University of California Irvine Strange to Familiar Project Proposal

Decide on a person or community that can physically teach you some activity or way of being that is completely new to you. By “physically” I mean this cannot be online. You will actually have to go out and talk to someone face-to-face (unless, of course, you have a really good online idea that I end up approving). The more fundamentally different this new activity seems to you, the better. The further students get out of their comfort zone on this assignment and the more they experience this newness with their bodies, the higher grades tend to be. That said, do not follow Seth Holmes’ example by doing something illegal. Do not do anything that will harm yourself or anyone else in any way. Also, time is a factor. You might have some outlandish new experience planned for July 15th but that will not count for this because your teaching session with this person/community will have to take place sometime between Wednesday July 3st and Sunday July 14th, so you may have to settle for something less exotic. This is a good thing, writing about culture (ethnography) is not about exoticizing.

Getting out of your comfort zone does not mean you have to go that far out of your way. For example, the person (or community) could be someone who is willing to teach you to find good deals at a thrift shop, hide water for immigrants crossing the border, surf, make Peruvian ceviche, install solar panels, pray properly according to their religion, choose the perfect persimmon at the market, volunteer at a soup kitchen, make a boondoggle:

Turn in a short, 250-word research proposal that 1) describes this community/person, 2) describes the connection that community/person has to the activity/way of being that they are willing to teach you, 3) describes why you chose this community/person specifically for an assignment about making the strange familiar and how you plan to get access, 4) asks a research question about a concept (such as racism, consumerism, distance, expertise, hunger, hygiene, orthodoxy) that you expect will come up during the encounter, and 5) hypothesizes as to what the answer to that question might be.

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