For James Granderson '16, the best way to combine his anthropology and Chinese Studies majors was to go to China and conduct anthropological research. He did this through Gettysburg College’s International Bridge Course Program, which provided funding and a support structure, and through SIT’s “Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities” program, based in Kunming, which provided a rich learning experience in China.
While there, James studied the Chinese language as well as China’s cultural diversity. He focused on minority relations in Yunnan Province through a seminar as well as his own anthropological research on the Dai people. Dai people are the only Chinese group to practice Theravada Buddhism, which was of great interest to James, who is intrigued with religion.
For his research, James travelled to the southern Yunnan province where Dai people live, and remained for a month to conduct an ethnographic study using such methods as participant observation and semi-structured interviews. Interested in how temple education conflicts with mandatory state education, James wrote a paper entitled, “Theravada Buddhism, Identity, and Cultural Continuity in Jinghong, Xishuangbanna,” under the mentorship of Chineses Studies Professor Jing Li. He submitted this paper as the final product for the International Bridge Course Program and for his Chinese Studies senior project. The paper is available on The Cupola, the college’s open-access scholarship hub.
Prior to going to China, James had honed his research skills in a cultural anthropology methods class, which required him to develop a semester-long research project. For this class, James conducted an ethnography of the newly established International House, where he has resided since fall of his junior year. The paper, entitled “Leadership, Management, and Ethnic Tensions in International House,” examines the role of house leaders in constructing an environment where students of diverse cultural backgrounds live together, interact, and share their culture with one another. As James stated, “All of my courses at Gettysburg gave me a huge advantage when I studied abroad,” which speaks to the value of Gettysburg’s integrative learning approach, which combines scholarly coursework with hands-on research.
A gifted writer, James plans to pursue a career as an author. He is interested in both creative writing and journalism. Regardless of what path he pursues, he believes that his anthropological training and experience in China will provide him with a unique lens through which to view the world. After writing literally hundreds of pages for his anthropology professors, he agrees whole-heartedly that “Anthropology has made me an effective communicator.”