of local communities (rather than just capital cities) is what empowers them to uncover the complexities, nuances, and variations within their host cultures— not merely between their home and host cultures. Above all else, Peace Corps is a deeply humbling experience, one that leads PCVs to realize how much our values are the product of our home cultures and environments. PCVs are forced to respect local societies—not in an abstract, rhetorical fashion, but through the accountability that comes with living embedded in those societies for over two years. In training we were told that in learning about a new culture, we would learn the most about our own. As “us” and “them” began to blur within myself over 27 months, my Peace Corps experience led me to reflect critically about my own identity, lifestyle, and perspectives. I was struck by the insufficiency of the categories—“Arab,” “Muslim,” “poor,” “traditional,” “African”—that the world had given me. This sort of reflection is essential to anthropology and grassroots development alike. The Peace Corps is not perfect. But I believe in it still, because at its heart are experiences and relationships that foster the recognition of humanity over difference, and that teach us, as Americans, to challenge our assumptions about the way things are. In a world where people and ideas crisscross borders at lightning speed, and in which powerful voices urge us to divide humanity into “us” and “them,” the need for citizens shaped by these experiences has never been more urgent.
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Anny Gaul (Morocco 2007-09) is a lifelong student of Arabic, gender, and all things food-related. She holds a B.A. from Yale and an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown. She is currently on a Fulbright fellowship in Jordan and working towards a doctorate in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown. You can learn more about her passions at www.imiksimik.wordpress.com. WorldView ∙ Spring 2013 ∙ www.PeaceCorpsConnect.org | 31
Published on Aug 13, 2013
WorldView magazine is a 26-year-old quarterly magazine of news and commentary about the Peace Corps world, the only magazine dedicated to br...