Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Reflections on Theatre in London

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

Of all of the theater events we attended, 39 Steps was my favorite. The slapstick nature of it kept me engaged, even though I had no idea what was going on during most parts of the play. Also, the actors were able to change character quite easily, and they had to with only four actors on stage. Of course, these characters were completely static, and this play was certainly not the most thought provoking. Being on Piccadilly Circus, the Criterion Theatre was clearly one of the more touristy of the theatres in London, so obviously they were not trying to cater to an erudite British crowd.

The Habit of Art was far to confusing for me, I never really understood the purpose of the group of characters sitting off to the right side of the stage. Most of these characters had extremely minor roles, which was unnecessary to the progression of the plot in my opinion. It was also difficult to tell if the dialogue on center stage was the discussion of the production, or a “play within a play”. It probably didn’t help that I was near-comatose at the time, and this overt intellectualism was not welcome at the time. I think I would have been able to appreciate this play more if it was a matinee and I had been more awake at the time.

The Merry Wives of Windsor was the most difficult for me to sit through. I was pretty jetlagged at the time, and it didn’t help that my grasp of Elizabethan English was already tenuous. Also, standing in a crowd for two and a half hours after having walked over London, mye legs were killing me at that point. However, I though that the recurring innuendo on latin lessons was funny, especially considering my experience in high school latin was very masochistic as well.

Tags: 2010 Tyler · Theatre · Uncategorized

Ho hum Theatre.

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment


While in London, the thing I’ve been most excited about but under-utilized the most is the theatre. As we’ve all realized, there are terrific opportunities in London to see world-class theatre for reasonable prices. With tickets at the Globe for 5 pounds and many West End plays discounted from 70 to around 20 pounds just for students, even those on a student’s budget can afford to see a play every week or two. The globe is one of the most important sites in the history of theatre. The West End is home of some of the best drama and musical theatre being produced anywhere in the world. I love to see shows back home in D.C. but the prices are often prohibitively expensive. It would have been nice to see more theatre in London but I guess that just means I’ll have to come back.

During the past four weeks I saw two plays at the globe: The Merry Wives of Windsor and the terrible, terrible play, Bedlam. I was so impressed by the Merry Wives cast and even the staging was an impressive feat in such an old-fashioned theatre. I felt that flow of drama which really brings you to suspend your disbelief and become totally lost in a production. I love that feeling. I spent the entirety of Bedlam, however, trying to figure out what anyone behind the play or on the stage was trying to do. At the end of the first act the actors almost got into enough a groove to be believable but at the start of the second act they had slipped out of the authenticity of their performance and the entire play felt forced.

In addition, Bedlam was so full of plot wholes that we thought it must be missing scenes. It was certainly missing those scenes and points in a production when the narrative is woven together into a cohesive whole. On top of all this, the female writer of the script (the first play written by a female to be performed in the Globe) was attempting to achieve a period piece in a theatre famous for Shakespearian productions. The very idea of attempting this is befuddling. As we left the theatre that night, the only thing we could say we’d gotten out of Bedlam was material for jokes. And even those weren’t that good: “It certainly was BEDLAM!”… ha… ha…

On the opposite end of the spectrum I saw Les Mis. I’ve seen it before, at the Signature theatre in Arlington, VA but there’s nothing quite like seeing the incredibly well-done production on a revolving stage. Through their use of what amounts to a giant turntable, the director of Les Mis. was able to expand the stage and create an illusion of passing space and time. I was really impressed and entertained by this production, the songs from which we’ve still not managed to get out of our heads.

I also really enjoyed The 39 Steps, the Monty Python-style physical comedy we saw. It didn’t have the depth of narrative I usually like but it was endlessly entertaining to watch. If there’s one thing I have to come back to London for, it’s to see great theatre for cheap. I plan to come back when I can from Norwich and visit London throughout my life for this purpose.

Tags: 2010 Daniel

“Pubs,” or, failing that, “What the Hell Can I Say That 25 Other People Haven’t?”

September 21st, 2010 · 2 Comments

Before I delve into in analysis of the pubs I’ve experienced in our short month here, I thought I’d start with my two favorite English pub moments. Then I’ll follow up with what I didn’t like, what I did, and a response to Orwell.

First, this evening while watching Tottenham-Arsenal at The Rising Sun, I was involved in the following exchange with an Arsenal fan we had been talking on and off for ~30 minutes:
“Hey, could you guys watch our bags while we go out for a smoke?”
“Yeah, sure, no problem.”
(in a patronizing voice) “Aw, see how nice these Americans are, looking out for us.”
“I mean, we’ve been doing it since World War 2.”
“That’s true, but if you don’t mind me saying so, you could have started earlier, we lost a lot of good coats and bags.”

Second, at the Punch & Judy in Covent Garden (where we ended up leaving sans drink due to logistical challenges) I was the only one in a group of five Americans to get carded. I was relentlessly mocked for this. I’ll remember this moment when we’re 40 and you all look 60, guys. Anyway, now for the actual analysis.

1) What I liked: the beer itself, the soccer, the aesthetics. It seems like an oversimplification of the question, but I honestly feel like it makes a difference in responding to pubs being “the center of British sociability.” In America, where the beer at bars (in my limited experience) sucks, it creates an atmosphere of just trying to get drunk. But if the beer is good, if you can genuinely just sit back and enjoy a pint, that becomes an end in of itself rather than just a means to get drunk and whatever that entails. Another thing that I was a major fan of was that physical beauty was valued at some pubs. While I agree with Mary that the Bank of England isn’t perfect, I was blown away by the architecture and thoroughly enjoyed the torches out front.

2) What I didn’t like: the naked corporate-ness. The menu, down to the font, was exactly the same at the Marlborough Arms/Rising Sun and Court/Rocket respectively. By itself, I don’t care about the menu thing. Pub food stinks no matter where you go. But somewhere deep inside, it bugged me that these pubs were just part of a syndicate and made no attempt to hide it. While on the topic of those four pubs, I simultaneously loved and hated the Rocket and Court. I enjoyed the vibe, the American music, and frankly feeling at home (each time we went to The Rocket, we bumped into a different group of American college students studying abroad). But I hated that I was essentially cheating on England in these places, that they were sucking the Britishness out of the pub for a few American dollars.

3) Orwell’s Ten Commandments of Pubs:
1. draught stout
2. open fires
3. cheap meals
4. a garden
5. motherly barmaids
6. no radio, no loud drunks, games secluded
7. children are allowed
8. china mugs
9. sells tobacco
10. Victorian architecture

It’s not my style to rip somebody, but George Orwell needs to be ripped for this article. Right off of the bat, Nos. 7 and 9 don’t fly with me. I hate tobacco, and because my summer job (which I do love) involves children, one could argue that at times the very purpose of going to the pub would be to get away from kids. Usually, using personal preferences to counter an argument means that your own argument is fairly weak. But in this case, it illustrates why I refuse to put “The Moon Under Water” on a pedestal: all Orwell describes is his personal preferences. There is a pub in London for everyone’s own particular peccadilloes, and in most cases, none is inherently superior to another; it’s just a question of personality.

Tags: 2010 Dennis · Pubs

A Walk in the Park

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

After having lived in London for a little more than three weeks, I am struck by two facts of the city. The first is that I am extremely excited about the accessibility of art in the city (mostly the theatre). The second is the expansiveness of London. As we’ve read, London was brought together from a number of smaller hamlets and towns. Like an amoeba, the growing London expanded, surrounded, and consumed each village it came to. A good deal of the land was owned by private individuals or the church and it too was eventually incorporated into this growing city. Since there was no real rhyme or reason to the expansion of London, the city is a patchwork of highly urbanized areas abutting parks abutting suburban sprawl.

Both of my parents are urban planners and if you were to ask them about London I’d imagine they would compare it to the big cities of the American Mid-West, perhaps akin to the infamous sprawl of Chicago. In their profession, the spreading of urban areas equals inefficiency, a definite negative indicator for quality of life. However, London doesn’t feel slow or congested as most cities with such long computing distances usually do. It has managed to succeed where Chicago fails: it is huge and efficient while maintaining its openness. Even more than any of this though, the thing which most impresses me about London, or rather, what London has most impressed upon me is how little I know about the world.

I’m sure that most of the humanities students would agree that we’d like to think of ourselves as well-travelled or at the very least, culturally aware. I know I would, but being in London has made it somewhat hard to keep up that delusion. I’ve lived in Israel twice, for three and nine months, respectively. I’ve been to Hungary and Uruguay. I attend a liberal arts school and I read books. However, the very fact that I was so impressed by London’s parks is an indicator that I do not have the global perspective—especially in terms of what quality of life is actually like in other countries—I’d like to think I do.

That’s not to say that London’s parks aren’t amazing, they are. However, I take for granted the fact that they must be exceptional simply because I have never really been exposed to anything like them. Central Park in New York and even the Golden Gate park in San Francisco and Mount Royal in Montreal are nothing compared to the biggest urban parks around the world, some even under my very nose, within the United States itself. A bit of research taught me that Phoenix, Arizona has a 16,283 acre park. Compared with Hampstead Heath at a measly 760, that’s massive. Stanley Park in Vancouver is 1,000 acres. Chapultec Park in Mexico City, Metropolitan Park of Santiago, and Phoenix Park in Dublin are 1,800 acres a piece.

A lot of factors feed into how citizens use a park: climate, accessibility, population age and ethnicity, security, and government promotion all play roles in this complex formula. Based on my limited knowledge, London seems particularly proud of its parks and what they provide for the citizens of the city. This is in large part due to something any critic of the class system would balk at. That is, the parks are and traditionally have been gated, controlled environments. Originally this was done to keep out the poor but over time, the rules were loosened and these ‘city lungs’ became much more egalitarian, soon available to all citizens and their livestock. But the gates allow the parks to be closed during the night, thereby keeping them nice for the day when criminal activity is less likely to take place.

Today, London’s parks provide to their citizens a natural place of pause in the midst of one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. They’ve also provided me some perspective on how people live in other societies. When Durden asked at our alumni event what we’ve seen in London that we’d like to take home with us and incorporate into our own lives, I replied balance. The parks have helped me to realize exactly the extent of the importance of balance between the urban and the natural world and what that balance can provide to a city like London.


http://blog.ratestogo.com/largest-city-parks/ http://matadornetwork.com/trips/10-cities-with-the-biggest-parks-in-the-world

Tags: 2010 Daniel

Theatre in London is Cool

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

I saw five plays in my time here in London, and found the theatre to be one of my favorite aspects of the city. My favorite was Les Miserables, although I sat in the absolute back row and was very far from the stage. The music was tremendous and the acting spectacular. I especially enjoyed the spinning stage, which, although I recall hearing in our theatre tour that it is not altogether uncommon, I had never seen before. 39 steps, while not high theatre, was a lot of fun. The Hitchcock feel of the whole play was really enjoyable and the physical comedy was great. The use of only four actors had me feel like I got to know the actors, not only the characters. This was especially true for the two male actors beside the main character, they were extremely likeable and the four actor format helped foment that. Bedlam was a disastrous play but still a decent experience. From Bedlam I learned that the a bad play is a whole lot more fun than a bad movie, and started me to thinking that plays are a way I would like to spend my evenings. This is despite a complete lack of direction or solid musical numbers and a cast that became almost disinterested by the end of the performance. I also noticed that due to the Globe’s choice of lighting, in which the entire stage is rather evenly lit, the play was at times hard to follow, because it was impossible to know where exactly to look. Merry Wives of Windsor was funny, although I got quite lost at the end of the play unfortunately. After a long day of walking, standing at the theatre was particularly hard for me that day. The Habit of Art was an overall failure in my opinion. It took some excellent themes and fears and excellent acting and buried it in a clumsy and unnecessary frame. We had some genuinely moving scenes between Britain and Alden which could have been drawn out and extrapolated on, but instead we had a lot of little side jokes mainly based on the ‘play in a play’ format.

Overall, the theatre in London has changed my perspective, I’ve realized that a night out with a show is extremely enjoyable. If I had vacation time here I think I would see three to five shows a week. If I lived and worked here I would do the same. It’s very exciting, the theatre scene here and the fact that any night on a limited budget I can go see so many shows, both classics and experimental, new shows.

Tags: 2010 Michael · Theatre

We Will Rock You… with Church Songs?

September 21st, 2010 · 2 Comments

From the various services/presentations/synopses of religion we attended, it appeared that Christianity in London is dead. The two major Christian establishments we attended as a class, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey (and technically, the abbey out in Stratford-upon-Avon, but that was quite a quick visit), did not appear to have any sort of religious community. Well, that’s not exactly a surprise – these locations are such tourist destinations it would be almost impossible to have services, or a regular church membership. However, this does not mean that Christianity is dead in London.

Yes, its true that a large majority of those who consider themselves Christians, or more specifically Anglicans, subscribe to a small amount of Christian beliefs. In this way, the reported statistics of adamant Christians are quite inflated, as noted in the readings. Well, Andrew and I decided to attend a Christian service this past Sunday, and it was really something.

First off, the service was held by Hillsong, the church’s name, in the Dominion theatre (the We Will Rock You one) and it was PACKED. I do not know the exact number of attendees, but it must’ve been over 500. The worship songs were also played by an at least 10 person band. 5 singers/get-the-churchgoers-pumped-up-by-dancing-around-and-starting-claps, 3 guitarists, a bass, a drummer, 2 keyboards, it was crazy. There was a lightshow during the songs, and the whole place was full of an amazing energy. This was somewhat like other mega-churches I had attended back in the States, and because of this, I was a bit worried about the overall tone of the service – whether it would actually stay focused on Christian teachings/values, whether it would be extremist. But it was actually quite normal. The band didn’t get caught up in the light show and reiterated why they were playing the music they were

The normal preacher introduced an energetic Australian as the guest speaker, and his sermon was on the prosperity gospel. Andrew and I both agreed that he was very well spoken, very entertaining, and the message he was describing was great. However, he was much funnier than many preachers I’ve seen in the States, and overall much more animated. I was literally laughing quite hard for some of the service (a bit awkward to do in Church normally) and really enjoyed his sermon on the whole.

Overall, it was a great experience. It was a very involving and exciting, which made a lot of sense as we further discussed it. Churches in England are, like all Churches, trying to attract more people, especially young people. They emphasized this in their explanation of how important community is to them, and had a video on different groups you could get involved with. This Church’s communities are everywhere; it was really quite impressive and cool. Perhaps this extra flair is added to the service to try and rouse faith in a generally lacking Christian body in London.

I doubt this service is representative of all Christian services in London; however, I found it encouraging and informative to see that Christian services do exist here outside of St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. All the people seemed really quite friendly, and they even shook our hands (take that Kate Fox!). Though I am not sure whether Hillsong has an information session like the Mandir or Mosque, it would certainly be interesting to investigate. It might be a bit hard for them to hold something similar, as they have no permanent building.

Last bit: I was fascinated by two other features of the service. One, the ethnic diversity of the people. We have learned that London is an incredible myriad of cultures, and this cultural mélange was really reflected in the audience. In my row alone, there was a Latino family, several Afro-Caribbeans, and an Asian woman, plus two white kids (me and Andrew). I thought it was really neat to see London’s diversity reflected in the church audience.  I found this to be a bit different than the Mosque and Mandir, and I can’t say for the synagogue (saw very few people in there). Lastly, the Englishness of the service in some ways. There were a ton of cultural references that neither Andrew nor I understood, but everyone else found quite funny. It was like being on the outside of an inside joke, but we still laughed to not be awkward. Anyway, I don’t think this would happen as much in America. I think Americans are much less aware of their culture than to do this, but the Brits certainly aren’t.

Tags: 2010 ChristopherB · Churches and Cathedrals

Places of Worship

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

The different sites of worship that we visited as a class offered us a way to understand some of the major religions that make up London.  Within the city Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are embraced in different neighborhoods and different people. Here is what I learned from our visits to the different places of worship.

The Hindu Temple-

The first thing I noticed about the temple was its high walls and gated entrances. This place was not kidding around about safety. The guard in front was wearing a bullet-proof vest. I thought this was very unusual because I haven’t heard much at all about religious violence towards or against the Hindu people in London or anywhere else. After the visit, however, I realized what an amazing structure it is, and why protection of this sort might be necessary. It’s the largest Hindu temple outside of India and the building took a long time and lots of effort to build. Preserving it completely is extremely important. Inside the temple, I realized other aspects of the Hindu community here in London. First off, the temple was not only for worship, but it was a social gathering place. It seemed like a place where some members of the community go just to see other people and not for any religious reason. The little museum inside the temple was extremely informative. If you invite people to come and tour your temple who may or may not know what your religion really means, what’s better than a visual appealing and educational exhibit? I think it was a brilliant idea to include it in the temple, and it really shows how much the temple is trying to include outsiders in their religion. Being able to sit in on the religious ceremony was another informative experience I had at the temple.

Westminster Abby/Saint Paul’s Cathedral-

I didn’t get much insight into the Christian religion from my visit to Westminster Abby. Although it is still functioning as a religious institution, the majority of people there were there to see the dead people in the floors, walls, and stone tombs. It was exciting to walk over the names of Darwin and Dickens. It was a beautiful building and its history was also intriguing. The only time I realized I was in a place of worship is when John told us to listen to the loud-speaker and observe a moment of silence. Why is this? Why has Westminster Abby embraced tourism and dampened its religious value? I have an idea…money. The amount of people willing to shell out some cash to see kings and queens, composers and poets, who they had only read about or read must be ridiculous. And although it does not have the same amount of tourist attraction, St. Paul’s is similar. Maybe I am missing something, but these places seem to have diverged, to point, from religion and have almost joined the ranks of Big Ben and Tower Bridge.

The Mosque-

This was the worst, but probably most interesting visit. It was interesting, not because of the information that I received from the tour guide, but because of the way the whole group was treated during the visit. I think this gave me the most insight into Islam in London. I was honestly nervous about visiting the mosque, only because I didn’t know what to expect. All I know is that in the country I come from, many people have intense views about Islam. Anyway, the tour guide seemed extremely uncomfortable, like he didn’t know where to start. He asked us about what we know about Islam, but what I know is extremely skewed by the media inside the United States. I wanted to know what he had to tell me. He answered our questions, but I didn’t feel that that gave me a concrete idea about what Islam is, like the introduction to Hinduism I got at the Hindu Temple. The most informative part of the visit was when the women dressed from head to toe in black closed the window shades and locked the doors to the hall where the children were playing. I know that no one is hiding anything, but we came there to learn, not judge, and I feel that the whole time we were there it was like they felt Islam was on trial.

The Synagogue-

I have been to synagogues in the United States and this one wasn’t very different. The man leading our tour was very enthusiastic about our visit and went directly into explaining Judaism and its existence in the UK and London. I did not know the influence of Jews in the UK and so it was very informative. The history of the building was also cool. He pointed to where I was sitting and he told me that a bomb during the Blitz landed right there. I thought that the plaque dedicated to the Queen was very interesting. I didn’t expect to see that there.

I learned a lot from these visits. They were worth while and gave me a better understanding of religion’s role in historical and modern day London.

Tags: 2010 David

Human Existence: The Museum!!!

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

For my requisite museums blog, I ventured away from the canon of London museums such as the British Museum and the National and National Portrait Galleries and found an intriguingly fresh museum along Euston Road, The Wellcome Collection.  The museum bills itself as “a free destination for the incurably curious” and one can easily see why.  The museum is a mix of art, modern art and historical artefacts that focus on human well being; however, the negative, uglier sides of human health are equally represented, if not more than the positive.  The museum warns that perhaps this museum may not suit the squeamish very well.

The Wellcome Collection consisted of two main exhibits, one on the history of medicine, represented through the eyes of the arts, sciences and patients, while the other was simply titled, “Skin.”   The main goal of the Wellcome Collection is stated clearly:  “to consider human existence and what it means to be human.”  With this lens in place, the Wellcome Collection proved to be fascinating.  The history of medicine exhibit focused on illness, but more importantly the various ways in which humans make sense of disease within their respective societies.  The exhibit featured artwork, both classical and modern as well as various antiquated medical tools.  One of the most shocking elements in the museum was a line up of twelve to fifteen saws used in the eighteenth century for amputations.  The distance we have come as a human race in the field of medicine really does make what think about our existence and how we should define ourselves.

The “Skin” exhibit I felt really drove home the Wellcome Collection’s message as well.  The exhibit’s tagline:  “consider our existence within our constantly changing skin.”  Surely in our history as a species skin is an important aspect of what it means to be a human.  I quite like this exhibit because it was so basic in its line rhetoric and process of questioning, yet I felt it very relevant to the museum’s basic philosophy.  By walking through the exhibit I realized that there are countless ways to think critically about humanity, even if they are basic and somewhat obvious.  I feel that through analyzing the endless characteristics of human-ness present in our skin the museum emphasized this point.

The Wellcome Collection was small and understated, but posed to its viewing public a fascinating idea:  think about what it means to be a human.  In any religious or secular sense, I find this idea to be both mentally rigorous and rewarding.  Also, I generously give my remarks to the curator for constructing such a deeply philosophical idea in just two small understated exhibits.  I am very glad I found this museum, and subsequent visits to London may require a quick peek to see which exhibits they choose next that will further symbolize their discourse on humanity.

Tags: 2010 Luke · Uncategorized

On Pubs

September 21st, 2010 · 2 Comments

If memory serves me correctly, most of my drinking escapades were never in formal settings. They took place under bridges, along the banks of a river, in empty parking lots, always with an intimate group of friends (this isn’t as sketchy as it sounds). So the bar/pub is fairly foreign to me. In any case, I’ve been pleased with the pubs I’ve visited so far. Most of them, like the Rising Sun and Marlborough Arms, were fairly crowded. I don’t mind a clustered environment, but it tends to grate on me after a while. Like Dave, I too prefer a more relaxed setting. One thing I’ve noticed is that pubs here aren’t the most ideal venue in which to meet new people. People either come alone or in groups, thus drawing the lines of social contact. I’ve never stayed long enough in an American bar to note, but from what I’ve seen, read, and heard, bars in America ARE ideal places for meeting people you don’t know; my friend the other day told me she met her boyfriend at a bar. The bar may not be the classiest place to meet your future wife, but the ease in which one can strike up a conversation with another person speaks to the relatively loose social barriers of Americans. I’ve hardly perceived this in Londoners.

As others have noted, its confusing where the queue for drinks begin. The bartender, however, always seems to know the order. So long as I have my drink, I’m fine.

Public drinking isn’t illegal in Korea, which may explain why I’ve been a bit uncomfortable in pubs. I much prefer sipping from a can of beer or trading shots of soju (korean staple alcohol) at a park rather than entering a pub. Yeah, I said I was pleased with the pubs here, but that doesn’t mean I like them. Perhaps the exception is the King’s Crown, a pub just off of Tottenham. Dave and I stumbled onto it and after a pint, found it to be quite exceptional. Quite and subdued, King’s Crown has none of the boisterousness of the more popular pubs. But that’s just me. Hopefully Norwich will have more pubs like King’s Crown.

George Orwell speaks of the pub of his dreams as having a garden, partitioned spaces, a warm fireside, and mellow atmosphere; a pub in which the oner knows his customers by name. In short, a personal pub. That is my type of pub, I think, as it seems to match my temperament. A place where you can retire into the night, warm and relaxed. Yes, such a pub may not exist, but if King’s Crown was any indication, there just may be one out there.

Tags: 2010 Sean · Pubs

Finding Common Ground in a City With Many Relgions

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

One of the most surprising and fascinating aspects of London for me was how international the city is.  In most parts of town, when walking around looking for lunch, we are easily able to find restaurants serving food from five or six different cultures.  In the East End, a single building was used as a church, then a synagogue, and now a mosque.  Walking down the street, I have heard a number of different languages spoken, some that I do not even recognize.  Perhaps the most fascinating opportunity we were given to explore the multi-cultural aspect of London was the chance to visit places of worship belonging to a number of different religious groups in London.  I found it especially interesting that to observe the ways in which the religious groups attempt to bridge the gaps that inevitably exist in such a multi-cultural, multi-faith city.

The fact that most of our guides mentioned involvement in interfaith projects demonstrates that London’s various religious communities are all dealing with living in a multicultural cities by engaging and trying to understand on another (at least partially).  I find it interesting that only the churches that we visited did not describe involvement in interfaith organizations.  I am fairly sure that Christians actually do participate.  However, all of the other religious groups are minorities in London, and it is likely that Christian groups (and specifically Anglicans) do not feel a need to advertise their involvement to visitors because they do not assume automatically that their visitors are from different religious backgrounds from their own.  For minority groups, I think that talking about this involvement to visitors is an important way to express common ground by expressing connections with other groups that the visitors probably associate with or belong to.  At the Hindu mandir, our guide also talked about a number of famous leaders from other religious groups who have visited the Mandir (again I think, to find common ground with us).

When we visited a mosque, as our guide told us about Islam he constantly pointed out similarities with Christianity and Judaism.  Although these similarities are accurate, he clearly stressed them, because assuming that we came from Jewish or Christian backgrounds, he wanted us to be able to appreciate Islam by relating it to our own traditions.  Although the effort probably could have been carried out better, and probably the specific tensions currently surrounding perceptions of Islam, the community at the Mosque clearly makes an effort daily to break down barriers.

Ultimately, I think that by welcoming us in to their worship space learn about their religions, all of the minority groups that we visited expressed a commitment to breaking down some of the barriers with other religious groups.

The Mandir that we visited (from the Mandir’s website)

Tags: 2010 Emily · Uncategorized