The Anthropology of America

Emory University welcomes first-year students with two distinct options to begin their liberal arts education: the research-infused Emory College or the smaller, experiential learning Oxford College. If you could create an academic course that is in the Emory University spirit of collaboration, creativity, entrepreneurship and inquiry, what would it be? What impact would the course have on you and your classmates’ educational experience?

Why does the Northeast have a reputation for an uptight, academic attitude, and why is the Midwest considered one of the most relaxed places in the US? What are the origins of so-called “Southern Hospitality,” and is this concept even close to the truth? At a diverse school like Emory, students see the effects of cultural differences every day. Their interactions with one another already dispel stereotypes and educate them on diversity, but why does such diversity exist? In a course on American cultures, students can learn why certain regions have certain reputations, certain views, and certain ways of life. Students as adventurous and curious as Emory’s are most likely eager to discover how history, geography, and politics all affect each region of the United States.

Students at Emory must wonder why they and their peers are so equally committed to excellence, yet so diverse in their mannerisms. Why do some students talk about history with no accent at all, while others explain chemical engineering with a Deep-Southern twang? I can explain the latter group of students: wealthy plantation owners emigrated from England to the American South. Their upper-class English accent continued through the generations, spread to the middle and lower classes, and slowly evolved into the Southern staple we know it as today. But what accounts for the South’s deep conservatism or the Northeast’s liberal leanings? Unlike the answer to the previous question, this query’s solution involves a long discussion of history, religion, and Ronald Reagan’s Moral Majority. To understand such a complex and important topic, students would benefit from expert guidance and extended study, which this course would provide.

A course on American cultures would encompass everything from the minute (accents, stereotypes and their origins, and preferred sports) to the major. Ultimately, a mixture of the two makes each region what it is today: these cultures, upbringings, and backgrounds affect all Americans, shape individual identities, and determine how our history unfolds. Naturally, every American should understand them. As citizens of our nation and of the world, students at Emory should have the opportunity to investigate regional histories and politics, to discuss current controversies in the context of regional differences, and to comprehend that in our differences lies a shared humanity.

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