Stereotypes in the East-West context

The question we asked ourselves in our group for one assignment during the training was: How can we address and challenge stereotypes, especially in the East-West context?

 

Method

We used a theatre method called ‘image sculpting work’ in order to explore this issue.

In order to see a larger version of the photos, click on them.

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– Two Lithuanian women sculpted the concept of a Lithuanian man, using a Dutch man as their subject.

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– A Dutch man sculpted the concept of a Lithuanian woman using a Taiwanese woman residing in Germany as his subject.

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– Then two Lithuanian women changed the sculpted image according to their concept of a Lithuanian woman.

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– A group of two women and one man with mixed backgrounds sculpted a Lithuanian woman into the concept of a Lithuanian woman.

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– We then compared the two concepts of a Lithuanian woman.

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– A group of three women with different backgrounds sculpted a Dutch man into their concept of a Dutch man.

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– Two women with different backgrounds sculpted a Lithuanian woman into the concept of a Dutch woman.

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– Then a Dutch man changed the sculpted image according to his concept.

 

Reflection

After the sculptors agreed on the final sculpted image, we asked the person being sculpted how they feel in this position. The sculpted person reflected on how they felt in the sculpted position in relation to their own identity. For the sculpted persons, embodying other people’s concepts of Dutch or Lithuanian man/woman brought the constructedness and often awkwardness of the stereotypes to light. The sculptor reflected on their own bias and assumptions in relation to the sculpted image. In this exercise, the hidden tensions between different aspects of identity (e.g. gender, race, nationality, East-West) are made visible through honest reflection and open discussion. We also considered that it is important to have a facilitated discussion in order to challenge the danger of confirming the stereotypes.

 

All images are owned by the people depicted, and may not be reproduced or republished without their explicit permission.

 

testimonial on understanding a method

method-azamatPrecisely about testimonial. According to Cambridge dictionary, testimonial is a statement about the character or qualities of someone or something.

Main reason of conducting this testimonial is to evaluate to what extend the training participants can understand and define a notion of “method”.
Since all participants have an academic background and experience in various fields and going to implement acquired knowledge in the future within their community, it is crucial to have a clear understanding about a method.
This survey will help also to assess the quality of the training in the scope of usefulness and appropriateness of the workshops in explaining the notion of “method” and its implementation.

Testimonial has been done by survey. All participants have received a paper with one open question “what is a method?”

The results of this survey will give practical information about the knowledge of participants and can be used as a source in reports by host organisations.

The results of the survey show that 99 percent of participants have splendid understanding of method and could describe it in academic level.
In particular out of 17 surveyed:
11 participants of the training described method as a “way”;
2 participants think thats method is a “tool”;
3 participants wrote different definitions “process”, “activities”, “sometimes an ad hoc justification”
1 responded to the question in a sarcastic way.

Conclusion
During the survey and observations the following were explored:
Firstly, testimonial is a useful approach to analyze the quality of the subject/object being studied and it can be used in a formal and informal education to evaluate the outcomes of particular event, process or other relevant issues.
Secondly, the majority of participants of the training are capable to describe the idea of “method”. As long as they comprehend the meaning of “method”, it is believed that participants are able to implement methods in their academic and professional environment.
Thirdly, the training program has been established in a proper and continent way that could enhance the knowledge, hone skills and foster personal development of the future trainers.

Frozen image ‘manual’: embodied work on discrimination

The exercize

The participants are asked to take certain roles. If the topic is discrimination, this could for example be:

  • the discriminated person
  • the discriminating person
  • someone related to the discriminated person
  • someone related to the discriminating person
  • a bystander, not related to any one of them.

At least two participants need to be ‘external observers’.

Frozen image: expression by body position, without dialogue or movement.

Step one: the tension situation

The roleplaying participants are asked to construct a frozen image that would depict a situation of discrimination. When the frozen image is constructed, the external observers are invited to describe what they see. Then one by one, the roleplaying participants are invited to finish two phrases:

– ‘How I feel right now is…’

– ‘What I need most right now is…’

Step two: tension resolved

The roleplaying participants are now asked to construct a frozen image that would depict the same situation, but now with the conflict/tension/discrimination resolved. Again, the observers are asked to describe their observations and the differences with the first situation. All roleplaying participants are invited to finish the phrase ‘How I feel now is…’.

Step three: analysis of the situation

Participants are asked to reflect on what they felt, what their thoughts were, what underlaying dynamics might have been in this situation and how this all relates to discrimination and the resolution of discrimination.

 

Variations and additions

An additional question for the observers during the frozen image might be:

– How about power dynamics? Who do you think is dominating and why?

During our try-out, the person who was embodying the discriminated person noticed that (as a white male) it was difficult for him to ‘get into the role’ of a person that experiences discrimination. We then asked someone who is actually repeatedly confronted with discrimination (a non-white female) to ‘sculpt’ the person in a body position that would reflect her experience and then asked the sculpted person to finish the phrase ‘How I feel right now is…’

To experience empowering, we then asked the white male person to sculpt the non-white female person into a body position that would reflect his experience and asked her to finish the phrase ‘How I feel right now is…’

 

Benefits of this method

Some of the benefits of this particular method mentioned by the participants were:

  • less focus on talking – more feeling and acting
  • offers the opportunity of developing empathy; and the opportunity to actually change a situation (at least within the play)
  • shows the importance of body language

 

Risks of this method

Embodied work can be a very powerful method, so it also needs awareness of the risks and some precautions. Taking the time to build a safe container for this exercize is crucial.

  • Body expression has a direct impact on our emotions and has the ability to call for strong emotions. If as a facilitator you would like to use a real-life experience as a situation, check with the participants if they feel okay with this, otherwise use an imaginary situation.
  • People who need a ‘safe distance’ from the possible emotional impact of the exercize might feel more comfortable in the role of external observer.
  • For some people, theater methods or embodied work might feel awkward. It helps if you start the session with a small energizer or exercize that involves body awareness and that loosens up body expression.
  • Both the frozen images, the phrases as the anaysis will varie from group to group, as this exercize relates to personal views and experiences. Facilitators need to be flexible and sensitive to the needs of the group.
  • Throughout the experience of (strong) emotions, this is also inner work that requires safety. A facilitator should be sensitive to the right timing, for example by planning this exercize at a moment that the participants know each other better than at the beginning of the training/workshop, or for example by only using topics/situations that might involve strong emotions if there is enough time for analysis and recovery after the frozen images.
  • If the method of sculpting is used, check that participants are okay with touching and being touched. If participants feel uncomfortable with that, the sculptor can also give verbal instructions

Thoughts of participants about this method

  • you need a very sensitive way to instruct this method, especially when you’re dealing with a real experience of a participant – but it can be really powerful and can lead to deeper reflections