Eyes Wide Shut: Opening Our Eyes to Stereotypes

Over 100 participants attended "Eyes Wide Shut," a panel discussion followed by small discussion groups over dinner. The four panelists took very different approaches to the topic of "Opening Our Eyes to Stereotypes."

Pamela Allara, professor of fine arts, showed disturbing visual images from art history books and current news magazine covers to show how race and ethnicity can become caricatures. She pointed out that such images lodge in our unconscious, and can profoundly affect our behavior without our being aware of it.

Andrew Molinsky, professor at the International Business School, spoke of current research being conducted by "Project Implicit," an ongoing research project measuring word associations. Such studies are a way of getting at underlying assumptions, as a tool to gain greater awareness of our unconscious preferences and beliefs. Responding to the question, "Is there a way to fight our unconscious?" Molinsky explained that brainscan research shows that the part of the brain expressing fear lights up with this test. When allowed to ponder, the rational mind can overcome the unconscious mind.

Dara Wald '04 discussed her experiences as a study abroad student. In a deliberate attempt to overcome her own fears, she went to Kenya and remained open both to the differences within her student group and the Kenyans she met.

Mia Siscawati, graduate student from Indonesia in the Sustainable International Development program, spoke of her personal concerns about safety as a Muslim woman. She has worn a scarf for some time as a personal symbol of her spirituality. Although Mia felt safe in other contexts in previous years, she became the target of a few direct incidents and removed the scarf so as not to put her family at risk. She has made many good friends in the U.S., but realizes that she has lost her freedom because of others’ stereotypes of her.

This was the first on-campus event of the International Collaborations Network (ICN), an informal committee of administrators, faculty, and staff working together on projects with an international focus. Chaired by Marci McPhee, assistant director of the Center, its members consist of those whose work involves the international dimension of Brandeis in any domain: faculty, International Students and Scholars Office, Study Abroad, Dean of Arts and Sciences office, Sustainable International Development, International Business School, Alumni, International and Global Studies program, Admissions, Hiatt Career Center, etc. The coordinator of this event was Ellen Downes, of the Dean of Arts and Sciences office. Visit ICN online for more information on the event - including the followup discussion in March- and the Network.