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Beautiful Patterns, Common Threads


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Beautiful Patterns, Common Threads
How this web site is organized:

This site's foundation rests on the teaching philosophies laid out in the section titled "How to Include Southeast Asia." That section describes my personal bent towards using a thematic approach to teaching world history. It also identifies the approaches I use to imbed meaning in the world history class by focusing students on thinking about change in their own lives and communities as they study people who lived in other times and places.

As I write and take photographs for this web site, I will be thinking about some particular themes that I think can be effectively used in the classroom and that are, at the same time, especially important in considering historical and contemporary Southeast Asian societies. I may find myself focusing on some more than others, if only because I AM traveling, after all, and am subject to some degree to the randomness of the experiences I will have. However, I invite people visiting the site to direct me to focus on things I am missing by using the interactive areas of the site, particularly by e-mailing me directly. I would hope that teachers would encourage students in particular to ask me questions that will force me to look into things that I might not otherwise think to explore.

Probably the major theme I'll explore is symbolized in the cover page, which is a "tapestry of tapestries:" eight different textile patterns, each from a different country in the region. Situated where it is, Southeast Asia to me is a collection of cultures that have woven together some common threads into a diverse range of lifestyles. Buddhism and Hinduism, noodles and rice, Chinese and Indian influences, cotton and silk: these are all common to the countries I'll be visiting, yet the forms they take in each place are unique and special. How these societies have managed to incorporate such influences and make other people's worlds a part of their own is something I'll focus on extensively during my journey.

Here are SOME of the other themes:

--ANCIENT HISTORY: how these lands came to be peopled, and how the interactions between indigenous populations (as it is possible to define them) and those who migrated into/within the region produced the "traditional" cultures we can identify there

--COLONIAL INFLUENCE: compare/contrast the forms of domination practiced by the French, Dutch, Spanish, British, USAnians and Portuguese, and the lasting effects that resulted therefrom

--ARTS/CRAFTS/MUSIC/DANCE: what forms they take, and how they reflect the beliefs and values of the people who create(d) and perform(ed) them

--RELIGION: what beliefs people have, what their practices are, and how religious institutions play a role in conflict and cooperation in the region

--GEOGRAPHY: what the climate, topography and natural resources are like, how it has affected the development of cultures in the region, and how the environment itself is faring in the face of development

--DIASPORA: the lives of peoples living in diaspora in Southeast Asia, and of Southeast Asians living in diaspora in other parts of the world (including the U.S.)

--EDUCATION AND THE LIVES OF YOUTH: the role of education in these societies, and how it is practiced; and, how students live their lives in school, at home and in the community

--AGRICULTURE: what is farmed, what techniques are used in farming, what agrarian life is like and how it "integrates" with urban areas

--CONTEMPORARY ISSUES: what's going on there now, the global importance of the region, and what people are doing to better their lives

As I study these themes and others (such as language, local economies, family structures...), I will be looking for ways to focus my study on things that will be especially relevant to the current experiences of immigrant communities from those countries that presently reside in the U.S., with the intention of collaborating with leaders of those communities upon my return to support their efforts to expand awareness of their histories and cultures through public education.

In interviewing teachers and students before I left, we discussed what such focuses would mean in terms of things I should actually be seeking out. Here are some of the ideas that came up:

--focus on HUMAN INTEREST stories

--try to come up with a "COLLAGE" OF FACES

--let students directly ask other students about their DAILY LIVES

--seek out VISUAL IMAGES of things like colonial influence by finding examples in architecture, language (e.g., street signs), etc.

I will be attempting to do all of these things, but again, I'm only one person and this IS a vacation, too! If you have any other suggestions, especially upon looking over the site, or feel that I'm neglecting one area or another that you're particularly interested in, please let me know and I'll do what I can to investigate things you want me to. This is especially true for students, and even MORE for whole CLASSES of students who may be following my trip!!

Part 1 Why Southeast Asia?
Part 2 How to include S.E. Asia in the World History class.
Part 3 How this web site is organized: Content/Themes
Part 4 How this web site is organized: Structure
Part 5 A Word On My Choice of Prints
Part 6 Thematic check-list
Part 7 A Request for Critiques and Support


Copyright 1999 by Avi Black
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