Through the decades, the classics evolved into new styles of music like Rock N Roll, Pop, Classic Rock, Rap, Hip hop, Disco and Soul, made popular by stars like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Rhianna... We had great fun listening to short pieces of music and trying to discern the difference in rhythm and tempo of each genre.

(No Reason Not to) Party in the USA
Ellen’s presentation gave us a very clear picture of how and why Americans party. She enriched my vocabulary by explaining the meaning of terms like House Party, Dinner Party, Tailgating, Binge Drinking, Starting a Tab… We also learned about Do’s and Don’ts of partying and how to party safely. I liked the way she used photographs to make her point. She shared with us the importance of tipping, since waitstaff may not be paid minimum wages. The rules of tipping are: 10% if service is bad; 15% if okay; 20% if good; 25% if outstanding.


American Food Culture
The presentation covered different categories of American food, Ethnic & Regional blends and Soul food.

Wait, it is not over yet. After the presentations were done, the presenters faced a barrage of questions about peer pressure, frisbee (!), music, radio stations, music sites, balancing work and partying, Southern hospitality, attending church and just about everything the participants could think of. I was amazed by how readily they fielded all the questions. It was a refreshing evening, I went home feeling younger.

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Duke’s LGBTQ History

Dear Duke parents and families,

Periodically, I like to acknowledge various parts of our diverse community. Today, in advance of some key upcoming commemorations, I want to share some thoughts about our LGBTQ community.

I’m proud to acknowledge an environment where all students, gay and straight, are equal members of our broader Duke family and where we celebrate differences and support persistent struggles which, unfortunately, yet exist. I invite you to check out the website for the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity for an array of current facts that showcase our achievements and pride.

Unfortunately, Duke’s history has not always celebrated the presence of LGBTQ students and President Brodhead noted so in his remarks at the opening of our new Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, when he said:

“As an institution within a larger culture, it's not surprising that the Duke of older times was saturated with homophobia. Last year, students in Blue Devils United brought forward evidence of official intolerance and active repression of homosexuality at Duke from the 1960s. They also shared personal testaments from graduates of that time. These Dukies testified that they could not be the people they knew themselves to be while they were students, could not have the love lives and personal lives they wished, were pathologized -- and even when the situation improved slightly, the pressures of swimming against the stream were dispiriting and exhausting.

I've read these histories, and I'm sure we'll uncover many more in the future.  As president of this university, I would like to say today that this university regrets every phase of that history.  There is nothing in that past that I will not now confidently and totally repudiate. I regret every act that ever limited the human life of anyone who came here.”

Duke’s LGBTQ history is an important reminder of where we’ve come from and of the work that still remains both at Duke and beyond.  To that end, this fall, several events will highlight the past and the future and I hope you and your Duke students will participate when you can. Check out our new website, Queering Duke History (http://queerhistory.duke.edu/) for details.
Thanks again for all your support for your sons and daughters and for all Duke students. The beautiful mosaic represented by the amazing diversity of our special Duke community heralds a wonderful future ahead.

Warmly,
Larry Moneta, EdD
Vice President for Student Affairs​

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