I took an anthropology class. It was an ethnic studies methods class, but the professor came from anthropology, so we basically talked about moving towards a more responsible anthropological method.

One question that stood out for me as an Asian American activist was this: can activists/researchers/social workers from outside of a community really be effective? Are there advantages to working in a community as an insider or an outsider? Are their disadvantages?
By insider, I generally mean someone who grew up in and lives in a community and considers it theirs, as opposed to someone who comes into a community to do work/research. The definitions are much more complicated than that (people who didn’t grow up in a community but identify with in, people who went off to college then come back to their community, etc.), but its been on my mind.
Who you are definitely affects what you’re able to do, and your efficacy in doing things. But how? And why?

One thought on “Outsider?

  1. Ahh, this question is asked by missiologists as well: What is more effective, a cross-cultural minister or native leadership?When I moved into Boston's Chinatown, I was an outsider. I am not an immigrant, I come from a fairly Americanized middle class home, and I don't speak much Chinese. I did find myself feeling like I had no credibility. But I spent a lot of time listening. No matter what, an outsider must come in and listen first: learn the values, customs, and stories that define the community.

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