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Through Another's Eyes: Exploring the Cross Cultural Experience

Margo Chavez-Charles,

How do we step out of ourselves to be able to see the world through another’s eyes? What does it mean to understand another cultural perspective? How do we negociate these times of increased cultural conflict? Literature has the power to grant us that view of other worlds, exterior and interior, by giving us stories of human experiences. Story, told through literature and through film, will be our vehicle for investigating the interactions that arise when people of different backgrounds and values come into contact. This seminar will present basic concepts of intercultural communication, elaborating the theory through the examples in the stories. We will cover such topics as: identity, values, nonverbal communication and language, racism and prejudice, ethnocentrism, power and conflict, and ethics. We will explore how culture shapes a person. Some questions we will address are: What is our own cultural identity? From where do racism and prejudice emerge? How can differing cultural views regarding time, space, silence and speech generate misunderstanding? How do we manage intercultural conflict? In addition to discussing the literature, we will engage in experiential activities, view films and invite guest speakers.

As with all University Honors classes, an important objective is to develop our skills within the seminar format: the skills of engaged discussion, attentive reading and listening, and clarity in written and oral expression. Other objectives include: anunderstanding of basic concepts of intercultural communication; enhanced intercultural communication skills; understanding and appreciation of the multicultural history of the United States; and increased self-awareness of the influence of culture on one’s own values, beliefs, and behaviors.


Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life, Luís Alberto Urrea

Passage to India, E.M. Forster

Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi

Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton

Always from Somewhere Else, Marjorie Agosín

Iron and Silk, Mark Salzman

A Reader purchased from Honors that includes articles and essays.


Excerpts from a number of films, including: White Man's Burden, Passage to India, Conspiracy, Cry the Beloved Country, among others, and relevant segments from You Tube


Regular attendance; active listening and participation in discussion; weekly responses or observations; group activities; one 5-page paper; one final paper of 8-10 pages; portfolio with reflective essay


Margo Chavez-Charles uses history and literature in her interdisciplinary classes at the Honors College to create classes revolving around issues of peace and war, social justice, and intercultural communication. She regularly works with the Honors College intensive Spanish language and culture program (Conexiones) in Spain or Latin America.