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Global Journalism: Writing Across Cultures

ENGL 158.301

How should we approach writing -- knowing -- about people and things that are foreign to us? It’s a question that historians, anthropologists, and sociologists ask routinely, but that most practicing journalists typically have not been trained to consider. In mainstream American journalism, international postings have long been awarded as plums to reporters who have scored major successes on domestic beats. This practice is consonant with an old journalistic shibboleth that any good reporter should be able to tell any story, anywhere, with no prior preparation or study. This course is grounded in a diametrically opposed notion: that intelligent reporting about the foreign is predicated upon self-awareness of one’s own cultural particularity and an active interest in the perspective and voice of “the other.” Students in the course will have an opportunity to write in a variety of modes -- factual reportage, op-ed, review, analysis -- about people and places that take them beyond their own immediate experience. The intent is to use reporting to enlarge the area of personal experience, thus enabling students to become more conscious of, and to move beyond, cultural assumptions, presuppositions, and prejudices. The instructor, who began a decade of international reporting as a cultural stranger among the peoples he wrote about, will draw on this formative experience in leading workshop members through their initial encounters as writers with the problem of knowing the other.