No Matter How Long it's in the Water, A Log Will Never Become a Crocodile: An Examination of Patterns of Socialization Among Americans Living in Dakar
Kruger, Shonda Renee
MetadataShow full item record
Looking back on my initial nine-month foreign study experience in Dakar and the issues it raised for me, it is easy to see that a process of academic distancing similar to that described by the above respondent took place in the development of this project. Perhaps as much as anything during those first months, I was surprised to learn of the diversity of reasons for which students on the program had decided to come to study in Dakar and the occupational goals they had for their futures. Correspondingly, I was fascinated by the very different lifestyles I observed within the community of Americans living in Dakar and by individuals' diverse reasons for being there. My understanding of these issues took on more depth as my day to day interactions proved them increasingly complicated. My original morally-charged mental calculations of integration versus isolation and cultural relativity versus ethnocentrism became less certain. I realized how differences such as arriving in Sénégal as an individual versus arriving with a family or arriving for a specified amount of time versus arriving with the intention of living there indefinitely would undoubtedly be influential in determining what decisions I, myself, might make. And yet despite the growing complication of ever finding one single, outstanding answer to it, I recognized that all of these observations and new understandings were linked to a single question. To what degree do individuals ultimately change their own lifestyles, beliefs and values when coming to live in Sénégal? Or-in other words-what proximity to the host culture do they ultimately adopt? In addressing these questions it is obviously useful to have a theoretic base which provides an understanding of socialization itself and of the processes by which it occurs. I found such a base in Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's book The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge which was introduced to me in a Theories class I took during the summer immediately following my study abroad experience. In it Berger and Luckmann trace the development of society from interactions between two individuals, to the development of institutions, to the introduction of new individuals-not originally present in the formation of these institutions-into the societies governed by them. Most important to us, however, throughout this theoretic chronology they provide an exceptionally rich and detailed understanding of the processes of socialization by which these individuals are introduced into the society. In order to establish a working understanding of their particular aspects of their theories and to identify points to which we will return in our examination of respondents' experiences I propose a brief theoretical discussion.